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Surrealism is an early 20th-century European intellectual movement associated with a certain style in the visual arts. "Adopting some of the aesthetic experiments of Symbolism and the attitudes of Dada, the movement is characterized by an emphasis on exploring the limits of experience by fusing reality with the instinctual, the subconscious, and the realm of dreams, in order to create an absolute reality."[1] See Wikipedia. The movement itself is long gone, but more recent creative works in many formats that make use of impossible juxtapositions and dreamlike imagery are often described as surrealist.

Professional science fiction artists adopted surrealism in the 1960s and 70s in part due to changes in the sf paperback market; academic interest in sf had increased, and publishers no longer assumed that teenage boys were the only people who would buy science fiction.[2] Surrealist art also complemented New Wave SF: "It was a marriage made in heaven, if not at the cash register, for the result was a rather swift commercial failure".[2]

But surrealism is much less common in fanart, where the economics are entirely different. In the early history of media fanzines, which coincided with the genre's interest in surrealism, zines incorporated more traditional sf/fantasy artwork, so some surrealist illustrations can be found here; later, media fanzines started focusing solely on fan fiction and art depicting characters and scenes from canon sources. The economics of print fanzines initially limited what kinds of art could be cheaply reproduced; later, many editors sought out the same few popular artists, like Suzan Lovett, who produced realistic illustrations, to sell their zines. Another factor may be that the more abstracted a piece of art is, the less likely it is to be identified with a particular fandom (see examples below). Online, avant-garde fanart is still in the minority, but technology changes and the lack of editorial gatekeeping have resulted in a greater variety of styles.

In some fandoms, the canon itself is surrealist or contains surrealist elements; examples include the television show Twin Peaks, the film Inception, and the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Any scene on a television show where a character is dreaming or high on drugs is likely to include surrealistic imagery, thus providing the raw material for surrealist fanvids.

Fanwork Examples


  1. ^ Surrrealist entry at Getty's Art & Architecture thesaurus.
  2. ^ a b DiFate, Vincent. "The Dark Side of Tomorrow: Another Look at Surrealism in Science Fiction Art." Starship no. 35 (1979): 59-62.