I hear voices, ridiculous voices
Out in the slipstream
Let’s go, let’s go overground
U2 – Zooropa
Slipstream. While I had probably heard the term in passing long, long ago, I didn’t become conscious of slipstream until I had heard Zooropa. I like the word – perhaps because of the two S’s, perhaps because it actually sounds like the phenomena it describes. Slipstream is the area behind a moving vehicle – the little pocket you can draft in if you get close enough. Maybe I like the word because I like the song and the juxtaposition of ridiculous voices with the slipstream. Songs tend to do this for me – bring a word into sharp focus and make me pay attention.
The slipstream has returned to me recently. It comes in the form of a book called “Feeling Very Strange.” It’s an anthology, or, rather, it’s billed as “The Slipstream Anthology.” Slipstream, huh? The word choice was purposeful, not done for literary or artistic effect. According to the intro in the book, Slipstream is a style of writing that somehow branched off of Sci Fi, but it is not Sci Fi. And it’s not really a genre unto itself, nor does it exactly fit into any other known genre with a fantastical bent. It is more the sort of writing that is intended to make the reader feel strange through the deliberate creation of cognitive dissonance.
Bruce Sterling coined the term Slipstream for this strange fiction in 1989. (pg. viii, “Feeling Very Strange”) I think it is wholly appropriate for the stories in the book, and any other strange stories of this non-genre genre. These are the sorts of stories that make you feel as though you are coasting along just fine, but one false move and you’ll find yourself running right into the back end of the semi. It’s a good place for a writer to be.
“Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology.” Editors: James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel. Copyright 2006.