Everyone in Tech Should Read Speculative Fiction
How books like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Left Hand of Darkness offer important frameworks for Silicon Valley
Speculative fiction is my favorite genre to read. It aligns with how chaotic our world is and provides an escape into fiction while still leaving me with the feeling that I’ve learned something that may be useful in the future.
It’s also quickly become the first genre I recommend to anybody in tech looking for a new book or just something slightly different to do. Speculative fiction is a wide-sweeping genre that has a low entry bar for a reader. There’s something there to appeal to everyone, whether it’s magical creatures or futuristic technical inventions. It’s uniquely positioned to deliver maximum enjoyment while facilitating a certain kind of forward-thinking that helps us consider many possible futures, think about what in the past may contribute to upcoming events, and consider more deeply our own roles in the way the world works.
What is speculative fiction?
A post on Marcus Haynes’s website has quickly become my go-to resource for discussing speculative fiction. He looks specifically at Black speculative fiction, but more generally he creates a definition based on what author Annie Neugebauer has written: Speculative fiction “is a text that forces its consumer to imagine (or speculate) on possibilities that do not fit in with their understanding of the world.”
Kamilah Jenkins, a software engineer and avid speculative fiction reader, frames speculative fiction as a genre that “takes an existing, broken model and applies risky solutions.”
Speculative fiction can include fantasy and science fiction, though as with many literary genres, nobody agrees on exactly what belongs to which category. The way I see it, speculative fiction is any story that guides a reader into thinking more deeply about something that doesn’t presently appear in their world. Typically this takes place through the lens of events that don’t happen in the world today (either because they can’t, or simply because they haven’t come to pass yet) but could in the future. The stories in speculative fiction may include aliens and epic battles…