When I finished reading the first story in Mothership, a little voice in my head said “Was that really the story to start this anthology with? I mean, sure it’s got a black protagonist, but is that enough?”
And then the rest of me took a step back, looked horrified, and said: “Have you learned nothing from Pam Noles’ essay “Shame”? And from the entire Kaleidoscope project? The story has a black protagonist. That’s entirely the point.”
And then I sat, aghast at my own white ignorance, and felt ashamed.
And then I kept reading, because that’s the obvious way to combat such an attitude and is at least part of the point of this project and why I supported its production.
There’s a really wide variety of fiction in this anthology. Some skirt the edge of being ‘speculative’ (Rabih Alameddine’s “The Half-Wall”) while others hurtle over the edge and throw themselves at it. I didn’t click with every story (Greg Tate’s “Angels + Cannibals Unite” really didn’t work for me, and nor did Ran Walker’s “The Voyeur”), but many of them were absolutely breathtaking.
Nisi Shawl’s “Good Boy” – one of the only stories that really qualifies for the ‘mothership’ appellation by being set in space – is a glorious fun romp.
“The Aphotic Ghost”, by Carlos Hernandez, did not go where I was expecting and was utterly absorbing.
SP Somtow’s “The Pavilion of Frozen Women” has a wonderful line in bringing together several quite disparate cultures and tying them together into a fairly creepy thriller.
NK Jemisin does intriguing things with the notion of online communities in “Too many yesterdays, not enough tomorrows.”
“Life-Pod” is Vandana Singh’s haunting reflection on family and identity and connection.
In “Between Islands,” Jaymee Goh suggests how different things might have been for the British in colonising Melaka and surrounds with different technology…
Tenea D Johnson’s “The Taken” is a profound reflection on contemporary issues and problems stemming from the historical transportation of enslaved African to America… I don’t even inhabit the culture that’s dealing with it.
One of the intriguing things about this anthology is that it’s not focussed on African-American fiction, which I had basically expected thanks to the title’s reference to P Funk and Afrofuturism. Instead, there are stories here that draw on Egyptian, Native American, Caribbean (I think? I’m Australian, sorry!!), Japanese and Malaysian (again, I think) traditions and cultures – and those are just the ones that I (think I) could identify. There are definitely others that draw on other Asian cultures (I think there’s an Indonesian one?). The author bios don’t universally identify where the authors are from, so that doesn’t assist in figuring out what might have influenced them… which is not a complaint, by the way, because so what? (in the most prosaic ‘fiction is fiction’ sense). So it’s a really broad understanding of what falls into “Tales from Afrofuturism and beyond” – much more inclusive therefore than, for example, many anthologies of the last few years, let alone decades.
This is an good anthology, period. That it’s exploring and accomplishing a particular political aim is icing on the cake. You can get it from Fishpond!