I've seen this genre listed on some submission guidelines, but I'm not entirely sure what that means (or doesn't mean).
My planned series is set in a wild-west-fantasy-steam-punk world, as you may have noticed by some of my pieces of flash fiction. How do I qualify a setting like that when looking to submit? Fantasy? Steampunk? Other?
Any tips here? It's not your typical steampunk setting, at least I don't think so, so I'm curious to hear how others would try to classify it. The reason I ask is some publishers are only looking for certain genres within fantasy/science fiction.
Wikipedia to the rescue!
Apparently (as I'd never heard of it before either), this is a genre where sci-fi elements are blended with literary story techniques to produce surrealism. So while it's very strange, it has nothing to do with steampunk or wild-west (although you might be able to use elements of those in slipstream).
Slipstream means pretty much whatever they want it to mean. Bruce Sterling came up with the word and basically presented it as meaning stories that make you feel strange. They are odd stories, basically, and it can be applied to anything surreal. It's basically a literary movement believed to be exploring the metaphysical, transformational and mysterious. Magic realism sometimes gets called slipstream or part of slipstream. Sometimes people use it to refer to stories that they feel mix category elements, but the stories have to seem bizarre in some way. Christopher Priests' fiction is usually considered slipstream.
Steampunk is also a literary movement, but a more specific one. Steampunk stories create a setting which features steam-run machinery and machinery and devices that are ahead of steam technology as well and may be futuristic. For SF stories, that means concentrating on historical Earth, an alternate history Earth, or another dimension quantum style with a world or second Earth that has that setting, or a post-apocalyptic Earth or planet that has developed the steam tech setting. For fantasy, it means stories that are secondary world, multi-dimensional realm, alternate history, historical or post-apocalyptic Earth that has that steam tech setting and that include fantastical elements such as magic, supernatural, or divine elements. The majority of steampunk stories are historical or alternate history of Earth settings (basically 1700's-early 1900's, mainly 1800's culture.) The U.S. Old West is the second most popular setting for steampunk stories. So wild west fantasy steampunk will pretty much do it as a label. If they take alternate history SF/fantasy, steampunk fantasy, western fantasy, or if you think it would qualify as dark fantasy or horror and they take that, then it's probably okay to submit to them. If they take slipstream and you think the story sufficiently surreal and funky, you could try it, but it doesn't sound like you have a slipstream story as the term is generally used.
Thanks for the help in clarifying this. The publisher didn't really indicate what slipstream meant, and I couldn't find a real good definition, at least not where I am right now. :)
My experience suggests this:
Slipstream makes all reality seem strange, somehow unreal. As if you're at the airport and the scurrying or bored crowds seem suddenly to have faces of animals.
Magical realism makes all reality obviously very down-to-earth and everyday, nitty-gritty where you'd expect it, blandly luxurious in a five-star hotel. But there is a ghost in full color who follows you around offering obnoxiously fake-witty comments on your life.
Everything strange vs. partly strange.
But that's my own experience. Others may have a different experience. And in any case the terms are just labels which marketers can use to sell stuff.
The movie "Being John Malkovitch" could very easily be considered SlipSteam as it has specfic elements and at the end you're just thinking WTH did I just watch?
Just my two cents :)
Works for me. I guess I'm in no immediate danger of falling into this category (not that there's anything wrong with it), but it's good to be sure.