Nalo Hopkinson named 37th ‘Grand Master’ by SFWA

Author: Jessica Weber
December 14, 2020

UCR author Nalo Hopkinson has been named the 37th Damon Knight Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, or SFWA. The award, announced Dec. 1, recognizes “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy” and will be presented to Hopkinson during the 56th Annual Nebula Conference and Awards Ceremony held virtually June 4-6, 2021.

“Naming Nalo as Grand Master recognizes not only her phenomenal writing but also her work as an educator who has shaped so many of the rising stars of modern SFF,” said SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal in a statement announcing the award.

Legendary sci-fi author Robert Heinlein was named the first SFWA Grand Master in 1975. The award was later renamed in 2002 to honor the association’s founder, Damon Knight, after his death. Previous grand masters have included Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

“When SFWA President Mary Kowal called me to ask whether I’d accept the award, it was the last thing I expected — I think I stopped breathing for a few seconds,” Hopkinson said. “This recognition is a reminder of how much things have changed for me since 2008-11, when I feared that illness and the resulting homelessness would rob me of my writing career. It tells me that my peers have been paying attention, and that will always be a sweet thing to know.”

Hopkinson is the first woman of color and first person of Caribbean descent to receive the honor as well as the youngest recipient of the award. In a recent blog post about the recognition, she reflected on the win and the experience of witnessing Samuel R. Delany, the first man of African descent, receive the award.

“At 60 years old, I’ll be the youngest Grand Master to date,” Hopkinson wrote. “I was at the 2014 Nebs when Chip (Samuel Delany) received his. It was a wonderful moment, to see on that podium a Black, gay man who is one of the authors I revere the most. It was a first. And now I’ll get to make another.”

Hopkinson is a professor of creative writing and the author of six novels as well as several collections and anthologies. Most recently, Hopkinson penned the “House of Whispers” series for Sandman Universe, the reboot of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed Sandman comics. She has received numerous accolades including the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Award. 

Hopkinson’s book “Brown Girl in the Ring” was also included in a list of “The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time” published by Time in October.