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Spec fic - your definition?

I've been noticing in m/m blogs lately, reviewers and authors are tending to use the term "Spec Fic" as if it's synonymous with fantasy or urban fantasy.

I've always taken it to mean any of the weirder genres--but usually more modern ones, as it was originally coined to apply to the type of SF that was popular in men's magazines.

Wikipedia's definition seems to jibe with the way I understood the phrase: Speculative fiction is a fiction genre speculating about worlds that are unlike the real world in various important ways. In these contexts, it generally overlaps one or more of the following: science fiction, fantasy fiction, horror fiction, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history.

So, I'm curious...because although I'd always be more specific in labeling my own work (horror, alternate reality, paranormal or whatever) I wonder if more readers nowadays understand fantasy -- in particular, epic fantasy -- when they read the phrase "spec fic."


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 13th, 2010 10:42 am (UTC)
I'm not sure that I would. Urban fantasy maybe. But not high fantasy of the battling dragons with your magic sword type. If I saw "spec fic" on a book I'd be more inclined to expect it to be on the sci-fi side than fantasy or paranormal.
Apr. 13th, 2010 11:00 am (UTC)
Agreed, I think of "spec fic" as having a certain modernity, maybe a sci fi edge. I was wondering if the common usage had changed on me; it wouldn't be the first time.

Your icon reminds me...I got to meet Mike Nelson and I put a pic of him & me with an arm around each other in my Christmas letter to my family. My family, not knowing who he was and apparently unable to read the caption directly below the photo, decided he was my boyfriend. "Wow, your boyfriend's really handsome!"
Apr. 13th, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
It's a good thing the photo wasn't with one of the bots! The family would think you'd gone strange. :D
Apr. 13th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
That would've been more fun to explain!
Apr. 13th, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
To be totally honest, I've never heard the term before. So, on that basis, I would either read the blurb - if the cover grabbed me - or completely ignore it.

Speculative fiction sounds like hard work.
Apr. 13th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
What did you like to read before the advent of m/m? That might explain why you haven't heard it. I've always been a SF/fantasy/horror reader. Or it might be regional.
Apr. 13th, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
Good point. I don't think Jackie Collins or those historical romance writers with silly names wrote a lot of spec fic. ;)
Apr. 13th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
I'm probably completely wrong here, but I always saw spec fiction as more towards the futuristic or post apocalyptic within the fantasy genre. So, for example I would consider A Strong and Sudden Thaw as spec fiction but not Lord of the Rings.

After all, doesn't speculative fiction mean that the author is 'speculating' as to how things would be if X had happened, rather than just creating a whole new world separate from our own?
Apr. 13th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the reality check. Yes, that's how I see it too. I just see it used interchangably for Tolkienesque fantasy lately.
Apr. 13th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC)
Speculative fiction doesn't make me think of 'fantasy' at all; I think of what you and Wikipedia define it as. I would definitely not think of things like Mercedes Lackey and Dragonlance.

Honestly, though I guess it doesn't make much sense, I sort of associate it with pieces of writing that use their differences from reality to convey a stronger (or more unique) theme than average fiction/fantasy/sci-fi.
Apr. 13th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
In the Wikipedia article it did mention that writers who didn't want to be pigeonholed with sci fi called the work spec fic, so that would support your strong-theme impression.

There's a certain pulpiness I think of in regards to spec fic that appeals to me.
Apr. 13th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
To me, it's definitely ALL the "speculative" genres, not just a couple, not just fantasy.
Apr. 13th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)
I wonder, for me, if fantasy is less so because I can point to it and call it "fantasy" if it hits certain notes.
Apr. 13th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
Since this is arguably my favorite genre I can say I read all of those subgenres listed above but I don't consider urban fantasy, post-apoc, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, superheroes, etc to be spec fiction.

To me speculative fiction is something completely outside the box and usually umbrellaed under that term since it basically defies definition. I use the term when I encounter something like... Robot-man futuristic sex. The robot erotica anthology I read, sure that's definitely speculative fiction.

Lethe Press' spec fiction magazine fits in that genre since they have a mixture of urban fantasy, fantasy, sci-fi, and sometimes just plain weird stories thrown together.

For my own reading I don't usually equate the term with fantasy per se.

Apr. 13th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
There's a certain quality it spec fic that I don't think, for instance, urban fantasy really provides--even though technically they share so many elements. "Defies definition" is a great way of putting it!
Apr. 13th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)

Love, Mom
Apr. 13th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
Yay! Thanks!
Apr. 13th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
Joining in on the birthday wishes! Hope you have a good one. :)


Apr. 13th, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
I found a super awesome pair of pants to wear to OddCon :D
Apr. 13th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
I first heard the term "spec fiction" when Josh said he was writing it. I would have defined Strange Fortune as an alternate history/fantasy mix, going by the terms I already knew.

Personally, I don't think of fantasy as speculative fiction. Like some have said, I'd be more likely to think of it as having something of an overlap with science fiction. I guess it's just new-to-me terminology that I'll have to adapt to sooner or later.
Apr. 13th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
I think spec fic has a men's fiction/pulp fiction undertone that seems to be falling out of usage. I don't know that I think of Josh's AU/fantasy work as spec fic, though I know he does define it that way.

A couple of years ago I saw a writing contest that was looking for fiction in the vein of Robert Heinelien, so I read several stories by him to see if I could come up with an idea. I see that the term "spec fic" was coined around that time, specifically in regards to Heinlein, so I think of spec fic as being more Heinlein-like...which is of course not useful as a description unless you read that kind of thing. The plot of his that stuck with me the most is one of an architect who invented a house that was bigger inside than outside, and continually shifted. The stories were all very modern and gritty, or near-future and gritty, and all pretty dour. Not fantasy-like at all with magicians and spells.
Apr. 14th, 2010 03:46 am (UTC)
And Happy Birthday! ♥ xxx
Apr. 14th, 2010 08:47 am (UTC)
Thank you :D
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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