Dr. Seuss and Speculative Fiction
by Dianna L. Gunn
For some reason when I think of kids books, I rarely define them by genre. In my head, they're all just kids books. Of course, books for kids are sort of their own genre, but as with YA, all the usual genres exist in these books.
I came to all of these realizations when I was asked to write about Dr. Seuss and speculative fiction. At first I was confused. How is Dr. Seuss a speculative fiction writer? The question bounced around in my head for a few hours, and then I realized the answer was right in front of me.
Dr. Seuss uses lots of speculative fiction elements. His stories are so far out there that it's hard to define them within genre, but definite elements of speculative fiction can be found within his work. Think about the Cat in the Hat. Talking animals don't happen in mainstream fiction, but they do happen in speculative fiction.
Then I started talking to my grandmother about The Lorax, a movie released yesterday based on one of Dr. Seuss's books. For some reason the book escaped me in my childhood, but after my grandmother's explanation, the concept fascinates me. It's the story of the last tree in a world where everything has fallen apart. It might be a kids book and it might end on a happy note, but it's sort of post-apocalyptic fiction.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized Dr. Seuss has to do with speculative fiction. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas we encounter the fantastical Grinch and Christmas magic. In Horton Hears a Who, we discover an entire world on a four leaf clover. What's more speculative than that?
Dr. Seuss was one of my favourite authors as a child. The more I think about the speculative elements in his fiction, the more I want to revisit his works. Now, with maturity and distance, is a good time to return to Dr. Seuss and to really examine him as a writer. His stories are fascinating and hard to classify but easy to read.
I think we all have something to learn from Dr. Seuss, especially those of us writing speculative fiction or trying to write work that defies genre. It's time to dive back into our childhood favourites.