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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

John Wood Campbell, Jr. (June 8, 1910 – July 11, 1971) was an influential figure in American science fiction. As editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later called Analog Science Fiction and Fact), from late 1937 until his death, he is generally credited with shaping the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction.

Isaac Asimov called Campbell "the most powerful force in science fiction ever, and for the first ten years of his editorship he dominated the field completely." As a writer, Campbell published super-science space opera under his own name and moody, less pulpish stories as Don A. Stuart. However, he stopped writing fiction after he became editor of Astounding.

Campbell's first published story, "When the Atoms Failed," appeared in the January 1930 issue of Amazing Stories when he was 19; he had had a previous story, "Invaders from the Infinite", accepted by Amazing's editor, T. O'Conor Sloane, but Sloane had lost the manuscript. Campbell's early fiction included a space opera series based on three characters, Arcot, Morey and Wade, and another series with lead characters Penton and Blake. This early work established Campbell's reputation as a writer of space adventure; and when he began in 1934 to publish stories with a different tone, he used a pseudonym derived from his wife's maiden name.

Selected profile #2

Beagle at a 2014 screening of "The Last Unicorn".
Peter Soyer Beagle (born April 20, 1939) is an American novelist and screenwriter, especially fantasy fiction. His best-known work is The Last Unicorn (1968), a fantasy novel he wrote in his twenties, which Locus subscribers voted the number five "All-Time Best Fantasy Novel" in 1987. During the last twenty-five years he has won several literary awards, including a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2011. He was named Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the SFWA in 2018.

Today he is best known as the author of The Last Unicorn and A Fine and Private Place, as well as his later fantasies following The Folk of the Air. He also wrote an introduction for an American print edition of The Lord of the Rings, then wrote the screenplay for the 1978 Ralph Bakshi-animated version of The Lord of the Rings. Two decades later he wrote the teleplay for "Sarek", episode 71 of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Beagle's 2009 collection of short fiction, We Never Talk About My Brother, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. IDW Publishing released a six-issue comic book adaptation of The Last Unicorn beginning in April 2010. The collected hardcover edition was released in January 2011, premiering at #2 on the New York Times Hardcover Graphic Novel bestseller list. It was followed by an adaptation of A Fine and Private Place.

Selected media

Frontispiece to the 1825/1826 edition of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron, published by W. Dugdale, Russell Court, Drury Lane. The engraving is by I. H. Jones.
Credit: I. H. Jones (illustration), Adam Cuerden (restoration)

Frontispiece to the 1825/1826 edition of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron, published by W. Dugdale, Russell Court, Drury Lane. The engraving is by I. H. Jones.

Selected work

Star Maker is an influential science fiction novel by Olaf Stapledon, written in 1937. Stapledon undertakes the immense task of describing the entire history of life in the universe. It dwarfs in scale even his 1930 book Last and First Men, which is a history of the human species over two billion years. It tackles philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. The narrator starts with a concern at the clash of ideas on Earth and finds analogies to both communism and fascism among the aliens he visits.

A pervading theme is that of progressive unity within and between different civilizations. Some of the elements and themes briefly discussed prefigure later fiction concerning genetic engineering and alien life forms. Arthur C. Clarke considered Star Maker to be one of the finest works of science fiction ever written.

Selected quote


Lionel Trilling (1905-1975), The Liberal Imagination (1950).
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.

Did you know...

The Death of Procris

  • ... that the 101 Dalmatians Musical has several performers working on 15" stilts to simulate a canine perspective, and uses 15 real Dalmatian dogs for several scenes?

On this day...

September 19:

Television series

Births


Possible futures

Possible events in the future as suggested by science fiction:

  • In the year 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 (500 quintillion), the last descendants of humanity make some changes to our near present in order to release the universe's vacuum energy, spawn new universes, and prevent the Big Freeze from happening.

Upcoming conventions

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October:

 

Dates can usually be found on the article page.


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

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