Midnight Robber

Flying back and forth from New Orleans (for the Jazz and Heritage Festival) gave me the opportunity to read the second of Nalo Hopkinson's books, Midnight Robber.A couple of years ago I bought and devoured Brown Girl in the Ring, her first book, highly acclaimed. I loved it, mainly for personal reasons, but also for political ones: she's a hybrid West Indian (Guyanese and Trini roots mainly, but Canadian by residence and pan-Caribbean in interest) who writes what's now called speculative fiction (but which is known by its trade genre as Science Fiction and Fantasy). Now I don't mind telling you that I was a big SFF fan growing up. I leaned more to the Fantasy side, once I discovered it, but I cut my adolescent teeth on writers like John Wyndham, Madeleine L'Engle, and Ursula K. Le Guin, and then moved on to Herbert and Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke.Then two things happened. First, I ventured into more contemporary (i.e. post-war, post-sixties) SF, and hated most of it; and second, I began to notice that most of the time SF featured white people only. So then I retreated into fantasy, getting hooked by Brooks and eventually working my way to Tolkein. But when I became politically aware I gave it up as a genre. There were two reasons for this (and they only partly explain why I didn't give up classic English mysteries). The first was political -- many of the contemporary writers seemed to be misogynistic and racist, and I couldn't be bothered to trawl through all of them to get to the ones who weren't. Having been lucky to discover L'Engle and Le Guin early, I couldn't find any writers who had the same scope. And the second was -- well, political. The big difference for me was that the classic mystery writers, like the early SF writers, were bound by their time. Yes, Sayers and Christie and others are racist, almost fascist, but they were defined by their societies and their political incorrectnesses are reflections (as are Tolkein's and Lewis' -- and Orwell's and Wells's for that matter) of their time and place, and interesting in themselves.But the later SF writers were replicating those incorrectnesses, perhaps feeling safe about it because of the fantastic nature of their writing. And then there was the fact that fantasy writers all seemed to follow Tolkein by drawing upon the mythology and history of Europe in their worldmaking; nowhere was Africa or Asia or the Caribbean represented. So I left the genre.(I had the great fortune to read, through Nalo Hopkinson's blog, this account of another woman-of-colour's experience with SF, which resonated so fully with me it's worth reading; I can't say anything Pam Noles doesn't say).And then I found Nalo. I can't remember how. I was searching for something on Amazon, I imagine, or -- no -- I was reading Donald Maass' books on novel-writing, and noticed that he represented a young Caribbean writer from Toronto who was writing speculative fiction. That was how I came to do the Amazon search, and how I came across Brown Girl in the Ring. What hooked me was that it was Caribbean, it was spec fic, and it was set in Toronto, which I know well enough to get excited about. And it was written with Caribbean nation-language.Once I got my head around that, I invested in some Hopkinson. And began reading SF again.Well, to be fair, I have only read Nalo's work, and through her have discovered Octavia Butler. I think Nalo's better -- or more accurately, perhaps, Nalo's world resonates more with me than Butler's does, although Butler's work is African-American and female.So I recommend that people read Hopkinson. It's spec fic and more than spec fic; it's the new wave of Caribbean fiction, and it's finally breaking the coming-of-age mould that, despite every effort and every disguise of language and structure, still dominates the genre, together with magical realism so dense that it needs a ray-gun to cut through it.Brown Girl in the RingMidnight RobberThe Salt RoadsThe New Moon's Arms (not yet out)The other stuff written and edited by her can be found here. Or check out her whole website, here.