By: Nalo Hopkinson
Release Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Open Road Media
Award: World Fantasy Award for Best Collection (2002); Sunburst Award (2003)
I love short story collections. I also love fantasy. So this week I picked up a copy of Skin Folk: Stories by Nalo Hopkinson over on Hoopla. Despite this collection of short stories winning the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection in 2015, I was not familiar with the author or her other works. I was intrigued, and quickly dived into the book. This is a fantastic collection of stories – mostly fantasy, some horror, and a few stories which were written in a more contemporary style.
There are a very wide range of stories in this book in both genre and tone. The majority of the short stories fall well within the realm of speculative fiction, however. Many have blatant elements of fantasy and folklore. Others are set in a futuristic earth and are very science fictional or post apocalyptic. Another short story is more or less erotica. These stories never steer away from the dark, disturbing, or explicit. They make no appologies for what they are and plunge full steam ahead into territory that not all travel. Do be warned if you don’t like horror, suspense, or reading explicit material, though, as they are very commonplace throughout the collection.
The majority of these stories are set either in the West Indies or feature characters who were born in the West Indies, or have parents who were born there, and have since moved to Canada. The folklore and myth of this region play heavily within several stories. These are some of my favorite tales. I always love a good story steeped in folklore and myth, and these were probably some of my favorite short stories in the collection. The folklore of the West Indies is something I am unfortunately poorly versed in, but I will certainly be seeking out more books set in the region and featuring these themes in the near future.
Folklore and fantasy were not the only repeating themes found in Skin Folk. Immigration, displacement, and the dissonance between generations growing up in different countries are all frequent themes as well. These, too, were quite wonderful stories.
The writing style is beautiful and unique. It is so very different from so many other writers. Hopkinson weaves seamlessly between the current time and the past, between stories told to people as children and the reality set before them in their adulthood. The stories are complex ones, though. Many of these stories have much more to them going on below the surface, and I found myself reading much more slowly than usual.
I feel as if I would benefit from a reread of this book, and, someday, I most likely will. Until then I will be seeking out and reading more of Nalo Hopkinson’s work. Skin Folk: Stories is a fantastic collection of short stories. I very much enjoyed this collection and urge anyone who who likes short stories, speculative fiction, or enjoy reading award winning works to pick up a copy of this wonderful book as soon as possible.