Thursday, February 9, 2012

Amber Dawn teaches first speculative fiction course at Douglas College

Amber Dawn Upfold says speculative fiction is popular because "it speaks to humanity while transporting us to other worlds and possibilities."
You’ve heard of romance fiction, detective fiction, literary fiction and horror fiction, but have you ever heard of speculative fiction? Author Amber Dawn Upfold, a new instructor in the Creative Writing Department at Douglas College, is teaching the  first-ever full credit course devoted to speculative fiction in Canada this semester at the New Westminster Campus. doug caught up with Amber this week to get the lowdown on the genre, and what interested students can expect from her class.

Interview by Tamara Letkeman 

What the heck is speculative fiction? 
"Speculative fiction is somewhat of an umbrella term used to describe science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, magical realism, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction and alternate histories. The term itself arose in the 1960s - though many writers and readers still do not agree on what exactly speculative fiction is, and if it should be considered part of or separate from literary fiction."

How did you come to be teaching speculative fiction? 
"My first novel, Sub Rosa, is a speculative fiction book. I am also the editor of a women’s horror anthology, Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire."

The course is full. Why are so many aspiring writers interested in speculative fiction?
"Today’s publishing world is dominated by speculative fiction: Harry Potter, Twilight, The Golden Compass, The Hunger Games, etc. Furthermore, most of my students have read speculative fiction “classics”: The Lord of the Rings, Dune, Slaughterhouse-Five, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, etc. These books are not only highly imaginative; they all invite the reader to creatively explore questions about what it means to be human. Even the most extraordinary, otherworldly characters can teach us something about ourselves. That is why speculative fiction is so popular: it speaks to humanity while transporting us to other worlds and possibilities."

Who is this course most suited to? 
"Anyone who has taken Introduction to Writing Fiction. Speculative fiction can be a complex genre to write, and so a foundation of fiction writing is needed. I suggest that students wanting to enrol in this course next year come with an open mind. Speculative fiction writers often have wild imaginations and strong opinions."

What does your first crop of students look like? 
"The students are diverse in terms of their aesthetic tastes. Some are writing horror fiction, like ghost stories or post-apocalyptic fiction. Others are writing hard science fiction, while other are writing feminine gothic fiction. Their writing experience is diverse, too. While all of the students have taken one or two creative writing courses at Douglas College, some are very new writers and others have been writing stories since they were children. The range of experience makes the class interesting."

To find our more about the Douglas College Creative Writing program, visit the website. For more on Amber Dawn, visit her author page on the Arsenal Pulp Press website.