Friday, July 3, 2009

Fiction Friday: Speculative Fiction, This Week's Winner and Something Different

Last week, Steven G dropped a question on me: What are your thoughts or rules regarding the use of existing fictional characters, real people, or historical places and events when writing "fiction"? For example, would it be valid to concoct a story where Huck Finn and I go fishing in Hawaii on Dec 7, 1941?

So, let's talk about speculative fiction.

To begin at the beginning, the world of fiction is divided into genres. I'm not sure how or when or why that occurred, but for purposes of today's fiction market, it's used to sub-divide books into general categories of interest. This allows booksellers to know where to place each book, and it allows publishing companies to balance their offering. On the front-line for us writers, it allows us to identify potential agents for our work, since successful agents generally build specialties in a few genres, and don't handle anything outside those genres.

Examples of genres are: romance, mystery, thriller/suspense, historical and literary fiction. The term literary fiction is kind of squishy. Some people even claim that any book or story that doesn't fit easily into any other defined genre is literary fiction. More typically, it's defined by being character- rather than plot-driven and leans toward more high end writing -- minimal use of adjectives and adverbs, avoidance of dialogue tags ("she whimpered," "he roared") and use of strong metaphor.

The flash fiction pieces you've been writing here at the Raisin Chronicles are literary fiction. (Note: I made that statement without going back and re-reading them, so cut me some slack if your entry better fits another genre.)

Told you all that to tell you this: the scenario that Steven G proposed falls into a classification called "speculative fiction."

This is a relatively new genre, and is considered a sub-genre of science fiction. If you're thinking, "but hanging out with Huck Finn in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor isn't science," I agree. It is, however, alternate history, and that's part of speculative fiction.

Speculative fiction can generally be defined as fiction spawned by "What If?" What if Huck Finn had been present at Pearl Harbor? In addition to being plot- or character-driven, it's idea-driven.

If you're interested, there's a good article here. The Wikidpedia entry is flawed, so I don't recommend going there.

This Week's Winner

We actually had only two entries this week, so by the authority vested in me as the owner of this contest and sole arbiter of what goes on here, I declare them both winners.

Cathy, from Coffee with Cathy submitted this:

The Dinner Party

It was a small thing, but the consequences after the honored dinner guest found a tiny hair in his after-dinner demitasse sent Mrs. Waldrop-Baird’s household into a frenzy from which it has yet to recover. The cook immediately was given notice – a sad thing, Mrs. Waldrop-Baird mused later, as good cooks have been scarce since the war – and both the butler and the kitchen maid were given a good talking to. Mrs. Waldrop-Baird hopes her firm and decisive action is enough to quell the gossip, although her rival, Mrs. Bennington Michaels III, thinks probably it is not.

Great voice, Cathy! The protagonist is clearly upper class, probably British, and the time just after WWII -- among a group of people who have not yet figured out how the war has changed things.

And Steven G submitted this:

Who I Am

It was a small thing, but the consequences brought us together at last.

I know you, damned enemy. This morning, from each side, we prayed; then donned our armor to enact the sins of war.
As the smoke clears, I stand victorious above your dying body. Your eyes search me and find the small cross I’m wearing, identical to yours.

Do you know who I am now? I’m the one who shot you. I’ve come to help you die, brother.

For I know who you are too, this morning.

You’re the one whose bullet killed me first.

Again, good use of voice, Steven G -- It's a joy to watch your writing grow stronger from week to week.

Next Week's Challenge:

Next week, for a change of pace, I thought we'd try something a little different. (And then we'll return to writing prompts.)

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I took some quizzes on the internet and discovered that my two real strengths are Broadway musicals and profanity. Which got me to thinking about how much fun it would be to write profane showtunes (if I were at all musical, which I'm NOT. I called my sister the other night and sang "Happy birthday" and she said, "You were on key that time!" with way more surprise than was called for.) Anyway, this week's assignment is to submit the (rude, crude or profane) title of a showtune by midnight Wednesday, Eastern Daylight time.

Here's where the challenge comes in: I will take all the submissions and weave them into a proposed plot structure and next Friday I'll publish the outline, complete with song titles for "Blogger: The Musical"

To get your creative juices flowing, I'll propose a couple of song titles:

Comment Whore

A couple of things:
1) Please don't get me kicked off Blogger
2) Try to create titles that are in some way related to the pastime of blogging.

Disclaimer: The Raisin Chronicles has never been designed to appeal to the younger crowd, but I suspect next Friday could set a new low for inappropriate, so if your 12-year-old has gotten into the habit of coming here to check out the occasional video, I strongly recommend parental guidance!


  1. Thank you, Jeanne, for the kind words and the honor of sharing the top prize with Steven G! Your prompts are so much fun -- really, everybody should give it a try.

  2. J,

    Thanks for the explanation of speculative fiction. In one of my short shorts, I was in Lee Harvey Oswald's head, and I thought to myself, "Am I qualified to be there?" Guess so!

    Coffee with Cathy. Nice writing. I want to be there!

    As for this week's challenge, the recurring thought I keep experiencing is, "And I thought I was strange."

  3. I've been writing a musical off-and-on for a couple of years... it's about incest and murder... :D

    Your challenge has set me off trying to think of some witty twist on an existing title a la 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue' (let me know if that reference is lost on the Americans) but the more I look at soundtracks the more my twisted mind can make half the real ones sound dirty!

    I'll have to get back to you.......

  4. Thank you, Steven G -- that means a lot coming from you.

  5. Here's a song title.

    Wrapping My Legs Around a Post

  6. Steven G.

    If I can throw my 2 cents in, if you are looking for some speculative fiction examples, Harry Turtledove does a lot of "Alternate History" novels, Alan Moore's graphic novel "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" with the different literary characters coming together, and there is a "documentary" called CSA:The Confederate States of America a "What If" the South won the Civil War. This style of fiction can be a great read and I would think a fun write, as long as there is a bit of followable logic. As a geek, I encourage your delving into it.

  7. Jeanne,

    Here's a couple of titles:

    (Too Texty?)

    Suck My Mouse

    Blogasphere Bitchin'

  8. I can tell it's going to be a fun week. Jeff,Cathy... like your posts.

    Now, since there seems to be no limit, other than a cautionary hint toward creative tastelessness, I shall herefore submit my first entry.

    Please don't ride me too hard for this, for it's not my intent to be the butt of anyone's joke. I just wanted to run it up the flagpole to see how it comes across...


  9. I can't wait for this! It promises to be so fun!

  10. A few more. How about these titles?

    Baby, let me look up your templates.

    Drag and drop my love on your post.

  11. You caught me off guard with this one for sure. I think I need to put my thoughts in the gutter and come back later.

  12. Right then, Jan.

    Since we're in the gutter this week, we might as well make the best if it. Here's a few more:

    Pagemaker, Pagemaker

    If I Were A Gay Man

    If Ever I Would Flame You

    I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hairs

  13. This is fun ... here are a few ...

    Hakuna Ma-ta-tas

    Can You Feel the Spam Tonight

    I Feel Bloggy

    I Could Have Blogged All Night

    Beauty and the Breast

    Breast Size Story

    If I Were a Bitch Man (with plagiarism apologies to Steven G)

    If I Only Had a Blog

    I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face-book

    Ding Dong My Hard Drive’s Dead

  14. Congratulations to Steven G and Cathy.

    Tweet Me, Baby, (All Night Long).

  15. Take Me to Your Sidebar -

    Deep Blog -

    Blue Blog -

    I Love It When You Text Dirty -

  16. (Sorry, Honey, But) Your Post Is Too Long

  17. After six hours on the road back from Nashville ( wherr EVERDANGTHANG is countreee ) it was a relief to visit this blog!Here's a few more ...

    Ain't Misspellin'

    Till There Was Jews

    Get Me To The Raisin Chronicles On Time

    Jeanne Be A Lady Tonight

    Gentlemen Prefer Blogs

    Anything You Can Screw I Can Screw Better

    Oh What A Beautiful Porn Thing

    Hello Jeanne

    Ya Got Trouble, Right Here In Riverside..

    I Got Plent Of Nuttin' To Post

    Sit On A Happy Face

  18. I learn so much from reading you. It re-inspires me each time. So I need to just hang out on your proverbial corner.

    Trying to get back on the blogging bus, including Fri fiction. Will try.


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