Historians agree that jazz was born when African musical sensibilities met European instrumentation. For Western listeners, it offered familiar sounds voicing unfamiliar phrases. For African listeners, it gave them familiar rhythms and musical ideas echoing through strange sounds.
For anyone who cared to listen, jazz was a music that expanded perceptions and broadened minds. It was a music that blended different heritages into something new and vibrant.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is the kind of novel you get when non-Western storytelling traditions and sensibilities utilize the quintessentially Western cultural tools and structures of SF. Like jazz, the experience is revelatory.
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Volume Eight by Jonathan Strahan is an excellent SF anthology.
In his introduction, Mr. Strahan briefly summarizes the history of SF short story anthologies and argues that one of their essential roles is to help shape the genre. Throughout this history, there have been editors who curated their story selections specifically to encourage SF to develop in desired directions.
Mr. Strahan proudly claims membership in this tradition. The stories he chose for the eighth installment in his annual Best of series suggest that SF is embarking on a very exciting new era.
Lock In is what you get when John Scalzi decides to write a mystery novel. And it turns out he’s pretty good at it.
The science fiction in this novel is as good as I’ve come to expect from Mr. Scalzi. He offers a compelling premise with intriguing ramifications. He creates a world based on this premise that’s completely believable—it’s unforced and naturalistic, populated by nuanced and quirky characters who feel very real.
But make no mistake—this is a mystery novel more than it’s a science fiction novel.
Last week, I wrote about how important Octavia Butler’s work is to me. Every time I tell people how much I like Octavia Butler, someone inevitably says, “You should read Nnedi Okorafor!” or, “Have you read any of Tananarive Due’s works?”
And I always want to ask them:
“Are you recommending them because you think their writing style / subject matter / perspective is similar enough to Butler’s to merit the comparison? Or are you just naming them because they’re another black woman who writes SF?”