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Hopkins Lecture

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Western University
English 2060E

NALO HOPKINSON (b. 1960) Nalo Hopkinson is the critically acclaimed author of four novels, including Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) and Midnight Robber (2000), and the editor of two anthologies, one of "Caribbean fabulist fiction," Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root (2000). Skinfolk, a collection of Hopkinson's short stories, from which the story A Habit of Waste was taken, was published in the winter of 2001. This story was apparently one of the first that Hopkinson wrote. In 1998 Hopkinson was the first recipient of the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest for new science fiction writers for Brown Girl in the Ring. Now in its fifth printing, the novel also won the Locus Award for Best First Science Fiction Novel. Hopkinson received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1999 and has also been nominated for several other prestigious awards for writers of speculative fiction, including the Hugo Award, the Nebula Awards, the James R. Tiptree Jr. Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award. The Jamaican-born Hopkinson resides in Toronto, Canada, as she has since 1977 when she moved to Canada at the age of 16. She has also lived in Guyana, Trinidad, and the United States. Drawing on Caribbean culture, especially that of Trinidad and Jamaica, her writing has introduced unique themes and archetypes into the generic conventions of science fiction. She also writes fantasy, horror, in addition to science fiction, sometimes blurring the lines between the categories. Her novel Brown Girl in the Ring like Atwoods The Handmaids Tale is both futuristic and dystopian, but she draws on Caribbean folklore and Nobel laureate Derek Walcotts play Ti- Jean and His Brothers as intertexts rather than Puritan history and Orwellian totalitarianism. She is currently working on another novel that is more in the vein of William Gibsons cyberpunk, as Midnight Robber is. Genre Some definitions science fiction n 1. a genre (of literature, film, etc.) in which the setting differs from our own world (e.g. by the invention of new technology, through contact with aliens, by having a different history, etc.), and in which the difference is based on extrapolations made from one or more changes or suppositions; hence, such a genre in which the difference is explained (explicitly or implicitly) in scientific or rational, as opposed to supernatural, terms. "science fiction n" The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Western Ontario. 4 June 2009 26.e542 Speculative Fiction n. 3. literature that uses tropes or themes of science fiction, but which is not considered to be science fiction for one reason or another, often to avoid a perceived stigma associated with the term science fiction, or because a work is perceived to lack scientific rigor.2003 Dreamwatch (Aug.) 73/1 Margaret Atwood finds the label of science fiction distasteful, and would prefer her work in this area to be known as speculative fiction. "speculative fiction n" The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Western Ontario. 4 June 2009 26.e688 Given the tension about categorization within the science fiction world (and Atwoods own refusal of the term Science Fiction!) it seems appropriate to begin a discussion of A Habit of Waste with Hopkinsons own discussion of generic categorization. What follows is an extended discussion from a recent interview. Interview with Alondra Nelson Alondra Nelson: I've heard you describe your writing as speculative fiction. Why do you prefer this description of your work to having it defined [End Page 97] as science fiction, for example? How do you define speculative fiction and how did you come to write it? Nalo Hopkinson: I don't know that I prefer speculative fiction (spec-fic) as a description. If I've said that, it would depend on who asked me the question and why. To those who insist that my writing isn't science fiction, I say, yes, it is. To those who insist that it isn't literature, I say, yes, it is. When I'm simply
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