I am not saying these are the absolute best Speculative Fiction writers out there. In fact one of them may not strictly even be considered Speculative, but, to me, she is. I can make no claims to be an expert on Speculative Fiction at this point in my life as I came late to this genre of writing. I am still learning and reading as much as being a busy mom and sometime writer allows. This is simply a list that I compiled for fun from what I have personally read so far.
For those who don’t know, Speculative Fiction is a term used to cover everything from Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural, Weird fiction, Superhero fiction, Utopian and Dystopian fiction, to Apocalyptic and Post Apocalyptic fiction. I am not sure where Steampunk Romance would go (a genre I just heard about within the last year), but if I had to guess, it is also speculative. Sub-genres can be so tricky. Since I am a lightweight when it comes to writing that is too horrific or depressing most of the authors on this list deal with Fantasy and Supernatural fiction.
For anyone who is a fan of the HBO show, True Blood, Charlaine Harris’ loveable, yet tough, telepathic heroine, Sookie Stackhouse and her vampire beau, Bill will be familiar. Her Southern Vampire Mystery Series which includes twelve and soon to be thirteen books chronicling the adventures of Sookie and her supernatural comrades in rural Louisiana, mix Paranormal Romance and Mystery genres. This isn’t just a clever writing mashup for Harris though; the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. Her books are genre-defying, addictive, and reading about Sookie often feels like visiting an old friend. A friend in a lot of peril most of the time, but she is a familiar and down-to-earth character despite her supernatural lifestyle.
Not far off in the melding of genres, is Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files series. These books, of which there are now fourteen, mix Fantasy and Hardboiled detective novel styles to tell the tale of Chicago-based Wizard Detective Harry Dresden. Equal parts exhilaratingly fantastical and grittily realistic, these books are incredibly inventive in their new takes on time-worn staples such as vampires, werewolves, fairies, and ghosts. If you especially believe the vampire genre to be tired, check out these books by Butcher as they bring an entirely fresh and non-romantic view of them to their pages.
If humor with your Supernatural fiction is more your thing, then look no further than Christopher Moore. His books cover everything from geeky, twenty-something vampires to man-eating, wise-cracking demons to Zombie Santas rising from the dead in time for Christmas and everything in between. His laid-back style and cheeky humor highlight his love for the absurd in life and in a speculated life beyond reality. Highlights include his goofy Vampire Love Story Trilogy of Bloodsucking Fiends, You Suck and Bite Me and his book about Jesus and his best friend Biff, called simply, Lamb. He will make you laugh out loud while contemplating the questions of life that perplex us all.
Sarah Addison Allen specializes in books that could be described as Southern American Magical Realism, but they are too escapist and fantastical in some ways to quite fit that genre. There is magic in her books, sometimes more than hinted at in the text, but certainly much more subtle when it comes to execution. There are ghosts, magic, witches, and psychics, but everyone seems to be floating along in a down-to-earth bubble of indirect magical intention. The supernatural just happens to these folks instead of being conjured by them. The magic is fabulist, but never overt. It floats along like a magnolia blossom flying through the air, and rarely distrupts the more realistic aspects of the narrative. It is a part of the lush scenery that weaves a tapestry of seduction for the reader. Think Alice Hoffman but with more Southern sass.
John Crowley is on this list because I have read his novel Little, Big only; I have not yet read his other works. As much respect and admiration as I have for him, I hesitated to include him for the simple fact that this book is indescribable. It is a Fantasy novel that reads more like a magical realist book, but is still very much dealing with fantasy. It is at once subtle and complex. It is a novel power-packed with vocabulary you may never have known before and yet the details of the book are as elusive and dream-like as its subject matter. Dealing with a centuries old house located on the edge of the world of Faerie, Little, Big tells the tale of various generations of the family that inhabits the mercurial estate of Edgewood. Don’t dwell too much on the plot, it is barely there. Luxuriate in the trance-like qualities of the language, the characters, and the atmosphere. Then delightedly go mad when the tale slips away again, reclaimed by the Fae.
As soon as I catch up on my reading again, I will be making a new list as I have several Speculative books on my nightstand. I still need to read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for one thing. I am sure she will become one of my favorites as the book just seems to be calling to me quite strongly.
- 2013 Speculative Fiction Festival (whoamolly.com)