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SF Subgenre Guides
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.
Other Features of Slipstream
- 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
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.
- 1 Feeling Very Strange
- 2 The Bridge
By Iain Banks. A mysterious structure, a symbolic dream, a journey of self-discovery, a love story--this novel has lots to offer.
- 3 Breakfast of Champions
By Kurt Vonnegut. Short on plot and big on message, this novel is comedic, satirical, and challenges conventions of form.
- 4 White Noise
By Don DeDillo. Satirical and mesmerizing, this novel has a strong post-modern sensibility and a strong artificiality.
- 5 Rubicon Beach
By Steve Erickson. Anything by Erickson is an example of Slipstream. In this novel figuring out what is real is near impossible.
- 6 The Cyberaid
By Stanislaw Lem. This book is a collection of stories that take place in a far distant future populated by robots. The stories are sometimes fantasy with a sense of humour and a dash of satire.
- 7 Dreams of Leaving
By Rupert Thomson This novel creates a world much like our own, but somehow different and explores ideas of identity, fear, and change.
- 8 Woman on the Edge of Time
By Marge Piercy. A feminist classic, this novel examines a utopia through the eyes of a woman who can communicate with the future.
- 9 The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
- 10 The Aleph and Other Stories
By Jorge Luis Borges. A collection of long and short stories that are magical, gritty, and haunting. Borges is a pillar of Slipstream fiction.
- 11 Perdido Street Station
By China Mieville. China Mieville's works such as Perdido Street Station, The City and The City, etc. This author writes fantasy (and the best example of slipstream fantasy), but his works could be considered under the Science Fiction realm of Slipstream too.
- The Handmaid's Tale ()
- The Bridge (Iain Banks)
- Light (M. John Harrison)
- Zeitgeist (Peter Joseph)