Katey mentioned the other day on my Thursday blog (which was a substitute for WIP Wednesday) "I don't think it needs to be speculative right off to grab the attention-". She was speaking of the fact that my speculative story that I am working on did start off with a speculative element. In fact it seems perfectly normal to start off with. No hint of where it is going.
Is this a bad thing? should we start with a speculative element to set the mood in a piece and let the reader know that this is going to be odd/different from the norm and that real world principals don't necessarily apply? Or is it okay to bring the reader into it when the writer wants to, as long as it makes sense in the story. I have been trying to remember the beginnings of several of my favorite spec stories and how, and when, we knew that this world the writer was creating was not quite like ours. Harry Potter comes to mind.
On page one of HP we are told that everything was quite normal. then on page 3 we are told of a cat reading a map and Mr. Dudley having to ponder what he just saw. Ms. Rowling seemed to come into the speculative nature of the story fairly quickly.
In Stephen King's book, The Shining, we manage to go through several chapters before we find out anything is truly wrong with the Overlook Hotel. We catch glimpses of it, but it isn't until much later in the book that it is actually spelled out for the reader.
These seem to be the two extremes and good books in their own right. They demonstrate that there is no clear cut way of doing this and that adding a speculative element into a story is an individual choice. I guess the key is to keep the readers attention and, as long as it is foreshadowed well enough, the writer can do about anything they want.