Friday, May 13, 2011

Speculative Fiction

The other night I was reading (on my Kindle) Delia Sherman's delightful short story Wizard's Apprentice.

It is the story of an evil wizard living in Dahoe, Maine. It even says so on the sign hanging outside his shop:
"Evil Wizard Books
Z. Smallbone, Prop"

Part way through the story, a runaway breaks into the bookstore, blah, blah, blah. Eventually the wizard hands the intruder his business card. The card says:

"Evil Wizard Books
Zachariah Smallbone, Porprietor
Arcana, Alchemy, Animal Transformations
Speculative Fiction
Monday-Saturday. By Chance and by Appointment"

Did you notice that in the list of evil things the wizard will do, Speculative Fictions is so bad it gets its own line? Don’t get me wrong, I love that line. I laughed out loud when I read it. Yet, I couldn’t help but think that the best humor has an element of truth.

I don’t know how speculative fiction got to be the ugly step-child of writing, yet just the mention of it will cause a nerve paralyzing eye-roll. (I'm waiting for the day when my mother’s warning that “you’re face will stick that way” comes true.: “What happened to your face?” “Oh, some fool mentioned fantasy. Didn’t even look to see who might overhear.”)

“I don’t read fantasy. I just don’t understand it” If you haven’t said it, you’ve at least heard it.

People, almost everything Disney does and has done for over sixty years is fantasy: “Cinderella”, “Beauty and the Beast”. And, PLEASE give me a piece of the action Disney rakes in at its theme parks.

The stories you read to your children, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” “Jack and the Beanstalk” “Little Red Riding Hood” – speculative fiction.

Please don’t try telling me you didn’t watch any of the Star Wars movies because they were science fiction. And don’t kid yourself, “Pirates of the Caribbean” is fantasy. (I will grant that any movie staring Johnny Depp is a must watch.)

“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas” is science fiction. So is “The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. I know you know the stories and suspect you liked them.

If you try telling yourself you don’t love everything Pixar does, I will call you a liar to your face. It is all speculative fictions.

(And, don’t get me started on that Romance you’re reading. IT’S A FANTASY.)

I’m not asking to be at the top of your reading list, but when it’s time for the family photo, may I please come out from behind the tree.


  1. Good post; and reach back a little Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers' Grimm, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien! (By the way, is your Wizard gonna meet up with your Sorceress Rachel?)

  2. Hmmmm, Reginald Manning, Arch Wizard – Exalted Class, meeting Rachael. Hadn't thought of that. He might make a good mentor.

  3. Isn't most fiction a fantasy? lol. So a question for you, Steve: how does speculative fiction differ from other genres?