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Speculative Fiction

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Science Fiction, Fantasy, Alternate History and everything in between.

The term Speculative Fiction was originally a backronym for the initials SF; at the time, during the New Wave Science Fiction movement of the 1960s, some writers felt that science fiction, or 'sci-fi,' was equated to flying saucers and rubber monsters, and wanted to distinguish themselves with a new genre label. The desire for a separate category became even greater when people began to apply the sci-fi label to horror films containing blatantly supernatural elements (such as various immortals), but few if any science based elements whatsoever. Over time, however, the term 'Speculative Fiction' grew to become a Super-Trope, covering not only what self described Speculative Fiction authors wrote, but also the Sci-Fi and Horror B-movies they were trying to distinguish themselves from. Nevertheless, Speculative Fiction can be applied to a work — correctly or incorrectly — in order to help it avoid the Sci Fi Ghetto; it can allow the more pretentious to believe that their favorite work is a proper 'literary' work with no connection to, and thus obvious superiority over that geeky science fiction or fantasy.

Today Speculative Fiction covers practically the entire fantastic end of the Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic, including Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, and other, less well known genres. (In this genre, Just Here for Godzilla is in full effect.) However, there are many speculative fiction stories that fall on the border between genres, and others that may be completely unclassifiable. Furthermore, many of these genres can be either used to terrify or Played for Laughs, with the latter producing such genres as comic sci-fi and comedy horror.

See the Analysis page for why the boundary between Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror is fuzzy, and why a broad term like Speculative Fiction is necessary.

The individual tropes are listed on Speculative Fiction Tropes. See the Speculative Fiction Creator Index for a list of pages for Speculative Fiction creators.

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    Science Fiction 


  • Horror: The fiction of fear and terror. note 
    • Cosmic Horror: Horror fiction in which the threat comes from mysterious, powerful and malevolent entities that are difficult (if not impossible) to fully understand.
    • Digital Horror: Horror focusing on digital media, often using nostalgia to its advantage.
    • Gothic Horror: Horror stories with heavy emphasis on Romanticism (sometimes including an actual romance arc), and often focusing on mystery and symbolism; had a great deal of influence upon many modern Speculative Fiction genres/sub-genres.
    • Explorer Horror: Video game genre in which the player goes through a horror story with emphasis on exploration, puzzle-solving and atmosphere over fighting enemies.
    • Found Footage: Horror taken with an In-Universe Camera.
      • Analog Horror: A more recent Web Original subgenre of Found Footage, most often in the form of TV broadcasts and VHS tapes.
    • Horror Comedy: Can refer to Comedy stories which parody horror tropes for laughs (often in a very morbid manner) or Horror stories which use comedic scenes.
    • Mascot Horror: A video-game only variant that involves a horror story marketed by a seemingly child-friendly mascot, often with themes of Subverted Kids' Show. Related to but distinct from other cases of horror media with mascots (i.e. slasher films, creepypastas).
    • Psychological Horror: Horror stories centered around how the events impact the characters' psyches and vice versa.
      • Psychosexual Horror: A subgenre that explores psychosexual development as a subject matter, including themes of sexual development and sexual activities.
    • Religious Horror: Horror stories inspired by or based around organized religions.
      • Folk Horror: Horror stories inspired or based around folklore (particularly those outside or predating Abrahamic religions).
    • Splatter Horror: Horror that uses the fragility of the human body to scare.
    • Surreal Horror: Horror that relies on strange or bizarre imagery in order to unsettle viewers. Essentially, it's what you would expect from an actual nightmare.
    • Survival Horror: Video game genre where the player has to survive a horror story against overwhelming odds and with limited resources. Very frequently feature supernatural or fantastical threats and scenarios.
    • Workplace Horror: Horror can take place in the mundane setting of a job. There's often an expectation to keep performing your job regardless of what monsters, stalkers, or conspiracies are lurking around the shelves and office cubicles, despite your own survival instincts telling you to get out of there.
    • Transformation Horror: Horror about Transformation of various kind

  • Punk Punk: When speculative elements meet social commentary, philosophy, action, and intrigue.
    • The Apunkalypse: Sci-fi stories set After the End (or Just Before the End) with emphasis on societal collapse, rising anarchy and tribalism, and cool punk-inspired outfits.
    • Bio Punk: Sci-fi stories that focus on the issues and dangers of biological-based technology.
    • Capepunk: Stories that deconstruct and/or present superheroes in a more grounded manner.
    • Cattle Punk: Steam Punk meets the Western.
    • Clock Punk: Sci-fi stories set in/inspired by the Renaissance era (14th century to 17th century).
    • Cyberpunk: Punk fiction's firstborn child; often focusing on the dangers of misusing technology and corporate greed.
      • Cyberpunk for Flavor: Stories where cyberpunk elements and aesthetics are included, but they don't strictly fall under the cyberpunk banner.
      • Post-Cyberpunk: Reconstruction of and/or more idealistic take on cyberpunk.
    • Desert Punk: Sci-fi stories with a desert setting and appropriate technology.
    • Diesel Punk: Sci-fi with settings and technology inspired by the early-20th century (usually no later than the 1940s).
    • Mythpunk: Classical folklore and fairy tales with a hyper-poetic postmodern flavor.
    • Ocean Punk: Sci-fi stories with ocean settings and appropriate technology.
    • Raygun Gothic: Sci-fi based around/inspired by what people in the mid-twentieth century thought the future would be like.
    • Sandal Punk: Sci-fi/fantasy stories set in/inspired by ancient cultures/civilizations (Bronze Age at earliest, anything just before the Middle Ages at latest).
    • Scavenged Punk: Stories featuring settings and cultures based around scavenging and repurposing things, especially technology.
    • Solar Punk: Sci-fi with an emphasis on eco-friendly technology and living in harmony with the natural world.
    • Steampunk: Sci-fi stories with settings and technology inspired by the 19th century, especially the Victorian Era.
    • Stone Punk: Sci-fi taking place in prehistoric-inspired settings, with primitive Stone-Age technology.

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Alternative Title(s): Scifantasy