Monday, October 27, 2008

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: Spider the Artist by Nnedi Okorafor

Seeds of ChangeMy story recommendation for this week is "Spider the Artist" by Nnedi Okorafor, a short story in the original anthology Seeds of Change edited by John Joseph Adams. ("Spider the Artist" appears under the name Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, but the author has recently divorced and now prefers to go by her maiden name.)

Seeds of Change is an original anthology of socially-oriented science fiction. Most of the nine stories are by familiar authors, including Ken MacLeod, Jay Lake, Tobias S. Buckell, Mark Budz, and K.D. Wentworth. But some of the strongest pieces in the book are by authors whom you may not know, but I suspect soon will: Nnedi Okorafor, Ted Kosmatka, Blake Charlton, and Jeremiah Tolbert.

Nnedi Okorafor has generated an impressive body of work in the last five years, yet has flown under the radar of many genre readers because both of her novels were targeted at young adults. Okorafor is American, but her parents immigrated from Nigeria, and her work strongly reflects that heritage.

"Spider the Artist" is set in near-future Nigeria, where eight-legged mechanical "Zombies" roam the country's oil pipelines. The Zombies are designed to protect the flow of oil from thieves and terrorists, but they will just as gleefully kill civilians who wander too close to a pipeline -- a great metaphor for how Nigeria's substantial oil wealth has only been a curse for most of its people.

In despair from her abusive husband, our first-person protagonist goes to the pipeline to play her guitar, and comes to form a bizarre bond with one of the Zombies, which she nicknames Udide Okwanka (Spider the Artist). As Udide's interest in music exemplifies, the Zombies are growing independent, a development that may be encouraging or dangerous.

"Spider the Artist" is a beautifully told story by an author who clearly has much to say.

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