Rethinking the "S" in SF

When someone says to you their favourite genre is SF, what does the "S" in that term mean to you? I'm in the minority on this one - for me, the S means "speculative."

I know, I know. That's not what most people say it means. They say the S actually stands for "science."

But I want to start a new trend. From now on, let's say that SF means speculative fiction.

For starters, speculative fiction is an umbrella term. When you say that a piece of fiction is speculative, that includes the following: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, alternate history, and weird fiction.

Now I see an obvious question coming. Someone may legitimately ask: These are separate genres - why do you think they belong together? It's a fair question.

The late, great Rod Serling, the mastermind behind television's The Twilight Zone, referred to his show as "the realm of the imagination." What an awesome turn of phrase!

These genres are related because they inhabit the imaginative realm.

All fiction is imaginative, you say. I see your point.

However, the stories described in these specific genres describe situations that will never happen in the real world. Perhaps we can call them "unrealistic."

What is the other common denominator of these genres? Well, all of them are incredibly freeing for a fiction writer. Anything is possible in SF. An ambitious writer can explore themes and philosophical conundrums with more ease than in the conventional genres.

Which writers are part of the speculative universe? It covers everyone from H.G. Wells to Neal Stephenson, Mervyn Peake to Clive Barker, Ursula K. Le Guin to Neil Gaiman, and Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King.

It also includes mainstream writers who have occasionally dabbled in speculative fiction: Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood, Iris Murdoch, P.D. James, and Mark Helprin.

We must not forget some of the notable writers from outside of the English-speaking world: Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jose Saramago, and Italo Calvino (to name a few).

So, dear reader, let's celebrate all these talented ladies and gentlemen and designate them as leaders in the art of SF - speculative fiction!

SF is "the realm of the imagination" (taken from

SF is "the realm of the imagination" (taken from

Alec -- photo.jpg


Alec Greenfield graduated from Carleton University with a degree in history. After that, he taught English in South Korea for 14 years. He is fascinated by writers who are daring or unique. Besides spec-fic, his interests include movies, travel, politics, karaoke, and Kierkegaard. He lives in Ottawa.  Facebook and Twitter.