Material entanglements: Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts as slipstream novel


Journal Article (Review)

Characterizing the slipstream genre, Bruce Sterling locates it between mainstream and science fiction; it "sets its face against consensus reality" and makes us feel "very strange." A strong slipstream candidate is Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts (2007). Manifesting as a distributed literary system, the text has as its core a print novel, but other internet and real world sites also contain fragments or "negatives." One of the text's two villains, Mycroft Ward, has transformed into an online database; a posthuman subjectivity, he appropriates "node bodies" that upload their information and download new instructions. This separation of content (online database) from form (node body) is, according to Alan Liu, one of the primary characteristics of postindustrial knowledge work. To this extent, Hall positions his narrative not only against databases but also against knowledge that is, in Liu's terms, autonomously mobile, transformable, and automated, having lost its material instantiation and been pulverized into atomized bits of information. The text's second villain - a "conceptual shark," the Ludovician - represents the complete fusion of form and content; the typographical symbols used to describe the shark also comprise its flesh in verbal and graphic representations. The text thus positions its protagonist, Eric Sanderson, as caught between twenty-first-century forms of knowledge and the implosion of signifier into signified. In this sense, the novel functions as a parable for the contemporary human condition, looking toward a posthuman future but incarnated within an ancient biological heritage. Copyright © 2011 by SF-TH Inc.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hayles, NK

Published Date

  • March 1, 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 38 / PART 1

Start / End Page

  • 115 - 133

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0091-7729

Citation Source

  • Scopus