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Mike, What do you think of "Speculative Fiction"?

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  • Mike, What do you think of "Speculative Fiction"?

    On a science fiction board where I hang out and administrate a bit, a discussion about what exactly the term "Speculative Fiction" refers to crept up. One person posted that he thought of Michael Moorcock when he heard the term (which was perhaps originaly used by Harry Harrison as a catch all to include fantasy, SF, and horror.) He was specifically talking about your editing in New Worlds, but also as a writer. Given that you've recently won an award from horror fans and are one to mix a bit of the other two genres, this does make some sense. But then, you frequently refer to your own place in these realms as "Science Fantasy", so maybe it doesn't work at all...

    To me, the term "Speculative Fiction" would imply that one is considering the possible consequences of some action or idea, which would bring it considerably closer to what traditionally gets called "Science Fiction" than outright Fantasy. But then what the hell do I know? Any way, I'm curious what your gut level reaction to the term is, and if you consider yourself part of whatever "Speculative Fiction" may imply?
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  • #2
    Mike can confirm, but I'm pretty sure the Speculative Fiction term was coined in the Moorcock-edited New Worlds era, to distinguish the fiction being published there from traditional hard 'Science' Fiction, thus producing a looser definition of what could be published as SF (or sf).

    The following link mentions Harlan Ellison as one of its advocates. I'm not sure who actually originated the term:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_fiction
    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

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    • #3
      I heard it was Robert Heinlein who originated the term. I first heard it used by Ballard. I used it a bit to try to separate what we were doing from the sort of sf associated with Heinlein. I finally just started using sf and stopped the definition game, which is never that useful, I feel. I think it's worth defining what characterises individual writers or certain groups of writers, but not really by labelling. In the end we avoided ALL labels. I find epic fantasy fairly useful to define the sort of stuff I do in the EC books for the most part. I think we were as much influenced by symbolist fiction as anything, which in a way was the roots of modernist fiction anyway. A sort of return to basics just as much as it was an attempt to find new forms -- Baudelaire to Wm Burroughs... ? I've argued for some years that while NW might be seen as mainly anti-modernist (as modernism was largely accepted in the 1960s) most movements, whether conscious or indeed self-conscious, look backward to earlier models as well as forward, trying to create new models. Which really has nothing to do with your question, except to say that it was ironic both Heinlein and Ballard, once seen as the opposite ends of a spectrum, should both have preferred it.

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      • #4
        Answers my question rather well, actually. I tend to feel the same way about labels as you, though it always becomes necessary to use something so people can grasp what you're talking about without launching into massive explanations. Drives me crazy when people ask me, "What kind of music are you into?" for instance, but sometimes it's best to answer in one or two word terms.
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        • #5
          There's a quotation by Arthur Quller-Couch about a completely different genre that's pertinent here... but I can't for the life of me remember it. And it eludes a quick google... But it's an enumeration of examplars, rather than a strict definition...

          Fred Phol's definition of sf is also of interest... "Sf is what sf fans mean when they point to something and say 'that's sf'". :D

          Gr.,
          Ant

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          • #6
            I thought 'Cognitive Fiction' was a good definition for the PX stuff, 'cos one was supposed to have to really think and absorb the material actively.

            And I thought the term up myself. Me.

            Has anyone got a colonoscope? :P

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Perdix
              Has anyone got a colonoscope? :P
              Where does that go? 8O
              'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

              Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

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              • #8
                Where I spend too much time :P

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                • #9
                  All fiction is fiction. From there it's just splitting hairs (hares?).

                  So much work crosses boundaries and labels it has become silly. What I find funny is science. Yeah - "hard science". Enough time goes by and enough knowledge is accumulated and that "hard science" becomes humor. (Like the Greek 'humors', or parthogenesis, or trephining, or evolution. Yeah, I hear the screaming.) Nothing funnier than when human knowledge is proven erroneous or insufficient.

                  And why is it when one hits two keys with one finger it's always the wrong one that pops up on the screen. (The old falling-buttered-bread problem.)

                  It's all a plot.

                  By cats.
                  8O
                  Miqque
                  ... just another sailor on the seas of Fate, dogpaddling desperately ...

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                  • #10
                    *wonders what category Scientology falls into...* (tee hee.)



                    Where I spend too much time
                    Ay! You be nice to yourself, Mr. Perdix, or I'll have Mike sic his cats on you! :D

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                    • #11
                      He's right.

                      Fortean, broad-minded but rigorously skeptical perspective should be applied to all human intellectual endeavour, scientific, artistic and certainly religious (and if anyone mentions the bloody 'Dancing Wu-Li Masters' I'll scream!). And labels and categories are a bit heinous, though a bit of filing is always handy when you're trying to lay your hands on something specific.

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                      • #12
                        For the interest of cyclicical completeness, here is the thread at the Science Fiction EZ Board which sparked this thread here:

                        http://p090.ezboard.com/fsciencefict...icID=137.topic

                        Astute observers will note that thread was actually an invitation to join a top ten poll at yet another board with regard to best "Speculative Fiction". Ironically, before reading Michael's comments, I picked one book each for my top ten by Misters Heinlein and Ballard without thinking anything unusual about it at all!
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                        • #13
                          Anent my last post, of course, one must also be prepared to evenhandedly dismiss-in-the-absence-of-evidence-other-than-wishful-thinking such nonsense as Creationism, Intelligent Design, and...er, G-

                          No, I won't say it.

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                          • #14
                            And homoeopathy.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Perdix
                              And homoeopathy.
                              But... but... but... it works on cows you know! They proved it!
                              :lol: :lol:

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