The first time I ever submitted a story to a writing class in college was a memorial one — at least, for me.
We were critiquing two pieces: a science fiction story that I had written, and a poem written by another girl in the class. The teacher opened the proceedings by saying that he had stopped reading science fiction when he was 12 and didn’t consider it an appropriate literature for adults. He prefaced the critique of the poem by saying that he thought there was no such thing as good political poetry. (Needless to say, after that, both the story and the poem were thoroughly trashed by both the teacher and most of the students.)
I wonder what he would have made of the anthology We See A Different Frontier, edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad. It is an unabashedly political collection of what, in the introduction, Aliette de Bodard calls “the voices of the invaded; of the colonized; of the erased and the oppressed.” In other words, it contains 16 stories about colonization from the point of view of those colonized (rather than of the colonizers).
My teacher wasn’t completely wrong. Politics often doesn’t make for good literature — there are too many writers who don’t feel the need to pay attention to the language as well as the message. This, however, doesn’t apply to the stories in this really excellent anthology. While there were two or three entries that didn’t really appeal to me for one reason or another, all the stories here are expertly and impressively crafted, and most had me riveted (to the point that I once missed my subway stop).
And these are not only quality pieces of fiction, but they express a variety of complex viewpoints of colonialism and its impact that resist the simple bad guy/good guy tropes that are so tempting in these cases. Rahul Kanakia’s story “Droplet,” for example, tells about a young man’s maturing as he discovers the truths and lies behind his family’s history in the U.S. and India. Lavie Tidhar’s “Dark Continents” weaves and reweaves several different alternate histories. Sunny Moraine’s non-human protagonist tries to come to terms with memories of genocide in “A Heap of Broken Images.” And J.Y. Yang’s “Old Domes” illustrates how the ghosts of the past and the future can make peace with each other.
If you’re looking for alternative viewpoints in your speculative fiction, this is a good place to come. However, if you’re not interested in your or anyone else’s agenda, and are simply in the market for good, well-written specfic, then We See A Different Frontier belongs on your list as well.