Wednesday, 24 October 2012

What is Speculative Fiction by Theresa Milstein

Today, I'm swapping posts with a good friend and fellow writer, Theresa Milstein. I'm very excited because we are both included in the anthology, From Stage Door Shadows.

Theresa talks about speculative fiction...here she is!



Thanks for swapping blogs with me, Len.  I’m so excited to be in From Stage Door Shadows with you!

Last summer, I learned about the rules for writing a short story for the anthology From Stage Door Shadows:

1. Be inspired by a line from Elton John’s song “Tiny Dancer”

(That was easy.  I chose, “Looking on she sings the songs”.)

2. The piece must be speculative fiction.

What? 

I had to look it up. 

Here’s the definition on Wikipedia:

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term encompassing the more highly imaginative fiction genres, specifically including science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history.

Okay.

That covers just about everything.  It’s almost too broad. 

I found this one on dictionary.com:

a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements. 


As soon as I got the line for the song, the ideas began to percolate.  My manuscripts normally have a magical element, but my short stories are often realistic fiction with a twist.  My first idea to write about children’s beauty pageants wasn’t going to have a fantasy element.  What to do now? 

The reason I chose children’s beauty pageants is because they seem extreme.  How the girls look and behave is extreme. I thought about women today: the fight over their bodies, the display of their bodies, and the idea of traditional roles. 

Then I thought about placing the pageant in the future.  What would beauty pageants look like in 2313?  What status would women have in the future? Once I asked those questions, I became even more excited about my story idea. 

Speculative fiction is about pushing the limits.

When I sent my story all polished, I felt good about it.  But the editor, Jodi Cleghorn, who worked with me for 100 Stories for Queensland, wanted me to push the piece further—make it darker.  It was the most extensive edit I’d ever done for a short story, and “My Moment” was much better for it.   

After reading about half the stories, I believe that everyone pushed limits.  I felt like I peeked down alleyways on dark nights and spied through windows in unsavory neighborhoods.  Here and there, I found flashes of magic and glimmers of hope.    

I’ve been amazed over how the lines from one song could inspire such various stories in place, time, tone, and more.  It was like eating a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.  

Watch out for earwax. 

Have you ever heard of speculative fiction?
Have you written speculative fiction? 

Where to find From Stage Door Shadows:






On the eMergent site, the book is $19.99 and the ebook formats are $4.95. 

Enjoy this!

41 comments:

  1. Thanks for hosting me, Len! So excited we swapped blogs today. It's 6:10 am here, and my post is up with your interview! http://theresamilstein.blogspot.com/2012/10/discovering-gift.html

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  2. As you know, Theresa, it was the first time i'd ever written speculative fiction too. But it was such a great learning experience!

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    1. Jessica, I can't wait until we have our blog swap. Writing speculative fiction was a great learning experience!

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  3. All the manuscripts I've ever written--except for one--have been spec fic! I have trouble dwelling in reality. From Stage Door Shadows sounds like an amazing anthology!

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    1. Sarah, I never thought of my contemporary fantasy as speculative fiction before. From what I've read of the other short stories in the anthology, they can be pretty dark. Mine feels positively cheerful in contrast.

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  4. Loved reading about your process. I've taught middle school English for 29 years and have a master's degree, and had never heard of speculative fiction. I love it when I learn something new!

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    1. Shelly, speculative fiction seems to be a big umbrella.

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  5. Thanks for sharing how you came up with the idea for your story and how you pushed to fit it to what was required. So excited for you!

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! It's funny because I often write fantasy, but this story wasn't coming out that way, so I had to really think about how it would fit.

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  6. I read load of sci-fi and alternative history books - so yay for speculative fiction!!!

    Hello Theresa, hello Len!! Yay for your stories in this wonderful anthology. take care
    x

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    1. Thanks, Old Kitty. I haven't read much sci-fi, but the more I read, the more I like the genre.

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  7. OMG! I loved that video! I just added this book to my list. Good luck!

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    1. Carol, I've watched the video three times, and it still makes me laugh.

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  8. Oh, I love that the stories in this were all inspired from a line in the song, how creative! I'm looking forward to reading both of your stories.

    Great interview, Theresa. And it's wonderful to meet you, Len!

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    1. Julie, thank you. I hope you enjoy the stories. And I'm so happy you got to meet Len!

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  9. Interesting twist on the theme, Teresa! I'd think pageants would only get weirder...

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    1. Alex, and now the kids ones are more popular than ever.

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  10. Great interview. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. I think the concept of children's beauty pageants is very interesting, especially when put into a story. Childhood was the only time in my life when I didn't obsess over my appearance; once I became an adolescent, though, it was an entirely different story. So I think that beauty pageants put kids through a lot of pressure that they shouldn't have to go through yet.
    I also like the idea of incorporating magic into stories. I think a lot of people find the idea of magic appealing; I think it's one of the reasons why fairy tales, etc. are so popular.

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    1. Neurotic Workaholic, the emphasis on winning at beauty for children really bugs me. I agree with you. This short story doesn't have any fantasy, but if I made it into a bigger story, I wonder if it would somehow creep in like it always does.

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  12. Thanks for the input about speculative fiction! love the video too!

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  13. Spec fic is my favorite genre. Great post, Theresa.

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    1. Michael Offutt, I guess I'm a big fan too, even though I didn't know what it was until last year.

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  14. Interesting post Theresa and I learned what Speculative Fiction is.
    Thank You.

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    1. Anthony, glad I'm not the only one who never heard of it before!

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  15. I write speculative fiction. It's a fun genre.

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    1. M Pax, I guess I did too, but didn't know it.

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  16. great post, Theresa! Lovely to see you on Len's blog. (And great to meet len, too). :)

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  17. I tried writing speculative fiction, but the few short stories and the two novels I tried to write are unfinished. I'd like to try again, though. I don't want to write contemporary, realistic forever.

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    1. Medeia, I have a hard time writing contemporary, realistic fiction.

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  18. I speculate what it would be like if I ever finished the work of fiction that I have been working on for years. Does that count?

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  19. Hi Len and Theresa .. this was so interesting to read - and I love the idea of the anthology - it's on my list .. and fascinating to learn more about your approach, Theresa .... cheers Hilary

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  20. Ha! I was just wondering about this question. Perfect!

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  21. Great post Theresa! Loved reading this.

    All the best!

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  22. Loved hearing how your story came to be, Theresa. I haven't written speculative fiction, although I have read some.

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  23. Oh! I thought they were called paranormals? Speculative sounds more mysterious, I like it :-)

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  24. Thanks for this article. I am a new blogger so this is very helpful. It’s hard to know how long it takes to make a successful blog, so “being patient” is among some of the best advice you can give. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see movement, but this give me some encouragement.

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