If you have read any of this site, or any of my work, you will know that I write speculative fiction. What do I mean by speculative fiction? Stories that feature horror, fantasy, science fiction and any combination of all three to ask and answer the big What If?
I love asking questions and seeking the answers. As a child, we had feral cats in the garden. I loved watching them, trying to make sense of their behaviour and giving meaning to their actions, vocalisations and relationships. I would do experiments with mimicking the calls of kittens to see if I could fool a mother cat into leading me to her nest (I was usually successful), I watched body language and the results it produced in other cats to see if it would help me tame them (also successful, to a degree), and I cried inconsolably when they died.
A natural progression of all this observation was to record what I had observed, so I drew pictures of the cats. Usually I depicted the cats hunting, or carrying bleeding mice in their mouths to feed their young. Watching the cats hunting for food, the subtle interplay between the prey and the predator, fascinated me. I would watch a mother cat for hours as she taught her kittens how to hunt and kill live prey that she had brought back to the nest.
The cats stoked my fire of curiosity for the natural world and I examined the birds, insects and flowers in the garden with the same intensity that I did the cats. I wanted to learn all about them, inside and out, and then I wanted to transfer those findings into art, whether through drawings or writing, to share the things I had discovered.
One of my book ideas as a child was about a girl who travels into an alternate world where inanimate objects are animate and live in a full, rich ecosystem. So, for example, there were herds of cars that fed and fought and mated and were hunted and eaten by motorbikes. One of the things about this girl was that she could talk to animals in our world, so she found this alternate world very strange as she had to learn how everything worked from scratch. The fact that she could talk to animals was more of wish fulfilment than anything, although I can see how it would play into the theme as I type it now. However, I was adamant that animals didn’t speak English like they did in movies and cartoons. I wanted the animals to be real animals, who spoke their real language, only the protagonist could see, understand and communicate with them.
I never wrote that story, but I recount it here to convey why I write speculative fiction and what it means to me. I’m not interested in horror because I want to be scared. I don’t like magic because it is make believe. I write in these genres because they give me the tools to best express what I am trying to say, to give me the freedom to paint word pictures of how I see things, and help me to ask and answer the question that is always on my mind ‘What if?’.
It is a wonderful thing that there are so many different people in the world, all with varied interests and world views, and for each one there is a type of literature that will speak to them, draw them in and, hopefully, inspire them. It saddens me that so many times I have encountered people who despise speculative fiction because they have made a judgement, often without even reading it, but usually without understanding how and why it appeals to different people.
What is your favourite type of literature and why? What appeals to you in reading it or writing it? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.