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Portal:Speculative fiction

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Speculative fiction is an umbrella phrase encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, specifically science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history in literature as well as related static, motion, and virtual arts.

It has been around since humans began to speak. The earliest forms of speculative fiction were likely mythological tales told around the campfire. Speculative fiction deals with the "What if?" scenarios imagined by dreamers and thinkers worldwide. Journeys to other worlds through the vast reaches of distant space; magical quests to free worlds enslaved by terrible beings; malevolent supernatural powers seeking to increase their spheres of influence across multiple dimensions and times; all of these fall into the realm of speculative fiction.

Speculative fiction as a category ranges from ancient works to cutting edge, paradigm-changing, and neotraditional works of the 21st century. It can be recognized in works whose authors' intentions or the social contexts of the versions of stories they portrayed is now known. For example, Ancient Greek dramatists such as Euripides, whose play Medea (play) seemed to have offended Athenian audiences when he fictionally speculated that shamaness Medea killed her own children instead of their being killed by other Corinthians after her departure. The play Hippolytus, narratively introduced by Aphrodite, is suspected to have displeased contemporary audiences of the day because it portrayed Phaedra as too lusty.

In historiography, what is now called speculative fiction has previously been termed "historical invention", "historical fiction," and other similar names. It is extensively noted in the literary criticism of the works of William Shakespeare when he co-locates Athenian Duke Theseus and Amazonian Queen Hippolyta, English fairy Puck, and Roman god Cupid all together in the fairyland of its Merovingian Germanic sovereign Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In mythography it has been termed "mythopoesis" or mythopoeia, "fictional speculation", the creative design and generation of lore, regarding such works as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Such supernatural, alternate history, and sexuality themes continue in works produced within the modern speculative fiction genre.

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Selected profile #1

Cherryh at the 2006 NorWesCon in Seattle.
Carolyn Janice Cherry (born September 1, 1942), better known by the pen name C. J. Cherryh, is an American writer of speculative fiction. She has written more than 80 books since the mid-1970s, including the Hugo Award-winning novels Downbelow Station (1981) and Cyteen (1988), both set in her Alliance-Union universe. She is known for "world building," depicting fictional realms with great realism supported by vast research in history, language, psychology, and archeology. Her series of fantasy novels set in the Alliance-Union universe, the Morgaine Stories, have sold in excess of 3 million copies.

Cherryh (pronounced "Cherry") appended a silent "h" to her real name because her first editor, Donald A. Wollheim, felt that "Cherry" sounded too much like a romance writer. Her initials, C.J., were used to disguise the fact that she was female at a time when almost all science fiction authors were male. The author has an asteroid, 77185 Cherryh, named after her. Referring to this honor, the asteroid's discoverers wrote of Cherryh: "She has challenged us to be worthy of the stars by imagining how mankind might grow to live among them."

Cherryh's breakthrough came in 1975 when Wollheim purchased the two manuscripts she had submitted to DAW Books, Gate of Ivrel and Brothers of Earth. She has won multiple awards, including the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Hugo Award for Best Short Story and Best Novel, Locus Award, Edward E. Smith Memorial Award, and Oklahoma Book Award, among others.

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Selected profile #2

A 1610 portrait of Johannes Kepler by an unknown artist
Johannes Kepler (IPA: [ˈkʰɛplɐ]) (December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630) was a German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, and key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution. He is best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion, codified by later astronomers based on his works Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican Astronomy. They also provided one of the foundations for Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation.

Around 1611, Kepler circulated a manuscript of what would eventually be published (posthumously) as Somnium (The Dream). Part of the purpose of Somnium was to describe what practicing astronomy would be like from the perspective of another planet, to show the feasibility of a non-geocentric system. The manuscript, which disappeared after changing hands several times, described a fantastic trip to the moon; it was part allegory, part autobiography, and part treatise on interplanetary travel (and is sometimes described as the first work of science fiction). Years later, a distorted version of the story may have instigated the witchcraft trial against his mother, as the mother of the narrator consults a demon to learn the means of space travel. Following her eventual acquittal, Kepler composed 223 footnotes to the story—several times longer than the actual text—which explained the allegorical aspects as well as the considerable scientific content (particularly regarding lunar geography) hidden within the text.

Selected media

Canto VII of Dante's Inferno
Credit: Artist: Gustave Doré; Restoration: Adam Cuerden

Gustave Doré's depiction of Canto VII of Dante's Inferno, the first part of the Divine Comedy. Here, we see the fourth circle (out of nine) of Hell, in which hoarders and wasters are forced to move around giant bags of gold, similar to the mythological story of Sisyphus. Allegorically, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul towards God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin. (POTD)

Selected work

Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest is a 1935 science fiction novel by the British author Olaf Stapledon. The novel explores the theme of the Übermensch (superman) in the character of John Wainwright, whose supernormal human mentality inevitably leads to conflict with normal human society and to the destruction of the utopian colony founded by John and other superhumans.

The novel resonates with the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and the work of English writer J. D. Beresford, with an allusion to Beresford's superhuman child character of Victor Stott in The Hampdenshire Wonder (1911). As the devoted narrator remarks, John does not feel obligated to observe the restricted morality of Homo sapiens. Stapledon's recurrent vision of cosmic angst -- that the universe may be indifferent to intelligence, no matter how spiritually refined -- also gives the story added depth. Later explorations of the theme of the superhuman and of the incompatibility of the normal with the supernormal occurs in the works of Stanisław Lem, Frank Herbert, Wilmar Shiras and Vernor Vinge, among others.

Selected quote


Vernor Vinge (b.1944), "The Coming Technological Singularity" (1993).
More quotes from Wikiquote: science fiction, fantasy, alternate history

Selected article

Tom Swift and His Giant Telescope (1939), from the original Tom Swift series.
Tom Swift (in some versions Tom Swift, Jr.) is the name of the central character in five series, totaling over 100 volumes, of juvenile science fiction and adventure novels that emphasize science, invention, and technology. The character was created by Edward Stratemeyer, the founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book-packaging firm. His adventures have been written by a number of different ghostwriters over the years. Most of the books are published under the collective pseudonym Victor Appleton. The 33 volumes of the second series use the pseudonym Victor Appleton II.

The character first appeared in 1910. New titles have been published as recently as 2007. Most of the various series focus on Tom’s inventions, a number of which have anticipated actual inventions. The character has been presented in different ways over the years. In general, the books portray science and technology as wholly beneficial in their effects, and the role of the inventor in society has been treated as admirable and heroic.

Translated into a number of languages, the books have sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Tom Swift has also been the subject of a board game and a television show. Development of a feature film based on the series was announced in 2008. A number of prominent figures, including Steve Wozniak and Isaac Asimov, have cited "Tom Swift" as an inspiration. Several inventions, including the taser, have been directly inspired by the fictional inventions.

Did you know...

A top and a ball (both with human facial features) lay among other toys in an illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen, Andersen's first illustrator.

  • ... that before beginning a career in animation, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh worked as a vice president of sales and marketing for a computer company, where he "freaked out" and decided to quit?

On this day...

July 15:

Television series

Possible futures

Possible events in the future as suggested by science fiction:

  • A geological survey on Zeta Minor is almost annihilated by anti-matter creatures in 37166.

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