“I think it’s really important to show that, for us, the past, present and future, are happening simultaneously.”
These are the words of editor Rafeif Ismail in the introductory conversation with fellow editor Ellen van Neervan for Unlimited Futures, a collection of speculative fiction from First Nations and Afro-Black writers. They perfectly encapsulate the unifying themes of this incredible collection which looks to the future while inextricably linking it to the past. Emerging writers appear alongside established authors such as Claire G Coleman, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Sisonke Msimang, and Alison Whittaker in this collection brimming with power, revolution, beauty and gentle reflection.
The collection opens with a series of conversations between the editors as they discuss their intentions for the collection and what drew them to the pieces they chose. They make a point of reminding readers that First Nations and Afro-Black communities are not a monolith; and that the variety of contributors to the collection presents different aspects of their experiences and narratives. They also make it clear that the collection was not specifically made for the white gaze. It was written by and for First Nations and Afro-Black readers. They also discuss the power of the speculative fiction genre especially in an uncertain world. Speculative storytelling is visionary in nature and allows us to not only envision a better future but the steps that can be taken to reach that future.
The collection opens with “The River” by Tuesday Atzinger, a story of one man’s greed and lust threatening to damn an entire village, and closes with SJ Minniecon’s “The Prime Minister”, a story written in 1945 that still carries weight and importance today.
Perhaps my favourite story of the collection is Ambelin Kwaymullina’s “Fifteen Days on Mars” although it’s hard to pick a favourite with so many interesting and well-crafted stories. Sisonke Msimang’s “Mami Wata” and Alison Whittaker’s “Bridge” were also standouts for me. But there is also a wealth of talent in this collection, as evidenced by the works of Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi (“Today, We Will Rise”), Chemutai Glasheen (“The Debt”) and Jasper Wyld (“Thylacine”).
There can be no denying the anger, the pain and the sadness contained within this collection, and yet it does not leave you feeling deflated. There is hope, and a sense that justice can be served, that a better future is attainable. It infuses the reader with a sense of power and direction, in the way that only truly great visionary work can.
Unlimited Futures is bold and unapologetic, weaving the past, present and future together to create something worthy and exciting. It is the perfect showcase of the power of speculative fiction.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
*Note: this review was updated on 09/04/2022 to correct the use of ‘Black’ to ‘Afro-Black’ so as not to erase the Bla(c)kness of First Nations people.