[GUEST POST] Mikal Trimm on Slipstream Via Python – The Forgotten Link

Mikal Trimm‘s short stories have sullied the pages of such fine publications as Realms Of Fantasy, Postscripts, Interfictions, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, among others whose editors have had the sense to pay him for not mentioning their magazines.

Recently, while slaving away on a Con panel, I met with a difficult question from an annoying upstart in the audience:

“So, when did ‘slipstream’ start?”

How to answer this most puzzling, nay, nascent question? I put the full weight of my prodigious mind to work, seeking the defining answer:


Is nascent the word I actually meant to use?

By this time, of course, the three other members of the panel had given history, definition, re-definition, counter-argument, and overriding philosophies in support of their answers to the question. Not to mention a particularly smarmy “and thanks for being on the panel, O Clueless One” from the Moderator.

Mock me at your peril, Mr. Big-shot Major-Market Publisher…

The only clue I had, written on my ‘who to cozen up to’ list (way at the bottom, next to the ‘which party to hit first’ notes) was a comment from Bruce Sterling, written several years ago (and available for free on the ‘net, which means I’m allowed to reproduce a portion here, right? I mean, no worries about ‘copyright infringement’ and such, if I’m any judge of the law…) :

“Slipstream is — ”

Ah, hell, I can’t find the comment anymore. Suffice to say that Bruce really nailed that sucker. Yep, he hit the nail on the head with that gim-crack of an observation.

(Oops. Used ‘nail’ twice in the same paragraph. Must revise.)

Whatever. The point I’m trying to make is this. Reality sucks.

Wait. Rescind that last comment. The point I’m making (thus avoiding that whole ‘passive’ structure, you’ll notice) is this:

Everything we’ve learned about slipstream, we’ve learned from Monty Python.

Forget the long history of the ‘supposed’ writing vanguard. Ignore the movements of the past: the avant-garde, or the New Realists, or the New Un-realists, or the Magic Realists, or the just-plain-loopy. History is merely an excuse to say nothing new can happen… again and again and again.

Even that Dangerous Visions crowd. C’mon, own up, folks. How dangerous was it, really? Do you recall one single death attributed to the reading of those stories? Not even a heart attack, I’ll bet. Possibly a case of angina. Maybe an aneurysm, but that incident might be apocryphal.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah.

Things occur. No explanation, no deep exploration of causes, no scientific mumbo-jumbo to obscure the facts. No goal, no foul.

No cure. Feces, as it were, happens.

Life, whether we like it or not, boils down to one long Fish-Slapping Dance.

Oh, come on. You remember. Python — Season Three. Two gentlemen, dressed in vaguely militariesque uniforms, stand on a dock, dance in a pseudo-martial way, and slap each other rhythmically.

With fish.

Wait a moment, the cultured mind tells us. Perhaps there is something here we’re missing. Fish, uniforms… of course! This is obviously a culture beholden to the sea for its survival! This dance, this seeming folderol of piscine frivolity, has a deeper meaning! Perhaps the fishes represent wealth! Is it possible that the pummeling the two representative characters of this culture receive indicates a prayer for the bounty of the sea? Or, going with the thought, could this mummery be the core of a religious ceremony? With the tenderizing of the fish, the inevitable scraping of the men’s cheeks as the scales abrade their faces, and the hinted-at but never shown blood from these self-same wounds, could this possibly indicate some primitive fertility dance? Does the man who returns to the village with the most scales embedded in his face become the new Chieftain of his clan? Might there be some significance to the number of steps each man takes in his own personal interpretation of the ancient ceremony?

And why did the first dancer get knocked into the water? Ooh, a quandary…

Naah.

Just slipstream.

Deal with it.

And don’t even get me started on Confuse-A-Cat.