I have recently been browsing my way through Brave New Words, Jeff Prucher’s dictionary of science fiction words. Rarely have I been a happier geek. There’s just something satisfying about reading through detailed citations for skimmer, skinsuit, slan, slash (although can the first usage of “slash” as a noun really be as late as 1984?), sleeper ship, slidewalk, slideway … and then coming to that most contentious of terms, slipstream.
slipstream n. [after MAINSTREAM] literature which makes use of the tropes or techniques of genre science fiction or fantasy, but which is not considered to be genre science fiction or fantasy; the genre of such literature. Hence slipstreamer, n., slipstreamish, adj., slipstreamy, adj.
1989 B. Sterling SF Eye (July) 78/2: We could call this kind of fiction Novels of Postmodern Sensibility, but that looks pretty bad on a category rack, and requires an acronym besides; so for the sake of convenience and argument, we will call these books “slipstream.
1992 Locus (Aug.) 11/3: “In Concert” is a slipstream story about an amateur rock musician in Sevastapol trying to gain entry into the stadium.
1995 SFRA Rev. (May-June) 54: A slipstreamy science fiction story about a virus that causes a rather peculiar neurological dysfunction with satisfyingly serendipitous results.
1995 Interzone (61/2): Territories issue four is subtitled the sf and slipstream journal. In this context, the meaning of “slipstream” is refreshingly unpretentious, something along the lines of “non-SF things that are likely to interest SF readers.”
2002 Locus (Sept.) 15/1: The January issue of The Silver Web is their fifteenth, and editor Ann Kennedy chooses a decidedly slipstreamish mix.
2003 D.G. Hartwell & K. Cramer Intro. in Year’s Best Fantasy 3 xv: On noticeable trend evidence in some of these is toward non-genre, or genre-bending, or slipstream fantastic fiction.
2003 P. Di Filippo Asimov’s SF (Apr.) 132/1: The British fantasist Steve Erikson (not to be confused with US slipstreamer Steve Erickson) extends the vision of his fantasy land of Malazan.
2003 C. Priest Guardian (London) (Internet) (June 14): It includes rather than categorises — while not being magic realism, or fantasy, or science fiction, slipstream literature includes many examples of these.
See the definition change before your eyes! We’ll have to see if the panel at this year’s Readercon agrees …
(I wonder what the rationale is for giving the author for the cites from Asimov’s and The Guardian not not those from Locus or Interzone? Must have a poke around in the notes at the front to see if this is explained. Although I’m guessing the 2002 cite is Rich Horton.)