The slipstream genre is a term denoting forms of speculative fiction that blends together science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction or do not remain in conventional boundaries of genre and narrative, directly extending from the experimentation of the New Wave science fiction movement while also borrowing from fantasy, psychological fiction, philosophical fiction and other genres or styles of literature.
It was invented by my friend the late Richard Dorsett while the two of us were discussing a category of non-genre fantasy books that we had no name for. "They're certainly not mainstream," I said, and "Why not slipstream?" he suggested, and I thought it was a pretty good coinage.
Sterling later described it in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, in July 1989, as "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." The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction credits Sterling with inventing the related term of "slipstream sf" for works that "make use of sf devices but which are not Genre SF".
Slipstream fiction has been described as "the fiction of strangeness", or a form of writing that makes "the familiar strange or the strange familiar" through skepticism about elements of reality. Illustrating this, prototypes of the style of slipstream are considered to exist in the stories of Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges.
Science fiction authors James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, editors of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, argued cognitive dissonance is at the heart of slipstream, and it is not so much a genre as a literary effect, like horror or comedy. Similarly, Christopher Priest, in his introduction to Anna Kavan's genre-defying but arguably 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."
In slipstream, characteristics of works of fiction considered under the term include disruption of the principle of realism, avoidance of being a traditional fantasy story, and being a postmodern narrative. As an emerging genre, slipstream has been described as nonrealistic fiction with a postmodern sensibility, exploring an awareness of societal and technological change and psychological breakdown previously shown by science fiction authors during the time of postmodernism, as well as poets and experimental authors in modernism.
In her 2012 volume Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, Grace Dillon identified a current of Native American Slipstream that predates and anticipates the timeframe for slipstream, notably including Gerald Vizenor's 1978 short story "Custer on the Slipstream".
Other SF authors and fans claim "that slipstream is a term that lumps together metafiction, magical realism, surrealism, experimental fiction[,] counter-realism", and postmodern writing, and/or applies to a story with themes coming from one or more of these literary influences.
- Bizarro fiction
- List of genres
- Magic realism
- New Weird
- Science fiction
- Speculative fiction
- Transrealism (literature)
- Butler, Andrew M.; Daley, Christopher; Duncan, Roby; Filtness, Emma; Higgins, David M.; Hubble, Nick; Langer, Jessica; Mousoutzanis, Aris; Norman, Joseph; et al. (Contributors) (2013). Hubble, Nick; Mousoutzanis, Aris (eds.). The Science Fiction Handbook. Literature and Culture Handbooks. New York: Bloomsbury. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-4411-7096-5.
- Sterling, Bruce (September 2020). "Artist Spotlight on Bruce Sterling". Mythaxis Review. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
- Sterling, Bruce (July 1989). "CATSCAN 5: Slipstream". SF Eye. No. 5. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- "SFE: Slipstream SF". sf-encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 31 August 2022.
- Martinsen, Axel (15 September 2015). Idaho Powwow and Other Tales from the Slipstream. Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN 9781329182059.
- Ganteau, Jean-Michel; Onega, Susana (2017). Victimhood and Vulnerability in 21st Century Fiction. Oxon: Routledge. p. 64. ISBN 9780415788298.
- "A Working Canon of Slipstream Writings" (PDF). Readercon. 2007.
- Adams, John Joseph (12 June 2006). "James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel". SciFi.com. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- Kavan, Anna. Foreword. Ice. By Christopher Priest. Peter Owen Publishers.
- Latham, Rob (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780199838844.
- Bruce Sterling and Lawrence Person's combined slipstream list from Nova Express, Volume 5, Issue 2.
- A Working Canon of Slipstream Writing Archived 6 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine compiled in Readercon 18, 2007.
- James Patrick Kelly covers slipstream in two of his "On the Net" columns from Asimov's Science Fiction: Slipstream and Genre.
- A roundup of slipstream links, including links to commentary, discussions, and reviews of slipstream texts.
- Fantastic Metropolis.com
- Webpage on the special issue of Science-Fiction Studies discussing slipstream fiction. Table of Contents and article abstracts.
- Slipstream (O de como la Ciencia Ficción ya no es Ciencia Ficción) [Slipstream (Or how Science Fiction is no longer Science Fiction)] (in Spanish).