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Slipstream Science Fiction

What is Slipstream?

Sci Fi has been accused of having little literary significance. Slipstream can be seen as a response to this accusation, but rarely do writers of Slipstream stories set out to make a literary Sci Fi story. Slipstream is a cross-genre style of writing involving mainstream literary fiction and speculative fiction--science fiction, fantasy, or both. Slipstream is written by genre writers and mainstream writers alike.



Slipstream has been described as postmodern and as having a magical realism feel. These attributes give Slipstream its label of strange and weird. Indeed, magical realism takes something strange and makes it familiar with use of a familiar context and the help of Sci Fi and Fantasy elements, but in Slipstream this is a more pronounced experience and can be jarring. Indeed, some argue that Slipstream is not magic reaslism but rather more of a large concept that can contain magic realism.

Fantastical, illogical, surreal, jarring, these are all words that describe the experience of reading Slipstream. In fact, some writers do not think of Slipstream as a genre, but as a writing style. In the article "On the Net: Slipstream" by James Patrick Kelly for Asimov's Science Fiction, Kelly writes: "I know what it feels like when I’m writing science fiction and fantasy; I understand what it takes to build the worlds and complicate the plots. But when I write slipstream, I find myself adopting different strategies, shifting my expectations. I don’t understand everything; the writing feels different. Strange."

Slipstream as a sub-genre is still evolving. Today, postmodernism does not play a part in all Slipstream stories. However, Slipstream is still cross-genre, it still has a literary flair, it still has some kind of underlying message, and it still has something strange to offer.

Christopher Priest, the author of "The Prestiege" and "The Seperation" says about Slipstream:

Slipstream does not define a category, but suggests an approach, an attitude, an interest or obsession with thinking the unthinkable or doing the undoable. Slipstream can be visionary, unreliable, odd or metaphysical. It's not magical realism: it's a larger concept that contains magical realism

Slipstream is one of those genres that could be categorized as either Fantasy, Science Fiction, or both at the same time. You might think of it as more of a literary convension with blurred boundaries that cross both sci-fi and fantasy. You can read more about the "fantasy" version of slipstream here which is called "New Weird Fantasy" or just slipstream.

You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" Slipstream Science Fiction Books list and vote and/submit entries to it.

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Other Features of Slipstream

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  • Level of Real Science

    Low. Usually, and there are exceptions, the science of Slipstream stories is not rigorous. Science is rarely even questioned in these stories.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    Variable. There is potential for the exploration of grand ideas in Slipstream and while Slipstream usually has an underlying message, this message may not carry social implications.

  • Level of Characterization

    Variable. While Slipstream has a weirdness to it, frequently this weirdness is not imparted to its characters. Rather, the story unfolds as normal enough characters interact with weird circumstances. Sometimes, as in other literary forms, characters are not individuals they are allegories.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Variable. Generally, plot is not an important part of a Slipstream story because the writer is more concerned with the form of the story and its themes than a sequence of events. This does not mean there is no plot, rather that the complexity and importance is incredibly variable.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. Slipstream is a fluid and sometimes indefinable sub-genre; its characteristics are incredibly variable and dependent on the other genre lines being crossed.

Related Science Fiction subgenres

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    Speculative Fiction. Slipstream is a branch of Speculative Fiction because of its fantastical elements and departures from reality.

  • Anything. Slipstream by nature is genre crossing so any sub-genre can cross into Slipstream. Slipstream is highly literary, so Literary Science Fiction is a highly related subgenre.

  • Slipstream is even categorized as a "Fantasy" subgenre so can verge into "fantasy" releams with a veneer of science fiction trappings (technology). This is called New Weird fantasy or Slipstream Fantasy.

Slipstream isn't for you if...

If you're not a fan of literary works.

Popular Slipstream (Science Fiction) Books