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Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology Paperback – June 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tachyon Publications (June 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 189239135X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892391353
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This primarily reprint anthology attempts to define "Slipstream" as the "literature of cognitive dissonance and of strangeness triumphant," with examples showcasing the work of various mainstream and genre writers. Highlights include Bruce Sterling's "The Little Magic Shop," an allegorical fantasy story; Jonathan Lethem's "Light and the Sufferer," which uses the SF trope of superior aliens to comment on a story of character; Ted Chiang's "Hell Is the Absence of God," which presents a believably horrific picture of God's lack of compassion; Kelly Link's "The Specialist's Hat," which plays with the ghost story form; and Michael Chabon's "The God of Dark Laughter," a reinvention of Lovecraftian horror. Original to this volume is M. Rickert's "You Have Never Been Here Before," which the editors believe is an example of what slipstream does best by being "hauntingly familiar and very, very strange." While these intriguing stories (and accompanying essays) may not be enough to define the canon of a new subgenre, they provide plenty of good reading. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In 1989 sf writer Bruce Sterling coined the term slipstream to denote a kind of story that was neither sf nor fantasy, exactly, but that was showing up in all the places that sf and fantasy did; a kind of story that used sf and fantasy elements within otherwise realistic, or at least consistent, settings to provoke a feeling of strangeness or, better, feeling at home, strangely. After every three stories or so in editors Kelly and Kessel's pick of representative slipstream stories, excerpts from several young writers' blog exchange 17 years after Sterling's essay carry on the analysis, and it's interesting--but, oh, these stories! The authors are mavericks old and new: such travelers from genre to mainstream and vice versa as Aimee Bender, George Saunders, Jonathan Lethem, Karen Jay Fowler, and Michael Chabon; longtime unclassifiables Carol Emshwiller and Howard Waldrop; new small-press stars Kelly Link and Jeff VanderMeer; two quietly grandiose weird imaginations who've broken onto the big publishers' lists, Jeffrey Ford and Ted Chiang; and virtual newcomers M. Rickert, Theodora Goss, and Benjamin Rosenbaum. Oh, and Bruce Sterling, whose "Little Magic Shop" is perhaps the tamest of a wild bunch. How wild? Try Rosenbaum's Arabian Nights-ish alternate-history tale with the long, academic-sounding name. Try Fowler's double-time-lined "Lieserl," about Albert Einstein's forsaken daughter. Try Bender's "Healer," and ask what world it's set in. Don't stop until all have been read. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Many of these should be viewed as "experimental" works of fiction far removed from their best known literary works.
John Kwok
I think it's a remarkably good story, but I will never finish it; there's just too much misery and hate in it for me to get through.
K. Bunker
There are also good stories by Bruce Sterling, Aimee Bender, Karen Joy Fowler, Benjamin Rosenbaum and Howard Waldrop.
Terry Weyna

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Horton on March 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
Feeling Very Strange was one of the most celebrated anthologies of last year. It took me a while to get around to reading it, partly because I had read most of the stories already. But I finally did read it. I reread the stories I had already read, and was darned happy to do so. It really is an outstanding book.

It includes some surprising and very effective pieces from outside the core SF/Fantasy genre -- notably Michael Chabon's "The God of Dark Laughter" and George Saunders's "Sea Oak". It includes some stories from within the genre that I had liked a lot (and praised highly in public) but that I didn't really see as slipstream -- though I see the editors' point in including them now I think -- stuff like Benjamin Rosenbaum's "Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Airplanes', by Benjamin Rosenbaum", and Theodora Goss's "The Rose in Twelve Petals", and Ted Chiang's "Hell is the Absence of God". It includes Kelly Link's magnificent "The Specialist's Hat", easily one of the spookiest stories I have ever read. It includes Howard Waldrop's Alternate History of an ascendant Africa, "The Lions are Asleep This Night" -- another story I wouldn't have at first blush called slipstream (and it does seem that the editors consider certain types of AH slipstream (the Rosenbaum story being another example), but that works that way, and reads a bit differently in that context.) There is also a fine new story by M. Rickert, "You Have Never Been Here", and good stories by Carol Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, Aimee Bender, Bruce Sterling, Jeff VanderMeer, Karen Joy Fowler, and Jeffrey Ford. Highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steve Stuart on June 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading this anthology, I'm still not sure what qualifies as "slipstream". This puts me in good company, I suppose. The book features some interstitial discussion among authors in the genre, who can't seem agree on what is or isn't slipstream, or whether they want themselves or others to be included. This discussion didn't help me warm to the genre, unfortunately. I'd rather just enjoy the stories, without having the curtain pulled back to expose insiders reveling in their obscurity and pontificating on the importance of "SFnal tropes".

I found the stories themselves to be of mixed quality. Rather, they're all high quality writing, but most of them just didn't do much for me as stories. A few of them are very enjoyable. Some because they're wittily written and vividly painted (Sea Oak, Light and the Sufferer) and others because they stay just far enough out of reach to force you to stop reading and let the story sink in before moving on (Lieserl, You Have Never Been Here Before). But many of them seemed to me like well-executed creative writing exercises. The author has come up with a twist on reality and explored some interesting consequences, but that's as far as it goes. It's mildly entertaining, but without much point. (The Healer, The Lions Are Asleep This Night). And some of them are self-consciously postmodern, caught somewhere between fiction, autobiography and intellectual self-gratification. (Bright Morning, Biographical Notes...) If that's your thing, then you'll find them worthwhile. But like with some modern art, I just can't get over the feeling that the artist/author is laughing at me, along with the rest of the world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Bunker VINE VOICE on April 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.

In the introduction to this anthology of slipstream fiction, editors Kelly and Kessel wrestle with the definition of "slipstream." There's some disagreement over this issue, but basically Kelly and Kessel see slipstream as denoting stories that seek to "make the familiar strange or the strange familiar." Slipstream is the literature of "strangeness triumphant"; literature that "abandons the assumption [...] that the world can be seen whole, and described accurately in words."

In short, "strange" is the watchword for these stories. And strange can be a difficult row to hoe. "Strange" plus "humorous" runs the risk of adding up to "silly," while "strange" combined with "dark" can easily become simply "pointlessly repellent" (see my opinion of George Saunders' story below). Another potential problem with stories that focus on the strange is that they may be too removed from the familiar touchstones of life to have much emotional impact. And yet another is that they can result in simple frustration for the reader -- a sense of "I dunno WTF is going on here and that's pissin' me off."

Do the stories in this collection avoid these various pitfalls? Yes and no. Following are notes on some selected stories:

"Light and the Sufferer" by Jonathan Letham could be a straightforward mainstream story about a crack addict and the mean streets of New York, but there are some aliens thrown in -- aliens who say nothing and do nothing and who contribute nothing to the story. A fine example of how a fumbled attempt at "strange" can end up being "annoyingly pointless."

George Saunders' "Sea Oak" is certainly strange, and I suppose some will find it darkly humorous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Terry Weyna on May 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
Is there really any difference between post-modernism, interstitial fiction, slipstream and New Weird? Does anyone know? James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel try to outline the boundaries of slipstream with their anthology, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, particularly by including a learned introduction and excerpts from a discussion that took place on the subject on a blog a few years ago. Ultimately, like so many things literary, from science fiction to erotica, it comes down to this: slipstream is what I'm pointing to when I say "slipstream." Yes, there are a few defining features. It's fantastic rather than science fictional. It is often surreal, and almost always postmodern in its sensibility. Bruce Sterling, who coined the term "slipstream" in an essay in a remarkable but short-lived journal called SF Eye in 1989, probably gave it the best definition anyone has come up with yet when he said that it is fiction "which simply makes you feel very strange." And hence the title of this anthology, full of stories that will make you feel very strange indeed.

The story that scares and fascinates me the most in this collection is Ted Chiang's "Hell is the Absence of God." Chiang won both the Hugo and the Nebula in 2002 for this novelette, which is "the story of a man named Neil Fisk, and how he came to love God." Fisk's universe is one in which visitations by angels occur with the frequency of other sorts of acts of God, wreaking both havoc and death and the occasional miracle or miraculous cure. If one is caught in a shaft of Heaven's light when the angel departs, one automatically becomes a pure devotee of God, and is ensured of salvation.
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