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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories discusses...

Slipstream and Interstitial Genres

with Tantra Bensko

Science Metaphors
appears in this issue.

Putting “Slipstream story online” in the meta-tag would be helpful because when I search for that, looking for stories to recommend to students in the Interstitial Fiction Genres, no examples come up. I’m sure a lot of other people are searching for that too. There are lots of articles, etc. about it, lists of books, submission calls, but not that.

I’ve been working from the time I get up in the morning to when I got to bed at night, other than teaching my other classes, for many months on my online class to help people learn how to recognize, compare, and contrast, different genres that aren’t easily categorized under the three main Speculative ones or under Literary or Mainstream because that has become associated in people’s minds lately with realism. These minor styles of writing don’t have any shelves set aside so people can find them in the libraries and book stores, so publishers don’t classify them with those words on the book covers. If people know they enjoy a certain type of writing, like Magical Realism, they can’t find it as easily as, say, Fantasy.

They do often overlap, just as you say, especially in Bewildering Stories, which is what makes it such a wonderful venue, because you are willing to publish innovative work that plays outside the boundaries, genre-bending and blending material.

I find fiction that isn’t traditional, conventional straightforward Realism or High Fantasy etc. to be very intriguing to read, and I like to understand the history of how certain styles have been categorized under delicious labels, like Slipstream, and how other movements have had revolutionary manifestoes with guidelines for how to write them, like Surrealism.

Knowing the key anthologies, cultural and artistic milieux, the leaders of these styles, and the boundaries that include the styles as well as the overlaps, is important, I believe, for people submitting to the publications that are open to fiction that plays in that fun amorphous space. It respects the editors who use the terms, such as New Wave Fabulism, Slipstream, Weird, etc. in submission calls as a way of narrowing down what they’re sent.

When writers know what they editors are asking for, and they read the material the the journals have already published, seeing how the editors interpret those labels, the authors are doing the research editors expect, yes? It makes acceptance much more likely to be able to study the list of genres the editors/publishers list that they publish and know in-depth what they mean, the precursors, the classic examples, the world-views implied, how the tropes are used.

I haven’t seen any books or classes that explain in a way that helps people lay out a substantial number of styles and get these elusive, morphing genres straight in relationship to each other. Figuring it out online is not that quick or easy to do; just weeding through all the contradictions and questions that focus on one or maybe two genres can be time-consuming. And it’s expensive if you have to buy all the defining anthologies.

By the time someone has read everyone on one genre, he may forget it after he goes in depth with another one, and become unclear on their distinctions. That’s why I’ve been working on this Interstitial Fiction Genres: New Wave Fabulism, Magical Realism, Slipstream, Surrealism, and the Weird so passionately.

And when I’m done, maybe I can go back to taking time for my own writing again, though I suspect it will be somewhat popular and will continue to keep me busy enough that it’s hard to find a chance to write fiction. Ironic, that, but such are professions.

I’m always busy teaching with the excellent UCLA-X Writing Program, etc., and I’ll sporadically close down enrollment to the Interstitial Genres class in which I interact for half a year with the writer, before I overbook, to make sure I have plenty of attention for all the students I already have. But there are two ways to take the class, and one will always remain open, as it doesn’t involve my critiquing stories.

I talk about Equinox Mirror in the section in the class about how to write Slipstream. I think Quantum Physics is the perfect science to approach with Slipstream, the Postmodernist genre that includes and undercuts SF subject matter.

Equinox Mirror is pretty classic Slipstream style: not escapist but challenging, yet with fun popular culture references; with multiple perspectives that contradict, because that’s what our world is made up of: an awareness of this being a text and the reader is reading rather than getting lost in the storyline; disruption of linear narrative; juxtaposition and collage; juggling multiple genre elements without inhabiting any of them.

Postmodernism, thus Slipstream, refuses the idea that humans can understand the nature of the world mechanistically through blindly trusting scientific studies or though religious faith. There is no such delineated world. There is zinging of communication through the airwaves that rushes through our bodies and around us in power lines and all of it is coming from different, contradictory perspectives. We can’t contain ourselves in one location inside the skin.

Our ideas come from what we read on the internet, hear on the news, hear from friends. We incorporate those, are those, and need to deconstruct those rather than just take it all as being accurate. Those scientific studies are so often paid for by greedy corporations that skew the results, and the mainstream news is sponsored by Counter-Intelligence in order to get out the stories the government agencies want us to hear and believe.

Copyright © 2014 by Tantra Bensko

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