A term coined by Bruce Sterling in a 1989 essay in SF Eye 5 describing otherwise mainstream fiction that uses stfnal devices without being what we point to when we say “science fiction”. John Clute in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction prefers more general term fabulation.
… I want to describe what seems to me to be a new, emergent "genre", which has not yet become a "category."
This genre is not "category" SF; it is not even "genre" SF. Instead, it is a contemporary kind of writing which has set its face against consensus reality. It is a fantastic, surreal sometimes, speculative on occasion, but not rigorously so. It does not aim to provoke a "sense of wonder" or to systematically extrapolate in the manner of classic science fiction.
Instead, this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility. 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."
"Slipstream" is not all that catchy a term, and if this young genre ever becomes an actual category I doubt it will use that name, which I just coined along with my friend Richard Dorsett. "Slipstream" is a parody of "mainstream," and nobody calls mainstream "mainstream" except for us skiffy trolls.
- “Slipstream” by Bruce Sterling, SF Eye 5, July 1989, theme issue "Beyond Cyberpunk"
- Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
- "Fabulation" Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
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