Pirates and the Speculative Fiction Tree

Speculative fiction is a boring term for the big umbrella that covers all the “fantastical” genres of fiction. The three main branches of speculative fiction you hear about are science fiction, fantasy, and horror, though some definitions add alternate history, post-apocalypse, and superhero to the list. I’d argue that those all fall pretty naturally as sub-genres under those main three.

Literature buffs will tell you speculative fiction is cool because of its ability to use these fantastical, often otherworldly elements as powerful metaphors. They’ll wax eloquent on The Other’s unique ability to ask thought-provoking questions. While I agree with the fancy literature types, this isn’t the primary reason why I love speculative fiction as a writer. That reason is much simpler.

I like speculative fiction because of the overwhelming sense that anything is possible.

The reason for this endless possibility is generally defined by which branch of the speculative fiction tree you’re currently on. With science fiction, you can do whatever you want because of some great development in technology. With fantasy, magic is your excuse for everything. With horror, it’s often a supernatural element. There are exceptions to each of these, but you get the point: Your explanation of the impossible goes a long way toward defining which branch of the speculative fiction tree your story fits with the best.

Whatever reason I’m dealing with, it’s incredibly energizing to me as a writer. I can do whatever the heck I want in any given story, provided I get things to make sense within the world I’ve created.

At its heart, The Marian Trilogy is a pirate story, even though there’s no water and all the pirates get called smugglers most of the time. To me, pirate stories sometimes feel like they’re on their own branch of the speculative fiction tree. If I was going to force the more fantastical pirate stories onto one branch, I’d go with fantasy, but even though magic is involved, I get the sense that the “anything goes” elements of a pirate story don’t come primarily from the idea that this is a world with magic.

To me, it feels like these elements come from the idea that the whole world hasn’t been discovered yet. The underlying assumption in a lot of pirate stories seems to be the further we go from home, the weirder things get.

Think about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Throughout the series, we see zombie pirates, seamonsters, mermaids, and tons of other crazy things…but not until the story takes us away from home. In the civilized, already-discovered parts of the world, things are normal, but the further our heroes get from home, the weirder things get.

I didn’t lean very heavily into this theme when writing The Marian and its soon-to-be-released sequel The Hunted, but there is definitely a nod to it in my inclusion of a place called the Cloud. There is a pervading belief among all the characters that the closer they get to this specific location on the map, the more likely they are to encounter strange and terrible things.

And, of course, they are right.

The Hunted is set for release on August 17, but you can preorder it now. I’ve got all the links you need to do that here. If you haven’t read the first book in the trilogy yet, I’ve links for that here. I’ve got both ebooks discounted to 99 cents for the entire month of August, which is a pretty good deal if you ask me.


2 thoughts on “Pirates and the Speculative Fiction Tree

  1. Sitting at a cafe in Portland super disappointed because I thought The Hunted had already been released. I read The Marian in one sitting on the plane. Thanks for introducing sadness to my vacation.

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