• Jordan Bolay

On Speculative Forms

We’ve been talking a lot about genre as we gear up to open our themed issue of antilang. – Succinct Speculations – for submissions. But what about form? “SpecFic” is a bit of a misnomer – it suggests that speculative writing is always fiction, and that’s obviously not true.


Speculative writing is no alien to poetry. In fact, Canada’s “magazine of the fantastic,” On Spec, devotes an entire section to the form. Antilangers (as we fondly call our past contributors) Amy LeBlanc & Taylor Skaalrud have employed the gothic and the supernatural into their poetry submissions for our flash writing contests on Patreon. And Erin Emily Ann Vance has published her wonderful witchy poems with us in antilang. no. 1 & 2 and many other mags.


Another form that synchronizes splendidly with speculative writing is comics, such as Crash & Burn by Calgary-based creators Finn Lucullan & Kate Larking. And there’s always the obvious examples of superhero comics. We haven’t received any comics submissions for any of our previous issues, but we’d really love to see some this time around as the form facilitates a blending of genres, styles, and artistic/literary modes.


But what of creative non-fiction? Is there such a thing as speculative non-fic? We feel that yes, there is, and furthermore there are multiple ways one could achieve this apparent paradox. A few years back, Edmonton-based novelist and short story writer Jacqueline Baker wrote The Broken Hours, a literary ghost story about the finals days of horror icon / huge racist H.P. Lovecraft’s life. While the book is marketed as a novel, it is deeply research-based and draws heavily from Lovecraft’s personal letters found in archives. It becomes a sort of biography blended with historical fiction and supernatural horror; plus, Jacqueline told us at a recent conference that she loves the idea of speculative non-fiction, so there!


Another style of SpecNF can be found in Numenera, a table-top role-playing game by Monte Cook Games. This narrative-driven science-fantasy RPG is set in the distant future, and most of the core rulebook Discovery reads more like a very interesting encyclopedia than an

instruction manual. While non-fiction suggests that the writing’s topic should be ‘real’ (whatever that means), we feel that SpecNF is as much about style and presentation. Besides, who’s to say these worlds aren’t real, floating over or alongside our own, or that they won’t become real, some day?



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