Dark Faith: Invocations Devotional – Nisi Shawl

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Apex Publications Blog: Matters of SF, Fantasy, and Horror | 0 comments

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Dark Faith: InvocationsNISI SHAWL’s collection Filter House won the 2009 James Tiptree, Jr. Award.  Her work has been published at Strange Horizons, in Asimov’s SF Magazine, and in anthologies including Dark Matter and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 19. She was WisCon 35’s Guest of Honor.  She edited Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars, and co-edited Strange Matings: Octavia E. Butler, Science Fiction, Feminism, and African American Voices.  With Cynthia Ward she co-authored Writing the Other: A Practical Approach.  Shawl is a cofounder of the Carl Brandon Society and serves on Clarion West’s Board of Directors.  Her website is www.nisishawl.com.

Nisi is the co-author of “In Blood and Song” along with Michael Ehart.

Buy Dark Faith: Invocations from one of our retailers.

Who are you?

I’m Nisi Shawl, a diviner and an African American woman, 57 years old, and living in Seattle.  I’ve been writing science fiction since I was 15, and selling it professionally since I was about 40.

Tell us about your story.   

“In Blood and Song” is story of two Nigerian boxers and their wives, plus a referee and a videographer who all get caught up in some magic that quickly gets out of hand.

How does your story tie into the idea of faith? 

All the participants feel some sort of faith.  The videographer, Amazu, has faith in his own abilities.  He’s also a co-religionist of mine, a worshipper in the West African Yoruban orisha tradition.  Salman, the referee, is an adherent of Islam and believes in fairness–and his ability to enforce it.  Hassan and Musa, the boxers, and Layla and Anika, their wives, practice West African Hausa religious traditions.  Anika, in particular, is a follower of the bori cult, but when she tries to use bori power to give her husband a victory in the ring, it–doesn’t work out.  Nothing does, for anyone.  So faith is something all the characters have, but which they learn can prove problematic, even when it is justified.

Every year, Maurice Broaddus throws a convention in honor of himself (Mo*Con). How do you feel about this fact?

The convention Maurice Broaddus holds in his own honor?  That’s a fannish thing.  I’ve been invited to David Levine’s version, for instance, Bentocon.  I’ve never attended a con set up along those lines, but it seems perfectly normal to me, for fannish values of “normal.”

Excerpt from “In Blood and Song”:

Hassan glared across the ring at Musa, who was just finishing up the spun ball of rope that covered his right fist.  Layla must have felt the burn of Hassan’s look, because she glanced up for a moment, barely registered his attention, then turned back to tightening the knots.  The glare was for show.  Musa was not only Hassan’s brother-in-law but his best friend.  But here on the Dembe battlefield there were no friends.  There were no brothers.  There was only blood, pain, and strife.

Hassan took a couple of steps to the side and one back.  The light chain that wrapped his left leg jingled and shifted, but stayed tight.  He felt a slap across his shoulder, and Anika hissed in annoyance.  “Keep still!” she spat.  “I need to get this just right.  You know that cow Layla isn’t going to let Musa fight without the proper charms.  My sister is an overbearing whore, but she does know how to sing a charm.”

Like Layla and many other Dembe fighters’ wives, Hassan’s wife was his corner coach, fist wrapper, and physician.  Anika was clever with roots and spells; also, his marriage to her had given him entry into the clan of fighters.  He had come from the city, and before she had married him was only allowed to fight in the smallest towns, usually for a purse of two or three dollars.  Since the marriage his combinations had felt stronger, and his opponents had seemed slower than usual.

Buy Dark Faith: Invocations from one of our retailers.

Come back tomorrow to read Michael Ehart’s devotional.

If you missed any of our other devotional posts, catch up now.

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Brian Hatcher

Richard Dansky

Tim Pratt

Jennifer Pelland

Richard Wright

Alma Alexander

Matt Cardin

Lavie Tidhar

Nick Mamatas

Jay Lake

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer


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  1. Dark Faith: Invocations Devotional – Michael Ehart | Apex Publications - [...] To read an excerpt from “In Blood and Song” check out Nisi Shawl’s devotional. [...]

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