Sci Fi Sunday — Speculative Fiction?

Most libraries and bookstores classify science fiction and fantasy as the same genre. However, horror is shelved separately which can cause classification issues with authors like H.P. Lovecraft or Poe. Some people have called for sci fi, fantasy and horror to be classified together as SF, or speculative fiction. How do you feel about that? Do you think horror is an appropriate offshoot of the fantastical genre, or should it continue to be considered a separate category?

Currently reading: a book that makes me think about these things

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)


If you went to high school in America, you’ve probably read Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.” Jackson has a gift for imbuing everyday, humdrum occurrences with a touch of dread. She writes horror, but not the horror of blood and guts or the sudden leap of a zombie. Rather, Jackson specializes in stories about the dark side of human nature — the sort of things that most of us know we are capable of underneath the thin veneer of civilization.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the story of the Blackwood family. The narrator, Mary Katherine, begins the book by stating that she is eighteen and lives with her sister Constance. “Everyone else in my family is dead.” Why they are dead and who killed them is the dramatic tale told in an extended flashback by Mary Katherine. The narrator’s childlike voice and odd, ritualistic behavior adds an extra level of creepiness to her story. We see how Mary Katherine is shunned by the village before we ever discover why. The villagers themselves are not innocent in this narrative; they are complicit in the horror that befalls the Blackwood family. Watching their behavior, we start to understand why Mary (also called Merricat) compulsively buries objects and nails things to trees to act as wards around her house. The creeping dread of the story makes her aberrant behavior seem mundane, even necessary. As in Jackson’s other stories and novels, there are several plot twists that take your breath away (and one that seems almost obvious in hindsight). Highly recommend, even if you don’t like horror. Don’t be surprised if your neighbors weird you out for a while after reading this…


Posted on April 29, 2012, in Sci-Fi Sunday. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I love your book reviews, even though we don’t have the same taste in fiction, I am always tempted to go and get the books you review, I haven’t yet, cause as you know I have plenty to read. 😎

    • You’re all about the sociology books…I love those too, but don’t review them because I feel they’re fairly self-evident if you know what I mean.

  2. My local library shelves all the adult fiction paperbacks together, which drives me NUTS. Picking through the sic-fi and even horror for my fantasy is not too bad (although personally I prefer to keep them all separate) but having the westerns and romance novels in there too makes me want to gouge my eyes out… Sure there’s crossover (and very good crossover) but for the most part I’d rather have them all separate. But then I may be one of the few avid fantasists who doesn’t enjoy Sci-Fi or horror… πŸ˜‰

    • See, that would drive me NUTS too. I hate westerns to a degree that I’m pretty sure is unhealthy, and I don’t want to wade through historical romance when I’m looking for one of my paranormals.

      So, you’re one of those purists who would shelf fantasy separately from sci fi, huh? That would just make my head hurt. Where would I be able to find my futuristic werewolf stories?

  3. That book actually sounds pretty interesting. I don’t usually go for sci-fi, except for the occasional Dean Koontz/Stephen King (and recently, because of YOU, Jasper Fforde), but otherwise, I’m not a huge fan of that genre. Maybe I’ll try this when I’m looking for something new.

    • Ooh, I turned you on to Jasper Fforde! Which series are you reading? He has the Thursday Next books, the Nursery Crime books and the new Shades of Grey. Oh who cares, they’re all good. READ THEM ALL. *does hypnotic swirling eyes like a Disney character*

      I think you might like this one. Jackson is always worth taking a detour out of your comfort zone. The Haunting of Hill House is also good (but avoid the terrible, terrible movie version).

  4. Speculative Fiction? I’d be all right with that. It might be a good way to find some books I might have skipped over otherwise, since I’m not generally a huge horror fan.

    Loved loved loved “The Lottery.” I’ll have to check this one out.

    • Oh, if you liked “The Lottery,” then you really need to read more Shirley Jackson. She’s a national treasure. I’m not a huge horror fan myself, but I do like a good suspense novel and the ones that skate right on that edge? DELISH.

  5. I probably shouldn’t read this then cos my lovely neighbour babysits the kids from time to time …. Ha ha!

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