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Filter House

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  119 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Filter House collects fourteen stories by Nisi Shawl, with an introduction by Eileen Gunn (author of Stable Strategies). The collection offers a haunting montage that works its magic subtly on the reader's subconscious. As Karen Joy Fowler, Author of The Jane Austen Book Club says, ''This lovely collection will take you, like a magic carpet, to some strange and wonderful p ...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by Aqueduct Press
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Oct 05, 2009 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Neophiles
I was very impressed with this short-story collection from Aqueduct Press, a small Seattle publishing house. The title is well-chosen but gives only a hint of what's within. As explained in the foreword, a "filter house" is one small marine creature's strange-but-true adaptation, a set of organic filters that concentrates floating nutrients, helping it survive where sustenance may be thin. This is a neat conceit to use as a unifying theme for these disparate works, and it's indicative both of Sh ...more
I recently had the chance to attend a reading for Nisi Shawl's upcoming novel Everfair, a Belgian Congo steampunk novel-in-progress, set to be released in Feb. 2015. I was immediately taken with Shawl's storytelling prowess and needed something to hold me until her novel is release. I bought a copy of Filter House for that purpose. Let me just say that the beautiful storytelling doesn't just come from Shawl's reading of her work. It radiates from the pages of this collection of short stories tha ...more
It’s no accident that the main characters of several of the stories in Filter House are children, and parenting is central to others. Nisi Shawl is an elder who sits the reader down and says "Listen to this story, child, and learn from it." The didactic nature of the stories doesn’t make them dull, at all, and neither (with a couple of exceptions) are they so simple that you feel you’ve gotten all you can get out of them with one reading. The imitation folktales that open and close the collectio ...more
I don't generally read short stories for a petty reason: I'm a fast reader, so I end up going through multiple short stories in one sitting, and then they get muddled in my head and it's no fun. However, I've had less time to read recently anyway. And reading multiple stories in one sitting is not a problem with "Filter House" - each one is unique, and I find myself still thinking about them about a week after I finished the book. I hear she's writing a steampunk novel in colonial Congo. I canno ...more
A wonderful collection. All kinds of stuff from fantasy to scifi. Educated main characters and undereducated main characters. I had trouble dealing with a steep learning curve on a couple, since the short form left no room for luxuries like expositions. But it helped me to think, which I usually like in fiction.
I'm conflicted about rating this one, partly because it's a story collection. Some of the stories were quite good, but others were less interesting; perhaps a preponderance of the stories here are 3-star stories. However, at her best Shawl, in stories like "Maggies", is reminiscent of Octavia Butler, and she combines many themes and approaches that aren't so common. It's interesting to see what Shawl does with the juxtaposition of afrofuturism and "programming and metaprogramming in the human bi ...more
Elizabeth Hunter
It was fascinating to read this set of stories, all of which pull from traditions, cultures and experiences quite different from my own. There were times that I felt I was missing too many allusions to fully grasp Shawl's meanings and resonances, but the stories were still gripping and beautifully crafted. I was especially pleased to read "Wallamelon," which draws on the mythology of The Blue Lady that I first read about in this 1997 article and have thought would make fascinating background for ...more
Do yourself a favor and check out this beautiful, moving set of diverse (in theme, character, voice, and genre) short stories. Shawl brings to life various mythologies of the African diaspora in highly original ways. This is speculative fiction in the best sense of the phrase. My favorites were the touching, heartbreaking "Wallamelon", as well as the intriguing sci-fi tale "Good Boy" in which characters blur the lines between mental illness and divine possession while a space colony is trying to ...more
The blurb on the cover says the stories are superbly written. The blurb is by Ursula K. LeGuin, who knows a thing or two about writing a good story. She's right--as I started reading each story I found myself being drawn into its world. The settings are extremely varied and each is well-realized, the characters beautifully drawn, their motivations believable, their language pitch-perfect.

I especially loved "Good Boy," but your favorite story may be a different one. Read the book and see.

Another amazing Tiptree winner! This may change to 5 stars for me as the stories seep in more. From the Tipree press release thinger:

Juror Catherynne M. Valente notes that most of Shawl's protagonists in this collection are young women coming to terms with womanhood and what that means "in terms of their culture, magic (almost always tribal, nuts and bolts, African-based magical systems, which is fascinating in itself), [and:] technology."
This book of 14 fantasy, science fiction, etc. stories was interesting to read. Each story was so different in context, time period, style, characters and so on that I learned to stop after finishing one story before going to the next; or else I wouldn't be able to get on track with what the author had to offer. I really enjoyed most of the stories. I may read other books by the author.
More for academics and writers than ordinary readers, I think. The only stories I enjoyed were the ones that were obviously more 'accessible.' I mean, I don't like cliches and predictability, but I'm sorry, I need something from a story to make some sort of sense so that then I can unravel the rest. If it's meant to stay snarled or oblique, then it's not for me. Sorry.
Wow. Didn't quite finish reading this before Wiscon (the SciFi/Feminist convention where Ms Shawl was guest of honor), but I'm glad I devoted enough time to read all the stories. Lots of neat ideas, many fascinating characters, though I'm sure there were some parts that didn't resonate with me as they would someone more familiar with the background. So glad I read it, though!
The fourteen short stories in Shawl's Filter House draw you in with a deep and swirling magic. Each essay is unique in its own way and makes for wonderful short reading sessions as one does not need to read them in linear order to make sense of them. A very enjoyable read.
(edited for clarity from original writing)
Jan 03, 2011 Andrea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: sf
A mixed collection of the mythical and the modern, the yoruba, the voodoo and hoodoo, the American South, the city of Detroit, and the stars. Ranging all over the past, present and future and mixing them up like batter, these are stories both beautiful and chilling, a great read.
This is a really enjoyable collection of short stories. Lots of really different, thought-provoking stuff in here. The Tiptree Award folks can tell you about it far better than I can: . My favorite story was "Wallamellon."
I loved this anthology. The stories were full of references to life things that I understood and appreciated. The stories were beautifully written and imaginative. I don't have a favorite story because I loved them all.
Catherine Schaff-Stump
I loved some of these stories, especially the fantasies based more firmly in reality. I was more ambivalent about the SF and gun stories. All the stories are technically solid, some transcending the short story medium.
good writing & a lovely diversity of ideas. a few were overly ambitious/oblique for my tastes, but when they worked, they worked. some favorites: "wallamelon," "at the huts of ajala," "shiomah's land," "maggies."
Melisa Resch
Shawl is great. and also from DETROIT or somewhere near it. she realized one of my dreams which is to combine detroit, sci-fi, race and gender into amazing stories. loved it.
May 25, 2009 Wealhtheow marked it as to-read
Shelves: 7th-floor
Co-winner of the 2008 Tiptree Award for excellent sf/f that deals with gender. Her acceptance speech made me teary-eyed, so I absolutely have to check out her stories.
Anne Gray
Some of the stories in this collection are absolute stand-outs. My favorite is the one about the curator of a water museum in the great lakes region. Check it out!
Nisi Shawl got a tiptree award this year, and she is friends with nalo hopkinson. :) She has been posting on a blog i read and her posts are always great.
A wonderful collection of short stories featuring science fiction, spiritual stories, ghost stories, and one that incorporates all three.
A solid collection of short stories centered on common themes.
Jess McCabe
Fantastic collection - don't be put off by the cover.
i wish she had a novel, she is a very tender writer.
Michael Ehart
Wonderful. Simply wonderful.
Kwesida marked it as to-read
Jan 23, 2015
Nadia marked it as to-read
Jan 22, 2015
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Nisi Shawl's story "Cruel Sistah" was included in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror #19. Her work has also appeared in So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy and both Dark Matter anthologies. Recently she perpetrated "The Snooted One: The Historicity of Origin" at the Farrago's Wainscot website. With Cynthia Ward, she co-authored "Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Di ...more
More about Nisi Shawl...
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