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Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson(1960- )
Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born writer who lived in several Caribbean countries and the U.S. before settling in Canada. Her stories often draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling. Hopkinson has received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Ontario Arts Council Foundation Award for an Emerging Writer, the Philip K. Dick Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic in 2003, the Locus Award for Best New Writer, the James R. Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award as well as a nomination for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. She teaches writing. Learn more at Nalo Hopkinson’s website.

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Brown Girl in the Ring: Ahead of its time

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Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Brown Girl in the Ring is a novel that may have been a little ahead of its time. When it was first published in 1998, it had “Science Fiction” stamped on the spine. Cue angry Amazon reviewers complaining that it was full of “mumbo jumbo.” If I were to wager a guess, I’d say that Brown Girl in the Ring was marketed as science fiction because of its near-future setting and heavy violence level, which were not nearly as common in late-nineties urban fantasy as they are today (see Ilona Andrews, for example). Yet this is unmistakably urban fantasy, with a strong horror streak. I could see it picking up many new fans if it were rereleased today.

The world of Brown Girl in the Ring is frightening... Read More

The Salt Roads: Complex and rewarding

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The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson 

Time does not flow for me. Not for me the progression in a straight line from earliest to latest. Time eddies. I am now then, now there, sometimes simultaneously.

Nalo Hopkinson published The Salt Roads in 2003. Originally the book was marketed as historical fiction, and sometimes as magical realism, if those categories matter. The concrete nature of the world-building and the attention to detail, especially in the sections set on the island of St. Domingue, make the book more grounded than you might expect in a story where, to all intents and purposes, a god is the main character. Somewhat ironically, the St. Domingue sections also contain most of the “fantastical” events.

Lasiren, or Ezili,... Read More

Falling in Love with Hominids: A mixed bag by a gifted, playful writer

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Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

Falling in Love with Hominids takes its name from a Cordwainer Smith passage. In her introduction, Nalo Hopkinson cites him as a refuge and a comfort during difficult times in her life. The anthology contains 17 stories. Several are short and probably qualify as flash fiction. Generally, Hopkinson writes the kinds of stories I like, and Falling in Love with Hominids includes fantasy, dark fantasy and outright horror, often incorporating folklore and a style of writing that evokes Jamaican oral story-telling language.

Jana read Falling in Love with Hominids, too. What did you think, Jana? (I'll ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Fantasy Magazine, Women Destroy Fantasy

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Fantasy Magazine was folded into Lightspeed Magazine in 2012, but it came out of retirement in October 2014 for the Women Destroy Fantasy issue, one of the stretch goals of a Kickstarter for an all-women edition of Lightspeed. I was one of the contributors to the Kickstarter, and, as my review last week revealed, I greatly enjoyed the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare Magazine that was another stretch goal of the same Kickstarter. I’m pleased to report that the fantasy issue is just as “destructive” and enjoyable.

Cat Rambo guest-edited the new fiction for this issue of Fantasy. Her editorial remarks on the difficulty of seeing the shape of a field when you’re smack in the middle of it. You can see fine details, but the overall structure, size and scope tend to escape y... Read More

After: Like panning for gold

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After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia by editors Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

When I saw the new Datlow and Windling anthology After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, I was so excited. I love YA fiction, I love dyslit, I love short story anthologies and I love Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling as editors, so I figured it was a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, my reading experience didn’t live up to my expectations.

After is an anthology of short stories set after. After what? Alien invasion, plague, environmental collapse, asteroid strike, it doesn’t matter. Just after. This leaves a lot of room for the authors to be creative, as they all can choose different afters to explore, and it leaves the anthology feeling a bit disjointed as you hop from one ... Read More

Monstrous Affections: Chock full of horror and hormones

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Monstrous Affections by Kelly Link & Gavin Grant 

Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales, a new anthology by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, was an interesting and surprising read. Interesting because, duh, anything the duo behind Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet puts together has to be great. And surprising because nothing on the cover prepared me for its YA-focus.

And let’s talk about the cover for a second, because it is incredible. Red thistles explode out of line-drawn stems. Blood drips from the maw of a fully-colored toothy black beast as it crouches over a prone, line-drawn man... his prey, we assume. Out of the beast’s back arise feathered wings, again line-drawn. I love the contrast between beast and angel implicit in the ce... Read More

More books by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson Midnight RobberMidnight Robber — (2000) Publisher: The Caribbean-colonised planet of Toussaint is in the middle of a carnival. Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is enjoying the festival until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgivable crime.


Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction Nalo HopkinsonWhispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction — (2000) Publisher: The lushness of language and the landscape, wild contrasts, and pure storytelling magic abound in this anthology of Caribbean writing. Steeped in the tradition of fabulism, where the irrational and inexplicable coexist with the realities of daily life, the stories in this collection are infused with a vitality and freshness that most writing traditions have long ago lost. From spectral slaving ships to women who shed their skin at night to become owls, stories from writers such as Jamaica Kincaid, Marcia Douglas, Ian MacDonald, and Kamau Brathwaite pulse with rhythms, visions, and the tortured history of this spiritually rich region of the world.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsSkin Folk — (2001) Publisher: A new collection of short stories from Hopkinson, including “Greedy Choke Puppy,” which Africana.com called “a cleverly crafted West Indian story featuring the appearance of both the soucouyant (vampire) & lagahoo (werewolf),””Ganger (Ball Lightning),” praised by the Washington Post Book World as written in “prose [that] is vivid & immediate,” this collection reveals Hopkinson’s breadth & accomplishments as a storyteller.


Mojo: Conjure Stories Nalo HopkinsonMojo: Conjure Stories — (2003) Publisher: When enslaved people were brought from the western part of Africa to the Americas, they were forbidden to speak their native languages or practice their religions in the New World. But their folkways survived as underground beliefs, and, in the crucible of slavery, created systems of magic and herbal lore with a particularly West African flavor. MOJO draws on the talents of writers who have a reputation for the sensitive, imaginative use of folklore and folkways in their work.


The New Moon's Arms Nalo HopkinsonThe New Moon’s Arms — (2007) Publisher: What’s in a name? A lot, according to 50-something-year-old Caribbean born Chastity, who has adopted the more fitting moniker Calamity. Now, true to her name, Calamity is confronting two big life transitions: Her beloved father has just died, and she is starting menopause, a physical shift that has rekindled her special gift for finding lost things. Suddenly she is getting hot flashes that seem to forge objects out of thin air. Only this time, the lost item that has washed up on the shore is not her old toy truck or her hairbrush, but a 4-year-old boy. As Calamity takes the child into her care, she discovers that all is not as it seems: the boy’s family is most unusual. Then Calamity must reawaken to the mysteries surrounding her own childhood and the early disappearance of her mother.


fantasy book reviews Nalo Hopkinson The ChaosThe Chaos — (2012) Publisher: An acclaimed fantasy author navigates the world between myth and chaos in this compelling exploration of identity, told with a Caribbean lilt. Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in — at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother — and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known — and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help. A blend of fantasy and Caribbean folklore, at its heart this tale is about identity and self acceptance — because only by acknowledging her imperfections can Scotch hope to save her brother.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsSister Mine  — (2013) Publisher: As the only one in the family without magic, Makeda has decided to move out on her own and make a life for herself among the claypicken humans. But when her father goes missing, Makeda will have to find her own power — and reconcile with her twin sister, Abby — if she’s to have a hope of saving him… We’d had to be cut free of our mother’s womb. She’d never have been able to push the two-headed sport that was me and Abby out the usual way. Abby and I were fused, you see. Conjoined twins. Abby’s head, torso and left arm protruded from my chest. But here’s the real kicker; Abby had the magic, I didn’t. Far as the Family was concerned, Abby was one of them, though cursed, as I was, with the tragic flaw of mortality. SISTER MINE. Now adults, Makeda and Abby still share their childhood home. The surgery to separate the two girls gave Abby a permanent limp, but left Makeda with what feels like an even worse deformity: no mojo. The daughters of a celestial demigod and a human woman, Makeda and Abby were raised by their magical father, the god of growing things — an unusual childhood that made them extremely close. Ever since Abby’s magical talent began to develop, though, in the form of an unearthly singing voice, the sisters have become increasingly distant. Today, Makeda has decided it’s high time to move out and make her own life among the other nonmagical, claypicken humans — after all, she’s one of them. In Cheerful Rest, a run-down warehouse, Makeda finds exactly what she’s been looking for: a place to get some space from Abby and begin building her own independent life. There’s even a resident band, led by the charismatic (and attractive) building superintendent. But when her father goes missing, Makeda will have to find her own talent–and reconcile with Abby–if she’s to have a hope of saving him…