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So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy

by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan, eds.

Author Nalo Hopkinson and science fiction scholar Uppinder Mehan have cultivated this anthology of new short stories from emerging and established postcolonial writers all over the world. The 19 unique stories here are framed by a valuable introduction by Hopkinson and duly academic final essay by Mehan.

The anthology is divided into five thematic sections: “The Body,” “Future Earth,” “Allegory,” “Encounters with the Alien,” and “Re-Imagining the Past,” creating visions of pasts, presents, and futures that are at once fantastical and familiar. The mingling of science fiction, speculative fiction, allegory, and fantasy, all clustered around postcolonial themes, means that readers may be struck by some stories and have difficulty with others. But the diversity of styles and genres creates a tapestry in which themes intersect, harmonize, and enrich each other.

Larissa Lai’s haunting “Rachel” tells the character Rachel of Blade Runner’s side of the story in a way that convinces and even seems to deepen the film’s original puzzle: how do we know if we are quite what we think we are, human? Nnedi Okarafor-Mbachu’s startling and vivid fable “When Scarabs Multiply” portrays a society disintegrating under a self-serving patriarch while being renewed by a warrior queen. In “Delhi,” Vandana Singh weaves the curse of clairvoyance, destiny, and duty around the streets of a past, present, and future Delhi. And Toronto author Tamai Kobayashi portrays an apocalyptic world where Mad Max meets Foucault, but peopled with all the complexities of women’s loneliness, slavery, survival instinct, and sexuality, in her novel excerpt “Panopte’s Eye.”

Most compelling are the finely crafted stories based in First Nations realities and themes. “Refugees,” by Celu Amberstone, throws readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride within a refugee culture that has been rescued, transplanted, and controlled by ambiguous benefactors from a post-apocalyptic Earth. Maya Khankhoje’s “Journey into the Vortex” swirls the fate of a Mayan medicine woman and her princely lover through the pools of time, proving that passion is a more formidable weapon than those of any government or institution.