Portal:Speculative fiction

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Speculative fiction is an umbrella phrase encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, specifically science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history in literature as well as related static, motion, and virtual arts.

It has been around since humans began to speak. The earliest forms of speculative fiction were likely mythological tales told around the campfire. Speculative fiction deals with the "What if?" scenarios imagined by dreamers and thinkers worldwide. Journeys to other worlds through the vast reaches of distant space; magical quests to free worlds enslaved by terrible beings; malevolent supernatural powers seeking to increase their spheres of influence across multiple dimensions and times; all of these fall into the realm of speculative fiction.

Speculative fiction as a category ranges from ancient works to cutting edge, paradigm-changing, and neotraditional works of the 21st century. It can be recognized in works whose authors' intentions or the social contexts of the versions of stories they portrayed is now known. For example, Ancient Greek dramatists such as Euripides, whose play Medea seemed to have offended Athenian audiences when he fictionally speculated that shamaness Medea killed her own children instead of their being killed by other Corinthians after her departure. The play Hippolytus, narratively introduced by Aphrodite, is suspected to have displeased contemporary audiences of the day because it portrayed Phaedra as too lusty.

In historiography, what is now called speculative fiction has previously been termed "historical invention", "historical fiction," and other similar names. It is extensively noted in the literary criticism of the works of William Shakespeare when he co-locates Athenian Duke Theseus and Amazonian Queen Hippolyta, English fairy Puck, and Roman god Cupid all together in the fairyland of its Merovingian Germanic sovereign Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In mythography it has been termed "mythopoesis" or mythopoeia, "fictional speculation", the creative design and generation of lore, regarding such works as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Such supernatural, alternate history, and sexuality themes continue in works produced within the modern speculative fiction genre.

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Selected profile #1

Robert Silverberg at the 67th World Science Fiction Convention
Robert Silverberg (born January 15, 1935) is an American author, best known for writing science fiction. He is a multiple winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

Silverberg was born in Brooklyn, New York. A voracious reader since childhood, he began submitting stories to science fiction magazines during his early teenage years. He attended Columbia University, receiving an A.B. in English Literature in 1956. His first published novel, a children's book called Revolt on Alpha C, appeared in 1955, and he won his first Hugo the following year for "best new writer". For the next four years, by his own count, he wrote a million words a year, mostly for magazines and Ace Doubles. In 1959 the market for science fiction collapsed, and Silverberg turned his ability to write copiously to other fields, from carefully researched historical nonfiction to softcore pornography.

In the mid-1960s, science fiction writers were starting to become more literarily ambitious. Frederik Pohl, then editing three science fiction magazines, offered Silverberg carte blanche in writing for them. Thus inspired, Silverberg returned to the field that gave him his start, paying far more attention to depth of character development and social background than he had in the past and mixing in elements of the modernist literature he had studied at Columbia.

Selected profile #2

Philip José Farmer (January 26, 1918 – February 25, 2009) was an American author, principally known for his award-winning science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. Farmer is best known for his novel series, especially the World of Tiers (1965-93) and Riverworld (1971-83) novels. He is noted for the pioneering use of sexual and religious themes in his work, his fascination for and reworking of the lore of celebrated pulp heroes, and occasional tongue-in-cheek pseudonymous works written as if by fictional characters.

Farmer’s first literary success came in 1952 with a novella called “The Lovers,” about a sexual relationship between a human and an extraterrestrial. It won him the Hugo Award as "most promising new writer", the first of his three Hugo Awards. Thus encouraged, he quit his job to become a full-time writer, entered a publisher’s contest, and promptly won the $4,000 first prize for a novel that contained the germ of his later Riverworld series. The book was not published and Farmer did not get the money. Literary success did not translate into financial security, and in 1956 he left Peoria to launch a career as a technical writer. The next 14 years were spent working in that capacity for various defense contractors, from Syracuse, New York to Los Angeles, California, while writing science fiction in his spare time.

Selected media

Canto VII of Dante's Inferno
Credit: Artist: Gustave Doré; Restoration: Adam Cuerden

Gustave Doré's depiction of Canto VII of Dante's Inferno, the first part of the Divine Comedy. Here, we see the fourth circle (out of nine) of Hell, in which hoarders and wasters are forced to move around giant bags of gold, similar to the mythological story of Sisyphus. Allegorically, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul towards God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin. (POTD)

Selected work

The Historian is the 2005 debut novel of American author Elizabeth Kostova. The plot blends the history and folklore of Vlad Ţepeş and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. Kostova's father told her stories about Dracula when she was a child, and later in life she was inspired to turn the experience into a novel. She worked on the book for ten years and then sold it within a few months to Little, Brown, and Company, which bought it for a remarkable US$2 million.

The Historian has been described as a combination of genres, including Gothic novel, adventure novel, detective fiction, travelogue, postmodern historical novel, epistolary epic, and historical thriller. Kostova was intent on writing a serious work of literature and saw herself as an inheritor of the Victorian style. Although based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Historian is not a horror novel, but rather an eerie tale. It is concerned with history's role in society and representation in books, as well as the nature of good and evil. As Kostova explains, "Dracula is a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history." The evils brought about by religious conflict are a particular theme, and the novel explores the relationship between the Christian West and the Islamic East.

Selected quote

The hardest theme in science fiction is that of the alien. The simplest solution of all is in fact quite profound—that the real difficulty lies not in understanding what is alien, but in understanding what is self. We are all aliens to each other, all different and divided. We are even aliens to ourselves at different stages of our lives. Do any of us remember precisely what it was like to be a baby?

Greg Bear (b.1951), "Introduction to 'Plague of Conscience'", The Collected Stories of Greg Bear (2002).

More quotes from Wikiquote: science fiction, fantasy, alternate history

Selected article

Amazing Stories, April 1926. Volume 1, Number 1
Amazing Stories was an American science fiction magazine launched in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback's Experimenter Publishing. It was the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction. Before Amazing, science fiction stories had made regular appearances in other magazines, including some published by Gernsback, but Amazing helped define and launch a new genre of pulp fiction.

Amazing was published, with some interruptions, for almost eighty years. The title first changed hands in 1929, when Gernsback was forced into bankruptcy and lost control of the magazine. Amazing became unprofitable during the 1930s and in 1938 was purchased by Ziff-Davis, who hired Raymond A. Palmer as editor. Palmer made the magazine successful though it was not regarded as a quality magazine within the science fiction community. In the late 1940s Amazing began to print stories about the Shaver Mystery, a lurid mythos which explained accidents and disaster as the work of robots named "deros"; the stories were presented as fact, and led to dramatically increased circulation but also widespread ridicule.

Palmer was replaced by Howard Browne in 1949, who briefly entertained plans of taking Amazing upmarket. These plans came to nothing, though Amazing did switch to a digest format in 1953, shortly before the end of the pulp-magazine era. A brief period under the editorship of Paul W. Fairman was followed, at the end of 1958, by the leadership of Cele Goldsmith. Despite her lack of experience she was able to bring new life to the magazine, and her years are regarded as one of Amazing's most creative eras. She was unable to arrest the declining circulation, though, and the magazine was sold to Sol Cohen's Universal Publishing Company in 1965.

Did you know...

a blue monster without a head and with a big face on his chest. Two men holding swords seated on his two arms

  • ... that the demon Kabandha (pictured), from the Hindu epic Ramayana, is described to be as big as a mountain, headless, and with arms eight miles long?
  • ... that before beginning a career in animation, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh worked as a vice president of sales and marketing for a computer company, where he "freaked out" and decided to quit?

On this day...

Possible futures

Possible events in the future as suggested by science fiction:

  • A race of moon dwarves searches for a route back to Earth through spiritual enlightenment during the 27th Century.

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See also these convention lists: anime, comic book, furry, gaming, multigenre, and science fiction.

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