I’ve been fortunate, over the last year or so, to have had my horizons expanded as a reader. For a while, my bread and butter were long-form fantasy epics, or space operas dealing with political games and good-versus-evil as a central theme. Don’t get me wrong; I love those books still, and they can get plenty “deep” to satisfy any curious soul. But the more I read short fiction and speculative fiction like Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids (published by Tachyon), the more convinced I feel of the power of science fiction and fantasy to tell deeply human stories with the capacity to elicit change.
The term “visionary fiction,” introduced by the editors of Octavia’s Brood, has stuck with me, and it’s appropriate that I followed up that collection with the spectacular fiction of Nalo Hopkinson. It shares many of the visionary qualities of the stories in Octavia’s Brood, and Hopkinson’s writing is outstanding.
The title of Falling in Love with Hominids is a nod to Cordwainer Smith, a sci-fi author from the Golden Age of Bradbury whose works were an inspiration to Hopkinson and many other authors. The title is also personal to Hopkinson, which she outlines in her introduction to the collection. As a child, she was not the biggest fan of humanity—a sentiment many of us share when we’re confronted by the tremendous darkness and evil our species is capable of—but as she grew older, she began to appreciate (and even love) humans for our boundless creativity and capacity for good.
As such, the stories in Hominids occupy varied spaces on the spectrum of human goodness and darkness. There’s the pain and alienation of the transition into adolescence, the odd biology of beginning relationships as told by orchids, the magic of belief, the desire to fly away from bullies. They’re beautifully written, and as different from each other as can be—which makes sense, since all but one of the stories was published over the last decade-or-so. It’s a testament to Hopkinson’s raw skill with words; a few of the stories, in particular one dealing with “The Elephant in the Room” (you’ll get the joke when you read it, which you absolutely should), were sparked by a challenge, the desire to take a reader by surprise, or to not allow them the time to recover from an oddity too outrageous to believe.
Falling in Love With Hominids is yet another extraordinary collection of short stories that is well worth your time and rapt attention. The writing is beautiful, the message important, and its delivery is page-turning. Not only that, but as with all short fiction collections, it’s perfect for those of you who are only able to read a bit here and there. Do yourself a favor and pick up Falling in Love with Hominids. You won’t regret it.