Monday, January 02, 2017

Skin Folk

As usual, found inspiration at Sharlene's blog for new reads. 15 short stories compiled in 'Skin Folk' (2001) by Nalo Hopkinson. Drawing on Caribbean folklore, the stories are sci-fi, horror and fantasy thrown together. Issues of race, identity, sexuality, repression and revenge. Apparently the characters in these stories will appear in her later works. I haven't read any other novels yet. Will hunt them down at some point.

I love these stories. 'Under Glass' tells of a periodic howling wind filled with glass, and people who live in this city take shelter in underground tunnels under steel doors when the glass wind hits. There is a parallel world beyond their tablets too. And in 'Greedy Choke Puppy', tales of a Lagahoo and soucouyant. Humans in these stories could exchange skins, literally and metaphorically, and to that extent, their identity and experiences. What is your true self then? What's real? Is it folklore or are we simply wolves in sheep clothing?

The ending to 'Snake' is immensely satisfying. Of a quirky little town who loves and enacts laws to protect its birds, a horrible pedophile Stryker who preys on little girls and how his current attempt on young Patty is foiled by the birds and the community of old folks who practise tai chi at the park in the mornings, and in the end, they got him. Hurrah.

"You!" The old woman clawed at the front of his shirt, poking sharp fingers at his chest with each word. "What have you done with our Pat? Helga told us she was shouting for help!" 
The pigeon told them? Stryker didn't answer. Blood slithered wetly from the gash in his arm. He tried to hold the slippery edges of the cut together. He felt his own blood; hot, sticky. Dirty. It was all over his hands. Dirty. He felt weak.

'The Glass Bottle Trick' is so chilling. Eiooow. Love it. Of Beatrice and her husband Samuel's new marriage, and how she discovered she shouldn't really tell him of her four-month pregnancy. There's also a strange locked third bedroom in their house that he requested for her to never enter. Yes, there're comments about color and community. But beyond that, it's about self-esteem and humanity.

She stepped out of the meat locker and quietly pulled the door in, but left it open slightly so the dippy wives could come out when they were ready. Then with a welcoming smile, she went to greet her husband. She would stall him as long as she could from entering the third bedroom. Most of the bloody in the wives' bodies would be clotted, but maybe it was only important that it be warm. She hoped that enough of it would thaw soon for the duppies to drink until they were fully real. 
When they had fed, would they come and save her, or would they take revenge on her, their usurper, as well as Samuel?

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