Hopkinson, Nalo 1960-
HOPKINSON, Nalo 1960-
Born December 20, 1960, in Kingston Jamaica; immigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1977; daughter of Slade (a poet and actor) and Freda (a library technician) Hopkinson. Education: Graduated from York University; Seton Hill College, M.A., 1995.
Writer, 1997—. Has also worked in a library and as a grants officer for a local arts council. Instructor at various writing workshops.
Warner Aspect first novel award, 1997, Philip K. Dick Award nominee, Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, and Ontario Arts Council Foundation award for emerging writers, both 1998, and John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, and Locus award for best first novel, both 1999, all for Brown Girl in the Ring; New York Times notable book of the year, 2000, and Nebula Award nominee, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Philip K. Dick Award nominee, and Hugo Award nominee, World Science Fiction Society, all 2001, all for Midnight Robber; Sunburst Award for Canadian literature of the fantastic, 2003, for Skin Folk.
Brown Girl in the Ring, Warner Aspect (New York, NY), 1998.
Midnight Robber, Warner Aspect (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor) Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction, Invisible Cities Press, 2000.
Skin Folk (short story collection), Warner Aspect (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor) Mojo: Conjure Stories, Warner Books (New York, NY).
The Salt Roads, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including Dark Matter, edited by Sheree Thomas and Martin Simmons; Women of Other Worlds, edited by Helen Merrick and Tess Williams; Northern Suns, edited by David Hartwell and Glenn Grant; Black Swan, White Raven, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, 1997; Silver Birch, Blood Moon, edited by Datlow and Windling; Tesseracts 6, edited by Carolyn Clink and Rob Sawyer, 1997; and Northern Frights 5, edited by Don Hutchinson, 1997. Author of radio plays, including Riding the Red and Indicator Species, CBC Radio. Contributor of short stories and book reviews to periodicals, including Exile, Fireweed, and Science Fiction Weekly.
"Greedy Choke Puppy" was adapted as a play of the same name, produced by Seeing Ear Theatre.
Nalo Hopkinson is an award-winning science-fiction writer whose work blends African, Caribbean, and Creole folklore with the conventions of the science-fiction and fantasy genre. Critics have responded favorably to her work, especially for its touches of magic realism and underlying themes of race and gender. Hopkinson's debut novel, Brown Girl in the Ring, which won the Warner Aspect First Novel contest and a major publishing deal, introduces readers to a milieu consisting of a dystopian science-fiction setting interwoven with Afro-Caribbean folklore and the patois dialect that has since come to be associated with many of her works.
The daughter of Guyanese poet, playwright, and actor Slade Hopkinson, Hopkinson grew up in a literary atmosphere. As a child she met Nobel-winning writer Derek Walcott, who founded the Trinidad Theater Workshop where her father directed plays. Though born in Jamaica, Hopkinson passed through Trinidad, Guyana, and the United States before her family settled in Toronto, Canada. Despite the family's mobility, Hopkinson grew up in a household filled with books and one that had a healthy respect for the arts.
Though she initially had no life-long dream of becoming a writer, Hopkinson—always a science fiction fan—was inspired when she discovered that some of her favorite writers, notably Samuel R. Delaney, were black. Once she discovered other science-fiction writers of color, such as Octavia Butler, Steve Barnes, and Virginia Hamilton, she began to understand that the most common trope of science fiction was one in which "white people use technology to overpower alien cultures," as she told Gregory E. Rutledge in African American Review. Hopkinson believes that this is a primary reason why black writers have largely avoided the genre. Instead, she began to imagine a different kind of science fiction; one told from a black woman's point of view that deals with the shibboleths of African and Caribbean society. "I think that a speculative literature from a culture that has been on the receiving end of the colonization glorified in some [SF] could be a compelling body of writing," she told Rutledge.
The title of Hopkinson's first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring, comes from a Caribbean schoolyard game. A dystopian story, the novel is set in the near future in the desolate neighborhoods of Toronto, which have been abandoned by the government by those who can afford to live elsewhere. Those residents who remain have been barricaded inside and left to fend for themselves. Farming and bartering have become their new way of life.
Ti-Jeanne is a single mother dealing with a new baby and her drug-addict boyfriend, Tony. When Tony gets in trouble with a gang leader, Rudy, Ti-Jeanne asks her wise grandmother for help. Gros-Jeanne, or Mami, a healer, herbalist, and a practitioner of Afro-Caribbean spiritual beliefs, helps bring Ti-Jeanne into the spirit world. But soon Ti-Jeanne finds herself battling Rudy and also coming to terms with the mother she lost long ago—the mother that is now Rudy's captive spirit. Thus, Hopkinson sets up a multi-generational novel of people coping against evil in a violent and magical world. The novel was partly inspired by Walcott's play, "Ti-Jean and His Brothers," in which three brothers battle the devil. "I wanted to acknowledge that connection to [Walcott's] work," Hopkinson told Rutledge, "so I named the three women Ti-Jeanne, Mi-Jeanne, and Gros-Jeanne," the feminine equivalents of Walcott's characters.
The novel, in which characters speak in a rich Afro-Caribbean patois, received a positive response from reviewers. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called the book a "splendid if gruesome debut, superbly plotted and redolent of the rhythms of Afro-Caribbean speech." Booklist's Bonnie Johnston felt that Hopkinson's "exotically imaginative debut is just realistic enough," while Faren Miller of Locus noted that "what propels this fast-paced work is the author's gift for passionate, vivid, tale-spinning." Miller concluded that "Hopkinson is a genuine find." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Gerald Jonas commented that Hopkinson "treats spirit-calling the way other science fiction writers treat nanotechnology or virtual reality."
Though David Streitfeld, writing in the Washington Post, felt that Brown Girl in the Ring "has the usual first novel faults in pacing and plotting," he praised the book's "richness of language," which "more than compensates" for any such faults. Streitfeld called Brown Girl in the Ring "an impressive debut." A writer for Publishers Weekly focused on the oral tradition in Hopkinson's work: "The musical rhythms of Caribbean voices and the earthy spirit-magic of obeah knit together this unusual fantasy." The reviewer concluded that "Hopkinson's writing is smooth and assured, and her characters lively and believable." And Carol DeAngelo, reviewing the novel in School Library Journal, called the book an "outstanding science-fiction novel" as well as a "page-turner that builds to an exciting conclusion."
Hopkinson's second novel, Midnight Robber, takes place on the planet Toussaint, which has been colonized by people from the Caribbean. Antonio Habib is the powerful mayor of Cockpit County, and his daughter Tan-Tan is the product of privilege. The planet is the picture of harmony, ministered by "Granny Nanny," an artificial intelligence which monitors everyone through aural implants. Miscreants are exiled to New Half-Way Tree, an alternate universe to Toussaint, so when Habib runs afoul of the law, killing his wife's lover, that is where he and his daughter end up. Habib remarries, but his anger gets the better of him. As her father's fortunes dwindle and he spirals into sexual excess and drunkenness, Tan-Tan struggles to find her own way. After he impregnates her, she finally kills him. At age sixteen, she is now on the run, hiding from her father's widow. In the bush she learns the secrets of the native intelligent species and transforms herself into a female version of the Midnight Robber, a Caribbean Carnival figure who dresses in black and tells stories to those he waylays. As the Robber Queen, Tan-Tan fights to survive on New Half-Way Tree. Again the story combines Caribbean and African myths and language. An allegory of displacement and diaspora, Midnight Robber "bears evidence that Hopkinson owns one of the more important and original voices in SF," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.
Many critics were impressed with Hopkinson's use of language in Midnight Robber. Reviewing the novel for SFSite.com, David Soyka wrote that "Hopkinson has established herself as a unique voice in the SF and Fantasy genre, largely because that voice is grounded in the rhythms, myths, and vernacular of Caribbean and Creole cultures." Booklist's Roberta Johnson called attention to Hopkinson's "exhilarating prose," which "drives an exciting story that continues with Tan-Tan befriending New Half-Way Tree's natives and coming to terms with self-hatred." A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that Hopkinson's "rich and complex Carib English can be hard to follow at times, but is nonetheless quite beautiful." The reviewer also called Toussaint and New Half-Way Tree "believable, lushly detailed worlds." School Library Journal's Francisca Goldsmith concluded that the book "provides an engaging nexus of science fiction and folklore."
Hopkinson is also the author of the short-story collection Skin Folk. Many of the stories were originally published in literary journals and anthologies, and all of them feature her trademark blend of fantasy and folklore. For the story A Habit of Waste, Hopkinson was inspired by her father's poem about a Jamaican bag lady. Other short stories include "Riding the Red," "Precious," "Money Tree," and "Slow Cold Chick." Gerald Jonas noted in the New York Times Book Review that many of her tales "are not only set in black communities, they make use of West African-derived folklore and language patterns to create fresh worlds and emotionally compelling situations." Booklist reviewer Roberta Johnson commented on Skin Folk's "broad range of subjects," and called the stories "a delightful introduction" to Hopkinson's earlier work. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised her "strong evocation of place and her ear for dialect," concluding that "underneath [Skin Folk] is a sure grasp of humanity, good and bad, and the struggle to understand and to communicate."
Having edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction in 2000, Hopkinson stepped into the role of editor for the second time with Mojo: Conjure Stories, an anthology of West African-inspired stories written by award-winning writers such as Neil Gaiman and Steven Barnes. Drag queens and Elvis impersonators populate Barth Anderson's "Lark till Dawn, Princess," while Creole cooking and zombies figure prominently in other stories. A writer for Publishers Weekly complimented the collection's stories, which "skillfully blend West African magic, fantasy, horror, along with plain old-fashioned readability." The theme of using "supernatural powers able to exact revenge, justice, or simple relief in the lives of Africans in the diaspora," wrote Vanessa Bush in Booklist, makes these "wonderful stories for fans of any genre fiction."
In The Salt Roads Hopkinson moves away from science fiction toward a more traditional literature, even though the hallmarks of her earlier work still are in evidence. The Afro-Caribbean goddess of love and sex, Ezili, is the common thread among three women in different eras of history: Meritet, an Egyptian prostitute in 300 A.D., Mer, an eighteenth-century slave, and Jeanne Duval, a real-life mixed-race woman who was Charles Baudelaire's lover. The far-ranging narrative encompasses Haitian folktales, all in a style reminiscent of magic realism. The story begins with three slave women summoning up Ezili as they prepare to bury a stillborn baby on the island of Saint Domingue in 1804, before it became Haiti. Ezili finds herself infused with the dead baby's vitality, which allows her to inhabit the bodies of Mer, Jeanne, and Meritet, who are linked to one another through the salt in their tears and the salt that bound them into their personal slavery.
As with Hopkinson's previous novels, critics reacted favorably to The Salt Roads. "The novel has a genuine vitality and generosity," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, though Devon Thomas of Library Journal said that "though the goddess connects the three women together, the women's tales themselves are much more interesting." Hopkinson told Wilda Williams of Library Journal that parts of the story were inspired by Angela Carter's story "The Black Venus," which is also a fictional account of Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval. The purpose of the book, Hopkinson told Williams, is "to explore the issue of biracial women and how that complicates relationships between women, especially black women." Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, recognized that theme. "Like Erica Jong," Seaman wrote, "Hopkinson uses sex to entice readers into contemplating the long history of misogyny, specifically women's suffering during the African diaspora." Details of life in French-colonial Haiti, the ancient brothels of Alexandria, and nineteenth-century France lend historical authenticity to the book, according to a writer for Kirkus Reviews, who called The Salt Roads "a centuries-spanning panorama of the cultural collision between Africa and Europe."
Nalo Hopkinson contributed the following autobiographical essay to CA:
In this essay, I'm making an effort to tell you about my life.
There's this notion that when people describe things that have happened to them, they are able to tell you something called the "truth" of what actually happened. I'm not so sure. Yes, the person who had an experience is the one who's most likely to be able to tell you what really took place, but even when I'm telling the truth about myself, it feels as though I'm trying to wrap words around experience. Words are an abstraction. They can only tell part of the truth. Even telling the truth is, in a way, making up stories. Memory is not perfect, and imagination is very good at filling in the blanks, whether we know we're doing that or not.
Hopefully I can nevertheless bring you some truths. No absolutes, but perhaps some shifting, context-dependent truths.
Probably the easiest truths to start with might be some background stuff about me.
I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1960. I am of predominantly African descent, with some Jewish, European, South Asian and Taino thrown into the mix. I have lived in Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, the U.S. and Canada. My family moved to Canada permanently when I was sixteen. I've lived in Toronto, Canada ever since. I'm forty-two now, in 2003, as I'm writing this.
I don't remember my parents reading me stories when I was a child. They may well have, but I learned to read the words for myself very early on—by age three. My parents had taught me the Alphabet Song, and I realised that each sound in the song was intended to represent a funny mark that was a letter, and furthermore, if you strung the sounds together, you got words. I learned the sounds that the funny marks made, and it became a game to try to figure out what words they made when they were strung together, and what sense those words made when they were strung together. Reading is hard! It's an abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction. But it was a game to me, and from then on, I was a voracious reader, and I wanted to read stories myself. When other people read them out loud, it seemed to me that they were going so slooowly, and it would take forever to learn what was happening next in the story. I could do it much quicker in my head, and get my fix of story in short order.
I remember my first day in kindergarten. I was three years old. We were living in Mount Lambert, in Trinidad. My mother would go to the bakery every day and get us fresh, hot bread with butter. At least, that's what I remember. She probably remembers it differently. But she took me to school, where the teacher gave me a book to read. I didn't understand that this was intended to last the whole term. It was one of those "see Dick run"-type primers. I read through it in a few minutes and yelled across the classroom to the teacher, "Miss, I want another book!"
That schoolroom was actually two classes, kindergarten and First Form, both taught by Miss Toby. The kindergarten took up one half of the room, and First Form the other. Again, I didn't know that. I'm told that I wandered freely between the two.
Some background information about me and my family: my father's name was Muhammed Abdur-Rahman Slade Hopkinson. He was born Clement Alan Slade Hopkinson, but changed his name in the seventies when he converted to Islam. Daddy was a writer, actor, poet, and a teacher. My brother Keita Hopkinson is a visual artist and an aspiring musician. When I give him my stories to read, he analyzes them in terms of tone, form, colour, and line. I learn more about the craft of writing from listening to him. My mother Freda Hopkinson is a semi-retired library technician. She catalogues books for a living, which is a much more entrancing occupation than it may sound.
So I always had books around me, and I always liked the weird ones; the ones with otherworldly creatures, or magic, or spaceships. The ones with talking animals. It was probably pretty inevitable that I would find the science fiction and fantasy shelves in the adult section of the public library where my mother worked. At home, I'd been reading the copies of Gulliver's Travels and Homer's Iliad which my father taught to senior high school classes, and I'd been reading folktales collected and retold by Jamaicans Philip Sherlock and Louise Bennet Coverly. I was fascinated by tales of the unreal and the impossible. Mostly it was that they were so different from the life I was leading, and with which I was way too familiar. So yes, it was escapism, that damning word. People who read fantastical literature often get accused of reading escapist nonsense. I thought I could kiss writer Walter Mosley when he published his comments on science fiction, first in the New York Times, and then republished in Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, edited by Sheree R. Thomas. Mosley said that escapism was the wrong way to look at it; that in order to make change, humans first had to imagine the directions in which we want to go. At last, vindication. I love that man.
There's a thing that often happens at some point when I'm being interviewed about my writing. The interviewer, whatever part of the world or whatever culture or subculture he or she comes from, will put on a curious look and say, "And why do you write science fiction?"—the whole of the question being, "Why are you, a black woman from the Caribbean, interested in a literature that still is largely about white people, largely men, using technology largely made by the dominant cultures to turn the world and the people in it to their desires? Where is your place in that conversation?"
It's a good question. I'm still working out the answer to why I like science fiction and fantasy so much, but I can give you a small part of it, a partial truth. Which, of course, must mean that it's also a partial untruth. My response to that question often turns on a statement made by black, gay SF writer Samuel R. Delany. He said, "We need visions of the future, and our people need them more than most." In other words, we black people need to step up to the table and start defining our futures instead of letting other people define them for us. I grew up in the days of Star Trek, old school, and I remember what they did to the part played by actress Nichelle Nichols, the only regular black actor in that show (the others who made brief appearances did so for one show, during which they usually died). Nichols played the part of Lt. Uhura. In those decades, Uhura was the image that television gave us of where black people would be in the future. Well, it's not a future I want. I do not fancy a career as Intergalactic Receptionist, no matter how cute the outfit and how well it shows off my thighs. (In her autobiography, Nichols says that she didn't much like how narrow her part was, either, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. persuaded her to stay, because the character she played symbolised that black people would have a future.)
If I were to write mimetic fiction, I'd be to some extent limited by what is known of the world. If my realist character were a young, straight, fat, middle-class woman living in North America, many readers could pretty much guess at the types of struggles she might have around body image and developing as a sexual person. Readers could also probably come up with a similar list of ways in which she could try to resolve those problems. What would make the story unique would be the particular events and texture of the life that would I imagine for that character. However, in fantastical fiction, I can directly manipulate the metaphorical structure of the story. I can create a science-fictional world in which relative fatness or slimness has about the same significance as eye colour, but only persons under 5'5" are considered beautiful. I can show people desperately trying not to grow taller, and taking pills intended to cure them of the "disease" of tallness. I can show newspapers writing exposés on the "epidemic" in their society of people afflicted with surplus height disorder. I can show people who develop emotional disorders related to being tall. Another thing I might do is to create a fantastical world in which my fat protagonist magically becomes thinner the more that she can convince people to ignore her, so that at the moment when she finally would be considered beautiful, she disappears. In other words, one of the things I can do is to intervene in the readers' assumptions by creating a world in which standards are different. Or I can blatantly show what values the characters in the story are trying to live out by making them actual, by exaggerating them into the realm of the fantastical, so that the consequences conversely become so real that they are tangible.
Another example: as a black person, I have particular experiences of the world. I can use the lens of science fiction and fantasy to examine and interrogate the realities of being black in this world. As Delany has said, when it comes to envisioning our futures, black people need to get ourselves a place at the table and start directing our own paths. One of the books I read when I was a child was a fantasy in which a group of children had to endure a number of dangers and travails. At the end, they reached a beautiful land where they could have anything they wanted. They were each rewarded with immortality and their hearts' desires. The white children asked for horses, castles, jewels; in other words, property, title and money. There was one black child amongst them. There were no children of other races that I remember, and no mixed race children. And what words did the writer put in the mouth of the one black child to make the journey safely? That little darkskinned pickaninny with his big, red lips (this may be just my imagination rewriting history, but I remember the book being illustrated) asked for a small everbearing watermelon patch to lie in and all the watermelon he could eat. And he got it. That was his legacy for all of eternity. His immortal life would be spent lolling in a watermelon patch with a huge smile on his face, devouring slice after slice of watermelon the size of his head.
In one way, it was charming. That little boy had chosen the simplest, the most directly pleasurable experience he could think of. His desires were appealingly modest, and you can bet that while the other children were busy trying to cure their horses of the colic, keep people from stealing their jewels, or managing the complex intrigue of castle life, there he'd be, out in the sun, eating watermelon. But on the other hand, it was a devastating image to present to a little black girl. That little boy hadn't had the wits to ask for a home, just a patch of soil. He would only have one thing to eat forever. He would keep the same worn, torn clothing he'd started out with. I don't remember him even interacting ever with the other children. My child's brain understood his impoverished heaven as the best to which I could aspire. But you see, it seems to me that if he'd asked for some of that property and money, then he could have bought himself all the watermelon patches he wanted and still have a house and some good clothes. "We need visions of the future," said Delany, "and our people need them more than most." And how.
So I guess one of the reasons for writing in this genre is high dudgeon. Palm a measly old watermelon patch off on me, will you? Well, I can write myself a better ending than that! I love old folk and fairy tales, but sometimes I feel the need to rejig them a little so they suit me and people like me better.
I was a weird child. So was my brother. Nature or nurture, I'll never really be sure, because both of our parents were fairly normal folks. But you know how every nice, ordinary family always seems to breed one or two misfits? Well, I was one of those and I still am. I was a combination tomboy and egghead. I would climb trees with a book clenched between my teeth so that I'd have something to do when I got up there. I was the one who couldn't understand why lipstick always had to be some shade of red or pink, why it couldn't be green or blue or black. As I grew older, I became a teenager at a time when the feminist movement was doing a lot of agitating, and it was a boon to a young woman. I came of age knowing that I could, for instance, wear whatever I wanted, pants or skirts, that I could use fashion to express who I was, or who I was at the time. Yet I realised that when it came to clothing, men and boys didn't have the same choice. I can wear a fedora and a man's overcoat out in public, yet heaven help the man who decides to go out into the world wearing a leather miniskirt and a lace camisole. I was the kind of person who would ask, "But why can't they? What's wrong with it?" and I'd be totally dissatisfied with the answer. As I got older, I was the one asking, "But why am I expected to get married? And why can I have only one husband? Why not two or three? And for that matter, why do they all have to be guys?" And again, I found the answers dissatisfying. We live in a world that seems to be forever trying to limit our possibilities.
That's another reason that I was drawn to science fiction; it explores other possibilities for how we could be in the world, and how flexible human social systems are. It showed me, as a depressed, frustrated young woman, that the things in my world that were squashing my spirit and my joy didn't have to be that way.
But probably the simplest answer to why I write this literature is because I love it. It has brought me hours and days of magic when my life seemed bleak. It has taught me lessons about life that I didn't realise I was learning, because the stories themselves were so unexpected and compelling that I kept turning the page to see what was going to happen next, and before I knew it, I was a smarter person. It's probably pure arrogance for us who are writers to hope that we might be able to have that effect on someone else, but I think that that is one of the reasons we do it. We want to write stories that change people the way that good stories changed us.
My family moved to Canada from the Caribbean in 1977. My father was suffering from kidney failure and Canada was a good place to get treated for it. With the care he received there, he extended a five-year life expectancy to nineteen years, before he passed away in 1993.
I'd lived in North America as a child, and I'd lived in urban environments all my life, so getting used to Toronto was more a matter of getting used to a different flavour of urban. And that again is a partial truth. There was plenty to get used to, from Canadian accents to the fact of suddenly being in a racial and cultural minority. Though that's changing; the city's now one-third to one-half people of colour, depending on what part of it you're in. Toronto is beautiful, though I will never love the fact of having to wear a space suit eight months of the year to go outside; to me, clothing should be ornamentation, not protection. But if you want to get on my last nerve very quickly, just you cheerfully tell me that I hate the winter because I come from the tropics and I should go back there. You'd be surprised how many people think that kind of biological determinism is a caring and appropriate thing to say. People ask, "Why did you come here? The weather's so lovely where you come from! Why don't you go back there?"
But here in North America I am, and my family, and much of my extended family. And wonder of wonders, I've become a writer. My father was a writer. I thought it was a thing that fathers did, not daughters. I am living a fantasy. What better way to write than to write other fantasies? Maybe some of those dreams can come true, too.
Of course, those who have read my work know that many of those fantasies are nightmares. Life can be pretty harsh, and I've never been able to sugar-coat that in my writing. But even when the stories are difficult, man do I enjoy writing them! And that's the truth—or at least, part of it. The fact is, writing is difficult, and I don't so much enjoy writing as I enjoy having written. Because then I get to visit people I haven't met before and read my stories to them.
I Start Writing
I often hear other writers say that they have been obsessed with writing since they were children. I wasn't; to me, writing was what daddies did, especially poetry. I was obsessed with reading. The more I read, the more I thought I might want to write, but for years I didn't have the guts to try it. I'd grown up keeping many of my opinions to myself. I'd done well enough that I wasn't sure I had any. I didn't know if I'd have anything to write about.
But in 1993, feminist science-fiction author and editor Judith Merril was offering an evening class in writing science fiction and fantasy through Ryerson University (it was still Ryerson College then) in Toronto, where I live.
Judy was extremely important to the field of science fiction, as a writer, an editor, and a feminist. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. In order to apply to the class, you had to submit a piece of your own writing.
I had never written fiction before, other than the occasional class exercise when I was a child. With not the slightest idea what I was doing, I sat down and wrote a few pages of … something in a dead heat. It was six pages long only because I ran out of steam on page six. Didn't know what to do next. It wasn't a story yet, but I printed it up and sent it in.
I got accepted into the workshop, which never ran because there wasn't a large-enough registration. There had been only six of us, and they needed at least ten for the workshop to pay for itself. But Judy did a wonderful thing—she phoned the six of us and asked us if we wanted to learn how to run our own writing workshop with each other. "You're intelligent people," she said. "You don't need to pay someone to learn how to do this." We said yes, and a few days later, Judy had a meeting with us all in the meeting room of the co-op for retired artists where she lived. She showed us how to read and critique each others' work, Milford style, then she shooed us off to continue on our own. The resulting writing group—with a few changes in membership—continued on for about seven years. We met once a fortnight to critique each others' work. Some of us went on to be professionally published. I, slowly, began to figure out what a short story was, and how to write a whole one instead of just part of one. Eventually, my short story "Midnight Robber" tied for second place in the Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers sponsored by the Writers' Union of Canada. That story would go on to be included in my second novel of the same name. Then my short story "A Habit of Waste" was accepted for publication by Fireweed, a Toronto feminist journal.
In 1995 I was accepted into Clarion East, a short story writing workshop in science fiction, fantasy, and horror held at Michigan State University in East Lansing. The instructors were writers Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, Pat Murphy, Samuel R. Delany, Karen Joy Fowler, and Tim Powers. I didn't have the money to pay for it, but my writing group partner Bob Boyczuk lent it to me. Eventually I received an education grant that allowed me to repay him.
At Clarion I was one of nineteen students, and we had a different writer/instructor each week. Our job while we were there was to write, write, write, and to read and critique each others' work, and to learn all we could about the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror publishing.
One of the dilemmas I encountered immediately was the difficulty of trying to write science fiction and fantasy from a cultural context that isn't Graeco-European or Celtic. An example: much of SF draws on European history and folklore, to the extent that simply to mention a name—Oedipus, for instance—calls up a wealth of associations without the author needing to say another word. I liken it to "Darmok," (an episode from the fifth season of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation). Actor Paul Winfield plays an alien from another planet who is trying to communicate with a human. He declaims, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra." In his culture, everyone would recognise the tale to which he's referring and would understand the parallels he wants to draw to his current situation. The humans, however, are just baffled. They don't know the lore of that culture. Similarly, if I wrote, "Nanny with her cheeks clenched" (referring to a piece of Jamaican folklore), only a few people would have any clue who or what I was talking about. So I found myself having to first describe the Caribbean history or the folk tale, then create my metaphors once I'd retold the existing tale. I'm still devising new strategies for doing that. I can only have so many history teachers, grad students specialising in folklore, librarians or folktale-spouting grandads conveniently show up to tell the audience what they need to know.
The Clarion writers-in-residence not only taught us about the craft of writing; they also shared their expertise about surviving as writers. They talked about the business side of signing contracts and finding agents, and told us about the tools they'd devised for organizing and juggling the many hats that a professional writer has to wear. They were generous and approachable.
What I learned about writing and being a writer at Clarion I could have learned on my own eventually; the difference is, Clarion gives it to you in six weeks, rather than in a lifetime (of course, learning to apply that knowledge does take a lifetime). It is an intense, exhilarating, exhausting environment, and it was one of the formative experiences of my writing life. I wrote more during the weeks of Clarion than I had written in the years previous. I came away more than ever with the deep desire to become a working writer. I went back to my job as a grants officer for the Toronto Arts Council, but the desire to finish a novel was eating at me. I worked away at the novel Midnight Robber, and got it about seventy-five percent done, and then ran out of steam. Eventually I would accept that the novel needed something different than what I was doing with it, even though I wasn't quite sure what.
Then I heard that Warner Aspect, the science fiction imprint of Warner Books in the U.S., was running a competition to choose an SF/F/H (science fiction, fantasy or horror) novel by a previously unpublished novelist. The final decision was to be made by writer C. J. Cherryh. I decided to try to write a novel with which to enter the contest. I pulled out the six unfinished pages that I had written for Judith Merril in 1993. From what I'd learned at Clarion, I suspected that what I wanted to do with that story would take a novel to complete (this is an ability I've retained; I can often tell from a brief description how long a story needs to be in order to tell itself). I began researching and writing Brown Girl in the Ring.
But I still had no idea of how to write a novel. I didn't write a story outline (still hate doing so), had no clue how I wanted the plot to turn out, or who all the characters would end up being. I wrote a lot of dead ends and had to backtrack. I sweated my way through three chapters of the novel, which was all I needed to have in order to enter the competition. I was so impatient! I sent those three chapters off to Warner in September of 1996. The actual competition deadline was January of 1997. By now, I was becoming used to the drill of sending short stories off to editors and getting rejection letters back. I figured that I would get a rejection letter for those three chapters of Brown Girl in the Ring, and then I'd decide what to do next.
Two weeks later, I received a letter from Warner Aspect. They liked the three chapters, and wanted the whole novel ("no drafts, please") so that they could send it on to the final round of judging. I had no novel. What I did have was a government writing grant that allowed me to take two months off work to concentrate on my writing, and an employer that was willing to give me those two months off. In a flop sweat, I contacted Warner and said that I would send them the novel after I'd gone over it once more to "clean it up a little." In December of 1996, I started to write in earnest.
As I wrote each new section, I workshopped it with my writing group. They thought I was crazy to hope that I, who'd never written anything longer than a few thousand words, could finish a novel in two months. I thought I was crazy, too. But one day, Brent Hayward in my writing group said, "I think you can do it, Nalo." I hung on to his faith in me. Every time I despaired, I'd remember him casually saying, "Nah, I think you can do it."
I finished the novel on January 30, 1997. I only knew that I was finished because I seemed to have tied off all the story threads. I printed it up, sent it off to Warner, and sat back to wait for the rejection letter.
Six months later I got a phone call at work from Betsy Mitchell, the then editor-in-chief of Warner Aspect. I had won the contest. Betsy estimated that there'd been over 1,000 submissions. Warner published the novel in 1998, and that's how I got my start as a novelist.
Second Novel: Midnight Robber
When my grant money ran out in January 1997, I went back to work. The advance from my first novel had allowed me to pay off some debts, but it wasn't enough to live on. I continued writing and submitting short stories to magazines and anthologies. Sometimes they were accepted, sometimes they were rejected. Near the end of 1998, I applied for and received two more government writing grants, and Warner Aspect said that they wanted to purchase Midnight Robber from me. Those three pots of money were enough to live on for a year. I gambled. I quit my job. Later, I would hear from my agent that it takes an average of five commercially successful novels before a writer can live off her writing, but at the time, I saw a chance to escape, even briefly, from the tyranny of working five days a week, fifty weeks a year, at jobs that I did because I had to in order to survive, not because I enjoyed them.
By now, I had a slightly better idea of what Midnight Robber needed in order to work as a novel. Over the course of a year, I rewrote the seventy-five percent I had and wrote the final twenty-five percent. I handed it in to Warner Aspect, and they accepted it. By then, it was clear that Brown Girl in the Ring was a success. It was getting good reviews, and people were buying it. It had gone into a second printing, and it won the Locus First Novel Award. My partner David Findlay created a Web site for me where people could read about my work and contact me via e-mail. I began to get invited to speaking engagements. This was another source of income, one I desperately needed. I live hand to mouth; still do, five years after the publication of my first novel. That's quite normal for a writer.
In the meantime, I had for the first time attended the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts, which happens every year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I gave a reading there one morning. Afterwards, two gentlemen came up to me and told me that they had just started a new publishing house, and that it had a solid financial base. The press was called Invisible Cities, after magical realist writer Italo Calvino's novel of the same name. They were interested in interstitial fiction; fiction that contained elements of the fantastic, but that couldn't be neatly fit into any genre category. They wondered whether I'd ever considered editing an anthology of other people's short fiction. I said that I had, but I hadn't figured out yet whether I wanted to collect stories around a theme, and if so, what the theme would be. "How about Caribbean fabulist fiction?" they said. Well, first they had to explain to me what the term "fabulist" meant (it means telling or inventing fables). I thought that an anthology of fabulist tales by Caribbean writers was a great idea, and since so many Caribbean writers had been colleagues of my father's, I knew that I'd probably have a fairly easy time contacting many of them. I told the people at Invisible Cities that I was interested. They submitted a contract to my agent that he said was a good one, and I began contacting Caribbean writers to tell them about Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. My call for submissions to the anthology went as follows:
Bring out your duppy and jumbie tales; skin folk flights of fancy; rapsofuturist fables; your most dread of dread talks. Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction is to be an anthology of fantastical fiction in Caribbean traditions, containing fabulist, unreal or speculative elements such as magic realism, fantasy, folklore, fable, horror or science fiction. I'm seeking well crafted and plotted fiction written from within a Caribbean or Caribbean diasporic context.
I got some wonderful stories for that anthology. A few of the writers submitting work knew me, or remembered me as a child from the Caribbean. I began to worry a bit, because I knew that there would be stories I would turn away, either because they didn't satisfy me for some reason, or because they didn't fit the anthology. How could I turn away writing by accomplished artists, some of whom had seen me in diapers as a baby? But I had to; when you're an editor, putting your name on that anthology means that you think the stories in it are strong. And in fact, those writers whose stories I didn't take responded quite well to the news. We all have to learn to deal with rejection without rancour if we're to have careers of any duration.
Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root appeared in 2000, along with my second novel, Midnight Robber. The stories in Whispers by Pamela Mordecai ("Once on the Shore of the Stream Senegambia"), Camille Hernandez-Ramdwar and myself ("The Glass Bottle Trick") were all short-listed for the James R. Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award for speculative fiction that explores gender and gender roles. The reviews of the anthology were good. It was short-listed for the World Fantasy Award, and was named one of twelve best books of 2000 by the Vermont Book Professionals' Association.
Midnight Robber also went on to be a success; it received good reviews, was short-listed for the Tiptree and Philip K. Dick awards, the Nebula Award, the Sunburst Award (Canada), the Hugo Award; listed in the New York Public Library's "Best Books for the Teen Age 2000"; and received honourable mention in the "novels in creole" category of Cuba's Casa de las Américas prize for fiction. Like Brown Girl in the Ring, before it, Midnight Robber "earned out" beyond the initial advance that Warner Aspect had given me.
The Salt Roads (Griffonne) and Skin Folk
In 1999 I had won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. My agent advised me to write a proposal for another novel while there was a certain amount of buzz in the air about my work. I wrote the proposal for Griffonne (now called The Salt Roads), and in the spring of 2000, Betsy Mitchell of Warner Aspect said that she would like to buy it. Warner wanted me to turn in the new novel in less than a year, but it was more complex than anything I'd ever taken on before. It would involve research into three different historical periods and three different countries, as well as into the history of two religions. I had my work cut out for me. The Salt Roads would take me two-and-a-half years to complete.
While I was writing The Salt Roads, I decided to pursue a master's degree in creative writing. With a handful of successful books to my credit, I didn't need the degree to prove my qualifications, but I thought that having one would give me access to more short-term teaching positions, and thus help me to create a more reliable source of income for myself.
But I ran into a snag; I couldn't find a university that was willing to let me write science fiction and fantasy for my degree. In literary circles, science fiction and fantasy are generally considered to be worthless literature, usually by people who haven't read enough of it to have an informed opinion. Those professors who love those genres can sometimes convince their institutions to let them teach the occasional undergraduate reading course in science fiction and fantasy, but I couldn't find a single university that would allow me to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in writing them. One Canadian university even had the following phrase in the handbook for their M.F.A. in creative writing: "WARNING: we do not teach commercial, formulaic, non-literary writing such as science fiction, mystery and romance. Including these in your application will only hurt your chances."
I wrote the university in question, told them that I was considering taking an M.F.A. in creative writing, but that I wanted to be certain that I would have informed instruction. I referred to the above passage in their handbook and asked whether their definition of the word "formulaic" included (for example) sonnets, and whether they would turn away an applicant attempting to write along the lines of Huxley's Brave New World or Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. They said that they would have the director of the programme get right back to me with a response. I have never heard back from them.
My writing doesn't tend to have a lot of the markers that people unfamiliar with science fiction associate with it. I don't write a lot of hard science fiction (fiction based on solving scientific problems), and I rarely have spaceships or aliens. Much of what I write is fantasy (fiction that employs supernatural phenomena). I suspected that if I didn't call my writing science fiction and if I made a point of not writing about spaceships or aliens while I was studying, I could probably get accepted into an M.F.A. programme, where they would view my work as "magical realism," or something of the sort. But frankly, I thought it was nonsense to have to closet my work that way. Spaceships and space flight are real and make very real differences in our world, and the question of alienness (of being different) has been obsessing human beings since we had minds with which to obsess. They are as valid subjects of fiction as any other human issue. If I was going to go back to school, I wanted to study with teachers who knew my genre, not with teachers who disdained it.
I eventually ended up studying at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. They had just begun a new programme, a master's degree in writing popular fiction conceived by Professor Lee McClain. It was a low-residence programme, meaning that much of the programme was conducted via e-mail, with two annual week-long residences on campus, at which time we attended various workshops on writing. My fellow students were writers of mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, horror, children's book, s and romances. My mentor was writer James Morrow, and my thesis project was The Salt Roads. It was an M.A. (master of arts), not the Master of Fine Arts I really wanted. An M.F.A. would have qualified me to teach creative writing at the undergraduate and graduate levels in universities. An M.A. would not. But it was the only graduate option that I could find, it would allow me to teach at the college level, and most importantly, it was a programme that was friendly toward my type of writing. I applied and was accepted. So now I had to finish the novel for two deadlines: one for my degree, and one for my publisher.
As a mentor, James Morrow was a godsend. He acted as combination goad and cheerleader. He understood what I was trying to do with this novel, and he didn't let me be lazy about any of it.
When a publisher buys a novel, common practice is to pay the writer fifty percent of the advance when the contract is signed, and another fifty percent when the writer turns in a completed (and acceptable) manuscript. I had received the first half of my advance. It was enough to live on for about six months. But because the novel was taking so long to complete (and because I was paying for my degree), that money was gone, and I was taking whatever other work I could find, which meant that I had less time and mental energy to devote to working on The Salt Roads. It's a pretty common dilemma for an artist; for many people, in fact. This time, however, Betsy Mitchell at Warner Aspect decided that they wanted a short story collection from me. It would give me another six months' worth of income; not enough time to finish The Salt Roads, but it would help a whole lot. And it would be easier for me to pull together a short story collection than to write a novel, because I could use stories that had already been published in magazines and anthologies.
I had ten short stories that Betsy agreed to use in the collection, and I wrote five new ones. I called the collection Skin Folk, a play on words that incorporates the idea of "kin folk" with that of the Caribbean folk tales about people who can take their skins off to transform into other creatures. The introduction to Skin Folk read as follows:
Throughout the Caribbean, under different names, you'll find stories about people who aren't what they seem. Skin gives these skin folk their human shape. When the skin comes off, their true selves emerge. They may be owls. They may be vampiric balls of fire. And always, whatever the burden their skins bear, once they remove them—once they get under their own skins—they can fly. It seemed an apt metaphor for these stories collectively.
Skin Folk appeared in December of 2001, to good reviews. It would receive the World Fantasy Award and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.
I kept working on The Salt Roads. By the time I finished the manuscript for it, I had accumulated a few shelves of books on the history of slavery in the French Caribbean and in France, on the life of the nineteenth-century Romantic poet Charles Baudelaire, on the history and religions of Roman Egypt, and on the history and religions of Benin and other parts of West Africa. I had spoken to scholars who were experts in Egyptian history, especially the lives of women in ancient Egypt; to a woman whose specialty is sewing period clothing; to two experts in translation, one who translated a Baudelaire poem into English for me, and one who translated an excerpt of Moreau de Saint-Mery's treatise on eighteenth-century Haiti; to two scholars from Haiti; and to an expert in Roman history. I had learned what women in Ancient Egypt did for birth control, what kind of clothing a nineteenth-century French concert singer might wear, and what a brothel in fourth-century Egypt might charge for the most common sexual acts. I had learned what food you might buy from street vendors in fourth-century Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem) and nineteenth-century Paris; and that mesmerism and ballooning were popular entertainments among rich white people in eighteenth-century Saint Domingue (Haiti). I had learned about the life of the beloved Haitian revolutionary François Makandal; about Rosa Parks's refusal to sit at the back of the bus, as black people were supposed to do; and about the black and Hispanic people who were there at the beginning of Stonewall, the historic revolt against police brutality toward queer folk.
The generosity of the people who helped me as I was writing The Salt Roads was astounding. So many talented people read and made detailed comments on the manuscript. People did research for me, translated for me, and otherwise gave me the benefit of their expertise. Jim Morrow managed to get me invited to Utopiales, a science-fiction festival in France, the birthplace of one of the historical figures about whom I was writing, so that I could do research on her. The festival paid my way. People gave me places to stay when I couldn't afford hotels, fed me when I was broke, suggested sources of information to me, encouraged me when I was tired and overwhelmed. Friends lent me money to pay the outstanding balance of my school fees. The acknowledgements page for The Salt Roads is crammed full, and I am indebted to them all.
One day, while I was still working on the novel, I got a phone call from my agent, Don Maass. He told me that my editor, Betsy Mitchell, was leaving Warner Aspect to become editor-in-chief at Del Rey Books.
When this happens to a writer, it's called being "orphaned," and it can be a disaster. Your book is under contract to the original publishing company, not the one to which your editor has moved, so even if the editor wants to take you along, you can't go, not immediately. This means that you may have no one at your existing publishing house to champion your work. It sometimes happens that writers in this position turn in their novels, only to discover that no one at their publishing house is interested in them any longer and the novels are turned away. When you lose your editor like this, you also lose the relationship that editor had built up for your work with the distributors and the bookstores. You can go to a new publishing house, but bookstore buyers looking for your work may not find you as easily, because they're looking under the publisher's name, not yours. It can be like building your name up again from scratch. Sometimes writing careers don't recover from the setback.
Betsy Mitchell is very supportive of my work, but with this move that she was making, she could not take The Salt Roads with her. However, Don told me that things looked hopeful. Betsy's editorial assistant Jaime Levine was going to take Betsy's place at Warner Aspect. Jaime had been working very closely with Betsy for years, knew the job and the Aspect publishing line inside out, and was also supportive of my work. In fact, Jaime would turn out to be as strong a champion of my writing as Betsy was. I breathed a sigh of relief and kept working.
I finished The Salt Roads in the spring of 2002, in time for my degree. The last few days had been tough going; by then, I was writing seventeen pages a day (about 4,300 words) to make my deadline. As has happened to me before, the ending of the book snuck up on me. I thought I knew which scene I was going to end with, but on the last day before I had to send the novel to Jim Morrow and to my second reader, author Nancy Springer, I wrote a scene in a way that I hadn't quite anticipated. When I was finished with that scene, I realised that I had written the ending. This has happened to me with all my novels so far; I get to a point and can go no further, and I realise that it's because I've wrapped up all the loose plot threads and resolved the protagonist's dilemma. I gave the new scene a quick rewrite, sent it off to Jim and Nancy, and waited. I already knew that Jim liked what I'd written so far, so I wasn't as worried about his assessment. But Nancy—a writer for whom I have immense respect—had not seen the novel at all before this, and she has a very different sensibility from Jim's.
But to my delight, they both passed me. Nancy had some reservations about the direction in which I'd chosen to take the plot, but thought that the novel was very well written. Jim said that I'd managed to pull off a very tough job of writing. I graduated with an M.A. from Seton Hill University in the summer of 2002.
Now it was time to see what Jaime Levine (my editor at Warner Aspect Books) thought of the novel. I sent it off to her.
Warner Aspect is an imprint of the larger outfit that is Warner Books. In effect, Aspect is a special department of Warner Books. Aspect publishes only science fiction and fantasy. When Jaime Levine read The Salt Roads, she thought that it might have an appeal that would include both genre fiction and mainstream fiction readers. She persuaded Jamie Raab, the editor of Warner Books, to read the novel. Raab liked it and asked Levine if she would consent to having the book published by Warner Books instead of Warner Aspect. This was exactly what my editor wanted for the book, so she happily said yes. Between the two editors, they decided to release The Salt Roads as a hardcover, the first of my titles to be released in hardcover format rather than as a trade paperback. They also decided that they wanted to send me on tour. When Betsy had been the head of Warner Aspect, she had sent me on a small four-city tour upon the release of Midnight Robber. At the time, I was aware that that was a rare thing for a second novel, and for a novel in the relatively small science fiction market, at that. Now Warner was talking about a ten-city tour: nine U.S. venues and Toronto, Canada, my home town. I was very excited, even more so when my Canadian distributor convinced Warner to add Halifax, Canada to the route. Halifax is home to one of Canada's historically black communities, and I had never been there. As of this writing, it is October of 2003. The Salt Roads is being released in exactly one month, and I will be off on tour. I anticipate that it will be exhausting, but I'm looking forward to it.
My trajectory as a writer has been an upward one so far. Despite the constant anxiety about money and the bills that sometimes go unpaid for months, this is the job I'd rather be doing, and the rewards have been many. I've been able to meet some of my literary heroes, and to be taught by them. I've done work which has mostly made me happy. I've had the opportunity to take strong new stories by emerging and established writers and present them to the world. I have travelled to places I never thought I'd be able to visit. I'm seeing new black writers and writers of colour enter the field of science fiction and fantasy writing, and we are putting our stamp on it. It's still a trickle, but it's a start. I've had the extraordinary pleasure and honour of having people tell me how my writing has touched and helped them. I do get wary of getting typecast. The Caribbean still has an image in the rest of the world of being an "exotic" tropical paradise, so the setting and the language in some of my stories overshadow everything else in some reviewers' eyes, and that's mostly what they talk about. There are reviewers and readers who persist in interpreting all my stories as being based in Caribbean folklore, no matter what the story is about. Then they'll complain that the story was impenetrable to them because they didn't know the folk story on which it was based.
But a gratifying number of people have been able to come along with me when I try to draw them into my stories, and that is making my career as a writer a very happy one. I don't know what the future will be like. Trajectories turn downwards eventually. I can only hope that I'll have a long run at it, and if I don't, that I'll find something else to do that is also rewarding.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
African American Review, winter, 1999, Gregory E. Rutledge, "Speaking in Tongues: An Interview with Science-Fiction Writer Nalo Hopkinson," p. 589.
Booklist, May 15, 1998, Bonnie Johnston, review of Brown Girl in the Ring, p. 1602; February 15, 2000, Roberta Johnson, review of Midnight Robber, p. 1091; November 1, 2001, Roberta Johnson, review of Skin Folk, p. 463; April 1, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of Mojo: Conjure Stories, p. 1380; October 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of The Salt Roads, p. 299.
Emerge, July-August, 1998.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1998, review of Brown Girl in the Ring; September 15, 2001, review of Skin Folk, p. 1329; October 15, 2003, review of The Salt Roads, p. 1242.
Library Journal, February 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Midnight Robber, p. 201; September 1, 2003, Wilda Williams, "Genre Fiction with a Twist," p. 36; September 1, 2003, Devon Thomas, review of The Salt Roads, p. 207.
Locus, May, 1998, Farren Miller, review of Brown Girl in the Ring; July, 1998; January, 1999, "Nalo Hopkinson: Many Perspectives."
Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, July, 1998.
New York Times Book Review, July 12, 1998, Gerald Jonas, review of Brown Girl in the Ring, p. 26; July 30, 2000, Gerald Jonas, "Science Fiction."
Publishers Weekly, June 8, 1998, review of Brown Girl in the Ring, p. 51; January 3, 2000, review of Midnight Robber, p. 61; October 15, 2001, review of Skin Folk, p. 51; March 3, 2003, a review of Mojo: Conjure Stories, p. 58; July 21, 2003, review of The Salt Roads, p. 171.
School Library Journal, November, 1998, Carol DeAngelo, review of Brown Girl in the Ring, p. 160; June, 2000, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Midnight Robber, p. 173.
Starlog, February, 1999, p. 16.
Washington Post, August 30, 1998, David Streitfeld, "Science Fiction and Fantasy"; July 30, 2000.
Nalo Hopkinson Web site,http://www.sff.net/people/nalo (December 5, 2003).
Time Warner Web site,http://www.twbookmark.com/books/ (October 1, 2000), "Interview: Nalo Hopkinson."