Slipstream genre

Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. The term was coined by cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, in July 1989. He wrote: "... this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility."[1]


Slipstream fiction has consequently been described as "the fiction of strangeness"[2] or a form of writing that makes "the familiar strange or the strange familiar" through epistemological and ontological questionings about reality.[3] Science fiction authors James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, editors of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, argue cognitive dissonance is at the heart of slipstream, and it is not so much a genre as a literary effect, like horror or comedy.[4] Similarly, Christopher Priest, in his introduction to Anna Kavan's slipstream novel Ice, writes "the best way to understand slipstream is to think of it as a state of mind or a particular approach, one that is outside of all categorisation. ... slipstream induces a sense of 'otherness' in the audience, like a glimpse into a distorting mirror."[5]


Slipstream falls between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction. While some slipstream novels employ elements of science fiction or fantasy, not all do. The common unifying factor of these pieces of literature is some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely-real, or the markedly anti-real. According to Kelly and Kessel, however, there are three basic characteristics of a slipstream narrative: it disrupts the principle of realism; it is not a traditional fantasy story; and, it is a postmodern narrative.[3] As an emergent genre, it slipstream has been described as nonrealistic fiction with a postmodern sensibility.[6]

In 2007, the first London Literature Festival at the Royal Festival Hall held a Slipstream night chaired by Toby Litt and featuring the British authors Steven Hall and Scarlett Thomas.[7]

In her 2012 volume Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, Grace Dillon identifies a current of Native American Slipstream that predates and anticipates slipstream, with examples including Gerald Vizenor's "Custer on the Slipstream" (1978).

See also


  1. ^ Sterling, Bruce (July 1989). "CATSCAN 5: Slipstream". SF Eye. No. 5. Retrieved 2014-09-13.
  2. ^ Martinsen, Axel (2015-09-15). Idaho Powwow and Other Tales from the Slipstream. Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN 9781329182059.
  3. ^ a b Ganteau, Jean-Michel; Onega, Susana (2017). Victimhood and Vulnerability in 21st Century Fiction. Oxon: Routledge. p. 64. ISBN 9780415788298.
  4. ^ Adams, John Joseph (12 June 2006). "James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel". Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 2014-09-13.
  5. ^ Kavan, Anna. Foreword. Ice. By Christopher Priest. Peter Owen Publishers.
  6. ^ Latham, Rob (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780199838844.
  7. ^ "London Literature Festival: Slipstream by Toby Litt with Steven Hall & Scarlett Thomas". Nature Network. 2007. Archived from the original on 7 January 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2011.

External resources

Christopher Priest (novelist)

Christopher Priest (born 14 July 1943) is a British novelist and science fiction writer. His works include Fugue for a Darkening Island, Inverted World, The Affirmation, The Glamour, The Prestige and The Separation.

Priest has been strongly influenced by the science fiction of H. G. Wells and in 2006 was appointed Vice-President of the international H. G. Wells Society.

Experimental literature

Experimental literature refers to written work—usually fiction or poetry—that emphasizes innovation, most especially in technique.

Josh Wagner

Josh Wagner (born August 19, 1975) is a novelist and playwright from Missoula, Montana. He also writes graphic novels, short stories, and screenplays. His style is heavily influenced by metafiction, folk tales, and magical realism. His work is best categorized as part of the Slipstream (genre).

Mythic fiction

Mythic fiction is literature that is rooted in, inspired by, or that in some way draws from the tropes, themes and symbolism of myth, legend, folklore, and fairy tales. The term is widely credited to Charles de Lint and Terri Windling. Mythic fiction overlaps with urban fantasy and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but mythic fiction also includes contemporary works in non-urban settings. Mythic fiction refers to works of contemporary literature that often cross the divide between literary and fantasy fiction.Windling promoted mythic fiction as the co-editor (with Ellen Datlow) of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror annual volumes for sixteen years, and as the editor of the Endicott Studio Journal of Mythic Arts.

Though mythic fiction can be loosely based in mythology, it frequently uses familiar mythological personages archetypes (such as tricksters, or the thunderer). This is in contrast to mythopoeia, such as the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, which invent their own legends and folklore or volunteer entirely new pantheons.

A suggested mythic fiction reading list can be found at the Endicott Studio website: Mythic fiction Reading List.

New weird

The new weird is a literary genre that began in the 1990s and developed in a series of novels and stories published from 2001 to 2005. M. John Harrison is credited with creating the term "New Weird" in the introduction to China Miéville's novella The Tain (2002). The writers involved are mostly novelists who are considered to be parts of the horror or speculative fiction genres but who often cross genre boundaries. Notable authors include K. J. Bishop, Steve Cockayne, Paul Di Filippo, M. John Harrison, Thomas Ligotti, Ian R. MacLeod, China Miéville, Alastair Reynolds, Justina Robson, Steph Swainston, and Jeff VanderMeer, among others.

Speculative poetry

Speculative poetry is a genre of poetry that focusses on fantastic, science fictional and mythological themes. It is also known as science fiction poetry or fantastic poetry. It is distinguished from other poetic genres by being categorized by its subject matter, rather than by the poetry's form. Suzette Haden Elgin defined the genre as "about a reality that is in some way different from the existing reality."Due to the similarity of subject matter, it is often published by the same markets that publish short stories and novellas of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and many authors write both in speculative fiction and speculative poetry. The field has one major award, the Rhysling Award, given annually to a poem of more than fifty lines and to a sub-fifty lines poem by the US-based Science Fiction Poetry Association.

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