Transrealism (science fiction) is a literary mode that mixes the techniques of incorporating fantastic elements used in science fiction with the techniques of describing immediate perceptions from naturalistic realism. While combining the strengths of the two approaches, it is largely a reaction to their perceived weaknesses. Transrealism addresses the escapism and disconnect with reality of science fiction by providing for superior characterization through autobiographical features and simulation of the author’s acquaintances. It addresses the tiredness and boundaries of realism by using fantastic elements to create new metaphors for psychological change and to incorporate the author’s perception of a higher reality in which life is embedded. One possible source for this higher reality is the increasingly strange models of the universe put forward in theoretical astrophysics.
Transrealism has its historic antecedents in cyberpunk and Philip K. Dick, who can be considered a proto-transrealist author. Its main proponent and prominent figure is science fiction author Rudy Rucker. Rucker coined the term “transrealism” after seeing Dick’s A Scanner Darkly described as “transcendental autobiography,” and expounded the principles of transrealism in a short essay titled “A Transrealist Manifesto” in 1983. Rucker applied many of these principles in his short stories and novels, notably White Light and Saucer Wisdom. Damien Broderick has identified some other authors that have at some time utilized transrealist tropes to include Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, John Barth, J.G. Ballard, John Calvin Batchelor, Jonathon Carroll, Karen Joy Fowler, Lisa Goldstein, James Morrow, Thomas Pynchon, Joanna Russ and James Tiptree Jr.