Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Editing in Process: Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

The title of this collection comes from my love of Cordwainer Smith's writing, especially his "Instrumentality of Mankind" stories. I loved his imagination, style, the poetry of his writing, his compassion. Loved his sensibility in writing about a racialized, manufactured underclass and telling some of the stories from their context. I'm black and female. I was born and for many years raised middle/creative class in the Caribbean, a region of the world which has had to be keenly aware of issues of race, class, gender, and privilege....These are such human issues. I love and am fascinated by human beings....
~ Nalo Hopkinson, from the Foreword

Falling in Love with Homonids
Cover art by Chuma Hill
This is but a brief excerpt from the more than 700 words that comprise the foreword to Falling in Love with Hominids, Nalo Hopkinson's forthcoming collection of short stories from Tachyon Publications.

When you read the full text of the foreword, you will realize that this collection is more than just a book of short stories: science fiction, fantasy, and a hint of Afro-Caribbean folklore throughout... These are stories of the human condition. Each story has a soul of its own.

Falling in Love with Hominids was my first opportunity to work on stories by Nalo Hopkinson. Her first novels, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) and Midnight Robber (2000), sit prominently on one of my book shelves. So when Tachyon Publications informed me that this project was next on the "to do" list for me, I was anxious to get to work on it.

The collection includes 18 stories totalling nearly 80,000 words; here's the contents list:
The Easthound
Soul Case
Message in a Bottle
The Smile on the Face
Left Foot, Right
Old Habits
Emily Breakfast
A Young Candy Daughter
A Raggy Dog, a Shaggy Dog
Delicious Monster
Snow Day
Flying Lessons
Whose Upward Flight I Love
Ours Is the Prettiest
Men Sell Not Such in Any Town
The one story, "Flying Lessons," is original to the collection.

I found it difficult to select just one favorite story, as so many of these were special -- but if I must, it would have to be "Message in a Bottle." This story was originally published in 2005 in Futureways, an anthology published by Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver. So unless you are a hardcore fan, this story will undoubtedly be new to you, as it was for me. And I found it even more difficult to write about this story without yielding any spoilers, so beware....

"Message in a Bottle" is about a young girl, Kamla, who suffers from "Delayed Growth Syndrome," officially Diaz Syndrome after the doctor who first identified it. At ten years old, Kamla looked like a six-year-old, yet had a fully grown head: all the bones in her skull were fused and she had a full set of adult teeth. "Researchers have no clue what's causing it, or if the bodies of the kids will ever achieve full adulthood. Their brains, however, are way ahead of their bodies. All the kids who've tested positive for DGS are scarily smart."

Kamla is of this world, but not of this time. In a somewhat clandestine meeting with Greg, a friend of the family, an artist, and the protagonist of the story, Kamla reveals her secret: "They grew us from cells from our originals; ten of us per original. They used a viral injection technique to put extra-long tails on one of the strands of our DNA. You need more telomeres to slow down aging." She goes on to talk about "viable blastocytes," "womb donors," and wanting to "make the journey," and "implanted memories from my original." And for Greg, who is hearing all of this for the first time: "The scientific jargon exiting smoothly from the mouth of a child could have been comic. But I had goose bumps...."

Kamla has confided in Greg all for the sake of a found object, an artifact, that Greg used in an "installation piece" on exhibit in a gallery. She asks Greg to keep this artifact safe for her....

Falling in Love with Hominids is scheduled for publication in August; the book can now be preordered from Amazon, or from your favorite bookseller.

Early praise for Nalo Hopkinson:
"Hopkinson is rightly lauded for having one of the more original new voices in SF, and the brilliance in her fiction shines equally from her evocative voice and the deep empathy she displays for her characters. Adding to the fun is the fact that Hopkinson's prose is a distinct pleasure to read: richly sensual, with high-voltage erotic content and gorgeous details."

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