Craft Talk Rewind: Jumping into the Unknown with Speculative Fiction

Charles Payseur

Charles Payseur

By Karissa Zastrow

Speculative Fiction is used as an umbrella term for genres like fantasy, science-fiction, and horror. All of these genres have one thing in common: they push the boundaries of reality. Speculative fiction tends to ask the question “what if,” as do most stories, but they take it to the next level by throwing out the rulebook of reality and breaking at least one of the rules. In fact, you can create your own rule book. Write a story about dragons going scuba diving or time travel back to the Ice Age and go snowboarding—the choice is yours!

Our brains are always trying to figure out what is real and true in the world, but in reality we don’t have all the answers, which is why speculative fiction works just like fiction and non-fiction. The brain knows this and wants to believe the stories, which invoke that same type of anxiety that attracts us to a book of realistic fiction. After all, strange and unlikely stories still have things to teach us.

Charles Payseur describes speculative fiction as a genre of revolution and change. By throwing out the rule book, speculative fiction shows us that change is possible and it is happening. Speculative fiction can be applied to reality in a way that pushes people to strive for change and create a better world for the future. Imagine if people just accepted the way the world is and never pushed the boundaries.  If we want to make a difference, we need to think about how the world can change.

Within speculative fiction, there are many subgenres and there is a following for each and every subgenre out there, even in publishing. Typically, if you submit a speculative fiction story, you don’t have to pay a reading or submission fee and if they choose to publish your story, you are going to get paid. Most places pay 6 cents or less. If you are paid 6 cents or higher, you are considered to be writing at the professional level and to be recognized by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America you need to get paid at the professional level for 10,000 words.

Payseur offers a lot of advice when it comes to what you should do after you are done writing a story:

  1. Don’t panic.

  2. Consider finding a place to workshop it. There a lot of places to get support for your story. In Eau Claire, there is the Chippewa Valley S.P.A.C.E.C.A.T.s, which Payseur founded. They meet every three weeks in person. There are also online options such as, or once you have published something, you can join Codex.

  3. Submit! Once you have completed your story, it’s time to submit to different publications. He suggests using a site like Submissions Grinder or to track your submissions.

  4. Submit More! You will get rejections and it will suck, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. Yes, rejection is hard, but you have to keep going. Sometimes editors offer advice. You can choose to listen to them or not. Ultimately, it is your story, so you can make the decisions. If you get rejected, you can always send your story out again.

  5. Sell (or not). Not every story will sell, but that’s okay. If it does sell, remember to read the contract. Pay attention to what rights you have and how long they will have possession of your story. Usually, they will have your story somewhere between 3 and 6 months. Another detail to look for is when they will pay you for your work. One you sell, don’t be afraid to promote your writing and get your name out there.

  6. Write a New Story!

Payseur urges writers to find ways to keep you going, even when you get rejection.

Remember, there are people out there who like your writing and support what you do, like the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild. So writers, are you ready to throw out the rule book and jump into the unknown?