Term used by some writers and critics in place of "science fiction". In the symposium published as Of Other Worlds (coll 1947) ed Lloyd Arthur ESHBACH, Robert A. HEINLEIN proposed the term to describe a subset of sfinvolving extrapolation from known science and technology "to produce a new situation, a new framework for human action". Judith MERRIL borrowed the term in 1966, spelling out her version of "speculative fiction" in rather more detail (DEFINITIONS OF SF) in such a way as to de-emphasize the science component of sf (which acronym can equally stand for "speculative fiction") while keeping the idea of extrapolation - i.e.,Merril's use of the term was useful for that kind of sociological sf which concentrates on social change without necessarily any great emphasis on science or TECHNOLOGY. Since then the term has generally appealed to writers and readers who are as interested in SOFT SF as in HARD SF. Though the term has proved attractive to many, especially perhaps academics who find the term more respectable-sounding than "science fiction" and lacking the pulp associations, nobody's definition of "speculative fiction" has as yet any formal rigour, though the term has come to be used with a very wide application (as by Samuel R. DELANY in his ORIGINAL-ANTHOLOGY series QUARK), as if science fiction were a subset of speculative fiction ratherthan vice versa. Because the term "speculative fiction", as now most often used, does not clearly define any generic boundary, it has come to include not only soft and hard sf but also FANTASY as a whole. Many critics do not find it a consistently helpful term but, as Gary K. WOLFE points out in Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy (1986), critics tend toworry more about the demarcation of genres than writers do, and, as a propaganda weapon, the term has been useful precisely because it allows the blurring of boundaries, which in turn permits a greater auctorial freedom from genre constraints and "rules".

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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