James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel gave a great interview to Sci Fi Weekly about their new anthology, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology. The book has a top-notch table-of-contents, stories that defy genre conventions and make your head spin in a good way.
We make the point in our introduction that slipstream isn't really a genre at the moment and may never be one. What it is, in our opinion, is a literary effect--in the same way that horror or comedy are literary effects achieved by many different kinds of dissimilar stories. What is that effect? We borrowed the term cognitive dissonance from the psychologists. When we are presented with two contradictory cognitions--impressions, feelings, beliefs--we experience cognitive dissonance, a kind of psychic discomfort that we normally try to ease by discounting one of the cognitions as false or illusory and promoting the other to reality. But in some cases we aren't well served by this convenient sorting out.
We think that what slipstream stories do is to embrace cognitive dissonance. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." We believe that such an ability is necessary to cope with life in the 21st century and that stories that ask us to exercise that ability are an expression of the zeitgeist. Do you really need a definitive answer as to whether an electron is a wave or a particle? Why? Maybe it's time to make room for uncertainty in contemporary fiction, even if the stories do make you feel very strange. Slipstream may use metafictional techniques to estrange us from consensus reality, they may rewrite history, they may mash up different styles or genres. But that's the point, as we see it. Slipstream has no rules, it has only results.
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