Today’s guest post by Laura K. Cowan (The Little Seer) examines speculative supernatural fiction and its relationship to fantasy. As authors, we often like to push the envelope, so to speak, and explore new realms. Speculative fiction of all kinds has been a popular arena of late.
It’s difficult to sort through all the variables that make for good fiction as new genres and sub-genres come on the scene, but one important consideration is the readers’ comfort level. Some fantasy readers stick to one area, while others see all the colors and hues of fantasy as a tempting smorgasbord. I’m always tempted to try new treats. How about you?
Speculative Supernatural Novels and the Growing Fantasy Genre
The fantasy genre is a diverse one, from the elves of high fantasy to pookas and werewolves at the intersection of fantasy and fairy tales, all the way to the dark fantasy of authors like Neil Gaiman with mainstream appeal. But a growing number of writers not satisfied with the status quo is beginning to write a new sub-genre called speculative supernatural. What is it and why should fantasy readers care?
Well, as a speculative writer, I suppose I’m biased, but I think readers of fantasy will embrace the speculative supernatural genre for one reason: it’s never boring! In a similar way that science fiction takes a “What if?” question of technology or science and stretches it into the future, speculative supernatural takes a “What if?” question and pushes into the spiritual or supernatural. Everything from weird ghost stories to spiritual warfare novels with warring angels and demons, to the cosmological stories that explore the physical and metaphysical nature of the world can fall under speculative supernatural, and that can take a reader and a writer down a very deep rabbit hole indeed. Isn’t that where all the best fantasy fiction goes?
Angels, Demons and Dreams
This week, my debut novel The Little Seer was pushed to the top of the Amazon Bestseller lists for free fiction when I made the first book of the novella trilogy, Exodus, free for 5 days. We all love free, but what I think really made this book an instant hit with readers was the premise. The story follows a young girl who wakes from a nightmare that her church is destroyed by a tornado and her pastor orders crows to peck out her eyes, only to discover deep cuts on her arms where she was attacked. And it only gets stranger from there, as her dreams unfold in her waking life and she finds herself the focus of a spiritual war over her life and town that could decide the fate of millions.
The supernatural angle of this book is obvious: angels, demons, and a behind-the-veil look at heaven as it manifests itself in our minds and around us at all times. But in order to make this story really gripping, I had to bring the supernatural into the natural in a literal way. “What if your dreams could really hurt you?” I asked myself. “What if what appears to be the safe choice spiritually could not only devastate your soul but risk your life?” “What if God wasn’t who you were told he was, and neither were you? How would you find the truth? ” And suddenly my character was an armchair theologian no more. She found herself diving deep into symbolic prophetic dreams and the depths of her own mind to seek answers to pressing questions, even as her family and church and community fell to pieces.
A Viable Fantasy Sub-Genre
The books I’m working on for the next few years all contain a similar thread of speculative thought and supernatural themes, but I’m excited to see how this work doesn’t fit in a box. It’s too out there for the Christian market even when it does contain angels and demons, but it’s too spiritual for a mainstream market. I think fantasy is the ideal home for my work, because my next novel Music of Sacred Lakes deals with a mystical connection with nature through a haunting that saves a young man’s life, and my upcoming short story collection The Thin Places: Supernatural Tales of the Unseen actually takes 30 separate speculative “What if?” questions and spins them in all directions, from modern mythology to the marriage of fairy tales and time travel. Like I said, never boring, and who knows interesting stories better than fantasy fans?
Welcome to the speculative supernatural genre. Let’s jump in together and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
On February 19th, Amber McCallister, who often reviews speculative fiction, will overview The Little Seer and provide an excerpt on her Wonderings of One Person weblog. Erin El Mehairi will be interviewing Laura on February 20 at Oh for the Hook of a Book!