Fluid exchanges in Lagoon

How much simpler would’ve Lauren’s problems been had Ayodele and her people landed in California instead of Nigeria? In light of Ayodele’s self-proclamation of “’I am change” (218), it’s hard to miss the family resemblances between Parable of the Sower and Lagoon in terms of theme and ethos: are not the aliens of Lagoon the very embodiment of the god Lauren describes in Earthseed? Okorafor says if she were teaching Lagoon, she would pair it with Things Falls Apart because “both are First Contact/Alien Invasion narratives. And both are directly connected to our world” (which, I think, are connections to the “real-world” like a missing president or witch-slapping).

I draw attention to Lagoon’s intimacies with these two texts because of another comparison mentioned in all but one of the nine reviews and interviews I read: Lagoon is Okorafor’s rebuttal to District 9. While own Okorafor’s own characterization [her tweet] of the novel as such certainly explains this ubiquity, it still gives me pause: why is Lagoon so often introduced in juxtaposition to District 9? Or, approaching it from another angle, how does this presentation affect the way we read Lagoon, or District 9? What form of cultural capital does Lagoon earn from this juxtaposition? What form of cultural capital does District 9 lose (or gain?)? Echoing Catie, I’m interested in the exchanges in cultural capital in terms of medium (novel/film), but also in terms of nation (Nigeria/South Africa), authorship, genre, and postcolonial/decolonial aesthetics and politics?

Somewhat unrelatedly, I’m also thinking about the messiness of the science fiction/fantasy distinction in this novel. To what extent is this science fiction? I’m not personally invested in distinguishing the two, but I’m curious about the motivations of those who are. For our discussion, Kinitra D. Brooks’s coinage “fluid fiction” might be helpful in thinking about genre in this novel. “Fluid fiction” is a genre of literature, mostly produced by Black women writers, “that purposely blurs the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and horror in a manner that mirrors how black women confound the delineations between race, gender, and sexuality.”

In his review, John Clute writes that the novel establishes its science fiction-ness early in the narrative with “some jump-the-shark escalations of old Disaster technothriller formulas,” which are later abandoned. If, as Okorafor claims, genre is “a WAY of telling a story,” (the how of the story rather than the what, I assume), then is the function of these science fiction “cliches” (Clute’s word) to somehow prime the fantasy of the latter half of the novel? What I’m asking is if the science fiction elements of this narrative somehow extend a form of cultural capital to the supposedly more fantasy-based elements, the more African elements? What are the politics of this fluidity?

Please excuse the 472-word length, but this is the last blog post of my coursework career! Thanks for reading, folks.

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