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Speculative fiction cf. science fiction

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In her non-fiction book In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (Doubleday, 2011), Canadian author Margaret Atwood makes a contrast between speculative fiction and science fiction 

you say dystopia logoWhat I mean by “science fiction” is those books that descend from H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, which treats of an invasion by tentacled, blood-sucking Martians shot to Earth in metal canisters — things that could not possibly happen — whereas, for me, “speculative fiction” means plots that descend from Jules Verne’s books about submarines and balloon travel and such — things that really could happen but just hadn’t completely happened when the authors wrote the books. I would place my own books in this second category: no Martians.

For one who has spent an insane amount of time reading literature in general and novels in particular, I have been slow to encounter words such as dystopia and phrases such as speculative fiction (and narrative nonfiction, AKA creative nonfiction for that matter). In my blindness, and my high level of self-absorption, I assumed that these words and phrases that were new to me were of recent coining and I simply was running a little bit behind. After checking on the relevant entries in Wikipedia, I had to come to grips with the knowledge that dystopia has been in use for more than a century and speculative fiction came into use in the 1960s.

I got some of my self-esteem back when I checked on creative nonfiction. The approach is still in its youth and has yet to be given adult status by the critical community, according to Wikipedia.

Based on my reading, I would say that dystopia refers to literature that takes a negative view of possible futures, in contrast to the idea of utopia, which takes a view of possible futures as good or even perfect.

In terms of my definition, the Bible wold be a utopian work with strong dystopian tendencies.

Why this is important to tease out will become more clear as we walk along these paths.

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