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Hopkinson, Nalo

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1960-    ) Jamaican-born author, in Canada from circa 1976, who began publishing work of genre interest with "A Habit of Waste" for Fireweed in 1996; this was assembled with other short work as Skin Folk (coll 2001), which was followed by Falling in Love with Hominids (coll 2015). Her first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998), established her almost instantly as an author, winning a Locus Award for best first novel and the John W Campbell Award for best new writer in 1999; it also established her unique tone of voice: a poignantly intense Equipoisal conversation between sf and fantasy, and fantasy and Fabulation, coloured throughout by the concerns and characteristic language-patterns (see Linguistics) of her two main venues (roughly the Caribbean and urban Canada). This focusing tonality shapes any response to the story here narrated in an ostensibly sf frame: in a decrepit Near Future Toronto, a single mother copes with her exorbitant Cyberpunk-like environment; the voodoo elements in the tale are a constant reminder that Hopkinson's sf, in common with that of many twenty-first-century writers, cannot be trusted to obey the rules of the Olden Times.

Olden Times may also be defined as the time-place of traditional American Genre SF: which is to say, the First World before the current century began to dissolve it. Hopkinson's work is not, however, necessarily Third World (the Caribbean hovers between both); it may better be described as world fiction, and is only partially describable within even the Broad Church definition of sf used in this Encyclopedia. The essential story of Midnight Robber (2000), for instance, cannot be defined in terms of its frame story: on Toussaint, a planet colonized (see Colonization of Other Worlds) by a consort of Caribbean lands, a young girl copes with her difficult life through the eponymous Carnival god, with some help from at least one Trickster deity [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The Salt Roads (2003) cannot be understood in sf terms at all: it is a powerful attempt to make storyable the salt road itself – the sea of black life on the planet – through exemplary characters, including at least one god; The New Moon's Arms (2007) only subtly fabulates the tale it tells. Her Young Adult novel Sister Mine (2013) won the Andre Norton Award (see Nebula).

Hopkinson's edited works – beginning with Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction (anth 2000) and including a contribution to the Tesseracts sequence, Tesseracts Nine (anth 2005) with Geoff Ryman – are, appropriately, more agenda-based than her own fiction, whose effects are increasingly free of genre demands.

In late 2020 she was named as the 2021 recipient of the SFWA Grand Master Award. [JC]

Nalo Hopkinson

born Kingston, Jamaica: 20 December 1960


  • Brown Girl in the Ring (New York: Warner Books/Aspect, 1998) [pb/Linda Messier]
  • Midnight Robber (New York: Warner Books/Aspect, 2000) [pb/Diane and Leo Dillon]
  • The Salt Roads (New York: Warner Books, 2003) [hb/Christian Clayton]
  • The New Moon's Arms (New York: Warner Books, 2007) [hb/photographs by James Goldsmith. Allan Jenkins, Will Sanders and Gus Wedge]
  • The Chaos (New York: Margaret K McElderry, 2012) [hb/Sean Moser-Smith]
  • Sister Mine (New York: Grand Central, 2013) [hb/Rudy Gutierrez]


works as editor


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