Slipstream genre

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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 Richard Dorsett according to an interview with renowned cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in Mythaxis Review.[1] He said:

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.

Bruce Sterling described it in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, in July 1989, as: "... 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."[2]


Slipstream fiction has consequently been described as "the fiction of strangeness"[3] or a form of writing that makes "the familiar strange or the strange familiar" through epistemological and ontological questionings about reality.[4] 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.[5] 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."[6]


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[original research?]. 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.[4] As an emerging genre, slipstream has been described as nonrealistic fiction with a postmodern sensibility.[7]

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.[8]

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[edit]


  1. ^ Sterling, Bruce (September 2020). "Artist Spotlight on Bruce Sterling". Mythaxis Review. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  2. ^ Sterling, Bruce (July 1989). "CATSCAN 5: Slipstream". SF Eye. No. 5. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  3. ^ Martinsen, Axel (15 September 2015). Idaho Powwow and Other Tales from the Slipstream. Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN 9781329182059.
  4. ^ a b Ganteau, Jean-Michel; Onega, Susana (2017). Victimhood and Vulnerability in 21st Century Fiction. Oxon: Routledge. p. 64. ISBN 9780415788298.
  5. ^ Adams, John Joseph (12 June 2006). "James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel". Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  6. ^ Kavan, Anna. Foreword. Ice. By Christopher Priest. Peter Owen Publishers.
  7. ^ Latham, Rob (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780199838844.
  8. ^ "London Literature Festival: Slipstream by Toby Litt with Steven Hall & Scarlett Thomas". Nature Network. 2007. Archived from the original on 7 January 2013.

External resources[edit]