The term paraspace was introduced by science fiction author Samuel Delany as “a science fictional space that exists parallel to the normal space of the diegesis- a rhetorically heightened ‘other realm.” (157) In his Terminal Identity (1993), Scott Bukatman extends Delany’s idea of the paraspatial to account for works of film and literature that depict linguistically unknowable realms by “overloading and estranging” the sensory apparatus. (177) An emblematic use of paraspace is at the end of Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey, where astronaut Bowman and the film viewer experience a loss of narrative and spatio-temporal coherence upon entering an alien world of psychedelic light and floating geometric shapes. In science fiction movies and novels, such paraspatial techniques often draw on avant-garde practices (abstraction, rapid montage, concrete poetry or fragmentary prose) to rupture fixed space and subjectivity. William Gibson’s ‘cyberspace’ in Neuromancer (1984) is another example of a paraspace in which poetic language and “incongruous juxtapositions” evoke the strangeness of embodying data space. In the novel, Gibson defines cyberspace as "a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators... A graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data.” According to Brian McHale, the paraspatial or “ontological shifts” in postmodern fiction allows for metafictional reflection by being “a scale-model of the fictional world itself, a fictional-world-within-the-fictional-world.” (178) The paraspatial can also be found in works of electronic literature, particularly those early works responding to the paraspatial qualities of cyberspace. Mark Amerika’s Grammatron and Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden are hypertextual narratives that explore the spatial and temporal dislocations that come with living in and with information networks.


Bukatman, Scott. Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction. First Edition edition. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 1993.

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