The Memory Librarian And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe

April 25, 2022

From groundbreaking musician, actor, fashion icon and futurist JANELLE MONÁE and an outstanding group of collaborators comes THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN (on sale April 19, 2022), a collection of short fiction, bringing to the written page the rebellious and Afrofuturistic world of Monáe’s critically acclaimed album Dirty Computer. Janelle Monáe, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas have delivered a sexy, soulful, and dissident collection of tales that expands the bold vision of Dirty Computer—in which Monáe introduced us to a world where people’s memories—a key to self-expression and self-understanding—could be controlled or erased by an increasingly powerful few. And whether human, A.I., or something in-between, citizen’s lives and sentience were dictated by those of the New Dawn, who’d convinced themselves they had the right to decide fate—that was, until Jane 57821 remembered and broke free. Grown from the soil of that mythos, the stories in THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN explore the lives of those living in the heart and at the edges of a growing surveillance-hungry, totalitarian order— striving to see and hold on to their “dirtiness” without being tracked down and cleaned.

As you know, AFROPUNK has been a long-time supporter of the music of Janelle Monáe and the otherness of Cindi Mayweather…

Q: With the launch of The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer upon us, can you speak a bit about what the process of authoring this AFROFUTURIST novel taught you about yourself?

In some ways, it taught me what the pandemic was teaching many of us, patience. Patience with myself as a creator, patience with the process. It takes the time it takes, and we were actively working on this for two years, not counting the time before when the ideas and dreams–nightmares really–were living in my head. And part of being patient is being present, so that is a big focus for me. Being present, being now. I think that is maybe why the book feels so meta to me. Even though we weren’t trying to write a book that comments on the current moment, we were just so present in this current moment that it comes through in these future-looking stories.

The work of Fritz Lang gave us “The mediator between the mind and the hand is the heart,” and you have often referred to yourself as representing that heart wherever you are…

Q: Can you talk about how your album DIRTY COMPUTER — and maybe it’s also THE ARCHANDROID and THE ELECTRIC LADY BEFORE IT — informed this written journey into the fictional world of the future?

All those worlds, they’re related. They’re cousins. They’re blood but they all have their own personality. Cindi Mayweather and Jane 57821 face similar challenges and have similar goals–to be who they are, to love that way, and to help others access that same freedom. The Memory Librarian is a resistance narrative too, but there is also a lot of care and a lot of questions about how we care, how we heal ourselves and each other. That is a journey I have been on lately personally. So these stories have been a good way to allow myself to think more about those things, think about these characters–because it is really a character-driven book–and to continue my own evolution towards living freely.

As a part of AFROPUNK‘s journey to enrichen the marginalized in communities like Minneapolis, Brooklyn, and Atlanta this year, it will seek to help facilitate a new stratum of Black writers…

Q: What wisdom might you want to share with your Fandroids and these aspiring professional writers, given your experience in working with the five talented collaborators on this collection of stories?

Collaboration is a blessing. You have to be humble and you have to be brave. You have to be humble enough to allow your own ideas to be shaped by others, and you have to be brave enough to trust that you can push back or challenge your collaborators–all with the goal of creating the most dynamic and inclusive thing you can. Words on a page have nothing to hide behind. That’s why I admire all of these creators–Alaya, Danny, Eve, Yohanca, and Sheree–for working with me as I brought my lingering ideas and words to the page, to a book.

* As you know all too well, AFROPUNK seeks to create spaces where its tenets can be beautifully manifested, such that people can bring their imaginations to life and live the F*ck Out Loud…

Q: After reading The Memory Librarian, what advice does Cindi Mayweather have to offer the AFROPUNK community when it comes to finding their voice and living their story?

Float on the niggas who are in your way.

Perfect for fans of Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Becky Chambers, and Nnedi Okorafor, THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN is a story collection filled with the artistic innovation and brave themes that have made Janelle Monáe a global influence; a collection that sees our battles about gender identity, political violence, and sexuality as matters of space, time, love, and, of course, the power of memory.