Historical-Speculative Naturist Fiction

Where categories of fiction are concerned, “speculative fiction” is most frequently defined as a big-tent term that can encompass everything from fantasy to sci fi and beyond. “Historical fiction” is more narrowly defined as a made-up story set in an actual historical period, with the correct attendant details regarding specificity of time and place. And “naturist fiction”? It’s what we’re all about here on this blog, of course. Here is our definition from this site’s main page:

naturist fiction: novels, novellas, or short stories, of most any genre, in which an integral aspect of the plot is the adaptation of one or more characters to social nudism in a context supportive of naturism.

(There have been at least three unsuccessful attempts over as many years to establish a Wikipedia article on naturist fiction. So many obstacles!)

Terrific diagram from Annie Neugebauer. I think my books would sit right on the border of what she calls categories 11 and 12 in her discussion of this diagram here: https://annieneugebauer.com/2014/03/24/what-is-speculative-fiction/.

Paul’s novels in his series on The Unsworth Manor Nudes are very clearly historical naturist fiction, based closely on real people and events. In comparison, as I’m finishing up my third naturist novel, Skinners, I’m realizing that I find the term “historical-speculative” most appropriate for categorizing it, as well as for my previous novel Aglow. Both novels are more historical than speculative, but all of Skinners, and the historical part of Aglow, are speculative in the sense that they present imagined contexts for, and outcomes of, social nudism in different historical settings (the 16th- and 17th-century American tropics, in what are now Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, the Caribbean).

17th-century map of the Americas. Source.

While there is also a recognized literary category called “alternate history,” I don’t prefer that term because most fiction in this category deals with alternate timelines, such as what would have happened if Gandhi had survived the assassination attempt, or if the South had won the U.S. Civil War. My work in Skinners and Aglow hasn’t explored alternate timelines so much as an alternate lifestyle–naturism or social nudism–within real historical timelines. In my application of “historical-speculative,” the “speculative” part doesn’t mean there are elves, or time travel, or alien civilizations, but rather that the decisions that certain people might have made regarding social nudity, and the consequences of those decisions, may have been far more interesting than most history books would lead us to suspect.

This is one of the major contributions of fiction: pushing out the boundaries of what we can imagine to exist, or to have existed, or to be possible to exist. Frankly, we naturists who rebel against textile society do this daily in real life – nothing fictional about it! However, naturist fiction opens other examples – speculative, alternative, or hypothetical, perhaps, but nonetheless illustrative of our choices and their possible ramifications in the wider world.

2 thoughts on “Historical-Speculative Naturist Fiction”

  1. A very good and interesting article, Will. Thank you.

    Also: Looking forward to “Skinners”!

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