26 January 2011

Spec Fic or Fantasy?

There's apparently some sort of battle between terminology in terms of genre.  There's speculative fiction, which is a term I just learned that might get me a creative writing degree without ever saying "I write a specific genre."  

For those who don't understand, the creative writing department at UW-Madison, and other institutions of writing, don't want their students to write genre fiction because it's not literary.  I did have a creative writing professor explain that they want students to write character-based fiction, so the goal is to write something based on a character and not focused on an entire world that's not our own.  She went on to say that science fiction takes away from character and focuses more on world development, and it usually takes an entire novel to develop a world where it only takes 10 pages to develop a character.  While I don't agree with this, I felt that I should at least nod my head and agree seeing as she was in control of my grades at the time.

Back on the main topic.  I've just read a series of blog entries involving this Sci-Fi/Fantasy vs. Spec Fic argument.  Here is a post by Cat Valente explaining her hate for the term speculative fiction.  She also mentions a podcast she was referencing.  This is the official website of the podcast mentioned, but I haven't listened enough to find the correct podcast.  Seeing as both podcast and Ms. Valente's posts came out today, I assume the podcast is for January 26.  

One of the main arguments of Ms. Valente's post is that fantasy is a sub-genre of science fiction and thus doesn't gain the recognition of science fiction even though it is just as big.  I've never thought of fantasy being lesser than science fiction.  But I'm going to point out the comment by Pocketnaomi, who explained to her young daughter that science fiction is the sub-genre of fantasy.  This I can agree with.

Because fantasy, to me, deals with the Things that Can't Happen.  This includes all types of fantasy: paranormal, urban, epic, etc.  Among these Things that Can't Happen are various forms of science fiction, like Victorian-era steampunk that takes place during the Great Depression and space operas that span across a make-believe galaxy.  Therefore, Fantasy also includes science fiction and the sub-genres of that: space military (such as Halo), cyberpunk, etc.  So science fiction being a sub-genre to fantasy makes more sense to me than fantasy being a sub-genre to science fiction.  

On the other side, there's Kat Howard who prefers speculative fiction as opposed to science fiction and fantasy.  Ms. Howard mentioned being within academia, and the academics in creative writing prefer the term Speculative Fiction as opposed to fantasy/science fiction.  This caught my attention because I am a student within this academia and if they accept speculative fiction, then that's what I'm going to say I write.  At this moment in my life, I'm powerless to emphasize which term I prefer to use.  If Speculative Fiction allows me to get away with space ships in terms of school projects, then Speculative Fiction I write.  Since I'm too low on the totem pole to make an argument that would be heard, I'm forced to subtly find loopholes in the current mode of academic thinking.  

Which do you prefer: speculative fiction or fantasy/science fiction?

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