New Suns - Orginal Speculative Fiction by People of Color - edited by Nishi Shawl

I would like to thank Remy from Rebellion for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review

Publisher – Solaris

Price – £8.99 paperback £5.99 kindle eBook

Published – Out Now

“There’s nothing new under the sun. But there are new suns” Octavia B Butler

…showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, horror, and their indefinable overlapping. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and cliched expectations, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.

I strongly believe it is not healthy for any reader to read the same type of story forever. Variety is the spice of life and if you only read books written by middle class, middle aged white men then you will only see the universe through the eyes of middle class, middle aged white men which strangely seem to be almost universally populated by….you may guess and only their ideas are revolutionary and by that thirty years out of date …let’s call it the McEwan effect…. The need for diverse authors to be allowed to tell the stories they want bringing their perspectives on any type of tale is vitally important to making readers see SF and fantasy as something truly universal and keeping the genre relevant and reflective of the 21st century we live in. This doesn’t mean every story is going to be an explicit exploration of the socio-political issues of the day, but it does mean that authors can perhaps give readers perspectives on stories they may not have thought about. Nisi Shawl has brought about a whirling variety of tales to help push SF into these uncharted seas and it was an immensely rewarding experience.

Among my favourites

Deer Dancer by Kathleen Acala – A tale of a world where it is always light. Tater works on repairing a settlement where the bears may be talking. Tater is trying to get the world back in shape but is troubled by dreams of the future. Really eerie tale where you must work out the backstory of the world and how it got into this situation but ultimately one about making hope out of the future. Loved the writing style and the sense of a larger world just outside the house to be feared or explored.

The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations by Minsoo Kang – almost an academic study of a famous picture depicting a historical encounter when a famous emperor had an unexpected truce with the up and coming warlord. Very smart tale focusing initially on those who work behind the scenes of the powerful to promote peace plus the power of language. It’s then made excellent by a postscript that itself points out to the reader that our search for a neat romantic happy ending may also be reflecting our own biases.  Very thought-provoking.

Come Home to Atropos by Steven Barnes – you don’t usually expect a tv ad in an anthology. And this tale for the white rich middle class to visit a beautiful Caribbean resort on one hand sounds twee but then you read closer and behind the visuals work a very very sharp point about exploitation – the last line is brutal and deserving.

The Fine Print by Chinelo Onwuala - a Djinn has offered every year those in the land everything they ever wanted for a price. Nuhu used the service once but has resisted it ever since. There is an intriguing change in the reader’s support for characters here as we wonder exactly who is exploiting who here.

Unkind of Mercy by Alex Jenning – this is a very subtle horror story. A young woman’s boyfriend is an edgy comic always happy to exploit people’s prejudices and he’s about to go mainstream. She however notices there appear to be people on the edges who no one else can see. Lots of build up to a very uncomfortable realisation that there are people we just don’t seem to notice anymore until perhaps too late.

Burn the Ships by Alberto Yanez – The reader may think we have gone back in history to a tale of the colonisation of the Americas and there are similarities but then the reader notices the mentions of future technology. The original inhabitants of the land have been imprisoned and are being brutalised by their colonisers whose plans are getting more violent and sickening. Quineltoc is a priest who refuses to disobey his god and take up rebellion. His wife Citlal however knows other Gods and magics may aid them. This story manages to move into epic rebellion while at the end also reminds us that some faiths can easily blind us to helping those in need if viewed as the Lord’s masterplan.

The Freedom of the Shifting Sea by Jaymee Goh – Mayang is half woman half aquatic centipede. She has a relationship with Salmah a young woman visiting the area. Ove the next few decades Mayang gets involved regularly with her family. It’s a tale of loss and love that I was enchanted by.

Give Me Your Black Wings Oh Sister by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – this is a very sinister tale of a woman who we realise hides a secret and its calling to her true nature.  Its short but incredibly creepy and unsettling – a highlight of the series.

The Shadow We Cast Through Time by Indrapramit Das – a world has been cut off from the wider universe by the collapse of the wormhole gates everyone travelled through. Its inhabitants are trying to survive but they also have an indigenous lifeform that surrounds their habitats. Its agreed that those who are to die must travel there to keep the balance. Surya tells us her life story and Das makes the world alien, scary and yet dangerously beautiful. Slowly we realise the colonists are changing the world and something very different is starting to emerge which may itself bring new life to the world. Loved this one

Harvest by Rebecca Roanhorse – Tansi is in love with a deer woman and will do anything to please her and that includes help avenge injustices to her past. A tale of love but also quite horrific revenge – delivered very chillingly.

It’s a much broader anthology than I originally realised and that variety of different takes on the genres really works. You don’t know as a reader what each story will be and those that appear to be horror can end with hope. I’ve made a note on many authors and I am very glad the future of the SF seems far more interesting than what some in literary fiction think it is.

PS the collection starts with a lovely praising of SF by LeVar Burton (of Star Trek fame) and he really underlines why this book is needed.