I think P. Djèlí Clark is a fantasy writer to watch. He has a distinctive voice, a different way of looking at the world, proudly pushes aside anglo-centric views of fantasy and gives us something fresh and compelling. Best of all, his stories are fun to read. His novella, ‘The Black God’s Drums’ was one of my favourite reads last year.
His short story, ‘A Dead Djinn In Cairo’ is set in an alternative Cairo in 1912 where the Egyptians have kept the British and the French at bay by using magic unleashed upon the world by a catastrophic event a few years earlier. It follows the escalating chaos encountered by Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities when she’s called upon to investigate the apparent suicide of powerful Djinn.
The story is only forty-six pages long but Clark still manages to sketch out an original and engaging alternative 1912 Cairo that is a long way from the image drawn by writers from the European imperial powers who where scavenging wealth from a broken country. He also populates that world with vibrant characters, mostly strong women, and throws them into a mystery that turns into a race against the clock to prevent the end of the world.
I love Clark’s dashing prose and sparkling imagination. His short stories are intense and fun and always leave me wanting more.
I hope that he’ll eventually get around to writing a full-length novel but I’m happy to continue reading his novellas. His next one, ‘Ring Shout’ comes out later this year and is set in an alternative 1915 USA where demons are among those wearing the white hoods of Klan and are opposed by Maryse Boudreaux from Harlem and her fellow resistance fighters. Doesn’t the already make you hungry?
‘A Dead Djinn In Cairo’ was longlisted for a Hugo. You can find it and the rest of the nominees in ‘The Long List Anthology Volume 3: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List’.