Slipstream smoke causes cancer.

Last night when I staggered home from work (around nine-ish) I retrieved from my beleaguered mailbox a contributor’s copy of The Dead Walk Again!, and, may I say, it had–has–a pretty spiffy heft in my hand.

Regardless of reeling under one of the worst migraines I’ve had since my legendary days working at Coca-Cola’s legendary world headquarters (with the legendary migraines I had therein) across the street from my alma mater, The North Avenue Trade School, after spending a happy half-hour gnawing through the sealed and nearly indestructible plastic padded packaging I flipped immediately to the longer of my two stories in the anthology and, as soon as my widdle eyes could focus in concert on pages in the same spatio-temporal dimensions, I set about to reading. Because, you know, I forgot how it ended. It’s true.

There were a couple of hinky sentences I wish I hadn’t perpetrated, but other than that, I realized, I had written a damned fine story. Or maybe it was just the drugs. I’ll read it again and if it turns out that it was the drugs, I’ll let you know what I was on so you can enjoy a damned fine story. The other one wasn’t bad either. And now I get a chance to see the rest of the stories that are keeping it company between the covers. And, once you buy it, so do you.

The other book I’m reading now claims to be the slipstream anthology, Feeling Very Strange. It’s been out for a while. A year, maybe? The stories in it, except for one, have been out for longer, as it is mostly reprints. The book enters the genre fray as something that compiles a set of stories that would not ordinarily occur together in a genre anthology and attempts to reclassify them into their own category, which is labeled with that “slipstream” word above.

It seems Bruce Sterling started a lot of arguments by coining the word and applying the definition that he did. I dunno. While I can see the applicability of the word as he defines it, I don’t see that it helps much except in creating Amazon recommendation lists. Which are fine things, don’t get me wrong. In fact, they’re often much better than genre classifications.

And that’s part of the problem. Genre classifications were made by marketers and publishers, not by writers or readers. Once you’re known for writing in a particular genre, you have a tough time of it writing in any other. And that’s very sad. Reveiwers are reduced to using words like “breakout”, which pretty much sums things up. When I sit down to write (unless it’s a commissioned piece) I have very little idea what genre it will eventually be classified as. And I don’t particularly care. Except I would like my potential readers to be able to find it.

To paraphrase Sterling’s definition, slipstream stories are the ones that reside somewhere off the beaten “mainstream” track, potentially in the direction of magical realism or science fiction or horror or fantasy or some such but it doesn’t really matter too much whether or which, which leave one with a particular phrase in mind when one finishes reading, which is: “Well. That was fucked up.”

To my mind that’s a classification system more frequently associated with music. What mood does this inspire? How does this leave you feeling? The answers unify musical genres, not books. Books are grouped by subject matter as if they were all nonfiction. How else would you ever have Azimov and Zelazny on the same (admittedly necessarily long) shelf? These books all have space stuff in them. Some people like space stuff, right? Let’s put them next to each other. Not so helpful to anyone but a librarian–or someone who can think like a librarian in a pinch. You know. Literate people.

But here’s the kicker. Where did I find this slipstream anthology? At a Borders. In the anthology section at the tail end of the Science Fiction/Fantasy ghetto. And there’s where this discussion will always end–as long as books are classified by publishers instead of readers.

See, I write fucked up shit. Sometimes that’s even nonfiction, not just genre pulp and/or fictional works of valid literary merit. You will never find a “fucked up shit” section in your local Borders or Barnes & Noble. Not until the browsing displays are all virtual and the shelves rearrange themselves according to the fMRI scan of the prospective customer. Not until “fucked up shit” is a Library of Congress Subject Heading. Which certainly ought to be the case. Maybe when I’m President.

Anyway, now it’s audience participation time. None of that stupid poll crap. You’re going to have to click the “leave a comment” link and leave a comment. What’s the most “well–that was fucked up” story you’ve ever read? Any work, even TV, movie, radio, music lyrics, qualifies. Out with it. Consider it a recommendation.


September 5, 2007 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  


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