I am a speculative fiction writer: Could you be more specific?
Speculative fiction is a broad term, an umbrella used to lump science fiction, fantasy and all of their sub-genres (steampunk, dystopian, cyberpunk, etc.) under one term. Telling a person you’re a speculative fiction writer lets them know what country in the literature world you’re a citizen of, but doesn’t tell them the city or the town or any of the specifics.
So, more specifically, I write hard science fiction and dabble from time to time in fantasy.
Up to the point when I began writing science fiction, I had read only fantasy. So while I wrote science fiction, I had never read it. And while I read only fantasy, I couldn’t write it. For a while this little paradox didn’t trouble me at all, and I continued on my merry way writing science fiction tales. But after writing some stories I identified why I couldn’t seem to grasp fantasy: I’m a scientist. This manifests in my writing as a need to understand magic on the most basic level.
It’s not enough to say these three components and chanting these words and because of these rules it will produce this result. My response is always the same: Okay, but why? If there’s an explanation at that level, my response is then the same: Okay, but why? Like a four-year-old whose curiosity cannot be quenched, there’s a never ending game of Why and down the rabbit hole I go, when trying to write magic. Sometimes I can step back and be successful, but generally I don’t write magic.
I’m much more comfortable in science fiction where I’ve found a wonderful second life for my college textbooks. In addition to learning new things (or relearning as the case may be), I get to calculate things like terminal velocity of a body rising in water or the impact force of a body in free-fall hitting the ground to help work out time lines in a story—and that’s just plain fun.
Therefore, when pressed I say I write hard science fiction, but really I just like to write whatever seems fun to me at the time. Sometimes that’s science fiction and other times it’s fantasy or steampunk. So for the moment, I more comfortable with the nebulous and comfortably vague term: speculative fiction writer.