Middle Age, Mer People and the Middle Passage: Nalo Hopkinson’ Afrofuturist Journeying in The New Moon’s Arms

Gina Wisker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


In her introduction to her co-edited anthology So Long Been Dreaming, Nalo Hopkinson tackles head on the main issue that troubles black writers of speculative fiction: the invading, colonizing, and othering imperatives that underlie so much of the genre. As Hopkinson notes in terms of her own creative practice:
Much of the folklore on which I draw is European. Even the form in which I write is European. Arguably, one of the most familiar memes of science fiction is that of going to foreign countries and colonizing the natives, and as I’ve said elsewhere, for many of us, that’s not a thrilling adventure story; it’s non-fiction, and we are on the wrong side of the strange-looking ship that appears out of nowhere. To be a person of colour writing science fiction is to be under suspicion of having internalized one’s colonization. I knew that I’d have to fight this battle at some point in my career. (7)
One thing Nalo Hopkinson does so well is to utterly undermine some of the premises on which European folk tales, the fantastic, and science fiction (SF) are based, premises of Otherness and absence informing texts which fail to represent African-originated people or only cast them as aliens to be changed, colonized, destroyed.
Fighting battles of absence in history and of internalized colonization is a strategy successfully used by Caribbean artists such as performance poet Merle Collins since the 1980s. Collins talks of the need to refuse history and grand historical moments so that the stories of those who do not identify with the invader, settler, colonizer, enslaver are heard above those historically embedded narratives. Accordingly, she uses Anansi storytelling time, folk characters, and the supernatural to retell history from other points of view than that of white, male colonialists, as in “Crick Crack, Monkey” (1985), where Collins uses a myth of a tree cracking each time a monkey lies to rewrite history from the perspective of the silenced. As such, the poem shows how history has been twisted. Abolitionists are celebrated, but had there been no transatlantic slavery, they would not have been necessary in the first place. As she puts it in the poem, the hunter is not the one whose story should be told, but rather that of the hunted: the lioness. Collins untwists the twisted history and looks forward to the moment when the “lioness will be her own Historian,” re-empowering the silenced, persecuted and hidden, indicating the perspective of those once Otherized, telling a different story that of the lioness—and of Black women.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAfrofuturism in Time and Space
EditorsIsiah Lavender III, Lisa Yascek
Place of PublicationOhio
PublisherOhio State University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Sept 2018


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