Taking Notes: 'What is Speculative Fiction?' (2008) by D. D. Shade

Speculative Fiction 一詞在 Heinlein 首度提出的時候就是要取代 science fiction 用的,經過 Judith Merril 發揚光大,逐漸將範圍擴及所有幻想文類,甚至連對行內無知的 Margaret Atwood 也曾發文「強搶」本辭彙的解釋權。不管如何,個人認為 speculative fiction 仍是最能代表 sf 縮寫的「全名」。如今 D. D. Shade 的這篇專文很簡單精闢地說明 speculative fiction 的意義,吾道中人不可不讀。

D. D. Shade, "What is Speculative Fiction?" in Lost Book Archives


speculative fiction 的基本定義:
paragraph 1:

What is speculative fiction? Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term I like to use because it includes all the forms of fantastic fiction or what for ages has been called science fiction and fantasy. ...... 之後並列舉部分的次文類及代表作品。

paragraph 2:
Speculative Fiction eliminates the need for a separation between science fiction, fantasy, and horror because they are different forms of one thing. The term also cleans up the confusion of having sub-genres lie within sub-genres ...... Furthermore, the term Speculative Fiction provides a home for books such Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which was marketed as plain vanilla or straight fiction, but is clearly Speculative Fiction. ......
paragraph 3:
關於 speculative fiction 的世界設定:
In Speculative Fiction the action of the story can take place in a culture that never existed, a world we know nothing of, or an earth that might have been or might be, to name a few. ...... Thus, Speculative Fiction gives a writer the power to create whatever circumstances or cultures necessary to the tale he/she wishes to share.
paragraph 4:
speculative fiction 所涵蓋的範圍〔簡單說即是幻想世界包山包海〕:

According to Orson Scott Card (See How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Writer's Digest Books, 1990, p. 17), Speculative Fiction includes all stories that take place in a setting contrary to known reality. This includes:
1. All stories set in the future, because the future can't be known. Out-of-date futures, like that depicted in the novel 1984, simply shift from the "future" category to:
2. All stories set in the historical past that contradict known facts of history or "alternate world" stories.
3. All stories set on other worlds, because we've never gone there. Whether "future humans" take part in the story or not, if it isn't Earth, it belongs to fantasy and science fiction.
4. All stories supposedly set on Earth, but before recorded history and contradicting the known archaeological record--stories about visits from ancient aliens, or ancient civilizations that left no trace, or, "lost kingdoms" surviving into modern times.
5. All stories that contradict some known or supposed law of nature. Obviously, fantasy that uses magic falls into this category, but so does much science fiction: time travel stories, for instance, or invisible-man stories.
6. In short, science fiction and fantasy stories are those that take place in worlds that have never existed or are not yet known.

接下來回歸到以往討論科幻時最常見的 "what if" 公式:
paragraph 5:
As a field of literature, Speculative Fiction is unique (and often overlooked by pseudo-intellectuals). This distinctiveness is best illustrated in the primary question asked by the writers of Speculative Fiction, "What if?" ......
paragraph 7:
In short, what sets Speculative Fiction apart from other fiction, such as The Hunt for Red October or The Firm? It is because to enjoy Speculative Fiction one must often suspend one's disbelief -- even with hard science fiction which is based on real science. ...... Readers of novels such as these are intrigued by them because they might be true (and of course the building tension), whereas readers of Speculative Fiction are fascinated by the myriad of possibilities of what might come to be.

paragraph 8:
這邊引用兩個人的話,首先是 Pamela Sargent:
...... "Science fiction is the literature of ideas. Alone among our present genres it can show us a world which does not exit, has not existed, but which could come into being. It can show us alternatives, many of which might be opposite to our presuppositions. ......"
另一位則是 Gordon R. Dickson:
". . . the science fiction core audience is interested in the investigation of all possible subjects, whether these happen to be palatable at the moment or not.

Investigation, however, is the key word. Core science fiction does not investigate dark or hitherto unexplored territories simply for the sake of being called explorative . . . The explorations of science fiction are normally for the purpose of testing an idea, a question, or a possibility in the literary laboratory; as opposed to trying it out in the real world, where a botched experiment can mean famine, pestilence, or the bloody slaughter of one people by another.

Science fiction is, in fact, essentially an unstructured think-tank in which authors of differing points of view can paint differing solutions or eventualities suggested by present problems or situations. As a literature it is favorably designed to act as a vehicle for ideas or arguments--to be a seedbag for a philosophical fiction."

把功能與特質討論完後,開始申論閱讀 speculative fiction 的必要性:
paragraph 9:
...... I believe this genre has a special capacity to deal with the human equation. Writers of Speculative Fiction, through the creation of unknown worlds or the recreation of events, etc. are able to place men, women and children against powerful circumstances that bring out the best (and the worst) of human characteristics. ......〔以下舉實際例證至 paragraph 12〕
paragraph 12:
...... All good Speculative Fiction questions.
paragraph 13:
Writers of SF have greater ability to use the literary laboratory or thought experiment, I believe, than writers of plain vanilla or straight fiction. In the words of Charles Champlin, "Science fiction at its finest has always been less a matter of gadgetry's and bug-eyed monsters than a setting for commentaries on what and who we are, seen from a fresh perspective." 〔以 Star Wars (Ep4) 為例〕...... The challenge of good SF is to make the props propel the story in the desired direction.
最後再以 Star TrekEnder's Game,以及更多電影、小說為例,闡述 speculative fiction 的精神乃是 the thought experiment or literary laboratory that deals with human adventure,我就不多引用了。

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