Spec-fic with no "speculative-ness"?

My writing buddy Pantsless Justin posed a neat question recently:

The speculative aspect (in SF/F Fiction) — can it be entirely in the period and the setting, the moral code, and the language with which the tale is told?

I certainly think so. But then again, I’ve written a lot of “fake historical” F (a term coined for Guy Gavriel Kay’s work), and it had very little obvious magic. I also love historical fiction. So I don’t care how much overt speculative-ness is in a story, or if there is any at all, so long as the setting is neat and the characters are captivating.

Many other writers and editors disagree. I had a lot of trouble with critiquers who weren’t sure whether my “fake historical” F was supposed to be speculative or not. A bigger issue may be readers — most F readers want obvious speculative elements, for awe and wonder, and they’ll be looking for them as they read.

I think the most important thing is to write the story you want to write, and worry later about how speculative it is and where you should submit it. This approach of course can lead to a stable of stories that don’t quite fit any market out there (ask me how I know! :) ), but I do think it’s the best way for a writer to hone their natural voice and produce the best possible work.


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