I learned this week, thanks to an article in the Wall Street Journal, that I actually have a favorite genre. Technically, it’s not a genre; it’s more of a technique or style, but being a reader who has never before been able to claim a more specific taste profile than “general fiction,” I could now say that I’m a fan of Slipstream. This term, while not really new, has recently been gaining more of an audience. Slipstream was actually coined back in 1989, by critic and author Bruce Sterling, in an essay addressing the evolution of his genre. He was eager to separate what he considered to be true science fiction, from the stories that simply incorporated elements of the genre. So he called this area of science fiction “slipstream.” He explains the genre thus:
It seems to me that the heart of slipstream is an attitude of peculiar aggression against “reality.” These are fantasies of a kind, but not fantasies which are “futuristic” or “beyond the fields we know.” These books tend to sarcastically tear at the structure of “everyday life.”
And he goes on to describe other characteristics. The whole essay is available online here.
Before, I would often apply the term magical realism, or realistic fantasy to the stories I preferred to read most, but that never quite seemed adequate. Sometimes the stories would contain charming supernatural creatures, mysterious plant life or visitors from another time or dimension. Other times the stories simply presented a reality that was slightly off kilter, creating an almost dreamlike atmosphere, and would make little attempt to directly address the dissonance. Kelly Link, in a recent NPR interview, describes her stories, many of which are written in this way, as adhering to a “night time logic”, similar to the way the mind, while asleep, sort of accepts the events in a dream, events that would confound us when awake.
I’ve collected some of the titles that fit this type into a Pinterest board on our Chelmsford Library Pinterest page,and included links for a few recent examples above. So, the next time you’re feeling a bit mischievous or playful, or would like to read something a little more out of the ordinary, try one of these books.