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Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

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Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing visionary fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. This book brings twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing visionary fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. This book brings twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia's Brood span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to experiment with new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. The collection is rounded off with essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a foreword by Sheree Renée Thomas.


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Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing visionary fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. This book brings twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing visionary fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. This book brings twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia's Brood span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to experiment with new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. The collection is rounded off with essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a foreword by Sheree Renée Thomas.

30 review for Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hafidha

    For conception, experimentation and and variety I give the book four stars; for well-executed fiction, I give it 2.5 or 3. There were a couple stories I really liked - mostly in the 2nd or 3rd parts of the book. I tried to mark all of those in the updates. The last three or four pieces are essays. Tananarive Due's essay about Octavia Butler as a speculative storyteller and inspiration is well worth a read for its distillation of Butler's recurring themes, little tidbits about the early AfAm spec For conception, experimentation and and variety I give the book four stars; for well-executed fiction, I give it 2.5 or 3. There were a couple stories I really liked - mostly in the 2nd or 3rd parts of the book. I tried to mark all of those in the updates. The last three or four pieces are essays. Tananarive Due's essay about Octavia Butler as a speculative storyteller and inspiration is well worth a read for its distillation of Butler's recurring themes, little tidbits about the early AfAm spec fiction community and descriptions of Butler's personality and effect on other Black spec writers. The outro explains the book's intent and how social justice spec fiction (here called "visionary fiction") is being used in community organizing. There were also some useful definitions, such as "the elements of visionary fiction," and so on.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kalin

    I love Octavia Butler, I love her stories and her ideas, love sci-fi, and I am more than happy to try any creative writing that aspires to inspire radical and revolutionary political activism. The thought of Butler's writing giving birth to a generation of speculative fiction activists who use the written word to support the intentional dreaming of radical movements as they/we struggle towards a better, free-er future -- that thought is sends chills. It gives a few extra ticks to the beating of I love Octavia Butler, I love her stories and her ideas, love sci-fi, and I am more than happy to try any creative writing that aspires to inspire radical and revolutionary political activism. The thought of Butler's writing giving birth to a generation of speculative fiction activists who use the written word to support the intentional dreaming of radical movements as they/we struggle towards a better, free-er future -- that thought is sends chills. It gives a few extra ticks to the beating of my heart. Octavia's Brood was an exciting prospect from the moment I first heard of the project, and I was extremely happy to get a copy (in detroit no less where a much of this book was born). The book consists of a few dozen short stories, with a few essays and other types of writing. Within lie stories drawing on a diversity of speculative fiction genres, or as the editors have coined, visionary fiction. I will say this: the book was fun to read. I would recommend it to anyone interested in tasting the sweet intersection of sci-fi and social justice. There was a lot of intriguing world-building. Though, like many other reviewers I've seen on goodreads, I struggled at times with the book. The editors are up-front that many of the stories are published by first-time writers, not professional writers working with the sci-fi genre or even creative writing necessarily. It didn't surface as much in the world-building -- though other reviewers have said that the world-building and conceptual elements of many of the stories were bland, I found them interesting enough -- but in the structure of the stories. One after the other would end on a cliffhanger note just teetering on the edge of the "real" action, having spent most of their 10 or so pages introducing a character or social situation (often a blatantly bleak picture of a dystopian/authoritarian near-future) to which a protagonist is responding with resistance. I'm not incredibly well-read in the medium of short story, but I'm pretty sure they're supposed to have some sort of beginning, middle, and end. Many of the stories I read in Octavia's Brood felt like beginnings with no middle or end, like they were a teaser trailer for the novel-length version of the same story. To their credit, I found myself repeatedly wanting to put down Octavia's Brood and read the next 190 pages of that other novel. Visionary fiction. It's a wonderful concept, but I found myself wondering (and not convinced either way) if a collection of stories that so repeatedly create totalitarian and seemingly all-powerful state and corporate antagonists have actually managed to use their writing to vision pathways to the future that movements will find relevant, or have simply reflected contemporary frustrations with the powers of oppressive forces that resonate with the radicals of the 2010s. There were only a couple stories in the collection that I would feel comfortable characterizing as positive or hopeful (and not in the stubborn-hope-in-the-face-of-despair variety); many of the rest featured brutal violence and a focus on the many oppressions that activists struggle against day to day. Lalibela broke this pattern inventively and I thank the author for that! Regardless of what I write here, I think anyone reading should get the book, read it, try writing some visionary fiction of your own, etc! It wasn't perfect, but it was a GOOD effort at something new, and here's to hoping for a GREAT sophomore release.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Heron

    This collection of stories isn't perfect, but how could it be. It is more like a collection of passionate conversations held around a dinner table with brilliant people, terrified and exhilarated for the future. Some are clumsy in their passion, some are cooly pessimistic, some are flighty with imagination, some grounded in present day inequality. I love this book and I will reread it over and over. This is the future, both of writing and of humanity.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Make no mistake: Octavia's Brood belongs. It is modern sf—an anthology of speculative fiction (including both science fiction and fantasy, wherever you draw that line) from authors both known and unknown, collected here in honor of the late Octavia E. Butler by editors Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha (who is a local, by the way—on the faculty at Portland State University!). This anthology contains dystopias and utopias, angels and aliens, genetic engineering and time travel—even a Make no mistake: Octavia's Brood belongs. It is modern sf—an anthology of speculative fiction (including both science fiction and fantasy, wherever you draw that line) from authors both known and unknown, collected here in honor of the late Octavia E. Butler by editors Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha (who is a local, by the way—on the faculty at Portland State University!). This anthology contains dystopias and utopias, angels and aliens, genetic engineering and time travel—even a couple of nonfiction essays—but on the face of it, nothing about it would set Octavia's Brood apart from any other sf anthology published in the last fifty years. Except... except for those faces. The difference is difference. These stories were all written by and about people other than the white, male, able-bodied and heterosexual engineer who was the writer and default protagonist for so much 20th-Century sf. And good riddance... having that one guy be the hero of so many stories was never more than a failure of imagination, anyway—an ironic failure indeed, since speculative fiction is, precisely, the literature of imagination. And as such, sf should at a minimum be able to include all of the varieties of human being. Octavia's Brood goes a long way toward that goal. Standouts for me included: * Walidah Imarisha's "Black Angel," an urban fantasy about a disabled angel; * The lively "Sanford and Sun," by Dawolu Jabari Anderson, which puts Sun Ra into Fred Sanford's living room. Sitcom meets sat-comm, or some such; * Gabriel Teodros' time-twisted "Lalibela"; but there are many others. And definitely don't miss the essay "The Only Lasting Truth," by Tananarive Due, a moving personal retrospective about Octavia Butler's life and work that goes a long way toward explaining why an anthology named after her came to exist. I did have a few issues with the selections that appear in Octavia's Brood. Too many of them are just vignettes—fragments of larger tales, not self-contained stories. The tropes explored are often familiar ones. And—again ironically, perhaps—many of the tales here hark back a little too well to the earliest days of sf: like Hugo Gernsback's "scientifiction," they are didactic, idea-driven and energetic but often stiff, more focused on the lessons we are to learn than on the characters who convey those lessons. Walidah Imarisha says in her Introduction that many contributors "had never written fiction before, let alone science fiction." (p.4) Sometimes that shows. But... even then, the energy's still there. The ideas are still there. Octavia's Brood is not perfect, but it's a start—and a damned good homage to its namesake.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Juushika

    An anthology of 20 stories--many of them quite short--of visionary fiction: speculative narratives that explore marginalization, social justice, and radical social change. Many of these stories come from activists who have never written fiction (others are poets, writing here in prose). The lack of experience shows in clumsy, unconvincing worldbuilding, hamfisted social justice themes, and a general dearth of technical skill. There are a few happy exceptions, like the density of "Evidence" by An anthology of 20 stories--many of them quite short--of visionary fiction: speculative narratives that explore marginalization, social justice, and radical social change. Many of these stories come from activists who have never written fiction (others are poets, writing here in prose). The lack of experience shows in clumsy, unconvincing worldbuilding, hamfisted social justice themes, and a general dearth of technical skill. There are a few happy exceptions, like the density of "Evidence" by Gumbs and the fluidity of "Lalibela" by Teodros. Editor adrienne maree brown's "the river" is also strong. But, surprisingly, work from published authors isn't much better; the excerpt from Fire on the Mountain by Bisson is the most promising, but it doesn't work as a short story. The intent of this anthology is pointed and brilliant, and there's something refreshing about reading work from activists whom I otherwise might not encounter. But it's simply not very good. The majority of stories share a structure which frontloads worldbuilding and characterization, but cuts off plot while the larger conflict remains unresolved--a logical limitation, given the complexity of the social conflicts at hand and the lengths of these stories, but still repetitive and oddly self-defeating: all these narratives about social change, rarely offering a plan to change society. There are exceptions--there are uplifting stories, cathartic stories, productive stories; but on the whole, this collection feels like an unfulfilled ambition as well as being technically unaccomplished. I admire it, but didn't enjoy it, and don't recommend it. There are also two nonfiction essays; "The Only Lasting Truth," Tananarive Due writing on Octavia Butler, is a good read and strong finish to the anthology.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Naori

    Octavia Butler united us in a way, as one of her books suggested, as kin. She united all who have needed worlds where we could find inclusion, because for so many of us, painfully, we have met with some form of exclusion or another. During an interview once someone asked Octavia what made her write the way she did; what drove her. She responded, “You’ve got to write yourself in.” To paraphrase, if you don’t already see yourself in a world, then you write yourself into it. I can’t say that I Octavia Butler united us in a way, as one of her books suggested, as kin. She united all who have needed worlds where we could find inclusion, because for so many of us, painfully, we have met with some form of exclusion or another. During an interview once someone asked Octavia what made her write the way she did; what drove her. She responded, “You’ve got to write yourself in.” To paraphrase, if you don’t already see yourself in a world, then you write yourself into it. I can’t say that I loved every single story in this collection, but I can say that so many of them drew out something in me I have rarely felt, mainly only when reading her work. Something very old that I haven’t felt for a very long time. There are times in literature where there are certain scenes that are so powerful, so vivid, that even if you read them twenty years ago, you could sit down today and sketch out every scene, detail, emotion, character of that moment. I would say there were about ten stories like that in this collection for me - and what a powerful thing that is to have... We all inherit things in different ways. Some of us tangible, some of us familial, and some of us hopeful. What this collection has made possible is for us all to inherit being a part of Octavia’s Brood...and I wish I could see what that kind of group of beautiful diversity would look like...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Add a new category to your bookshelves (and your life): "visionary fiction." This impressive collection, a publication collaboration by AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studies, defines the genre as connecting science fiction with social justice. There are 22 authors contributing the stories that comprise this volume, and their bios, printed at the end, provide an additional dimension of enjoyment and interpretation for the book. They all are community activists of various sorts (an Add a new category to your bookshelves (and your life): "visionary fiction." This impressive collection, a publication collaboration by AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studies, defines the genre as connecting science fiction with social justice. There are 22 authors contributing the stories that comprise this volume, and their bios, printed at the end, provide an additional dimension of enjoyment and interpretation for the book. They all are community activists of various sorts (an amazing range, from the well-known--actor/educator LeVar Burton, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal--to others perhaps less familiar, but soon to become your new best friend icons), and the stories they write entertain us with visions of other, mostly future, worlds while challenging us to imagine, to "vision" how we got there, how we can get there, how we can change the injustice that we see around us in this world (the afterward outlines a set of three "tools" for supporting communities to take up this work, part of a "road show" the Octavia's Brood crew has been taking around America). They all, in a variety of styles and voices, honor the great Octavia Butler.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    As the subtitle makes clear, this is an anthology with an agenda, and it's an agenda that will inflame certain parties in recent kerfuffles in the science fiction community. That said, this is an enjoyable collection. The stories are varied in setting, viewpoint, and kind. There's an incipient uprising against both a horde of zombies and the politically repressive response to the zombie horde. There's a gentle story of a woman attempting to reconnect with both her dead grandfather and her very As the subtitle makes clear, this is an anthology with an agenda, and it's an agenda that will inflame certain parties in recent kerfuffles in the science fiction community. That said, this is an enjoyable collection. The stories are varied in setting, viewpoint, and kind. There's an incipient uprising against both a horde of zombies and the politically repressive response to the zombie horde. There's a gentle story of a woman attempting to reconnect with both her dead grandfather and her very much alive daughter, in an alternate history where the Civil War started in 1859, and the slaves won. A woman has to decide how she's going to react to a government that's finally responding to global warming, in a way that may be both too much, and not enough. One choice will cut her off from her mother and the place she grew up; another will cut her off from her partner and her life now. Is there a third choice, and can she do it? A young man who is the token black superhero opts out of the nonsense--until he finds out how he matters to young people, and finds a way to make a contribution that matters to him. The authors include names all sf readers will recognize, like Tananarive Due and Terry Bisson, and people who've never written sf, or even fiction, before. Possibly for that reason, there are a number of stories that I read and thought, that's a set-up for a story I'd like to read the rest of... Having said that, while there are a number of "beginning, middle, no actual end" pieces, there's nothing here I didn't enjoy. There's nothing here that has that special sense you get when mainstream writers go slumming and assume that "science fiction means it doesn't have to make sense." All the writers here respect their readers and their material. The editors didn't excuse lesser work because they wanted a particular name or a particular theme included. Despite being an anthology with an agenda, there's no pounding the reader over the head, except to the extent that happens with any themed anthology when you read straight through rather than dipping in. I'll carry away from it a particular fondness for "The Token Superhero," by David Walker, and "The River," by Andrienne Maree Brown. I've been saying "read" throughout this review; that's a very loose usage. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator's voice is excellent, strong, clear, and expressive. Recommended. I received a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Edie

    This incredible collection of stories is as important as it is fun and fascinating. Sure, not all the stories are brilliant or perfect, but most of them were compelling and many left me wanting more. I laughed out loud, cried, had my expectations continually exceeded, and was very sad to finish the last story. In fact I put off finishing this book for months because I didn't want it to end. The themes of change, struggle, spirit, and hope in the face of extreme challenges are reminiscent of This incredible collection of stories is as important as it is fun and fascinating. Sure, not all the stories are brilliant or perfect, but most of them were compelling and many left me wanting more. I laughed out loud, cried, had my expectations continually exceeded, and was very sad to finish the last story. In fact I put off finishing this book for months because I didn't want it to end. The themes of change, struggle, spirit, and hope in the face of extreme challenges are reminiscent of Butler's themes (done great justice by Tananarive Due's essay). They are what we all should be thinking and imagining about in these times. The editors' articulation of Visionary Fiction as a genre is absolutely perfect, and just in time. My favorite stories were the river, Homing Instinct, The Long Memory, Evidence, and Hollow. Lots of other good ones too though, it was definitely a fun read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    This book calls upon the knowledge, creativity and experiences of folks fighting for social justice. The stories in here use many themes Octavia Butler focused on: community, interdependence, shaping the future, dreaming of the stars and surviving as a human race worth saving. There are stories of resistance and resilience (Hollow by Mia Mingus), characters who choose to fight for humanity despite great personal cost (Black Angel by Walidah Imarisha), and a warning about allowing history to be This book calls upon the knowledge, creativity and experiences of folks fighting for social justice. The stories in here use many themes Octavia Butler focused on: community, interdependence, shaping the future, dreaming of the stars and surviving as a human race worth saving. There are stories of resistance and resilience (Hollow by Mia Mingus), characters who choose to fight for humanity despite great personal cost (Black Angel by Walidah Imarisha), and a warning about allowing history to be forgotten or hidden away by the few (The Long Memory by Morrigan Phillips). The editors really put in work to build something with these authors and with all of the communities where they held emergent strategy workshops. Don't miss out on this book. Guaranteed it will spark a lot of hearts and them towards justice.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Law

    Amazing collection, but many of these short stories seemed like they wanted to be longer works. Several times, I turned to the last page of a story and thought, "That's it? Where's the ending?" But even though many of the stories seemed to leave me dangling, the authors build worlds or futures that suck you in and create characters that you want to keep following. Here's hoping that they continue writing (and that some of them pick up full-length book contracts to continue building those worlds Amazing collection, but many of these short stories seemed like they wanted to be longer works. Several times, I turned to the last page of a story and thought, "That's it? Where's the ending?" But even though many of the stories seemed to leave me dangling, the authors build worlds or futures that suck you in and create characters that you want to keep following. Here's hoping that they continue writing (and that some of them pick up full-length book contracts to continue building those worlds and story arcs).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    Reading this I'm reminded of a collection of Voltairine de Cleyre's work I have that includes her forays into fiction. There is a certain earnest conviction and honesty about the work but it just isn't good and often borders on unreadable.* I found the same to be true about too many of the stories in this collection to be able to recommend it (regardless of how much I may sympathize with the authors' points of view). I'm also reminded of When the Music's Over (subtitled: "An Anthology of Tales Reading this I'm reminded of a collection of Voltairine de Cleyre's work I have that includes her forays into fiction. There is a certain earnest conviction and honesty about the work but it just isn't good and often borders on unreadable.* I found the same to be true about too many of the stories in this collection to be able to recommend it (regardless of how much I may sympathize with the authors' points of view). I'm also reminded of When the Music's Over (subtitled: "An Anthology of Tales Against War and Violence," ed. Lewis Shiner), a collection with a similar goal to Octavia's Brood. There, too, most of the stories sacrifice readability to the theme. Except for Walter Jon Williams' "Prayers on the Wind," which turned out to be one of my favorite short stories. If you ever have a chance to read this anthology or come across the story in some other medium, read that one if nothing else. * I wanted to make clear: It's de Cleyre's prose/poetry that I'm referring to here. Her essays, reviews, etc., are far more interesting (and readable).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Micah

    +2 stars because I respect Walidah. I feel so many feelings about this book. You know when you want to like something SO MUCH, because it's something your friend made, or something on your team did, but no matter how hard you try, you can only see the things to work on? That was this book. The folks who wrote these stories are all strong bad-asses in their activism, but write spec-fic like they need to clobber the reader with their politics. I'm already on board with the politics, that's why I'm +2 stars because I respect Walidah. I feel so many feelings about this book. You know when you want to like something SO MUCH, because it's something your friend made, or something on your team did, but no matter how hard you try, you can only see the things to work on? That was this book. The folks who wrote these stories are all strong bad-asses in their activism, but write spec-fic like they need to clobber the reader with their politics. I'm already on board with the politics, that's why I'm here! And if I wasn't I'd be pissed that someone was trying to metaphorically clobber me! I feel like a harsh butthole for not being nice to the team, but Oh My God, please, just have less stories so they can go on longer and not continuously have these messy and dissatisfying endings. Put it into two books. Be willing to say 'no' and put some of the stories online as bonuses for folks who are really into it. A couple of stand-out stories that have been mentioned in other reviews, I regret to say I only made it halfway before it had to be returned to the library, so I wasn't able to get to the final essays. If you think it's gonna be your thing, go for it. If not, give your time to Octavia herself. <3

  14. 5 out of 5

    M.

    I have a great deal of respect for the concept and the actual badass organizing work the authors and editors do. I think the writing workshops & other events Octavia's Brood does as a group are incredibly innovative and necessary. But as for this book... I wish I knew who the audience was supposed to be. I would recommend giving it to that one cool relative or acquaintance in your life, who perhaps loves mainstream media sf but has not been exposed to much critical analysis of how it upholds I have a great deal of respect for the concept and the actual badass organizing work the authors and editors do. I think the writing workshops & other events Octavia's Brood does as a group are incredibly innovative and necessary. But as for this book... I wish I knew who the audience was supposed to be. I would recommend giving it to that one cool relative or acquaintance in your life, who perhaps loves mainstream media sf but has not been exposed to much critical analysis of how it upholds white supremacist capitalist bullshit. It's got a lot of different concepts, narrative devices, and radical political leans that might be enough to get someone reading the good stuff (or writing their own). But I would also rather just give someone the good stuff. =/ For seasoned sf nerds, especially radical marginalized sf nerds (who write sf like me), you may feel frustrated (as I was) by the fledgling stories therein. I feel like the book as an object of achievement, and as something to be analyzed or discussed in classrooms, is laudable and useful. I feel like people who are already familiar with what "social justice" even means will treasure the book on the premise alone, as something of their own. But as new sf, I wanted the stories to be much more innovative and compelling, ESPECIALLY given the deeply troubling resurgence of sf that is currently being produced to serve as pro-state/pro-military/white supremacist propaganda, actively normalizing the present-day actualization of 1980s/90s cyberpunk dystopia, while casting it as nostalgic/triumphant (a victory of Science & Progress!). It should be said that I'm particularly harsh with my critique of this book as I belong to a collective of radical, queer speculative fiction writers of color, and my expectations and demands of sf at this juncture are just so incredibly high. This anthology has a very explicit introduction that contextualizes the stories as being written by people who have never written science fiction before, and I believe some who have never written fiction at all, but even with that (and even being an anthology, a format that almost always has hits and misses), I was largely disappointed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bookish

    This has been the year of Octavia Butler and her legacy for me. I have never considered myself much of a science fiction reader because I don’t care about the names of gizmos or how space parliaments work. But Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, might just change me. The editors frame this collection of stories as visionary fiction and argue that all science fiction is political: It is about imagining a This has been the year of Octavia Butler and her legacy for me. I have never considered myself much of a science fiction reader because I don’t care about the names of gizmos or how space parliaments work. But Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, might just change me. The editors frame this collection of stories as visionary fiction and argue that all science fiction is political: It is about imagining a future beyond what we have today. And if you are sick of dystopias and need a reminder of the human capacity for bravery, care, optimism, and collective action, I couldn’t recommend this collection more highly. I especially loved reading Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ “Evidence,” where a young girl from a future utopia writes a letter to her ancestors (who are our contemporaries), thanking them for keeping faith and being brave even when they had no idea that they would win. Honestly, I’m tearing up again now. —Nina (excerpted from Staff Reads: December 14)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sam Musher

    The premise of this collection is that anytime you're doing social justice work, you're writing speculative fiction -- a premise I adore, as a person who became captivated by, and formed by, both social justice and science fiction at the same very young age. The writers of these stories are mostly not fiction writers but activists, shaping their activist vision into speculative fiction for the first time. I've never read anything like it. The writers are virtually all of color, as are the The premise of this collection is that anytime you're doing social justice work, you're writing speculative fiction -- a premise I adore, as a person who became captivated by, and formed by, both social justice and science fiction at the same very young age. The writers of these stories are mostly not fiction writers but activists, shaping their activist vision into speculative fiction for the first time. I've never read anything like it. The writers are virtually all of color, as are the editors. The tone of the stories is unlike any sci-fi I've read (though it is clearly informed by Octavia Butler, as the name would imply). All the endings are open-ended, beginnings more than endings and questions more than answers. It's uneven, even more so than short story collections usually are. It's about ideas more than great writing. But if you are a reader of science fiction and you spend a lot of time thinking about justice, I strongly recommend you pick this up.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Clementine Morrigan

    Really incredible. Highly recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    Mourning the end of this magnificent collection of stories

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sally Ember

    I was very excited to get this anthology, Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, after watching a video with two of the anthology's authors who were the ones who conceived of the project and edited the volume, Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown, and because I was a big fan of Octavia Butler's original science-fiction stories and novels. Many of the stories in this collection are worthy of being included by their poetic, social-justice, imaginative I was very excited to get this anthology, Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, after watching a video with two of the anthology's authors who were the ones who conceived of the project and edited the volume, Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown, and because I was a big fan of Octavia Butler's original science-fiction stories and novels. Many of the stories in this collection are worthy of being included by their poetic, social-justice, imaginative language, characters and plots. Among my favorites was "Lalibela" by Gabriel Teodros, which had these fabulous statements: "Time travel was always possible, and is actually always happening, but in Ethiopa most people just use it to make the good moments last longer." Don't you love that? and "If you wish to prolong your existence on the planet, you must begin to understand that you, all humans, and all life on earth are inextricably linked. You are all one organism. Even us now. You are a part of us and we are a part of you. There is no separation." Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls this condition of our existence "interbeing" and many Buddhists and others call it "interdependence." Several others had components I liked, memorable characters and/or lingering ideas or plot elements that resonated with me strongly. The "fallen" angel of Walidah Imarisha's "Black Angel" intrigued me, particularly her cynicism mixed with heroism and stoicism. Morrigan Phillips built a world with inhabitants who worked for social justice in unique ways involving holding collective cultural memories. I was disappointed in a few stories because I don't think they were actually well-written in the format of a short story. There were a few that seemed more to be excerpts from longer works (one was even labeled that way, which I appreciated) or which ended in odd places in the arc of the story that made me think the authors were unclear on the ways that short stories are uniquely structured. I loved the recurring themes and plot points that focused on issues of social justice, mostly racism, sexism, classism and misogyny, and I especially appreciated those that utilized intersectionality without pounding readers on our heads with their messages. The authors who metaphorically stood, shouting, from a soap box with their stories, were not ones I liked as much. Overall, many gems in this anthology which is a credit to Octavia Butler.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I was extremely interested in the premise of this collection: speculative fiction built around social justice movements and/or concerns of today. And, the collection partially lived up to the hype, with intersectionalities of race, gender, sexuality, reproductive rights, social class, and spirituality confounding the direction(s) we may or may not be taking as a society. And a damn good story by Levar Burton--why did no one tell me he's an author?! Other stories in the collection were dull, or I was extremely interested in the premise of this collection: speculative fiction built around social justice movements and/or concerns of today. And, the collection partially lived up to the hype, with intersectionalities of race, gender, sexuality, reproductive rights, social class, and spirituality confounding the direction(s) we may or may not be taking as a society. And a damn good story by Levar Burton--why did no one tell me he's an author?! Other stories in the collection were dull, or even totally incomprehensible (something about a psychic connection to rape victims, which is further complicated by the queer experience? Huh?). It stifled my enjoyment, and kept me re-reading and skipping around, not out of enjoyment or wonder, but out of confusion and frustration. The varied writing quality surprised me, until I read the introduction: many of the authors featured in this collection are prominent figures in social justice movements, but for many, this was their first foray into fiction. Well, okay. The background is cool. The premises are (mostly) cool. I can give bad writing a chance, especially with all the gems I still did find in here. Buy this title from Powell's Books.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    I love the idea of this collection... two Black women (with visions of a better future and inspiring collective dialogue) bringing together activists, writers, radicals, and artists of color to write short sci-fi stories with a focus on social justice, change, liberation, and race. This anthology feels like an experiment and I like that. Some of the stories fall a little flat or feel a little trite (even corny) or are less masterful (or fully-formed?) than what I'm used to reading, but maybe I love the idea of this collection... two Black women (with visions of a better future and inspiring collective dialogue) bringing together activists, writers, radicals, and artists of color to write short sci-fi stories with a focus on social justice, change, liberation, and race. This anthology feels like an experiment and I like that. Some of the stories fall a little flat or feel a little trite (even corny) or are less masterful (or fully-formed?) than what I'm used to reading, but maybe that's not a bad thing! Some of the authors have apparently never written (or never written fiction) before and I think it's a great idea for the editors to invite people of various marginalized identities to take part in this experiment. While I thought the stories might somehow go DEEPER I still think this is a good beginning.

  22. 4 out of 5

    E2d2

    This is another anthology that has pushed me into the realm of deliberation, contemplation, and wonderment. If I taught an English course, several of these stories would be on the syllabus. If (when?) I teach an intro to archives course "The Long Memory" by Morrigan Phillips will be the first reading on the syllabus. I loved these stories because they took me out of the center of the world and put me on the edge of an experience that I fundamentally cannot relate to. But I the best manner of This is another anthology that has pushed me into the realm of deliberation, contemplation, and wonderment. If I taught an English course, several of these stories would be on the syllabus. If (when?) I teach an intro to archives course "The Long Memory" by Morrigan Phillips will be the first reading on the syllabus. I loved these stories because they took me out of the center of the world and put me on the edge of an experience that I fundamentally cannot relate to. But I the best manner of fiction, that didn't matter because I could build empathy with those who read these stories and can relate more deeply with the characters and the experiences. Plus it's made me more anxious to get my tattoo scheduled.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zaynab Shahar

    So I totally spaced and forgot to add this book to my reads for this year. i read these stories out of order, as I typically do with most anthologies. this anthology contains some beautifully tender, heartbreaking, gripping stories about what liberation can look like. it's a must read for those not only interested in PoC sci-fi but for people who want to read some seriously talented writing and want some hope for the future

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hall

    As collections go, only about a third of the stories were really powerful, inventive or driving-- but it is worthwhile as a way of publishing folks who might otherwise not find a venue. A few of them get stuck in that kind of pointlessly optimistic/shallow-on-the-details "the revolution starts with me!" trope right before the story ends.

  25. 4 out of 5

    RJ

    First thoughts: Several of the pieces feel incomplete, or as if the writing needed some more time to develop. However, the ideas are definitely here -- ideas that burn brightly, illuminating a new path.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Morse

    Concept: 5, writing: 3. The stories were uneven - but the idea of visionary fiction and the role it plays in organizing is beautiful and so necessary. And the really good stories carry the rest.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    Title: Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements Editors: Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha Genre: The editors describe their work as "visionary fiction." I wish they had included a list of other works and authors they recommend, like Datlow and Windling do in opening some of their topical anthologies. Settings: The future, the past, other worlds, imagined lands, even the present. Reason for Reading: 50 book PoC project #43! Rollin' down the slope with just ​Title: Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements Editors: Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha Genre: The editors describe their work as "visionary fiction." I wish they had included a list of other works and authors they recommend, like Datlow and Windling do in opening some of their topical anthologies. Settings: The future, the past, other worlds, imagined lands, even the present. Reason for Reading: 50 book PoC project #43! Rollin' down the slope with just seven books left to go! Relevance to the Project: The premise of this book is as follows: all social change begins with science fiction, because you must first believe that a better world is possible. Finished In: Months. The wait list for this book as a library hold has been impressive, shall we say. I've taken the book out, read a few stories, thought them over and then returned it. I think this has happened at least three times. Pages: 296 Copyright Date: 2015 - it was released in April though the library didn't get a copy until September. Cover: A beautiful cover designed by John Jennings. [image error] Epigraph: "I am not going to die, I'm going home like a shooting star." - Sojourner Truth First lines: "Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without capitalism, we are engaging in speculative fiction. All organizing is science fiction." Favorite quote: "Through tears of laughter, Resister looked around and saw the others laughing, and she realized she'd found a way out. Laughter liberated them from the search for logic within the illogical. It validated for them what they had known all along - that the system was a joke. They laughed because the key to their freedom was always within them." - p 185 Themes and Triggers: Oppression, death, slavery, prison, resistance, hope, rebirth. Best part: The central idea, which hopefully begins a whole movement of visionary fiction. Many years ago I saw Toni Morrison speak. She said there were three types of Black fiction - slave narratives with degradation heaped on degradation, fairy tales like Terri MacMillan writes, and songs of redemption that do take place in the real world and show how hard life is but also show hope. She said she was only interested in the third type of book. By these standards the collection excels, hopefully showing the way for future books. Worst part: The story collection itself is a bit uneven. Though some bits (especially the nonfiction pieces, five in total) excel, others didn't move me. In particular, the book excerpts felt just like that - excerpts. Imaginary Theme Song: Enlightenment by Sun Ra and the Arkestra. Grade: A solid A for its potential to inspire. Recommended for: In part the book was written as an homage to Octavia Butler. Fans of her work should definitely try it. Related Reads: Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. Dark Matter edited by Sheree Renee Thomas. So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy edited by Nalo Hopkinson.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Fikri

    I loved the premise of this anthology: “visionary fiction,” or speculative fiction rooted in and building on social justice movements, a modern-day challenge to conventional science fiction that replicates dominant power structures (even while purporting to question them). And this book delivered, over and over again. I was captivated by almost every story in the collection, which is impressive when you consider how difficult it is to ensure consistency and quality across so many different I loved the premise of this anthology: “visionary fiction,” or speculative fiction rooted in and building on social justice movements, a modern-day challenge to conventional science fiction that replicates dominant power structures (even while purporting to question them). And this book delivered, over and over again. I was captivated by almost every story in the collection, which is impressive when you consider how difficult it is to ensure consistency and quality across so many different authors, themes, and styles, and especially when you throw in that many of the contributors are first-time writers. The stories are short (shorter than usual, I feel, and suspect they were constrained by submission guidelines of some sort) but the world-building does not suffer for it. The relative inexperience of some of the contributors mainly comes through in violating the “show, not tell” tenet of writing but it’s usually brief enough to be forgivable, if not outright preferable in making the reader’s life easier when moving so quickly from one story universe to another. My main complaint is that the pacing and structure of some of the stories weren’t always well-suited to the short story form — there are stories that you despair at the end of because they’re done and you don’t want them to be, but then there are those that aren’t done but you wish they were, and unfortunately one too many fell in the latter category. Too often I’d finally get into the rhythm of a story only to flip the page and find it prematurely finished but not finished. Still, Octavia Butler is my favourite author and it does my heart good to encounter and enjoy the works of her contemporaries, and I hope at least some of these activists continue to find their voice in the written word. A couple of these stories even ended on hopeful notes — not usually what I’d expect in dystopic fiction, but I can’t say I’m complaining! I’m aware that a book like this reaching a reader like me is the very definition of preaching to the choir so I can’t say my own beliefs were challenged (there was some promise in taking on militant, simplistic environmentalism in Dani McClain’s Homing Instinct, but this too lamentably didn’t get far in enough) but I appreciate finding affirming, energising speculative fiction.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    “And for those of us from communities with historic collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking around on two legs. Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us. For adrienne and myself, as two Black women, we think of our ancestors in chains dreaming about a day when their children’s children’s children would be free. They had no reason to believe this was likely, but together they dreamed of freedom, and they brought us into being. “And for those of us from communities with historic collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking around on two legs. Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us. For adrienne and myself, as two Black women, we think of our ancestors in chains dreaming about a day when their children’s children’s children would be free. They had no reason to believe this was likely, but together they dreamed of freedom, and they brought us into being.” -from the Introduction by Walidah Imarisha, explaining why Science Fiction and social justice are inseparable. This collection is not perfect. It has many stories written by people whose calling is not to write fiction. But each work, even those whose containers were imperfect, expresses the pain of that writer living in a world of injustice and oppression and also hopes for a better world. These are stories I want to hear. I’ll talk about just a few of my favorite stories: “The River” by adrienne maree brown about the Detroit river taking action against people who aren’t native to Detroit. Whether it’s a stylistic choice that the author makes always or one she makes just for this story, the lack of capitalization throughout lends a quiet smoothness to the story. It invites the reader to be an “us” with the protagonist and observe the river in its vendetta. “Small and Bright” by Autumn Brown is about a young woman who is being ejected onto the surface by her subterranean community for a crime many consider to be justified. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful. “Kafka’s Last Laugh” by Vagabond is about a person arrested for protesting who is assigned to be prison labor for a mall. She finds herself trapped in the absurdity of bureaucracy. I love a good dystopian novel and this one is much in Kafka’s legacy. On top of the short fiction, the non-fiction essays (foreward, outro, etc) were a wonderful package for the collection. It made me think about my own connections to the world and prepared me to listen. I have walked away from this collection with a list of people whose work I need to look up. Overall, I would recommend this collection for reading, especially if you love science fiction or fantasy, especially if you’re ready to listen as well.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gregg Wingo

    This is a wonderful selection of stories from SF and fantasy writers inspired by the example of Octavia Butler's SF legacy. These authors have a more direct and less subtle approach to speculative fiction as a form of protest than Ms. Butler but they are very fine writers for the most part. They bring passion and social criticism to the forefront in a way that Octavia often avoided. My favorite piece is a screenplay for "Sanford & Son". Frankly, having Redd Foxx meet Sun Ra is a wonderful bit This is a wonderful selection of stories from SF and fantasy writers inspired by the example of Octavia Butler's SF legacy. These authors have a more direct and less subtle approach to speculative fiction as a form of protest than Ms. Butler but they are very fine writers for the most part. They bring passion and social criticism to the forefront in a way that Octavia often avoided. My favorite piece is a screenplay for "Sanford & Son". Frankly, having Redd Foxx meet Sun Ra is a wonderful bit of merriment and genius. The collection also contains two samplings from existing novels by Star Trek: Next Generation star, LeVar Burton's (and perhaps more importantly in this context is his portrayal of Kute Kinte in "Roots") "Aftermath" and Terry Bisson's "Fire on the Mountain". I especially enjoyed Bisson's story set in the Valley of Virginia in an alternative history with a decidedly different ending to America's peculiar institution. Since I have made that drive up I-81 a million times it was wonderful to see it through the eyes of the author and her troubled character, Yasmin. Also, included are two essays by death-row inmate and Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Tananarive Due. Abu-Jamal's essay is a wonderful look at the U.S. imperialism, "Star Wars" and the psyche of the American people. Due's "The Only Lasting Truth" is an important analysis of Ms. Butler's work especially because of Due being the wife of Steven Barnes, a fellow African American SF writer, and her own standing as an author and fine arts professor. The editors, Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown, also speak strongly to the role of exploratory fiction as a component in the fight for social justice. In these benighted times, these authors give us much to brood on and a spark of light for the future....

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