Midnight Robber finds another frontier

Nalo Hopkinson, (though a web search reveals her to be a relative new author), seems to have made her unique mark on Science Fiction largely because that voice is grounded in the rhythms, myths, and vernacular of Caribbean and Creole cultures. I mean, she is clearly not the only Science Fiction author to bring a recognizable contemporary culture other than American-flavored Caucasian to the SciFi stage, but let's face it: Name another SciFi writer of African heritage besides Delaney and Butler. Now remember the languages they used in Stars and Lilith: they were quite different from Hopkinson, dense in a style we associate with Western academic and avant-garde discourse (in the case of Delaney) or somewhat removed as per the Western scientific approach (so that's a little too simple to describe Butler, but you get the idea). Admittedly, though we may feel that the use of dialects is a sort of "gimmick" we've seen before, I think it's important to note the way in which the sheer immersion in and weaving of dialects and textual/cultural artifacts makes Science Fiction new for us again in this novel, and starts to blend the realms of media produced to raise cultural awareness (I'm thinking here of the tradition of avant-garde African-American and Caribbean documentary filmmaking, of which The Last Angel of History seems to stand as a good example, though it's apparently British?) and the "pop" genere of Science fiction. *** I'm so excited! I'm an odd fan of African-American and Afro-Cribbean documentary and art cinema (says the sheltered young white college student from Idaho) for its honesty, depth, feeling, power, and occasional bluntness. To see some of these tendencies leak out and start shaping a wad of Sci Fi, one of my favorite literary genres, is…well, exciting.*** Seriously people. Midnight Robber struck me as taking us deeper, making newness inevitable on a linguistic and cultural front by forcing us to explore new worlds in more than one sense. Importantly, I think we should note that by using that dialect not only for the characters, but at times for the narration itself, Hopkinson is stepping beyond a boundary many writers have opted not to cross. She's written bridging sections entirely in Creole, framing the main story with legends and background information, slipping Caribbean vocabulary and rhythms into her narration.
What's most impressive to me is how she controls her use of dialect. While the characters speak a consistent patois, the dialect ebbs and flows in Hopkinson's expository writing. By carefully varying whether each sentence is in standard English, Creole or a combination of the two languages, she shifts elegantly from simple events to emotional viewpoints, highlighting action or slowing other scenes down. There is power in bridging cultures, and a unique viewpoint that can only be achieved by straddling cultural chasms. However, Hopkinson's use of Caribbean myth extends beyond mere language. The space-age legends she has created provide clues about the history of the Toussaint colony and explain the sometimes unusual attitudes and actions of the characters. This subtle approach seems pretty common in science fiction, but we readers are still forced to work out the meanings of each legend for ourselves before we can connect the stories back to the colony's present-day life. It's extra detective work, but it's fun. YES FUN.