Nisi Shawl’s steampunk-flavored alternate history of the “Belgian” Congo, Everfair, has taken the science fiction and fantasy world by storm. No surprise there. Their swift, sure, and savvy short stories had already established them as a cutting-edge Afrofuturist icon whose politically charged fiction is in the grand feminist tradition of Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, and Suzy McKee Charnas.
In these previously uncollected stories, Shawl explores the unexpected possibilities and perils opened up by SF&F’s new intersectionality. In Shawl’s side-slippery world, sex can be both commerce and worship, complete with ancient rites, altars, and ointments (“Women of the Doll”); a virtual reality high school is a proving ground for girlpacks and their unfortunate adversaries (“Walk like a Man”); and a British rock singer finds an image in a mirror that reflects both future hits and ancient horrors (“Something More”). Also included is a presentation at a southern university, in which they patiently (and gleefully) deconstructs the academic and arcane intersections between ancient rites and modern tech. Ifa, anyone?
Our Outspoken Interview with Shawl, in which unapologetics are proffered, riddles are unraveled, and icons are, as always, clasted.