Thursday, December 13, 2007

So What if All Fiction is Truly Speculative?

Here in the Philippines, I wouldn't go as far to say that local genre fiction gets little respect in literary circles, but rather realism is emphasized more than, well, anything else. And in many ways, this is true to the rest of the world as well. Sure, a few titles have made it into the literary canon, Dracula and Frankenstein for horror, Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 for science fiction, and Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia for fantasy. There is one argument being thrown about however: that all fiction is speculative, so why bother with these labels of genre or speculative fiction? While I don't contend with the fact that all fiction is truly speculative, that's not to say that there is no difference between a realist novel and a speculative one. More importantly, it is that difference that matters to other people. Even if I blindly accept that there is no difference between a Filipino science-fiction novel and a Filipino realist novel, I can't expect other people to see it that way. If I want to bridge the gap between speculative fiction and realist fiction, I need to work with the latter's paradigm (or in some people's opinion, go against their paradigm) but never, ever, ignore that paradigm. If people use the term speculative fiction, it is to distinguish itself from other genres, but at the same time encapsulate the works of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

Another argument following the line of thought that all fiction is speculative, a certain critic goes as far to say that the Philippines is already rich in speculative fiction and he mentions this in every single discussion about speculative fiction. My honest answer to that is so what? I think every nation is rich in the culture of speculative fiction: old religions into myths and honestly what nation is without their own faiths and beliefs? But that doesn't stop them from writing about it. If you stop writing about something (even realism) just because it's popular, it ceases to grow and becomes stagnant. If we want to push the agenda of speculative fiction, one needs to continue creating such a culture. It is not enough to have a history of speculative fiction but rather one must sustain the act of creating and writing such stories (and this applies to all forms of writing).

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