Beyond Generic Hybridity: Nalo Hopkinson and the Politics of Science Fiction


This paper studies the politics of genre surrounding Nalo Hopkinson’s novel Brown Girl in the Ring (1998). Scholarship has widely understood the novel through the lens of generic hybridity—as a hybrid of various genres within and around the speculative fiction title (science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, fabulist fiction, and dystopian and utopian literatures). Generic hybridity has been a useful framework through which to study the novel, but it does not necessarily help account for the ways in which the text can be situated comfortably within the genre of science fiction. This paper argues that the consequences of this scholarly focus, this hesitancy to view Hopkinson’s writing as straightforwardly science fiction, are that such canonization judgments keep science fiction from becoming more epistemologically varied. Redressing the significance of the novel’s technoscientific components, and arguing that the novel’s heart transplant storyline can be read as a commentary on the politics of genre outlined here, this paper seeks to demonstrate the value in and implications of reading Brown Girl in the Ring as science fiction. The paper also addresses the proposals of other scholars who seek to relieve these fraught politics through new genres, and it suggests that any productive transformation might best occur within the form and title of science fiction itself.

This article “Beyond Generic Hybridity: Nalo Hopkinson and the Politics of Science Fiction” originally appeared in Emerging Scholars 2. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 228-229 (Spring/Summer 2016): 133-149.

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