The Difference between Speculative Fiction and Science Fiction

Speculative Fiction

Whether you’re a kid or an adult, you’re sure to have been a fan of stories that stimulate your imagination and tap the detective in you. You may even have complete volumes of these kinds of novels in your library or online shelves, thanks to educational publishing services.

But did you know that there are actually two genres that are almost the same, but are entirely different in terms of context and structure? If you often wonder what the differences really are, now’s the time to open your mind about it! In this article, we will explain speculative fiction and science fiction, and why they’re always confused with one another. Enjoy!


Speculative vs. Scientific

Annie Neugebauer, a novelist, expounded on the variations that occur between speculative and scientific fiction. She used a Venn diagram to differentiate the two, and then added more elements in the process. Speculative fiction is actually an umbrella term for fantasy, science fiction, and horror. These three genres are just the dominant elements of the diagram, but Neugebauer emphasizes that there may still be others involved in it.

This explains that scientific fiction is actually a sub-genre of speculative fiction and though they are not considered as separate genres, they are completely different from each other. Space and time travel and dystopian settings are often favorite themes for sci-fi novels, because these are known to always stir the curiosity of readers, especially young adults.

Horror Fiction


Is Horror a Speculative Genre?

However, not all horror and science fiction are considered ‘speculative’, especially when they don’t contain supernatural elements or are not based in real life. Ones that include weird creatures, paranormal events and peculiar tales may be classified as speculative, provided that they leave enough room for readers to identify that fine line between horror and fantasy.

Fantasy Fiction

A Combination of Sorts

Speculative fiction, when combined with speculative fantasy, would result into superhero fiction. Moreover, mixing speculative fiction with historical fiction produces a contemporary piece. This shows that although speculative fiction can stand on its own, it can still be incorporated with other genres so a story can fully and effectively develop. Overlapping genres may be good and can make the plot more interesting.

Confusion on Speculative Fiction

The Confusion that is Speculative Fiction

To ‘speculate’ means to investigate, wonder, or guess; it takes an inquisitive and wild mind in deciphering the underlying meanings and messages in speculative fiction. The possibilities are endless, that’s why a lot of people get confused with what speculative fiction really is and can’t seem to have a good grip of its literary nature.

Speculative stories make us think that every single thing that happens in our present can exceed beyond what we always thought would happen in the future. We may think that this is a concept made familiar by science fiction only, but a lot of literary works have proven otherwise. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, for example, is a speculative fiction that is often mistaken for a work of science fiction. It is regarded as scientific because it’s set in a world that has become very technologically-advanced, but the plot has remained humanistic and still reflects what would happen when people become too divided.

Speculative Fiction is basically speculating the “what ifs'” of the character’s environment, and not necessarily about the character’s actions in relation to the environment he or she is in.

Comparing the two genres can really be complicated. Writing both speculative and science fiction could be equally difficult, but with the right drive and interest, you can actually dive deeper into the worlds that you thought only existed on paper!