The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3

By John Clement Ball | Go to book overview

F

Fantasy, Science Fiction,
and Speculative Fiction
JUDITH LEGGATT

The dividing lines between fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction are fluid. One way to distinguish between them is to say that science fiction speculates about the future, or scientific and social progress, or life on other planets, while fantasy speculates about mythic realms. Speculative fiction is most widely used âs a blanket term that covers not only fantasy and science fiction, but also alternative histories – which speculate about the repercussions of a single change in our historical time line – and magic realism – which speculates about mythic realms as fantasy does, but which does not distinguish between fantastic and realist elements within a single work. While speculative fiction is usually associated with England and the United States, works in the genre were written in the “settler colonies” of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as early as the late nineteenth century. All three countries, especially Canada, have continued to make significant contributions to the genre throughout the twentieth century, and writers from South Asia, the Caribbean, and, to a lesser extent, Africa added important voices and new directions to the genre in the latter part of the century.

Canadian speculative fiction was active throughout the twentieth century, and many mainstream literary Canadian writers contributed to the genre, including Sir Charles G. D. Roberts with In the Morning of Time (1919), Stephen Leacock with The Iron Man and the Tin Woman, with Other Such Futurities (1929) and Afternoons in Utopia (1932), Hugh MacLennan with Voices in Time (1980), Phyllis Gotlieb with Sunburst (1964) and Son of the Morning and Other Stories (1983), Gwendolyn MacEwen with Noman (1972) and Noman’s Land (1985), and most notably Margaret Atwood with The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Oryx and Crake (2003). Despite (or perhaps because of) Atwood’s own well-publicized objections to the science fiction label, the former novel has reached the widest audience of any Canadian speculative fiction. It is a dystopian feminist novel set in a far future where sudden and devastating fertility problems have led to repressive and patriarchal societal changes, and where women are all in thrall to a fundamentalist male theocracy; it won the 1985 Governor General’s Literary Award and the inaugural Arthur C. Clarke Award, showing its appeal to both mainstream and science fiction literary communities.

Important genre-identified contributors include A. E. Van Vogt, who was a mainstay of space opera in the golden age of science fiction; William Gibson, whose Neuromancer (1984) trilogy is arguably the definitive cyberpunk text; feminist science fiction writer Judith Merril, who, like Gibson, moved to Canada from the United States in 1968, and who contributed not only as a writer, but also as an editor and collector; and Spider Robinson, yet another American expatriate, whose optimism, even in post-apocalyptic texts such as Telempath (1976), is at odds with the dark tone of much other Canadian science fiction. Other significant additions to Canadian science

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The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editors i
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature WWW.Literatureencyclopedia.Com ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Notes on Contributors to Volume III xv
  • Introduction to Volume III 937
  • A 942
  • B 980
  • C 995
  • D 1034
  • E 1052
  • F 1066
  • G 1094
  • H 1121
  • I 1145
  • J 1154
  • K 1167
  • L 1180
  • M 1198
  • N 1252
  • O 1270
  • P 1277
  • Q 1296
  • R 1300
  • S 1325
  • T 1365
  • U 1370
  • V 1373
  • W 1378
  • Z 1398
  • Index 1400
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