NALO HOPKINSON’S first short story collection in many years provides an overview of her work in the medium since 2000. Hopkinson has long been considered a top-tier science fiction and fantasy writer as well as a teller of tales from her first homes, Jamaica and Trinidad. Readers approaching the book as I did, by reading the stories sequentially, might find themselves surprised by the way they so often flirt with the fantastic, only to pull back into the uncertainty of realism at the last moment. In one story, a young woman defends herself from a sexual assault at a party game by turning into a dragon — she knows it, and her assailant knows it, but her friends at the party do not notice any change in her. Were we imagining it, or was this a special, selective kind of magic? The story resolves, too, such that the protagonist gets to describe her own experience without the threat of her attacker writing over it. This resolution raises another kind of fantasy — the best kind of feminist wish fulfillment — for our consideration. Both the uncertainty of the young woman’s transformation in the story and its resonant power as a model for feminist action intervene at the level of genre to change expectations about what the spectacular can be and do as a mode of storytelling. Hopkinson’s is an especially refreshing intervention during a time when misogynist narratives (like the Game of Thrones series) continue to present sexual assault as a shallow plot point often for the development of male characters.
Hopkinson is truly a master of the genre of speculative writing that spans the fantastic, science fiction, dystopia, and the new weird. This comment, true as it is, is also slightly disingenuous, because Hopkinson doesn’t limit her writing to Western forms and, as those who have been following her career know, she often writes in genres less familiar to white, Canadian readers like me. So by way of a caveat, I wish to make clear that I am responding to these stories as part of a science fiction writing tradition that I know, and I want to recognize that part of Hopkinson’s subtle tack is to teach her readers that the genres they take for granted are pliable and can have different outcomes than we might at first suspect.
The power of Hopkinson’s stories lies in their capacity to help us reimagine our own movement through the world and to wonderfully innovate new trajectories for speculative fiction as a whole.
Read the rest of Bellamy’s thoughtful review at LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS.
FANTASY CAFE enjoyed the memorable, unique collection.
My first—and only, before this book—experience with Nalo Hopkinson’s writing was her most recent novel, SISTER MINE. I very much enjoyed this story about formerly conjoined twins with a demigod father, and I’ve wanted to read more of her work ever since. In general, I prefer longer fiction to short stories since I like to be able to spend time learning about the world and characters, and I did prefer Sister Mine to this collection; however, there were a few individual stories I liked every bit as much or even more than this novel. FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS contains an impressive assortment of tales with a variety of writing styles, character voices, and influences, ranging from lighthearted in tone to disturbingly dark. Many were strange and whimsical, and even if I didn’t love a story, I usually found it memorable due to its uniqueness.
As is always the case with short story collections, not all of the stories worked for me, but even most of those that I didn’t particularly enjoy were notable because of the depth of imagination that went into them. However, those that did work for me shone very brightly indeed, and I found FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS to be a book well worth reading for its uniqueness and engaging variety of characters, narrative voices, and types of stories.
My Rating: 7/10
Read the rest of the review at FANTASY CAFE.
For more information on FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Chuma Hill
Design by Elizabeth Story