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Masks We Wear

Report from Planet Midnight

By Nalo Hopkinson 

27 Dec, 2021

Doing the WFC's Homework


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Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Nalo Hopkinson1s Report from Planet Midnight is a short collection of stories and essays. It is one of almost thirty books in the PM Press Outspoken Authors series2.

Planet Midnight barely squeaks by the convoluted, largely unspoken rules I have for this series of reviews3, specifically the requirement that the works be no more than a decade old. I read Planet Midnight slightly less than a decade ago. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed and still enjoy this collection. I am happy I thought of it today, rather than after its 10th birthday (July 17th, 2022).

The only significant flaw one might find in this collection is that it’s so short. ISFDB lists the paperback as 111 pages. The ebook felt shorter. Often less is more but in this case more would have been more. Of course, there’s no reason a reader impressed with this could not then seek out Hopkinson’s other collections (Skin Folk (2001), Falling in Love with Hominids (2015)) or one of the author’s novels. 

Message in a Bottle” • (2004) • short story by Nalo Hopkinson

In the course of appealing for help, a time traveler of a very curious sort reveals to a misanthropic artist that his art will have an impact on the future…. But not the impact he might have wished and certainly not one about which he appreciates learning. 

Report from Planet Midnight • essay by Nalo Hopkinson

The text of a 2009 speech given by Hopkinson at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts. In the course of untangling rhetorical gambits to justify limiting critical attention to a very narrow, very specific demographic4. Hopkinson resorts to playing the part of a visitor from another world. 

Hopkinson’s talk carefully dissects the politely coded terms in which certain people disguised their racism. Such dissection is perhaps less necessary these days, as many folks are much quicker to cut straight to blatant racism. But her comments are still on point for those who keep on pretending to be fair and balanced but who also have a very specific outcome at which they are determined to arrive. Shades of a particular Joanna Russ text.

The specific focus is different but it is the same basic game. 

Her speech was written in the immediate aftermath of RaceFail 09,which in retrospect was an important watershed moment. I don’t know that I’d have been able to find fifty-two works by fifty-two different POC (and from larger publishers) to review in 2009. Although I admit I didn’t even try. 

Hard to believe RaceFail is only thirteen years ago….

Shift” • (2002) • short story by Nalo Hopkinson

Having fled his family, a young man pursues an attractive woman. However, just because he wants to be through with his kin does not mean they’re necessarily done with him.

This draws on a work of William Shakespeare (a playwright active in former Roman Britain in the interwar period between the dynastic War of the Roses from the ethno-religious English Civil War). Specifically, Hopkinson depicts the family dynamic between the witch Sycorax and her children Ariel and Caliban; she does so with rather more sympathy than Shakespeare displayed. 

To be fair, it would be very, very hard to take a less sympathetic view of either Sycorax or Caliban than Shakespeare did. 

Correcting the Balance • interview of Nalo Hopkinson • interview by Terry Bisson

A lengthy and informative interview of Hopkinson by Terry Bisson.

Bibliography (Report from Planet Midnight) • essay by uncredited

What it says on the tin. 

Report from Planet Midnight is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: Hopkinson has won a lot, a lot, of other awards and honours but the Grandmaster was the most recent one of which I am aware.

2: Of which I own almost all. Maybe all. But don’t expect a thirty-part review series focusing on them. 

3: Books by authors of colour. Books have to be comparatively recent. To avoid the possibility that I’ll just review fifty-two books by a small handful of prolific authors of colour, any given author gets one review per year in this series. I mean, I will still review their books if I enjoy them, but once an author’s book has been reviewed as part of the WFC reviews, reviews of subsequent books by that person (in that calendar year) go into other review categories. 

4: Do I need to say white people (and more often than not, specifically white men) here or do people want to fill in the blanks themselves?