History That Never Was

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Slipstream Fiction

Woman in a sixteenth or seventeenth century dress on a cloudy background standing in water ripplesI write a lot of short stories that fall loosely into the fantasy category, in that they have fantastical elements, but that might be more accurately described as “slipstream.” They’re the sort of story where something is clearly outside of a realistic experience, but that thing is both never explained and never questioned–it simply is.

Many authors more accustomed to traditional fantasy, in which even magic has rules and even the fantastical things follow an internal logic, have difficulty with slipstream fiction, because they want to know the “why” of the fantastical elements. The point, however, of slipstream fiction is that the why is unimportant.

While there are similarities between slipstream and magical realism, they are not the same, as the latter is a form of fiction that comes from a pedigree of “troubled lands“–written by authors who are from places that have suffered under colonialism or other oppression of native systems. Or, as Elena Fern├índez Collins eloquently states on Twitter: “if it doesn’t centralize a post-colonial perspective and critique of regimes, government, and socio-political oppression,” it’s not magical realism. If you’d like to read more about this, she also has a fantastic article on the subject.

So how do you write slipstream fiction? I typically start with something weird happening to normal people, and then write the story with people not reacting to the oddities, but rather just taking them in stride. And the weirdness never has to be explained! Those are the things that draw me to slipstream stories, both as a writer and a reader


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