Mother of Invention by Nnedi Okorafor

This is the last Locus Award nominee for the 2019 short story category.

Published: February, 2018 at Slate (you can read it for free at the link provided)

Genre: science fiction

Setting: New Delta, a city in near future Nigeria

Summary: Short version: Anwuli doesn’t want to leave her house, even though a pollen storm is coming

Long version: When Anwuli’s fiance found out she was pregnant, he left her to go back to his wife (that Anwuli didn’t know about). She stayed in the sentient house he had built for them, though. Now, the baby’s about the come and the house is all she has left. Her doctor is urging her to leave New Delta. She’s allergic to periwinkle, a genetically engineered grass that carpets New Delta. If she stays, she’s likely to die during the next pollen storm. She’s stubborn and refuses to leave. Luckily, the house has made plans to keep her and the coming baby safe.

Final thoughts: It’s amazing how a great short story author can provide a fascinating setting in such a short medium. The reader finds out details about the environment as Anwuli is watching her doctor’s video describing the serious peri allergy she has. We also see that Anwuli has been shunned by her community and family because of her choice in boyfriends. She’s gone through the pregnancy pretty much alone. Turns out, the house has been listening to her and preparing to help her. Of course, her boyfriend’s main home is also sentient (he built them both). That house is tuned to the boyfriend’s wife and isn’t about to let Anwuli, the homewrecker, get away clean. Okorafor was able to evoke Anwuli’s feelings of despair and loneliness beautifully in this story, with just a bit of hope at the end.

Title comes from: The house acted like a mother to Anwuli, protecting her from harm


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