Speculative fiction: what it is and where you can sell it

To some extent all fiction is speculative. You make up these characters, plonk them in a time and place, and you say to yourself, ‘now, what if…?’ and off you go. Story.

But used as a genre descriptor, ‘speculative’ tends to have a bigger IF than one that is purely character-based, such as ‘what if Jim fell in love with Sara while Sara fell in love with his little sister?’ In speculative the bigger IF might be, what if aliens landed on Antarctica or what if the world was destroyed? Or to take a well-known British example, what if a man could travel to other planets and times in a simple police telephone box? Used like this, speculative becomes a catch-all for SF, fantasy, horror,  utopian and dystopian fiction, alternate history, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. Some would also include supernatural fiction and magical realism. This includes some of the biggest selling fiction of our time – anything with a vampire in it. Which makes it seem more like: what fiction is not speculative? Back to square one, perhaps.

Clearly the breadth of what is included within speculative fiction offers plenty room for originality and ingenuity. If the idea of writing speculative fiction (especially a short story) interests you, or if you already have a short story of this kind that you’re looking to sell, here are some avenues of publication worth investigating: