Nalo Hopkinson has been writing and publishing speculative fiction since 1995. Born in Jamaica, Hopkinson has lived, written, and taught in the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States. After a decade as a professor of creative writing at the University of California Riverside, she has recently joined the School of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. She is a recipient of the John W. Campbell Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Sunburst Award. In 2021, the Science Fiction Writers of America honored her with the Damon Knight Memorial “Grand Master” Award for lifetime achievement in the genre, making her the first woman recipient of African descent.
As a genre, speculative fiction challenges the preconceptions we’ve internalized about what is known, what is possible, whose experiences are important. From the most frivolous story to the most rigorous, it does so by stepping outside the borders of reality to imagine alternate ways of being. As such, it can be an extremely important mode of fiction for audiences, authors, and communities that experience institutionalized oppression. It’s certainly been the genre that allowed me to find my voice, my courage as a queer, Black woman writer living with the legacy of colonization. It’s given me new paradigms in a world that sorely needs them, and the conceptual tools with which to consider them. Reading and writing in this mode has brought me so much joy, hope, wonder, intellectual engagement, and artistic delight. It is my privilege when I can bring readers any of those gifts. Yet for all its revolutionary potential, speculative fiction—science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.—are frequently misunderstood and held in contempt by the larger literary community. There are grants and publishing venues which explicitly exclude genre fiction at the outset, and creative writing departments which refuse to let their students write it. So receiving this recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts is for me a much appreciated acknowledgement that the value of my genre and my work can be perceived on a larger artistic stage. It’s something I’ve always believed, but this fellowship tells me that I may be contributing in a small way to making some room at the table. I’m eager to share the new work the fellowship will enable.