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Let's talk about Slipstream (1 Viewer)

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Kyle R

WF Veterans
Slipstream, for those who don't know, is a kind of fiction where reality and the surreal tend to blend. And the narrative usually makes no attempt to explain the weirdness of it -- things just are the way they are, and it's left to the reader to find their own meaning in the text.

Kelly Link is one of the first Slipstream writers I came across. In one of her stories, a boy works at a convenience story with another boy, whose pajamas inexplicably portray the dreams of strangers. Zombies also wander into the store sometimes, carrying random objects, but the zombies aren't threatening or violent -- they just seem confused, and attempt to communicate. If you'd like to read the short story, you can do so here: https://kellylink.net/books/magic-for-beginners-old/the-hortlak

If you'd like a much briefer example of Slipstream, here's a flash story that's only six paragraphs long ("Ants" by Kara Vernor) in which the young protagonist encounters a girl who has clouds for eyes: https://fracturedlit.com/ants/

As you can see from either of these stories, there's a deliberate strangeness to the narrative that defies logic or even understanding. Some readers love how it makes the stories linger in their minds. Others get annoyed, or even angry, at how meaningless it all seems.

How about you? What do you think of Slipstream?
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Slipstream, for those who don't know, is a kind of fiction where reality and the surreal tend to blend. And the narrative usually makes no attempt to explain the weirdness of it -- things just are the way they are, and it's left to the reader to find their own meaning in the text.

Kelly Link is one of the first Slipstream writers I came across. In one of her stories, a boy works at a convenience story with another boy, whose pajamas inexplicably portray the dreams of strangers. Zombies also wander into the store sometimes, carrying random objects, but the zombies aren't threatening or violent -- they just seem confused, and attempt to communicate. If you'd like to read the short story, you can do so here: https://kellylink.net/books/magic-for-beginners-old/the-hortlak

If you'd like a much briefer example of Slipstream, here's a flash story that's only six paragraphs long ("Ants" by Kara Vernor) in which the young protagonist encounters a girl who has clouds for eyes: https://fracturedlit.com/ants/

As you can see from either of these stories, there's a deliberate strangeness to the narrative that defies logic or even understanding. Some readers love how it makes the stories linger in their minds. Others get annoyed, or even angry, at how meaningless it all seems.

How about you? What do you think of Slipstream?

I'm a fan :)
 

Terra

Senior Member
So that's what that is. I thought it was just, like, hipster stuff.

Didn't know there was a name for it either. I've shared writings with people who ask me if I was stoned when I wrote it ... really?? Maybe now that there's a label, the stories will be more accepted ;)
 

Kyle R

WF Veterans
Yeah, I used to use "Magical Realism" as a blanket term to describe any fiction that seemed to toe the line between reality and fantasy.

But apparently there are three specific terms, each with their own meanings.

There's:

Magical Realism

Surrealism

and Slipstream.

I find that this article does a good job of introducing one to the differences between the three (though the lines still blur quite a bit): http://www.stephaniecarroll.net/2016/07/the-difference-between-magical-realism.html

My basic understanding is that Magical Realism is realistic fiction where the magical (or fantastical) elements are a logical part of the story-world. These elements may be strange, but they also make sense, in relation to the story. (Also, that the stories come from (or relate to) Latin America (and/or Latin American authors) seems to be a requirement, for many.)

Surrealism is more bizarre and disjointed, almost to the point of being abstract. Very little makes sense. Reality is almost non-existent.
Here's a micro-fiction story that I think qualifies as Surrealism ("Bird Resuscitation" by Jamie Cooper), in which the protagonist carries around bird bones in his clothes and . . . strange stuff happens: https://fracturedlit.com/cooper/

Slipstream, to me, is kind of like the middle-ground between Magical Realism and Surrealism. It's not as abstract as Surrealism, but it's still stranger than Magical Realism. I think of it almost as realistic fiction with something bizarre and unexplainable thrown into the mix.
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
Read the 'Ants', love it. Wish I was that clever, I would get tied up in a narrative I know. Maybe I should try, nothing ventured ... So true about the American internment camps.

This is awesome, such a creative way to --- create! Thanks, Kyle. I loved "Ants" too; such a good example. Olly, get to work; you are that clever! Try the next LM to see how it goes. :)
 

-xXx-

Financial Supporter
<snip>
Slipstream, to me, is kind of like the middle-ground between Magical Realism and Surrealism. It's not as abstract as Surrealism, but it's still stranger than Magical Realism. I think of it almost as realistic fiction with something bizarre and unexplainable thrown into the mix.
*makes t-shirt*
*text bubble*
*spark sourced*

;)
 

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
Being an old fart, Slipstream reminds me of stories I grew up loving by Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, and Harlan Ellison. Memorable stuff.
 

Tiamat

Patron
Love the stuff. Like Olly, I wish I were clever enough to write it. Also love magic realism and surrealism, but if you gave me a story that fit one of the three categories and tested me on which one it fell into, I'd probably get it wrong.
 

Kyle R

WF Veterans
Love the stuff. Like Olly, I wish I were clever enough to write it. Also love magic realism and surrealism, but if you gave me a story that fit one of the three categories and tested me on which one it fell into, I'd probably get it wrong.

Yeah, it's a bit confusing.

Wait 'til you plunge into the differences between Grimdark vs. Dark Fantasy vs. Grimbright! :p
 

Kyle R

WF Veterans
Being an old fart, Slipstream reminds me of stories I grew up loving by Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, and Harlan Ellison. Memorable stuff.

Bradbury got me into writing! Loved his touch. Though Ellison's "I Have No Mouth ..." story will forever linger, disturbingly, in the back of my psyche.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I'm not sure about this. I feel you need to be extremely proficient before you take on writing obliquely. It seems to be a recipe to undermine any attempts to build up cohesion in a story. When you've got it, then maybe it's time to try this. Right now, my focus is on solidifying my writing, not making it even more obscure. Habits are a damned difficult thing to undo.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I wonder where Kazuo Ishiguro's work would fall of these three genres. He himself resists labeling it. He did win a nobel prize. Additionally, there's an interview with Neil Gaiman where he mentions his opinions on genre labels. For example on his work the Buried Giant, and Never Let me Go.

https://www.newstatesman.com/2015/05/neil-gaiman-kazuo-ishiguro-interview-literature-genre-machines-can-toil-they-can-t-imagine
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Being an old fart, Slipstream reminds me of stories I grew up loving by Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, and Harlan Ellison. Memorable stuff.

Michael Moorcock was strange, such a mix. There was a Colin Wilson book 'The mind Parasites' that had him and Adolf Hitler as people taken over. In my twenties I used to sign into London clubs as Jerry Cornelius, but then there was all that 'Sword in Obsidian' stuff.
 
I'm not sure about this. I feel you need to be extremely proficient before you take on writing obliquely. It seems to be a recipe to undermine any attempts to build up cohesion in a story. When you've got it, then maybe it's time to try this. Right now, my focus is on solidifying my writing, not making it even more obscure. Habits are a damned difficult thing to undo.

I feel that sometimes more surreal or strange writing helps me to be more clear. It depends on the story. I'm always looking for the most lucid way to say what I want to say, and sometimes (often), that involves surreal elements. Strangeness perhaps comes more naturally to me that the ordinary. (I feel quite proud when I can pull of a straightforward story well; it's quite difficult for me). The cohesion is still there for strange stories, because their logic is internal, not tied to the ordinary world.

I'm still not clear on these distinctions, though. I never thought of Ray Bradbury as slipstream ... does slipstream just mean it doesn't fit well in genre categories? Or must there be weird elements?
 
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