Janelle Monáe Has a New Queer Sci-Fi Book and She’s Bringing it to SF

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Janelle Monáe performs at the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco, Aug. 12, 2018. (Estefany Gonzalez )

Janelle Monáe made a classic with her visual album Dirty Computer, where she plays a queer android resisting against a dystopian regime. As punishment, the authoritarian government deems her “unclean” and decides she must have her memories erased. When the project came out in 2018—before artists like Lil Nas X moved the needle on LGBTQ+ inclusion in the mainstream music industry—Dirty Computer made a generation of queer people feel seen and heard.

Monáe is an accomplished actor on top of being a forward-thinking pop star, and now she’s also about to become a published author. She expands upon the Afrofuturist themes of Dirty Computer in her new book The Memory Librarian, a collection of five short stories each written with a different co-author: Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado and Sheree Renée Thomas. Surveillance, artificial intelligence, queerness, memory and power are all themes in these stories of self-discovery and rebellion.

Monáe and Delgado, who is a Stanford fellow with work published in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, will present The Memory Librarian at City Arts & Lectures in San Francisco’s Sydney Goldstein Theater on April 24. They’ll be in conversation with George M. Johnson, a journalist, activist and author of All Boys Aren’t Blue, which has been banned in school libraries in at least eight states because of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-critical race theory laws. The evening is co-presented by Oakland’s Marcus Books, the nation’s oldest Black-owned bookstore, and Philadelphia’s Sistah Scifi, the first Black sci-fi and fantasy bookstore in the country.

The ticket pre-sale for City Arts & Lectures members starts today, March 15, and goes for 24 hours before becoming available to the general public. After the event on April 24, the conversation will broadcast on KQED at 88.5 FM and other public radio stations across the country.

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