A.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories appearing in print and online in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed, and the Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, an online magazine publishing three issues of fiction per year with various unlikely themes. Follow her on twitter as @ac_wise.
by A.C. Wise
Lauren Beukes made her fiction debut with Moxyland in 2009, but her first novel to garner widespread attention, and my recommended starting place for her work, is Zoo City, which won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2010 Kitschies Red Tentacle Award, along with being nominated for several other awards. In addition to presenting a fascinating world where characters’ past misdeeds manifest physically as animals bound to them for the rest of their lives, Zoo City does something fairly rare – it offers a genuine female anti-hero as a main character. Too often, female characters are held to odd standards, forcing them into boxes of pure good or pure evil, virgin or whore, with nothing in-between. Rarely do we get women who are as many shades of gray as Beukes’ Zinzi December – a finder of lost things, who also happens to be an email scammer/spammer, a former junkie, the cause of her brother’s death, and a character who genuinely cares about the welfare of others, going out of her way to look out for two teenage pop stars who everyone else seems determined to either tip-toe around or manipulate and use. In short, she has all the classic hallmarks of an anti-hero; she’s a complex, multi-faceted character who, despite her flaws, the reader roots for, and there are far too few examples like her in fiction. Based on Zoo City, I’ll be circling back to Moxyland soon, and picking up The Shining Girls, Beukes’ latest, which looks similarly intriguing, and which is slated to become a movie in the near(ish) future.