I’m fascinated by edge cases — genre-bending, cross-genre fiction, works that don’t fit neatly into categories. Today I’d like to talk about fiction that, for one reason or another, just barely qualifies as speculative fiction. Doesn’t mean it’s bad — often quite the opposite. It’s just doing something different.
First of all, I don’t mean literary fiction using genre tropes. That’s a whole ‘nother animal (one that I also enjoy). Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, for example, obviously uses the convention of time travel, but it doesn’t read like a genre work — it reads like women’s fiction or literary fiction, and it’s interested in the same sorts of ideas and themes. It’s using time travel to speak a non-genre language. Same for Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake or Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
What I’m interested in today is the reverse. What happens when a book is “speaking” speculative fiction, but it doesn’t use much or any technology that we don’t have today, or employ magic, or use any settings in imaginary worlds?