What is speculative fiction?
Speculative fiction has an element of imaginative "what if?" Suppose history had progressed differently? What would happen if society took some new turn? What would happen if someone invented...? Suppose there were another world somewhere?
Speculative fiction comes in many flavours, including fantasy and science fiction. One often finds fantasy and science fiction lumped together in bookstores, and some authors write both.
What is fantasy?
Fantasy is the speculative fiction of sheer make-believe, of dreams. Its worlds are populated by odd creatures such as dragons, magic, sorcery, spells, demons, and scenarios that require more than just a suspension of disbelief in the impossible. Typical modern fantasy is of the sword and sorcery variety.
What is science fiction?
In the branch of speculative fiction called science fiction, some element of science or technology is critical to the plot, and there is no magic. Hard science fiction concentrates on the science and technology, sometimes at the expense of plot and characterization. Soft science fiction is more literary, and attempts to weave the science and technology seamlessly into the tapestry. Rick Sutcliffe writes soft science fiction.
What is Christian fiction?
Christian fiction deals with Biblical themes--God, creation, revelation, good and evil, morality, the fall, the incarnation, redemption, salvation, and heaven. These may be treated explicitly as in Rick Sutcliffe's fiction, or in allegory, as, for instance, in C.S. Lewis's fiction.
What is Christian science fiction?
Christian science fiction has plot elements depending on science/technology as well as Christian themes. Because most people lump fantasy with science fiction, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis are usually placed in this category, though they are, strictly speaking, Christian fantasy. Likewise, the Jenkins/LaHaye "Left Behind" series is Christian speculative fiction, but strictly speaking not science fiction.
Rick Sutcliffe's Christian science fiction has some fantasy elements, such as castles, kings, and sword fighting. However, it treats the question of how society can cope with science and technology when the latter threaten to destroy it. It posits alternate earths with different histories than ours, has science and technology as essential plot elements, and is non-chiliast/apocalyptic, so it is properly Christian science fiction.
Note that there is no connection whatsoever between Christian science fiction and the religion known as "Christian Science." Also, much Celtic fiction deals with these Christian themes but does not signal an explicit Christian commitment on the part of the author or characters.
What is alternate history fiction?
Alternate history fiction is a sub-genre of speculative fiction, the plot elements of which hinge on a history different that what has happened in our world. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction has several worlds with different histories than ours (Prime).
What is futuristic fiction?
Futuristic fiction is a catch-all term used by some publishers for any or all of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and apocalyptic literature.
What is ethical fiction?
Ethical fiction has plot elements depending on ethical choices made by the characters. Although choices are a common theme in much literature, in ethical fiction they become critical plot elements.