Peter Grandbois’ essay, “Navigating the Slipstream” (originally published in Mixer, 2011; reprinted in Phantom Drift Issue 5, Fall 2015) is exactly what I’ve needed to read for years. He argues that the stories which stay with us, the ones which draw us in and pull us out of ourselves, are stories which are both genre and literary. Grandbois advocates for slipstream, where it is our world, our relationships. Then suddenly it’s not. Suddenly, amidst the familiar commute to work, the ordinary night out with friends, a zombie ambles past, an angel appears and life goes on. As readers, we are unseated from what we know and what we believe to be true.
Yet, for all that I agree with Grandbois’ analysis on the need to respect slipstream fiction, he references almost exclusively male authors and male literary theorists. He also does not recognize magical realism, a genre out of Latin America which also distorts our world, but does so out of a need for expression in politics. As Isabelle Allende, a Chilean magical realist author explains,
We inhabit a land of terrible contrasts and we have to survive in times of great violence. Contrast and violence, two excellent ingredients for literature, although for us, citizens of that reality, life is always suspended from a very fragile thread.
If we talk about slipstream fiction, we must also address female authors as well as the contributions of female writers of color in magical realism. And so, while Granbois references the brilliant Kelly Link, there are so many more female authors whose work questions our world.
In response to Grandbois, I’m making it a point to read female writers of the slipstream and magical realism genres. Because, really, Virginia Woolf was writing slipstream and speculative fiction in 1928 with Orlando (and even earlier if you look at some of her work published under a pseudonym). What could be more slipstream (both genre and realistic or literary) than Orlando, where the hero lives for centuries and in the middle of his life, wakes up one day and is a woman? And really, we might know Isabelle Allende, but what other female magical realist authors are lurking on the margins of the canon?
For now, I’m going to start with the list from Bustle: “If you Love Isabelle Allende, You’ll Love These 11 Magical Books, Too.”
I’m open for suggestions. Who are your favorite female slipstream writers and writers of magical realism? Who are the female writers who pull you out of your own skin and bring magic to the ordinary?