Fantasy fiction usually designates a conscious breaking-free from reality. The term is applied to a text that takes place in a nonexistent and unreal world, such as fairyland, or concerns incredible and unreal characters, or relies on scientific principles not yet discovered or contrary to present experience, as in some utopian fiction. Speculative fiction, on the other hand, appears to be a term coined by Robert A. Heinlein in an essay written in 1948, “On Writing of Speculative Fiction,” where he explicitly used the term as a substitute for “science fiction.” Once the term went into popular use, editors, readers, academics and some writers developed a tendency to think of speculative fiction as an umbrella term covering everything from science fiction and fantasy to magical realism. Under this definition, every novel that is not highly invested in “realism” could be called “speculative fiction.”
I’m interested in discussion of The Familiar as speculative fiction and fantasy in relation to how how the human/animal/posthuman relation is treated, particularly in relation to other fiction (and vice versa). In texts as wildly different as, for example, Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City, Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, Spiegelman’s Maus I and II, Karen Emshwiller’s The Mount, or Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore–or even in realism such as J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, Linda Hogan’s Power, or Karen Joy Fowler’s We are all Completely Beside Ourselves–we see the human/animal relation centralized in relation to themes, narrational style and technique, and posthuman ethics. How does The Familiar converse with and speak to these kinds of texts and rejoin, reframe, reject, and/or resituate their perspectives? How might putting these and other texts in conversation elucidate key differences in The Familiar in terms of style, theme, and politics?