Speculative fiction is that large mass of fiction that answers the question of “what if?” What if…the world was overrun by bacteria? What if the sun fizzled out? What if we could travel to a parallel universe? What if all those stories your parents told you when you were a child were true? What if King Henry VIII never saw Marie Antoinette that day? What if India was never colonized? And the possibilities are endless.
Speculative fiction isn’t just fantasy and fairy tales. It is comprised of science fiction, historical fiction and a lot more. It also makes up a large portion of my personal library but that is a tale for another time.
What was once science fiction has became reality more times than most realize. The idea of telephones first came about in a short story. Then there are robots, cars, space travel, email and more. One theme in a lot of science fiction books is the folly of man. Man begins to create and discover. Some wish to better the world, others simply wish to make a profit. Either way, it usually does not end up well. And that is something that we can all relate to now. How many technological advances seem to have actually set us back? Most people cannot even communicate with others face to face. Schools no longer teach handwriting and cursive has long been gone. Spelling has become atrocious and I have met people who cannot even discern between the most basic words such as “been” and “being.” Yes, new ways to communicate are wonderful but just because there is something new does not mean we should forget the old. How many people have written a letter in the past five years? What are the ethics of cloning animals? These are not new questions but it amazes me how they were first presented in science fiction, they were ideas no one believed would come to fruition.
But maybe these scientific and technological advances were possible because of the science behind the fantasy. Many writers of science fiction had some knowledge of science and tended to base their fiction on what could happen. They just never thought that their ideas would come into fruition.
Another category of speculative fiction is the “dystopia” which is basically an anti-utopia. A dystopic novel is one in which every aspect of life seems imperfect, at least for the majority. There is usually a totalitarian regime which makes the rules and are the only ones allowed to break them. One such novel is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Dystopic novels have always hit home because of the truth they are based on. In Brave New World, people were manufactured into their classes. At first it was meant to be so that everyone had a role and knew what that role was. From their looks to the profession, the characters had no say in the matter. Although the intentions may have been pure, the reality of it was that some people were forced into hard labor because of their caste, people were no longer born and those higher than you could do whatever they wanted while the lower classes had no freedom. It is a lot like the classes of today. The lower the class, the more you work and the less you are paid. It is a cycle that perpetuates itself due to the reasoning that in order to be on top someone has to be on bottom.
It is so amazing to go back to the classic fantasy stories, stories that came before World War II and see that most of what we have today was only possible because of some writer’s imagination. It is even stranger to see that instead of paying heed to the warnings within the tales we trudge ahead and usually land in trouble. This post is more of a rant than my others but I was reading some classic short stories and it astounded me, the way that laptops and computers and bluetooth were invented decades ago by someone who just wanted to entertain. That is why I think writing is so amazing, you can create something truly wonderful. Or you can create something disastrous. It makes me begin to think about the responsibility a writer has to his or her audience. Do writers have a responsibility or is it all in the hands of whoever decides to pick up the story?