Tochi Onyebuchi’s new novel Goliath features a phenomenon familiar to those of us who live in cities—gentrification.
Like the gentrifiers of today, who push out old-timers with high rents and coffee boutiques, Onyebuchi’s urban colonizers are taking over property in communities that have suffered from underinvestment and systemic racism.
But unlike gentrifiers of today, who often leave behind comfortable lives in the suburbs, the gentrifiers in Goliath are returning from comfortable lives on space stations where those with means had fled years earlier to escape pollution and environmental degradation on Earth.
Onyebuchi sees in the story of David and Jonathan—returnees from who take over a home in a Black and Brown community in New Haven—parallels to frontier narratives.
“I’ve read a lot of westerns and western-inflected literature, and the ways in which people have written about the American West were very fundamental in how I approached the characters of David and Jonathan,” Onyebuchi tells in the new episode of New Books in Science Fiction. “You have people going out west historically for all sorts of reasons. ‘Oh, that’s where my fortune is.’ Or they’re like, ‘Oh, like, there are no rules out there. I can totally remake myself.’”
In David and Jonathan’s case, their relationship is broken. “They think, ‘Oh, if we just change the scenery, that’ll make things better, we’ll be able to start over.… We can make this work on Earth. It’s virgin territory, this place where we can build something together.’ That in many ways is the animating impulse, of course, completely or almost completely disregarding the fact that Earth is already home to a lot of people.”
Tochi Onyebuchi is the author of the Beasts Made of Night series; the War Girls series; and the non-fiction book (S)kinfolk. His novel Riot Baby—which he discussed on the podcast in 2020—was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and NAACP Image Awards and winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction, the Ignyte Award for Best Novella, and the World Fantasy Award. He has degrees from Yale, New York University, Columbia Law School, and the Paris Institute of Political Studies.