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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 (play) 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

Budrys at the 1985 Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop
Algis Budrys (January 9, 1931 – June 9, 2008) was a Lithuanian-American science fiction author, editor, and critic. He was also known under the pen names "Frank Mason", "Alger Rome", "John A. Sentry", "William Scarff", and "Paul Janvier."

Beginning in 1952 Budrys worked as editor and manager for such science fiction publishers as Gnome Press and Galaxy Science Fiction. Some of his science fiction in the 1950s was published under the pen name "John A. Sentry", a reconfigured Anglification of his Lithuanian name. Among his other pseudonyms in the SF magazines of the 1950s and elsewhere, several revived as bylines for vignettes in his magazine Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, is "William Scarff". He also wrote several stories under the names "Ivan Janvier" or "Paul Janvier." He also used the pen name "Alger Rome" in his collaborations with Jerome Bixby.

Budrys's 1960 novella Rogue Moon was nominated for a Hugo Award, and was later anthologized in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two (1973). His Cold War science fiction novel Who? was adapted for the screen in 1973. In addition to numerous Hugo Award and Nebula Award nominations, Budrys won the Science Fiction Research Association's 2007 Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions to speculative fiction scholarship. In 2009, he was the recipient of one of the first three Solstice Awards presented by the SFWA in recognition of his contributions to the field of science fiction.

Selected profile #2

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 media

Thor and Útgarða-Loki
Credit: Artist: Louis Huard; Restoration: Adam Cuerden

A 1900 illustration of the Norse god Thor with the giant Útgarða-Loki. Giving his name as "Skrymir", the giant tricked Thor and his companions in several ways, such as challenging Thor's servant Þjálfi to a race against Thought, challenging Loki in an eating contest with Wildfire, and challenging Thor to a drinking contest where the drinking horn was connected to the ocean. In the end, Útgarða-Loki revealed his trickery and said that he had been truly afraid at their performance and would never again risk coming near the thunder god. Thor's dealings with giants make up most of the myths surrounding him. (POTD)

Selected work

The Green Child is the only completed novel by the English anarchist poet and critic Herbert Read. Written in 1934 and first published by Heinemann in 1935, the story is based on the 12th-century legend of two green children who mysteriously appeared in the English village of Woolpit, speaking an apparently unknown language. Read described the story in his English Prose Style, published in 1931, as "the norm to which all types of fantasy should conform".

The novel's three parts all end with the apparent death of the story's protagonist, President Olivero, dictator of the fictional South American Republic of Roncador. In each case, Olivero's death is an allegory for his translation to a "more profound level of existence", reflecting the book's overall theme of a search for the meaning of life. Read's interest in psychoanalytic theory is evident throughout the novel, which is constructed as a "philosophic myth ... in the tradition of Plato".

The story contains many autobiographical elements, and the character of Olivero owes much to Read's experiences as an officer in the British Army during the First World War. The novel was positively received, although some commentators have considered it to be "inscrutable", and one has suggested that it has been so differently and vaguely interpreted by those who have given it serious study that it may lack the form and content to justify the praise it has received.

Selected quote


Peter Nicholls (b.1939), True Rat 7 (1976).
More quotes from Wikiquote: science fiction, fantasy, alternate history

Selected article

May 1955 issue of If; the cover is by Kenneth Fagg
If was an American science fiction magazine launched in March 1952 by Quinn Publications, owned by James L. Quinn. Quinn hired Paul W. Fairman to be the first editor, but early circulation figures were disappointing, and Quinn fired Fairman after only three issues. Quinn then took over the editorial position himself. He stayed in that role until late 1958, though Larry T. Shaw took over most editorial duties for a year from mid-1953. In 1958 Damon Knight was hired as editor, but within three issues Quinn sold the magazine to Robert Guinn at Galaxy Publishing.

The new editor at Galaxy Publishing was Horace L. Gold, who was also editing Galaxy Science Fiction. After two years Frederik Pohl took over as editor, and it was under Pohl that If reached its greatest success, winning the Hugo Award for best professional magazine three years running from 1966 to 1968. In 1969 Guinn sold all his magazines to Universal Publishing and Distribution (UPD). Pohl decided not to continue as editor as he wanted to return to his writing career. Ejler Jakobsson became editor; the magazine was not successful under his management and circulation plummeted. In early 1974 Jim Baen took over from Jakobsson as editor, but increasing paper costs meant that UPD could no longer afford to publish both Galaxy and If. Galaxy was regarded as the senior of the two magazines, so If was merged into Galaxy after the December 1974 issue, its 175th issue overall.

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