Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Speculative Fiction

We create stories to help us shape a chaotic world, to navigate inequities of power, to accept our lack of control over nature, over others, over ourselves. -Doug Dorst.      

Speculative fiction.

Up until Haunted, I’d never written in this genre. Most of my work has more of a paranormal bent. Now don’t get me wrong, I read it all the time; in fact it’s one of my favorites—I love the mish-mash of it all—nothing like escaping reality for a good time. It works because it comes so naturally to us. Who among us isn’t curious about what might have been?   Think about it. Our life is made up of a million choices. What if we’d made just one differently? Would our whole world be changed? Possibly.  Who can wrap their arms around that? And the most frightening part? Sometimes the choices aren’t even our own. What if that train that was supposed to pick up your mother was late—you know that train where your mom and dad met? It’s like Back to the Future on steroids. Almost makes you never want to leave your house, doesn’t it? But there’s a cost there, too.

Everything has a cost.

Just something to think about.

-Melanie Schulz

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Science: Past, Present, and Future

One of the things I love so much about science fiction is the way the past, present, and future can all continue to influence each other.

What do I mean?

  1)      The last ten years have seen a dramatic increase in the popularity of the Steampunk genre. Society is so enamored with the idea of steam-powered and gear driven technology that it influences our reading, writing, television entertainment, and even our music industry.  I discovered one such band in San Diego a couple of years ago. Check out Steam Powered Giraffe below!

  2)      Scientific theories which have been accepted for 100 years, like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, make a frequent appearance in our books and television entertainment. However, did you know that physicists were still trying to prove, or disprove, that theory? See how David Tennant explains this: 

  3)      Both of the above examples can influence parallel universes like the ones found in our anthology, but what about when an author tries to stay ahead of popular and developing technology? Scientists are often pursuing breakthroughs based on sheer speculation. Authors in turn come across these theories and use those ideas to fuel their own works. Whether it’s shark skin technology (scientists hope to use it for recreation, medical, and aeronautic purposes), genomic imprinting, or Hymenoptera training (similar to Antman or Fran Wilde’s “Like a Wasp to the Tongue”) any theory in development can open the door for an authors imagination. When nine writers were invited to Microsoft’s research lab’s, the result was an anthology of scifi stories. Read more about that HERE.

  4)      Likewise, writer’s imaginations can open the door for scientific discovery. Just look at all of the gadgets used in episodes of Star Trek. Many of them fueled the drive for scientists to create the technology we use today. Check out these other sciences stimulated by fiction HERE, or the books that motivated Steve Jobs HERE.

All of these examples show how science, technology, and art can inspire and feed each other.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What is Speculative Fiction?

Before I get to the issue of the day, I’d like to mention that we’ll be posting here on this blog on Wednesdays.  I can’t say if it’ll be every Wednesday or every other Wednesday because we’re still working all of that out, but if we’re going to be posting, for now it’ll be on a Wednesday.  Once the A to Z Challenge starts, that will of course cease to be the case.

Now, on to the topic I wanted to address.

The IWSG anthology Parallels: Felix Was Here is coming out soon, and it’s comprised of ten tales that make use of alternate history or parallel universes.  These elements are part of a much broader category known as speculative fiction.

What is speculative fiction?  This is a far more interesting and difficult question than many people realize.  In a way, all fiction deals on some level with the question “what if?”  So does speculative fiction.  In the realm of speculative fiction, though, you’re asking the question “what if the world was different than it is now in this specific way?”  The differences may be realistic but significant in their consequences, or they may be wildly different from what we expect from the world in which we live.

The realm of speculative fiction can include science fiction, fantasy, horror, and various other genres.  It is a broad umbrella that encompasses many types of fiction.  That’s one reason why it’s such a tricky thing to define.  It’s about possibility and impossibility, as paradoxical as that may seem.  It allows us to go on adventures that we couldn’t otherwise enjoy.  Speculative fiction allows the writer and reader to explore important issues facing humanity in the context of an exciting story.

Here are a few examples for you to give you an idea of how inclusive the category of speculative fiction truly is.  Follow the links to learn more about any of these stories.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Fifteen years after the Allies lost WWII, the United States is occupied by Japan and Nazi Germany.  This is a classic example of alternate history.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

This is a classic science fiction novel that famously includes the three laws of robotics.  Asimov's three laws have been referenced throughout the genre since they were first introduced.  This exploration of robotics is just as much an exploration of humanity.

Arthur Dent just wanted to save his house from being demolished to make way for a bypass.  Then his friend Ford reveals that he's an alien, Earth is destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, and they end up in a stolen ship with the president of the galaxy.  The key to surviving is to not panic.  This blend of science fiction and humor helps you see the absurdity of the world in which we live.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

This farmyard full of talking, intelligent animals may fit into the realm of fantasy in many ways, but it's one of the most famous examples of social/political satire out there.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

A hobbit is drawn into an adventure he never expected.  This high-fantasy novel is, as is well-known, connected to the famous Lord of the Rings epic.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

This is an example of contemporary science fiction.  It's our world plus genetically modified dinosaurs, and things go entertainingly awry.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow gets out of prison.  His wife has just died, and his world is suddenly filled with gods and all manner of crazy things he never expected.  This is an interesting mix of contemporary fantasy and mythology.

The Stand by Stephen King

In a plague ravaged world, a handful of survivors are forced to take sides in a struggle between good and evil.  As if merely staying alive weren't challenging enough.  This story is an interesting mix of post-apocalyptic, horror, and fantasy.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This story spans generations and introduces many remarkable characters.  A bizarre mix of historical, contemporary, science fiction, and post-apocalyptic themes, this novel explores the nature of human connections across time and space.

This is only a partial list.  I could go on forever with examples.  If you enjoy good stories that stray from reality in interesting and perhaps unpredictable ways, then speculative fiction may be right for you.  Jump in and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

IWSG Parallels Cover Reveal

Parallels:Felix Was Here
Enter the realm of parallel universes!

 What if the government tried to create the perfect utopia? Could a society linked to a supercomputer survive on its own? Do our reflections control secret lives on the other side of the mirror? Can one moment split a person’s world forever?

Exploring the fantastic, ten authors offer incredible visions and captivating tales of diverse reality. Featuring the talents of L.G. KeltnerCrystal CollierHart JohnsonCherie ReichSandra CoxYolanda RenéeMelanie SchulzSylvia NeyMichael Abayomiand Tamara Narayan.

 Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will expand your imagination and twist the tropes of science fiction. Step through the portal and enter another dimension!

Parallels: Felix Was Here
Release date: May 3, 2016
$14.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 218 pages, Freedom Fox Press
Science Fiction/General ( FIC028000) and Fiction/Alternative History (FIC040000 )
Print ISBN 978-1-939844-19-4 eBook ISBN 978-1-939844-20-0
Order through Ingram, Follett Library Resources, or from the publisher

$4.99 EBook available in all formats

To Be Released May 3, 2016
Pre-Order Now!
Parallels: Felix Was Here!