I don’t like the term “speculative fiction”. In fact, I hate it, and there are several reasons for this:
- It sounds pretentious. It seems like a way of avoiding the words “science fiction” or “fantasy”.
- It seems to be used as a way of collecting a variety of imaginative genres together in one taxonomical bucket. When I see “speculative fiction” I think of something that includes science fiction and fantasy and perhaps even horror. But why do these things need to be collected into the same bucket in the first place? Why can’t you simply have science fiction and fantasy and horror?
- It is a misnomer: to speculate means to form a theory or conjecture without firm evidence. But any fiction is speculative in that sense, offering up some theory or conjecture about the human condition and exploring that as part of the narrative.
I consider myself to be a science fiction writer and I am in no way ashamed of that. Tastes vary. Science fiction provides a convenient label for the tastes of one specific genre and I am thankful for that. I know what science fiction means to me. I love to read science fiction stories as much as I love to write them. “Speculative fiction” is too vague for me. It inclues things that I don’t like to read or write and is therefore, in my mind, a poor description of the genre that I love so much.
What bothers me most is that the term (which has been around for close to five decades now) feels like an attempt to rebrand the genre out of shame, in the same way that Comcast attempted to rebrand itself Xfinity. I see no reason to be ashamed of science fiction as either a reader or a writer. The best stories in our genre hold up to the best stories in any literature, in my opinion, and I see no reason to hide behind a false taxonomy.
I am a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, not the Speculative Fiction Writers of America, thank goodness. I don’t write speculative fiction and I don’t read speculative fiction. I write science fiction and I am proud of that. People who write fantasy should be proud of that, too. I think we’ve proven ourselves as a genre and it’s high time to put the “speculative fiction” label behind us.
ETA: I just discovered that Cat Valente has a post on this topic today as well. You should check out what she has to say.