Why We Write Speculative Fiction

I’m reading Marge Piercy’s feminist utopian novel Woman on the Edge of Time with some high school students I work with. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a great choice as the first novel I read with students. They wanted dystopias, not utopias after all. But while searching for materials to contextualize the novel, I uncovered a lecture on speculative fiction Marge Piercy delivered in 2003. She answers the question I always come back to: why speculative fiction?

Her answer:

The reason why people write speculative fiction in part is because if you cannot imagine anything else all you can ask for is more of the same, more McDonalds, more and bigger SUVs, more and bigger highways, more and bigger malls – that’s all you can ask for because that is all you can imagine, more of the same, bigger. Part of the reason why people write speculative fiction is to suggest that there may be alternatives. The imagination is a very powerful liberating tool. If you cannot imagine something different you cannot work towards it.

Then I knew this was the right book to read with my students as well as the right quote to share with you. There is nothing better than to cultivate imagination which says literature can be social change. You just have to ask the right questions and write the right stories.

Today and every day, imagine something different.

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