Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction. Organizers and activists envision and try to create such worlds all the time. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have brought 20 of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia's Brood span genres - sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism - but all are united by an attempt to inject a healthy dose of imagination and innovation into our political practice and to try on new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. The collection is rounded off with essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal and a preface by Sheree Renée Thomas.
©2015 Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown (This edition 2015 AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studios) (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
"Those concerned with justice and liberation must always persuade the mass of people that a better world is possible. Our job begins with speculative fictions that fire society's imagination and its desire for change. In adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha's visionary conception, and by its activist-artists' often stunning acts of creative inception, Octavia's Brood makes for great thinking and damn good reading. The rest will be up to us." (Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: The Colorization of America)
"Conventional exclamatory phrases don't come close to capturing the essence of what we have here in Octavia's Brood. One part sacred text, one part social movement manual, one part diary of our future selves telling us, 'It's going to be okay, keep working, keep loving.' Our radical imaginations are under siege and this text is the rescue mission. It is the new cornerstone of every class I teach on inequality, justice, and social change.... This is the text we've been waiting for." (Ruha Benjamin, professor of African American studies at Princeton University and author of People's Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier)
"Octavia once told me that two things worried her about the future of humanity: The tendency to think hierarchically, and the tendency to place ourselves higher on the hierarchy than others. I think she would be humbled beyond words that the fine, thoughtful writers in this volume have honored her with their hearts and minds. And that in calling for us to consider that hierarchical structure, they are not walking in her shadow, nor standing on her shoulders, but marching at her side." (Steven Barnes, author of Lion's Blood)
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
Octavia Butler would be proud of these writers. Her influence and imagination are all over these stories. "Tragic times do not beg for complexity," an observation in the first story is a terrifyingly topical note on how demagogues take power, one that reminds me of reading her "Parable" series during the white supremacist resurgence of the Nineties. It all felt so on the nose.
The stories are strong throughout and hold up a necessary and vivid mirror to the current political climate while remaining enormously entertaining.
Butler broadened the horizons of science fiction for millions. She grabbed the reins from the predominantly white men filling the shelves and asked what time travel, extra terrestrial contact, and the post-apocalypse could say for her. The children of Octavia that fill this collection, too ask how can speculative fiction bring their needs, their fears into view. And they succeed.
I liked some of the stories, struggled to finish some, and just plain skipped others. Some of the stories seemed to have been written by professionals with experience in both writing and social justice "fields" and others seemed to have been written by novices or inexperienced students.
Overall I'm glad to have purchased this. I would recommend this for those new to the AfroFuturism genre and maybe even grade school to highschool classrooms.
The voice actor was a bit corny at times and off on her portrayals. For example, one story featured an old woman whose voice was supposed to sound like a young woman but the narrator read all of her parts with a stereotypical raspy old lady voice. Overall she did a good job. I say this while under the impression that this was made for
As the subtitle makes clear, this is an anthology with an agenda, and it's an agenda that will inflame certain parties in recent kerfuffles in the science fiction community.
That said, this is an enjoyable collection. The stories are varied in setting, viewpoint, and kind. There's an incipient uprising against both a hoard of zombies and the politically repressive response to the zombie hoard. There's a gentle story of a woman attempting to reconnect with both her dead grandfather and her very much alive daughter, in an alternate history where the Civil War started in 1859, and the slaves won. A woman has to decide how she's going to react to a government that's finally responding to global warming, in a way that may be both too much, and not enough. One choice will cut her off from her mother and the place she grew up; another will cut her off from her partner and her life now. Is there a third choice, and can she do it? A young man who is the token black superhero opts out of the nonsense--until he finds out how he matters to young people, and a away to make a contribution that matters to him.
The authors include names all sf readers will recognize, like Tananarive Due and Terry Bisson, and people who've never written sf, or even fiction, before. Possibly for that reason, there are a number of stories that I read and thought, that's a set-up for a story I'd like to read the rest of...
Having said that, while there are a number of "beginning, middle, no actual end" pieces, there's nothing here I didn't enjoy. There's nothing here that has that special sense you get when mainstream writers go slumming and assume that "science fiction means it doesn't have to make sense." All the writers here respect their readers and their material. The editors didn't excuse lesser work because they wanted a particular name or a particular theme included. Despite being an anthology with an agenda, there's no pounding the reader over the head, except to the extent that happens with any themed anthology when you read straight through rather than dipping in.
I'll carry away from it a particular fondness for "The Token Superhero," by David Walker, and "The River," by Andrienne Maree Brown.
I've been saying "read" throughout this review; that's a very loose usage. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator's voice is excellent, strong, clear, and expressive.
I received a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
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