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Janelle Monáe, SFF Writers Team Up on Dirty Computer Short Story Collection

Ready to "Take a Byte."

janelle monae

In June, we missed the massive news that Janelle Monáe sold an afro futuristic, collaborative story (pitch) to Harper Voyager as an extension of her 2018 album Dirty Computer. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Harper Voyager added that the book “explores how different threads of liberation—queerness, race, gender plurality, and love—become tangled with future possibilities of memory and time in such a totalitarian landscape… and what the costs might be when trying to unravel and weave them into freedoms.”

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We were sold at “Janelle Monáe,” and honestly, the word “book” is just a bonus.

Fast forward to yesterday, when the title—The Memory Librarian & Other Stories of Dirty Computer—was shared, as well as the other talented list of collaborators were revealed!


Stacked talent

In addition to Monáe as the lead, literature professor and Wondaland Arts Society books editor Kyle Dargan organized the collection of prose alongside two-time World Fantasy Award (WFA) editor (for Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora) Sheree Renée Thomas.*

The writers include recent WFA winner (for her novel Trouble the Saint) Alaya Dawn Johnson and her story The Memory Librarian.

Best known for her middle-grade science fiction hit Maya and the Robot, Eve L. Ewing penned Timebox.

A writer and editor for publications like Comixology, Dynamite Comics, Black Mask Comics, Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse, Danny Lore wrote Nevermind for the collection. For those keeping track, that is two people who have written for Marvel comics in the last few years!

Contributing to the story Save Changes is a science fiction (and non-fiction) writer and scholar Yohanca Delgado.

The expansion of Wondaland

The Memory Librarian & Other Stories of Dirty Computer as a book makes total sense. For one, as someone who didn’t find Monáe’s work until early 2017 (yes, after Hidden Figures), I’ve traced over lyrics, read blogs, and found other fans’ theories to place together this loose timeline Monáe built in her work. Right when I thought I had gotten somewhere (like tech), references became almost obsolete as Monáe publicly declared she was Jane 57821 (for Dirty Computer), rather than using proxy Cindy Mayweather (from the Metropolis Suites) to talk about her sexuality and other topics.

Dirty Computer came out with a whole emotion picture, leading Wondaland Arts Society to expand into Wonderland Pictures and Wondaland Records. Now, there is Wondaland’s book!

With Monáe’s involvement looking like more than an endorsement (it is her story and her world), the stories added by the other authors would be considered canon. One lead artist, who serves as CEO of Wondaland Arts Society and is everywhere from movies to fashion to get out the vote efforts, doesn’t have the time to elaborate. However, a group of writers will be up on Twitter, panels, and Zoom events discussing the work—and we are at the ready!

The Memory Librarian & Other Stories of Dirty Computer is available for pre-order now and releases April 19, 2022.

Correction 12/6/2021: Wrote that Thomas’ 2020 collection of short stories Nine Bar Blues earned her one of the two WFA wins, but both wins came from her editing in the 2001 anthology Dark Matter. Thomas did earn a WFA nomination for Nine Bar Blues.

(via People, image: screencap.)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.

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