|Photo courtesy of Wikipedia|
If I asked you to name the Top 10 Highest Grossing Films of all Time, how many do you think you’d be able to name?
You might surprise yourself and know many or even most of them. The Wikipedia list I used looks to be regularly updated so it’s most likely a reasonable guide for reference purposes.
How many of them did you enjoy? If you did enjoy them what particularly appealed to you about each movie?
What’s interesting is that 8 of the 10, if they were novels, could be deemed “speculative” by definition. Two were based on novels and five were based on comic strips and/or a theme park ride. The final one of the eight, Avatar, was created by James Cameron.
Now let’s think about the Highest Grossing Novels. It starts getting a little trickier due to the sheer volume of books that have been released since whenever. Once again there are some significant “speculative” novels that have sold in excess of 50 million copies:
|Photo courtesy of Wikipedia|
- Harry Potter series
- Star Wars
- The Vampire Chronicles
- Twilight series
- Hunger Games trilogy
Final one. Highest Grossing Christian Novels. I struggled to source a definitive list. The Wikipedia link above includes two mega hits:
- The Lord of The Rings (plus The Hobbit)
- The Chronicles of Narnia
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We can safely add to those Frank Peretti’s “Darkness” duo and The Shack, both of which have sold millions of copies.
All of these would be grouped under the “speculative fiction” banner.
It’s reasonable to make the statement that entertainment involving the speculative is appealing to the masses. And don’t get me started on television shows. The Walking Dead, Supernatural, Buffy, Charmed, oops, sorry, I said I wouldn’t get started.
But what is speculative fiction and what differentiates it from other genres? Let’s start with defining it and then next week we’ll explore what are the key elements to grabbing a reader’s attention.
Our good friend Iola did a fabulous job outlining many of the sub-genres that exist within speculative and fantasy in a post she wrote last year.
It’s been interesting exploring various literary sites to find there are many varied definitions for speculative fiction. Marcher Lord Press, which is a Christian publisher, dedicated to speculative fiction splits the category between fantasy, science fiction and supernatural (including the paranormal). I read somewhere this definition for speculative fiction, which has lots of merit:
“A catchall for strange stories that don’t fit anywhere else”
I was able to find a definition on The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) site under the “Genesis Contest” for unpublished fiction. It read:
Speculative: Novels in which the science fiction, the future, other planets, a fantasy world, or paranormal happenings are a major element of the plot or setting. This category includes speculative, visionary, science fiction, paranormal, futuristic, allegory, and alternate history fiction.
However, I believe Orson Scott Card of “Ender’s Game” fame has captured it very simply:
"Speculative fiction includes all stories that take place in a setting contrary to known reality, namely:
- Historical Past that contradict known facts
- Other worlds
- Stories involving aliens
- Contrary to the laws of nature. This is a catchall for time travel, invisible man-style fiction and super heroes.1"
Different to Other Genres
Implicit in the various definitions above is the notion that, unlike many other genres, speculative fiction is not bound to follow any particular formula. Further, two characteristics that are essential to these novels are:
- The creation of an alternate setting or world, and
- The story being intrinsically bound to that alternate setting and vice versa.
Next week we’ll walk through some of the general characteristics of world creation and it’s link with the generation of the story line.
May I leave you with two questions to ponder and perhaps comment on:
- What appeals or doesn’t appeal to you about speculative entertainment?
- If speculative entertainment is so popular to the masses why do you think speculative fiction doesn’t appeal to more Christian readers?
Note: 1. How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, Orson Scott Card, Writers Digest, 1990, pp17-18
Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter