My favourite stories from “New Suns” edited by Nisi Shawl

I’m always hungry for voices in Speculative Fiction who have the gift of seeing the world – past, present and future – differently and who can help me step out of my world and into theirs.

I bought Nisi Shawl’s ‘New Suns – Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color’ because I was already a fan of two of the writers, Karin Lowachee and Rebecca Roanhorse,

I’m happy that, from the seventeen stories in ‘New Suns’, I’ve found another seven new-to-me writers whose work I’d like to see more of.

I‘ve given a brief outline of what appealed to me about my favourite stories in this collection and some details on the authors. I’ve listed the stories in the order that they appear in the collection.

I encourage you to try this collection. Your favourite stories might be different than mine.

‘Deer Dancer’ by Kathleen Alcalá

‘Deer Dancer’ is one of those (very) short pieces of speculative fiction that sparkle in the imagination like a shard of blown glass: bright, unique and with sharp edges.

In eight pages or so, a series of short scenes showed me a young woman called Tater and the communal life she leads in a future version of our world, a couple of generations after large scale climate change has forced people to find new ways to live. It’s a story filled with magic and strength and hope. You can find my full review HERE

Kathleen Alcalá is a Clarion West graduate and instructor, the award-winning author of six books, a recent Whitely Fellow, and a previous Hugo House Writer in Residence. Her latest book, The Deepest Roots: Finding Food and Community on a Pacific Northwest Island, explores relationships with geography, history, and ethnicity.

‘Coming Home To Atropos’ by Steve Barnes

Steven Barnes’ ‘Coming Home To Atropos’ has humour so dry it leaves you desiccated. Then you realise there was no humour, only long-deserved revenge.

The skin of an infomercial, designed to attract rich white folks who want to end their lives in comfort on a Caribbean island, is slowly peeled away to show the grinning skull underneath.

This is a sharp-edged story that cuts deep.

STEVEN BARNES is a New York Times bestselling author, screenwriter and educator who has written more than thirty science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels. Octavia E. Butler called Barnes’s Endeavor-Award winning novel Lion’s Blood “imaginative, well researched, well written, and devastating.”

‘Unkind of Mercy’ by Alex Jennings

Unkind of Mercy by Alex Jennings is a very disquieting tale, with a new kind of supernatural threat in New Orleans.

The threat itself is well-conceived and skilfully revealed but what really sells the story is the accuracy and credibility of the everyday life of the nineteen-year-old woman who stumbles into the threat. Everything about her life feels real and relatable, which makes the threat much more convincing.

Alex Jennings is a writer /teacher / performer living in New Orleans. He was born in Wiesbaden (Germany) and raised in Gaborone (Botswana), Tunis (Tunisia), Paramaribo (Surinam) and the United States. He constantly devours pop culture and writes mostly jokes on Twitter (@magicknegro).

‘Burn The Ships’ by Alberto Yáñez

‘Burn The Ships’ by Alberto Yáñez is a chilling riff on the conquest of the of Peru seen from the Inca point of view and with a very different ending, that challenges not just conquest but patriarchal theocracy.

This is a deeply atmospheric story about a clash of cultures, the nature of magic and a struggle between the submission of male magebloods to a hungry god and the anger of female magicians who will not abdicate their responsibility for the lives of their people to a god who sits back and does nothing.

Alberto Yáñez is a writer of fantasies, poetry, and essays on justice, agency and art, pop culture, and the absurdity of life. With the eye of a natural editor, he’s also a photographer with a documentarian’s approach to taking pictures.

‘The Freedom of the Shifting Sea’ by Jaymee Goh

‘The Freedom of the Shifting Sea’ by Jaymee Goh gives a ‘mermaid’ story that seems somehow more grounded and plausible than most and imagines a relationship that need not end up in pain and sacrifice, possibly because men are not involved.

I liked that the ‘mermaid’ is portrayed as alien and different, capable of great violence, who has a different sense of time passing but is still a person and a person who can be fascinated by women but sees men as a nuisance to be dealt with.

Jaymee Goh is a writer, reviewer, editor, and essayist of science fiction and fantasy. She graduated from the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop in 2016, and received her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Riverside, where she dissertated on steampunk and whiteness. She is a Malaysian citizen currently living in Berkeley, California

‘Blood And Bells’ by Karin Lowachee

I liked the energy of the speech pattern, almost a dialect, that Karin Lowachee told  ‘Blood and Bells’ in. It helped to immerse me in a future where rival gangs are struggling to survive. It was never so dense that it got in the way and it gave a very distinctive flavour.

The world-building is deft and rapid, quickly creating a culture of violent confrontations, tribal loyalties and endless strife. The plot doesn’t give in to the environment. Instead, it focus on the personal, on family and on finding a route to freedom.

Karin Lowachee is a Guyanese-born Canadian author of speculative fiction. She s the author of four novels, Warchild (2002), Burndive (2003), Cagebird (2005) and The Gaslight Dogs (2010).

‘Give Me Your Black Wings Oh Sister’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

‘Give Me Your Black Wings Oh Sister’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an almost-fragment of a story, a sliver of a different reality but it’s a sliver that slips between the lower ribs into your liver.

I liked how normality was made to feel fragile and difficult to sustain, as if it were an illusion you cling to to distract yourself from the darkness you know is inside you but are trying not to deny.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of the novels Gods of Jade and ShadowCertain Dark ThingsUntamed Shore, and a bunch of other books. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). She describes herself as ‘Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.’

‘Harvest’ by Rebecca Roanhorse

‘Harvest’ by Rebecca has a tone that I found irresistible. Its a siren call or seduction, possession, submission and sacrifice. It’s filled with blood and beauty and deeply felt grief and the total satisfaction that comes of surrendering yourself to someone you are intoxicated with.

This is the story of Tansi, who falls in love with a Deer Woman, for whom she harvests hearts. The story starts with a warning:

NEVER FALL IN love with a deer woman. Deer women are wild and without reason. Their lips are soft as evensong, their skin dark as the mysteries of a moonless forest. A deer woman will make you do terrible things for a chance to dip your fingers inside her, to have her taste linger on your tongue. You will weep before it is over, the cries of one who has no relatives. But you will do whatever she asks.

But who listens to warnings like that? Especially when they’re young and in love and well-trained in butchering meat?

Rebecca Roanhorse is a Nebula and Hugo Award-winning speculative fiction writer and the recipient of the 2018 Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her work has also been a finalist for the Sturgeon, Locus and World Fantasy awards. Her novel Trail of Lightning was selected as an Amazon, B&N, and NPR Best Book of 2018. She lives in Northern New Mexico with her husband, daughter, and pug.

‘Kelsey and the Burdened Breath’ by Darcie Little Badger

This is a cleverly wrought ‘What if?’ story. It takes an original idea, ‘What if everyone knew that the last breath of dying people and animals carried their essence somewhere?’ Then it thinks through what that would mean. Where would last breaths go? Would they need any help? Then it adds two more ‘What ifs’: ‘What if they didn’t want to go?‘ and ‘What if some of them were predators?’

What makes this more than a neat story about the consequences of a good idea is that the story focuses not on the ideas but on a woman living alone in her dead parents’ farm house with the Last Breath of her dog, Pal for company. Kelsey is the person who gives Last Breaths the help they need. She’ also the one who gets called on the rare occasions when Last Breaths are a threat. The story is richer both because Kelsey is likeable and relatable and because Kelsey’s journey isn’t really about what Last Breaths do but about the choices the living get to make.

Darcie Little Badger s an Earth scientist, writer, and fan of the weird, beautiful, and haunted. Her first novel, ELATSOE, is coming Summer 2020!

She has a BA in Geosciences from Princeton University and a PhD in Oceanography from Texas A&M University.

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