I’ve followed Jennifer Hallmark for years, but this is the first time she’s been a guest blogger on my site. Her first novel, Jessie’s Hope, is women’s fiction, but now she’s taken off down the yellow brick road into the world of speculative fiction. What makes speculative fiction unique? Jennifer tells us below.
Jurassic Park. Star Wars. The Lord of the Rings. A Game of Thrones. The Martian. The Handmaid’s Tale. Books and movies we love or hate.
What is speculative fiction and why the controversy?
Speculative fiction is a genre of books or movies not based on reality. Unlike most romance, general fiction, and historical fiction, speculative books aren’t rooted in our world. Not as we know it.
This world is created in the mind of the author. But it’s still anchored to planet Earth if it’s relatable. This is the draw and beauty of speculative fiction. We might not own a golden droid programmed for etiquette and protocol like C-3PO of Star Wars fame. But we all have at least one friend or relative who doesn’t know when to stop talking.
Rangers of the North like Strider/Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings don’t live nearby but we know people who will fight for us while struggling at the same time with insecurity.
Dictionary.com mentions the speculative genre as one encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements. My first novel, Jessie’s Hope, is the story of one family’s struggles in modern-day rural Alabama. Nothing about it is speculative.
However, I have two publishers looking at my time-shifting YA novel set in 1978. While it’s the most entertaining work I’ve ever penned, it has easily been the hardest. Why?
If an author is creating something supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic, they have to maintain a believable world with made-up elements. This could consist of a language, a culture, species, or time elements that differ from the norm. Personally, I find working out the specifics of time-shifting tedious. It’s one thing to write a story, but a different task to have readers buy-in and find your characters and settings both believable and relatable.
Questions I ask:
- Can the reader relate to the personality of my character? Whether I’m creating a robot, lizard creature, or child, I pattern their personality after real people.
- Can the reader relate to my character’s problems? To their victories? I try to maintain a balance with problems to keep my characters humble and victories so I don’t destroy the arc of external and internal growth I’m striving to create.
- Does the setting have enough reality to ground the reader in the world I’ve built? I want them to see the Orna trees, my creation of trees that absorb light in the daytime and glow at night. In my mind, the trees are larger versions of the solar lights that line my sidewalk.
- Does the setting’s laws of nature work for the world? I love how Star Wars set the planet Tatooine orbiting around two suns, making it a desert planet because of their scorching intensity.
Speculative authors and screenwriters combine otherworldly elements with relatable believability and construct books and movies that can boggle the imagination, yet entertain.
My ten favorite speculative books:
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- Star Wars by George Lucas
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- Rooms by James L. Rubart
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- The Day the Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker
- The Wizard of Oz
Yes, I have weird—I mean—eclectic taste in literature but I know what I like. Spot-on world building, courageous yet flawed characters, and a story I can’t put down. We can find this in the unique and entertaining genre of speculative fiction.
What are your favorite speculative novels and movies?
To learn more about her novel and how to connect with Jennifer, read on!
Years ago, an accident robbed Jessie Smith’s mobility. It also stole her mom and alienated her from her father. When Jessie’s high school sweetheart Matt Jansen proposes, her parents’ absence intensifies her worry that she cannot hold on to those she loves.
With a wedding fast approaching, Jessie’s grandfather Homer Smith, has a goal to find the perfect dress for “his Jessie,” one that would allow her to forget, even if for a moment, the boundaries of her wheelchair. But financial setbacks and unexpected sabotage hinder his plans.
Determined to heal from her past, Jessie initiates a search for her father. Can a sliver of hope lead to everlasting love when additional obstacles–including a spurned woman and unpredictable weather–highjack Jessie’s dream wedding?
Jennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction with a twist and her website and monthly newsletter focus on her books, love of the South, and favorite fiction. Jessie’s Hope, her novel published by Firefly Southern Fiction, was a 2019 Selah Award nominee for First Novel. You can subscribe to her newsletter here and visit her on Facebook, Facebook author page, Twitter, and Pinterest.