What does slipstream include?


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What does slipstream include?

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Sep 18, 2007, 2:54 pm

What do you folks consider to be slipstream? i'm trying to get my arms around it and was looking at a list that included:

* Beloved and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

* Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

* Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

The only one that made me think yes! was Woman on the Edge of Time - kind of a sci fi, cultural criticism, time travel blend. Beloved and Song of Solomon seem more supernatural realism while the Rice books are light, sensual horror.

What do you think slipstream includes?

Edited: Oct 3, 2007, 1:27 am

I think the answer will vary depending on who you ask, some dismissing the label entirely. But I think it is a useful one, not because it points to an established genre, but because it identifies a unique literary effect that appeals to certain readers: a dissonance created by the intrusion of "strange" elements into a realistic context. This is how I see it anyhow. And this is why I don't apply the slipstream label to works of magic realism (e.g. Salman Rushdie, Tom Robbins), where fantastic elements are part of the fabric of the works' reality and readily accepted by the reader.

Good examples of slipstream I have read (and been fascinated with) are Gravity's Rainbow, Dhalgren, and Hawksmoor.

And yes, I have noticed that slipstream lists often include works I wouldn't apply the label to; seeming to encompass the broad category of "interstitial" works.

Edited: Oct 3, 2007, 3:57 am

Says the man wearing a paper bag in his profile pic.

I'll admit that I'm one that's not so sure if he understands the whole "slipstream" label. It seems to me that it's just the basic postmodern crew with a couple of additions.

The whole thing reminds me very much of the Modern Word roster. Borges, Pynchon, etc.

As for Gibson's comment that slipstream is literature that "makes you feel wierd" or whatever it was he said, I can't help but think of the comic Steven Wright (he of "I spilled spot remover on my dog; I miss him now" fame)'s comment when asked about his brand of absurd surreal humor.

It was something along the lines of "I can be pondering such a question while moving 1000 feet off the ground at a couple of hundred miles an hour in an aluminum box while asking the stewardess to bring me another can of Coke. What's more absurd than that?" That's a broad paraphrase of the statement, but I think the gist comes through.

Oct 3, 2007, 7:19 am

> 2, Gibson didn't say anything, it was Bruce Sterling who came up with the concept.
The fact it comes from the sf genre is no surprise, you could almost define the concept as an attempt to (a) drag other works into the sf genre, or (b) say to fans, look there are all these books out there which aren't sf but you may like anyway.

Oct 3, 2007, 7:22 am

Ah, yes. My apologies. The tequila was working too well last night.

Oct 18, 2007, 1:05 pm

Do you think Jesus' Son would be included in slipstream?

With all the doublings, visions, revisions, dreams blurring into reality, nad hallucinations merging with actual events, i'd think it would be included. But there's no sci fi. Instead there is a recovering addict moving from blurry recollections ("somebody shot somebody") to unique identities ("Polish neighborhoods have that snow. They have that fruit with the light on it, they have that music you can't find"), to mergings of the common and the extraordinary in sentences that build like music ("There was a part of her that she hadn't yet allowed to be born because it was too beautiful for this place, that was true. But she was mostly a torn-up trollop" and "it was there. It was. The long walk down the hall. The door opening. The beautiful stranger. The torn moon mended. Our fingers touching away the tears. It was there.")

Johnson has a dazzling gift of poetic language and uses metaphor and simile to link usually separate items: a VW bug is "no more than a bubble of hashish fumes", a busted car radio burbles "like a machine that polishes stones all night", Midwestern clouds are "like great grey brains" that on occasion darken "a sky as blue and brainless as the love of God", the warmth of Spring starts seeds "moaning in the gardens" and is like "a foreigner breathing in our faces", ships in the harbor are "paper silhouettes being sucked into the sun", etc.

Infusions of doubt are everywhere. For example, the narrator is present at a "going away" party for a guy named Hotel who has just been convicted of armed robbery and wonders why is friend didn't tell him about a situation "so horrible it could only have been a joke". But then he remembers that "Hotel himself, or someone connected with him, had told me weeks ago that Hotel was in trouble for armed robbery .... I'd forgotten I'd ever heard about it." He reasseses and says: "I realized that all the celebrating that afternoon hadn't been Hotel's farewell party after all, but his welcome home. He'd been acquitted ..." and he admits he "hadn't understood what was happening at all" but there "were many moments in the Vine like that one -- where you might think today was yesterday, and yesterday was tomorrow, and so on."

But no sci fi. Slipstream? i'd say yes. What do y'all think?

Oct 19, 2007, 11:17 am

Jesus' Son sounds interesting; I'll have to take a look at it sometime. The metaphorical language you mention reminds me of magic realist authors (i.e. Tom Robbins); on the other hand, the realistic plotting along with the character's premonitions (which I read about somewhere else) sounds like it could be slipstream. So, I'd have to read it to give you a real opinion.

Thanks for your description of the book.

8M.Campanella First Message
Jan 13, 2008, 6:27 am

While I think Jesus' Son is a wonderful book, I do not see it as Slipstream. It is Hallucinatory only as far as it is supposed to reflect how burned out the narrator (wasn't 'fuckhead' the only name he is ever given?) of the story really is. The metaphors and similes you listed ("blue and brainless as the love of God" was a favorite) don't really do much to give me the 'out there' feeling I normally attribute to slipstream. I felt that Jesus' Son was grounded in reality throughout all. It didn't take me away nearly as much as, say, Naked Lunch.

Aug 29, 2009, 11:58 am

I came at Slipstream from weird Sci-fi (later Dick, Dhalgren) to Cyberpunk. So for me it's people Lucius Shepherd, Lewis Shiner and some of Charles Stross. But maybe that's really a different genre. Something Magical Realist SciFi.

This whole thing about Book Genres is nearly as bad as Music Genre. Still at least we haven't got anything as meaningless as "Electronica" Or "Minimal Breakbeat House".