In 11 stories and a novella, Scott returns to the setting of his debut collection,
Insurrections: fictional Cross River, Md., which, in an alternate history, is the location of the only successful slave revolt in America. Most stories are set in the present day; the prose is energetic and at times humorous—often uncomfortably so—as stories interrogate racist tropes. “The Electric Joy of Service” and “Mercury in Retrograde” recast the history of master, slave, and revolt in stories about intelligent robots designed with the facial features of lawn jockeys that fail to behave as programmed. In “David Sherman, the Last Son of God,” David, the last (and least exalted) son of God, tries to redeem himself by leading a gospel band at his elder brother’s church. And in the concluding novella, “Special Topics in Loneliness Studies,” set at Cross River’s historically black Freedman’s University, the narrator plots the downfall of his departmental colleague, whose course syllabus and writing assignments grow increasingly entangled with his personal life. Throughout, the characters’ experiences contrast the relative safety of Cross River with the more hostile ground of the once-segregated towns that surround it. It’s clear, however, that threats—whether they’re siren-like water-women, academic saboteurs, or brutal family traditions—can arise anywhere. Scott’s bold and often outlandish imagination makes for stories that may be difficult to define, but whose emotional authenticity is never once in doubt. (Aug.)
"I've been a fan of Rion Amilcar Scott's for years, but I was astonished by
The World Does Not Require You, which seems a leap into a blazing new level of brilliance: it is a wild, restless, deeply intelligent collection of stories, each of which resists and subverts the limits of categorization. What a beautiful book."
"Scott’s Cross River has been compared to other authors’ imagined places, from Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County to Jesmyn Ward’s Bois Sauvage (and I would add Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, as well as Black Panther’s Wakanda), but it’s completely his own, forged of deep roots, racial conflict and humor so mordant you’ll do double takes.... These stories range from satire (“The Electric Joy of Service”) to fantasy (“Numbers”) to horror (“Rolling in My Six-Fo’?”) and not one of them strikes a false note. There are angry notes. Even, perhaps, hostile ones. But none that are unwarranted. A few readers may be shocked by Scott’s use of cultural epithets, but those are far from unnecessary. We have so far to go and so little time to get there, Scott seems to say. Maybe spending a few hours in Cross River will help build a bridge. Or blow one up, if need be."
"Powerful and revelatory."
"We know Cross River, Maryland, the setting of Rion Amilcar Scott’s stories, is fictional because it’s supposed to have been founded by slaves who successfully overthrew their masters. We also know this because God was resurrected there, which we learn from his progeny in ‘David Sherman, the Last Son of God,’ and because in another futuristic story, slave history is reenacted by cyborgs. Scott joins a growing tradition of African-American authors fusing the folksy dystopian humor of George Saunders with the charged satire of Ishmael Reed and expands on it brilliantly."
"Scott makes his stories feel singular.... [The] high level of energy and humor, which Scott maintains throughout, makes the novella a standout.... He bends expectations throughout the book, frequently demonstrating this idea from the aforementioned public speaker: ‘Everything horrible is just a little bit ridiculous, and vice versa.’ And despite how clear Scott is about this modus operandi, he constantly surprises, pushing things just a little further in either direction.... Though God may have forsaken [these characters], Scott does not.
The World Doesn’t Require You is full of horrible, ridiculous people, but it’s full of grace, too."
A.V. Club - Bradley Babendir
"Surreal, intertextual, and darkly comical stories... Rion Amilcar Scott writes in the tradition of George Schuyler and Ishmael Reed but with a distinctive wry, playful voice that is wholly his own. With breathtaking cruelty and devastating humor, Scott adduces the whole world in one community."
"A bold new talent emerges with this boundary-shattering collection of linked stories set in fictional Cross County, Maryland, founded by the leaders of America’s only successful slave uprising. Characters range from robots to sons of God in these magical realist stories about race, religion, and violence. Think of it as Faulkner meets Asimov."
"Reminiscent of classic isolated-world fantasies like
The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Kirinyaga (1998).... Scott’s imagery and unique voice blend horror, satire, and magical realism into an intoxicating brew."
Booklist - Lesley Williams
"Bizarre, tender and brilliantly imagined,
The World Doesn't Require You isn't just one of the most inventive books of the year, it's also one of the best."
"Rion Amilcar Scott proves himself an impressive myth-slayer and fable-maker...
The World Doesn’t Require You reminds us that having to fight racism has a strange way of distorting everything one touches.... With two books under his belt, Scott seems to have barely skimmed the surface of the many more characters and conflicts he could explore in Cross River."
"Each time I open to a passage I love, I think this man is a national treasure of a writer… What brilliance between the pages."
The World Doesn't Require You is a wholly inventive, mesmerizing, genre-bending whirlwind of a book. I am utterly blown away by Rion Amilcar Scott's boundless talent and imagination."
"Scott’s signature blend of tenderness and world-weary wise-cracking and magical realism buoys the reader with strength and a deeply intelligent hope. You won’t find Cross River on any map, but its people and their stories are real and solid and demand to be heard."
"Rion Amilcar Scott doesn’t hold back or tiptoe around issues about race. He’s the most courageous writer I know; and this collection is an excellent example and significant achievement. He’s now made his mark as a force to reckon with."
"In the midst of a renaissance of African American fiction, Rion Amilcar Scott's stories stand at the forefront of what's possible in this vanguard. Funny, sad, and always moving, these stories explore what it means to call a place like America home when it treats you with indifference or terror. The people in these stories are unforgettable, their lives recognizable, their voices, as written by Scott, wholly original."
"Flat-out unputdownable. The fictional town of Cross River, MD sits at the heart of this dazzling collection—home to water-women and a wayward lecturer secretly dwelling in the basement of a university building and the last son of god, to myth and wonder and sorrow. With these innovative, refreshing, and altogether thrilling stories, Rion Amilcar Scott once again shows his readers that he is a blazingly original talent, a vital voice."
"A bleak and beautiful collection of short stories.... Scott demonstrates the skill and long-range vision of a writer we need right now.
The World Doesn’t Require You requires a commitment from readers, one that will be greatly repaid in literary satisfaction."
"A rich, genre-splicing mix of alternate history, magical realism and satire that interrogates issues of race, sexism and where both meet here in the real world."
"This soaring collection firmly places Cross River within the canon of American literature and confirms Scott as one of the most unique, powerful writers of his generation. We are so lucky."
"Scott’s interweaving story collection covers generations and defies genre restrictions in a series of wry, magically tinged character studies. The book affirms Scott, who won awards for his first collection Insurrection, as a major unique literary talent."
"You'll no doubt find yourself highlighting passages over and over again, consistently marveling over the author's storytelling genius."
"Rich and extraordinary.... Scott, whose 2016 debut collection,
Insurrections, introduced readers to Cross River, has created a fictional mini-world so detailed that, for all its surreality, you begin to feel you could draw it on a map. But what he’s also tracing here is a history of oppression — and not just in the slavery that Cross River’s 19th-century founders escaped with their successful revolt, known as the Insurrection. The persistence of racism in American culture is central, but other entrenched forms of domination are here, too: the toxic hierarchies that humans, even those fleeing their own subjugation, so dependably replicate."
Scott follows up
Insurrections, which won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, with another story collection set in fictional Cross River, MD, founded by the leaders of a triumphant slave revolt.
The 21st-century surge of African American voices continues with these mischievous, relentlessly inventive stories whose interweaving content swerves from down-home grit to dreamlike grotesque.
Cross River, Maryland, rural and suburban at once, exists only in the imagination of its inventor. And in his debut collection, Scott manages to make this region-of-the-mind at once familiar and mysterious, beginning with Cross River's origins as a predominantly African American community established by leaders of the only successful slave revolt—which never really happened. Nor for that matter were there ever any sightings of God doling out jelly beans at Easter time in Cross River, as chronicled in the opener, "David Sherman, the Last Son of God," whose main character is a guitar prodigy struggling through his fraught relations with local clergy and other pious folk to play the sounds only he can hear. ("God," David remembers somebody telling him, "answers all prayers and sometimes His answer is no.") In another story, Tyrone, a doctoral candidate in cultural studies at mythical Freedman's University, submits a thesis positing that the practice of knocking on strangers' doors and running away is rooted in black slave insurrection; he recruits a friend for his thesis's practical application with lamentable results. There are also a pair of science fiction stories, set in a futuristic Cross River, in which the customs—and abuses—of antebellum slavery are replicated by humans on robots and cyborgs, who, over time, resent their treatment enough to plot rebellion. And there's a novella,
Special Topics in Loneliness Studies, chronicling an academic year at the aforementioned Freedman's University during which professors and students alike struggle with their deepest, darkest emotions. Even before that climactic performance, you've figured out that Cross River is meant to be a fun-house mirror sending back a distorted, disquietingly mordant reflection of African American history, both external and psychic. Somehow, paraphrasing one of Scott's characters, it all manages to sound made-up and authentic at the same time.
Mordantly bizarre and trenchantly observant, these stories stake out fresh territory in the nation's literary landscape.