“I’m always trying to merge things, rather than balance them. I want to create new things that are mixtures of genres or categories I’ve been told are incompatible. I hate separations and borders—I’m always trying to break them down. This has a lot to do with race, of course, with being a person of mixed race, and a person of two different cultures. In my position, you have to believe that boundaries can be broken down, that so-called opposites can merge. Otherwise, you can’t exist.” —Sofia Samatar in an interview with Alicia Cole in Black Fox Literary Magazine
“Mesmerizing—a sustained and dreamy enchantment. A Stranger in Olondria reminds both Samatar’s characters and her readers of the way stories make us long for far-away, even imaginary, places and how they also bring us home again.”—Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club
“Or maybe all of these stories are about adolescents looking for love. There’s a lot of vomit in these stories, and bleeding. Also poetry.” —Aaron Bady, Interview: Sofia Samatar in African Writers in a New World, Post 45
Who she is:
Dr. Sofia Samatar is an Assistant Professor of English at the California State University Channel Islands. She is also the nonfiction and poetry editor for Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts. Samatar has won or been a finalist for pretty much every award offered for speculative work. Her novel, A Stranger in Olondria, won the British Fantasy Award and the Crawford Award as well as the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer.
Why you should read her:
Sofia Samatar is breaking boundaries for you with every word, every image. Those lines that we are told exist between this world and fantasy, prose and poetry, realism and fabulism, oral and written language, she dims, elides. She writes about this world through other worlds, revealing the difference between realism and realness. Her characters are real and familiar even when they’re automatons made for the king, ogres in colonized Africa, ghosts haunting the living to have their stories told.
Samatar reminds us that monsters and fairy tales tell us more about this world, its dangers, its cruel histories of colonization, than any article, any news story ever could. There is nothing so fantastic, so fabulous as this world that we take for granted, have already imagined away, to get through the everyday. Samatar’s characters and stories reshape that everyday world, remove us from it, only to return it to us whole and shining, new.
Where to find her work online:
Her novel: A Stranger in Olondria (link to Small Beer Press w/excerpts).
“A Girl Who Comes Out of a Chamber at Regular Intervals” in Lackington’s, 2014.
“Ogres of East Africa” in Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, 2014.
“How to Get Back to the Forest” in Lightspeed, 2014.
“Dawn and the Maiden” in Apex Magazine, 2013.
“Selkie Stories Are for Losers” in Strange Horizons, 2013.
“Honey Bear” in Clarkesworld Magazine, 2012.
“A Brief History of Nonduality Studies” in Expanded Horizons, 2012; reprinted in Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, 2013.
“The Nazir” in Ideomancer, 2012.
Selected Essays, Articles:
“Double Take: On Carmen Maria Machado” in Los Angeles Review of Books, 2015.
“The Spaces Between Objects: On Weird Fiction and the Interstitial” in Weird Fiction Review, 2015.
“Black and African writers don’t need instructions from Ben Okri” inThe Guardian, 2014.
“The White Goddess” in Bluestockings Magazine, 2015.
“Make the Night Go Faster” in Liminality, 2014.
“The Death of Araweilo” in Tor.com, 2014.
“Undoomed” in Ideomancer, 2013.
“Girl Hours” in Stone Telling, 2011.
“Burnt Lyric” in Goblin Fruit, 2012.
“Lost Letter” in Strange Horizons, 2012.
Interviews with Sofia Samatar:
“A Conversation with Sofia Samatar” by Alicia Cole in Black Fox Literary Magazine.
“Interview: Sofia Samatar” by Aaron Bady in African Writers in a New World, Post 45.
“‘Trust the Story’: A Conversation with Sofia Samatar” by Sarah McCarry for Tor.com.