Writers On Writing / Eugen Bacon on how speculative fiction is a reflection of diversity


We chatted to award-winning writer and author Eugen Bacon, ahead of her online course, Writing Speculative Fiction, about the infinite boundaries of the all-encompassing genre, writing hopefully and cynically, and challenging genre, identity and gender stereotypes while you’re at it.


Firstly, a lot of writers are daunted by the all-encompassing genre of speculative fiction. Can you explain what the term means and what it includes?

As the farthest spectrum of non-realistic fiction, speculative fiction is an umbrella term that encompasses genres and sub-genres of fantasy, science fiction, slipstream fiction (the literary strange), horror and the paranormal.

More and more of our favourite authors (like Stephen King, N.K. Jemisin, Margaret Atwood) are bending genre in radical writing—a divergent form of literary expression that deviates from traditional ‘rules’ of genre fiction in its blend of genres. And more and more readers are unwittingly consuming it as they follow writers whose works bend genre.

When you create worlds in speculative fiction, do you tend to create dystopian worlds as warning, or utopian worlds as hope? Or a bit of both?

A bit of both, I think. The conjecturing in speculative fiction, in whichever genre or sub-genre, however sombre its theme, makes this kind of fiction playful to the writer, to the reader. It’s this nature of speculative fiction that allows me to use art to intersect with subversive activism, interrogate my curiosity in ‘what if’ stories that explore social justice or injustice. Some stories are a caution, or a longing, or a hope, possibility, probability.

A lot of your work interrogates and challenges genre, identity and gender stereotypes. Do you find that the infinite boundaries of speculative fiction is a genre that assists in this? Or is it something you have to work at regardless of genre? 

Speculative fiction is a safe place to explore blur, hybridity, otherness—all areas of curiosity in my multiplicities as an African Australian. The world is not black and white and we’re slowly moving to a cross-genre space where there’s no ‘pure’ genre in as much as there’s no ‘pure’ language or culture or race. Speculative fiction, in a way, reflects the diversity of our world, our universe. This is what draws me to it: the invitation to find affection in deviants.

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Eugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Website: www.eugenbacon.com Twitter: @EugenBacon

Join Eugen for her online course, Writing Speculative Fiction, starting Wednesday 11 November. Enrol now>>

Image of a book with water flowing out of it, with text overlay Online Writing Speculative Fiction with Eugen Bacon. 11 to 17 November, online.

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