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Report From Planet Midnight
by Nalo Hopkinson

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted August 3, 2021

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A too-short collection from the reigning SFWA Grand Master, Nalo Hopkinson. Even though this was published in 2012, the ninth volume in PM Press's Outspoken Author series, it was recently offered as an ARC download from Edelweiss. I had been planning on reading it through Open Library, but I couldn't pass up the chance to get it as a permanent addition to my Kindle. There are only two short stories, "Message in a Bottle" and "Shift," both of which were in her previously reviewed collection, Falling in Love with Hominids, and both of which I liked. The title of this book refers to the second entry, concerning an address Nalo gave at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts in 2009. That year's theme was "Race in the Literature of the Fantastic." The longest entry is an interview conducted by the general editor of the series, Terry Bisson. The collection wraps up with a comprehensive (up to that point) bibliography of her stories and novels, and a short biographical note.

If one was not aware of the dates of her conference address and the interview, one might think the topics are current. Because unfortunately they are. They were probably the topics of conversations among people of color ten years prior to publication, twenty years prior, and likely the conversations will still be going on ten and twenty years from now. Forever? A lot of what Nalo said at the conference was in response to a genre conversation that had been dubbed "RaceFail '09," something I might not have heard of before since I wasn't involved in much social media at that time. I didn't even think much about SF fandom until the Sad/Rabid Puppy onslaught in 2015. It doesn't matter, since the same problems still exist today, concerning marginalized writers of color, queer writers, disabled writers, or any other group not in the mainstream. White writers and characters are the default, the status quo, and will likely be for a long time, no matter how many eloquent spokespersons the downtrodden have. The old guard will continue to circle the wagons to defend against the new voices crying to be heard. Same as it ever was.

In the interview, and speaking about an anthology she had edited, Nalo said she had to make sure she was inviting submissions from as many black writers as she could think of, knowing some wouldn't offer up the quality she was seeking. Even though she also sought out white writers, the majority would be black, which she knew would be attacked as "reverse racism." Yet she said since grammar is important, the phrase should rightly be reversing racism. Until black and brown writers get the attention at least commensurate with their percentage of the literary population, it will be necessary for Nalo and others to keep speaking up, defending their right to be heard. And it is necessary for white people like me to listen, and to read other voices, other perspectives. As short as it is, this is an important book, the non-fiction even more so than the fiction. Highly recommended.


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Nalo Hopkinson

July 17, 2012

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