Sleepy Hollow – Quintessential Speculative Fiction

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I’m a speculative fiction junkie. I love it.

What is it, you may ask.

Speculative Fiction is rather a new term to cover an immense chunk of literature that ranges from classic novels to fantasy. It really has only one staple; it must be set in a variation of the “real world,” with supernatural elements to it. Thus, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is Speculative Fiction. The Pirates of the Caribbean is Speculative Fiction. Sleepy Hollow, Warm Bodies, Sanctuary, and even Harry Potter are Speculative Fiction. It involves magic, dragons, sorcerers, vampires, werewolves, mermaids, sirens, curses, mummies, and just about anything else your imagination can fire up that don’t really exist but that we love all the same.

My favorite Speculative Fiction blends realism (real places, people, and things) with the fantastical. That is exactly what Fox’s Sleepy Hollow is doing. It tears Ichabod Crane out of fighting in the Revolutionary War and thrusts him into the modern age, where he must work together with a sassy young cop to stop the appending apocalypse. Yes, you heard that right. The series paints the Headless Horseman as Death, one of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. The mastermind behind all the evil that transpires in the series is Moloch, from Paradise Lost. There are good witches (we assume, but we can’t know for certain, since Katrina is shut up in an alternate dimension) and bad, and all manner of monster and demon just waiting to descend and wreak havoc on the formerly sleepy little town.

The series plays fast and loose with historical events, implying George Washington was involved in preventing the first wave of the Apocalypse and that the reason for the Boston Tea Party was actually to create a distraction so they can steal an ancient book from the British. It might cause historians to tear their hair out in frustration, but my reaction to it was “… dude, that’s cool. Damn it, why didn’t I think of it?” If I can accept the history-altering theories of National Treasure are true, why not this?

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Given my objections to “tampering” at times with literature and history, I’ll say openly that whether or not I approve relies entirely on how historical the work in question professes to be. If this were a deliberately serious take on history, professing to tell the entire truth, I wouldn’t appreciate it, but it’s a fantastical take on it and therefore doesn’t have to stick to the facts 100%. (This, primarily, is my complaint with Philippa Gregory, who professes to write historical accuracy and doesn’t. But that’s another hate-filled rant for another time.)

I try to be discerning when it comes to Speculative Fiction and the motivation behind it, particularly when it ties my faith into the mix. That can be tricky, because secular authors aren’t respectful of Christianity when dealing with it on screen. I stuck with Supernatural for three seasons and abandoned it when its depiction of angels and God didn’t sit well with me. Given that I have no real defined opinion on the Book of Revelation, and am open to the idea that it is primarily symbolic, Sleepy Hollow inferring that the Horseman is Death doesn’t bother me one bit,* and neither does the magic. But that’s me. You’re you and if it bothers you, don’t watch it.

But, if like me, you’ve always loved Speculative Fiction, Sleepy Hollow offers up a fantastical adventure full of hilariousness from Ichabod, sassiness from Abby, and a number of monsters, fiends, complicated plots, and twists to set your hair on end. And thus far, it’s been clean. Let’s hope it stays that way.

* Of course, I am the girl who laughed until she cried reading Terry Pratchett’s take on the Four Horseman in his Discworld books, so one could say that in general I’m not all that reverent toward Revelation.

7 Replies to “Sleepy Hollow – Quintessential Speculative Fiction”

  1. I still adore Supernatural. But seeing as how I don’t believe in God, the angel stories didn’t bother me one bit. I’ll have to try Sleepy Hollow.

  2. Ah, I’m watching episode 3 of Sleepy Hollow as I type this! Hmm, I think another issue would be how certain historical figures are portrayed–George Washington fighting a battle for humanity’s existence is still a good guy. Lincoln is portrayed as a practical, decent man, studying the law, and working in a shop, while killing vampires on the side 😉 The same goes for Mary Todd Lincoln, if anything the film flatters them by showing them as adopting a pro-abolitionist stance at a younger age. Now if either of the above portrayed Washington as a womanizer or Lincoln as a murderer–that’d be quite a different story.

    So overall as long as it’s a case of weaving fantasy “around” historical fact I don’t see what–OH GOSH WAIT DID THEY JUST HAVE ICHABOD SAY MOHAWKS SPIED FOR THE COLONISTS–NO SO INACCURATE I TAKE BACK ALL MY PRAISE FOR THIS SHOW AND—* cough * flail * splutter *

    Ahem–where were we? 😉 (Oh gosh–Iroquois Confederacy reference * swoon * bonus points! I totally recant my recanting of all my praise for this awesome series 😉 )

    Honestly I never understood why Supernatural couldn’t have done an epic good vs evil story–without invoking the Bible in what was going to be an (inevitably) offensive plot twist? (Even Buffy pulled this off)

    Now I must say though I am a little confused by the use of the term “speculative fiction”, I’ve seen it used to mean either:

    A) Extremely realistic science fiction set in the near future, it tends not to feature “human” robots, aliens, moon colonies, or time travel etc; It’s usually written with current political trends or technology in mind, hence it’s viewed as a reasonable “speculation” of what might soon come to pass.

    B) Anything and everything that could be classified as being somehow in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, or even Alternative History genres.

    C) Being meant as an early, more “dignified” term for what we would now consider mainstream science fiction, space travel, robots etc; (Although I’ve also seen the former referred to as “space fiction” in older books)

    D) When you used it describe I, Claudia and Thornewicke, fiction which would be considered “fantasy” by non-believers due to their “magic” element. But to a Christian who might believe a little “miraculous intervention” isn’t out of the realm of possibility, they’re purely speculative. 😉

    So I fear the changing use of the term really has my head spinning! Although I am inclined to think that I would agree that most of what you term “speculative fiction” can also be termed “FANTASTIC” 😉

    Hmm apparently Ro’kenhrontyes means throwing sand in Mohawk. Though to the best of my knowledge there is no such demon in Mohawk folklore 😉 (And there is no such thing as a Native American shaman! Google people! Google! )

    So far Sleepy Hollow hasn’t offended me though, I like the characters, have been more entertained than I expected by each episode–and I hope it continues!

    1. That’s a good point. So long as historical figures are reasonably truthful to what they were really like, I’m much more laid back about any major changes in their environment. I’m less irate at the idea of Lincoln slaying vampires as I was in a “historical” epic from a few years ago in which Washington swore a blue streak. (I LOVED what “Vampire Hunter” did with Mary Todd Lincoln. Oh my gosh, they were SO CUTE.)

      “Supernatural” went off the rails. I don’t even watch it anymore, and my affection for even the first three seasons, which I used to love, has waned. I was excited when they brought in Castiel… and then it all went downhill rapidly. It was awful.

      “Speculative Fiction” covers just about anything so long as it’s semi-realistic and contains fantastical elements. But yeah… alternate history, sci-fi, Steampunk, fantasy, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc.

      “Thornewicke”… well, you’ll see when you read it. 😉

  3. I’m really enjoying this one so far. I think Blacklist is my favorite new show of the season, but Sleepy Hollow is almost even with Elementary for me. Love the humor and sassiness!

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