Is Slipstream Just a Fancy Word for Voice?

Apr 4, 21:44 by Bluejack

Welcome to the first feature in a new series from Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold. Now: slipstream. Have at it.

(Read the article here.)
Apr 5, 03:25 by Mike O'Driscoll
Enjoyed your article on Slipstream, but apart from referencing Moorcock's New Worlds, you demonstrated little awareness of what slipstream means in terms of British genre writing. There's been a lively debate in these parts too, about it and related terms such as interstitial fiction or the new Weird, but for alot of Brit writers and readers, the genre whose boundaries are being transgressed is not so much SF, as the broader category of fantasy. In the early to mid 90s, there was a tremendous cross-fertilization of ideas between writers who took either horror, fantasy or SF as their starting points, and who chose to ignore the limitations of their particular genre and stray not just into associated areas, but beyond into mainstream and realist territory. These were people like Conrad Williams, Nicholas Royle, Joel Lane, Michael Marshall Smith, Justina Robson, Rhys Hughes, Tamar Yellin and others, whose concerns were less with the artificial constraints of genre - who decided what constituted a work of SF or horror, and how does one apply? - and more with utilising the tropes, themes, conventions and styles from competing narratives forms and combining them in new and interesting ways. Quite a few American writers were mining similar terrain, with their 'slipstream' stories appearing in UK small press magazines, which is where I first encountered Don Webb, Jeff Vandermeer, Wayne Allen Sallee, Martin Simpson and Misha. The magazines that published these kind of genre-slippery stories, including BBR, nemonymous, Works, and most notably over the last few years, The 3rd Alternative. In fact, Chris Kenworthy's article, 'The Movement of Hands', from TTA #1, offers as good a description of what British slipstream is, as any other I've come across. The three anthologies he edited back in the mid 90s - The Sun Rises Red, Sugar Sleep, and The Science of Sadness - were an attempt to articulate those ideas in fictional form.
The resistance to the infiltration of new modes of storytelling by those who position themselves as guardians of SF is hardly surprising. It fits in with the commercial interests of publishers view of genre as nothing more than a signifier of the target audience. Why would they want to complicate things? Why would writers who make a comfortable living writing fiction that fits into easily recognisable categories, want to jeopardise their income by confusing their readers by giving them something other than the same old 'same old'? Let them keep their ball to themselves - slipstreamers have moved on to a whole new ball game.
Apr 5, 03:49 by Jetse de Vries
I heartily agree with (Herzan?) Chimera. Of late, when slipstream (or interstitial, or whatever the name) became hot in the United States, the utmost of the American articles about it were so America-centric it was almost nauseating.

As Chimera mentioned above, the UK small press was there way before Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Polyphony (whose editorial in the first volume also made no mention of the UK small press), and the rest.

In this matter, the USA is lagging behind, again. While cross-genre writing is now becoming generally accepted (and this is certainly no bad thing), the UK "small press" is moving on.

Watch developments in The Third Alternative...
Apr 5, 08:32 by Lois Tilton
The path that Jay Lake takes in this essay is becoming well-worn these days, but it is still a path leading nowhere, despite the traffic. Here again we see the identification of two disparate tendencies in fiction: the use of experimental language and the "blurring of genre boundaries." Why these should be thought to be the same, I can not say, but the blurring of this distinction has led to much confused discourse recently, and this essay is not likely to provide clarification.

On the contrary, matters of style [slipstream vs traditional narrative forms] and matters of subject or material [cross-genre vs genre] have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. If the fiction of the New Wave showed us anything, it was that the subject matter traditionally associated with science fiction could be treated in untraditional language. And likewise, it is entirely possible to write across, between and within the genre barriers using both the most staidly traditional and the most incomprehensibly experimental narrative devices.

There is nothing that is new in any of this. Indeed, and contrary to Lake's claim, the experimental forms of New Wave fiction were not particularly novel at the time, and far from serving as a Light Unto the Mainstream, were nothing more but an application of existing literary technique upon the more usual material of the genre.

Indeed, the example of Chrichton does nothing to advance Lake's thesis, for Chrichton has done no more than apply the mind-numbing traditional narrative style of the mainstream to the usual material of SF, damping down the flavor to the level of the mass audience's taste.

I do not really think this is where Lake wishes SF to go, although it may well be the path it must take in order to survive as a commercial genre.
Apr 5, 09:55 by Jay Lake
Man, I love it when people pick apart our assertions. Keeps us honest and keeps the discussion rolling. More comments from me later when I have time to carefully read and consider the holes you guys are shooting in our essay, but on our behalf I especially plead guilty to not going deep enough into the British side.


Apr 5, 10:07 by Deborah Layne
Jetse is right -- it was an oversight on our part to not mention the UK small presses in the introduction to the dirst Polyphony. In our defense, many of these publications are very hard to find over here. Nemonymous started about the same time as Polyphony, incidentally, so failing to mention that one was quite excusable. But, since that essay was written, I have certainly become more aware of other publishers and editors whose vision overlaps ours and whenever possible, I mention them and give them their due.

Apr 5, 14:18 by Ruth Nestvold
If I understood what we were trying to do, by citing New Wave, we were merely showing that what folks call slipstream nowadays and claim as something really cool and new is a form of genre cross-pollinization that has been around for a long time and is hardly anything to get excited about.

But, hey, maybe I misunderstood us. *g* And when you send a text out into the world, it has to fend for itself ...

Apr 5, 18:02 by Lois Tilton
My apologies to Ruth Nestvold for omitting to credit her as co-author.

Apr 6, 06:51 by Jeffrey Ford
Discussions about who came first are indications that you're already shipwrecked. The New is elsewhere my friends. This discussion is as stale as last year's bread, because it focuses on vague generalities instead of the uniqueness of individual voices. It practices the fascism of herding idiosyncratic literary imagination toward ultimate slaughter.
Apr 6, 09:41 by Bluejack
Where do you think the New is, then? Don't leave us hanging! Give us some tips!
Apr 6, 10:14 by Jeffrey Ford
The New is elsewhere and potentially anywhere there is a writer writing, but not where there are discussions of miasmatic and illusory concepts like Slipstream, etc.
Apr 6, 12:32 by Michael O'Driscoll
So what, let's not talk about writing? And speaking of vague generalities, they don't come much more vague than your suggestion of where one might locate the new, nor more general than the suggestion that all those writers keeping their gobs shut, or who haven't been mentioned in this and related discussions, are like, cultivating the uniqueness of their indiviual voices. What's really stale here are lame accusations of fascistic practices, my friend.
Apr 6, 13:18 by Jeffrey Ford
I wasn't suggesting anyone keep their gob shut, what I meant was that the new can only come from the uniqueness of a writer's, any writer's, vision, even ones with their gobs open, but can not be found in catchall phrases that try to corral idiosyncratic visions under a banner. These detract from the power of unique visions and empower reviewers and critics but do not explore the works as they are. They take individual creation and always compare it to a paradigm, and that paradigm becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm more interested in how writers are different than how they are alike. Take a few deep breaths there. I wasn't impugning your obvious brilliance.
In addition, I enjoyed Jay and Ruth's article, and I think to an extent they would agree, but in the essay, where there's a great opportunity to completely dismiss the term, it instead ends up being more of an apology for it.
Apr 7, 11:30 by Michael O'Driscoll
Fair enough, breath taken.
Apr 29, 21:17 by Pete Blackwell
Thanks for the article; however, it DID NOT clarify anything for me or change my mind one whit.
I've been reading SF and Fantasy since back in the 1940s, and I love to see new authors with new ideas come along: Call it what you like, I still love it.
Apr 30, 09:42 by Bluejack
What? You like reading? And you don't care what literary club the writer belongs to? Are you some kind of commie or somethin'?

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