Everfair is about an alien and alternative time (1889-1919). The core of the novel is set in Equatorial Africa, and includes stories that extend to other parts of the world. When I read it, I see the people and their environments with an almost photographic gaze. Shawl has the rare gift of creating a fully realized universe. As you’ll see in the review quoted below I thought Nisi’s book Everfair was brilliant and remarkable.
When she asked me to transform a krugerrand that Vonda MacIntyre had left her into an Everfair coin. It was inspiring. It was also difficult and challenging in good ways. It required a precision of work since the coin was only about 1” high. And there were literary specificities as to what was carved on it.
These photos are only OK. The sculpted work is far more beautiful but the images do give a strong sense of the work.
Coin from Nisi Shawl’s Everfair Universe:
The Shongo is an African weapon and the date is 1922
The bird is a white tern that is important in the story.
This link is to a review I wrote when it was published. Quotes are from the review. I liked it even better on rereading. The coin is both for her novel Everfair (that I discuss here) and her forthcoming book from Tor, Kinning
Unlike most stories in western literature that involve both black and white characters, this is a genuine Black African story, with significant non-African characters, black, white, and asian. The novel is an alternative history to the tragic, murderous colonial story of the Belgian Congo and the death of millions; a story that continues to haunt and reverberate in horrific ways in the modern Congo. In today’s publishing world, Shawl’s tale is a neo-Victorian steampunk alternate history. Shawl is entirely successful in these genres, and in transcending them as well.
Shawl has created a complex, tightly woven tapestry that blends history, events and relationships in ways that are difficult to unravel and do justice to in a book review. The novel is a complex human story that blends equatorial African history and religions, Fabian Socialism, African royalty and leadership, colonialism, the Black Diaspora, African ritual magic, Christianity and steampunk science.
One of the goals of science fiction is to present the possibility of alternative values and ways of being. Shawl succeeds both in her alternate history and in her alternative story about how humans behave and can behave. Violence and conflict are integral to her story, but the power of human cooperation and hope are central to the outcome. In a nuanced and real way, Everfair is not only an excellent book, it is also a hopeful one.
Nisi Shawl says: “I like to think that with a nudge or two events might have played out much more happily for the inhabitants of Equatorial Africa. They might have enjoyed a prosperous future filled with all the technology that delights current steampunk fans in stories of western Europe and North America. And more. In Everfair they do.”
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