Sunday, February 23, 2014


Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond
Edited by Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall

This is a book I was interested in reading after I heard about the editors' Indiegogo campaign (which, full disclosure, I did not contribute to). It's is a speculative fiction anthology, and, as is typical, the stories within aren't even in quality. A few are poor; a few a bland; many are good; and a few are excellent. But a range of quality (or, perhaps, the range is in the reader's taste?) is par for the course in an anthology. In any case, a few weak stories don't mar the reading experience the way a few weak sections would hurt a novel. So, yes, it's an anthology, and if you like reading short speculative fiction, it's probably your cup of tea.

The biggest issue with this book is labeling: It's not what it says on the tin. The title suggests science fiction - Afro-centric science fiction - but the contents are speculative fiction, including fantasy, from a range of cultures. Which, of course, is a totally valid theme for an anthology, but it's not what most readers are going to expect given the title and the cover art. (The stories include those with African, Asian, Caribbean, Latino/a, and Native American themes, as well as a couple of Euro-centric and white-American stories. Of course white American culture is part of multiculturalism, just like WASPs have ethnicity and white is a race, but in an anthology designed to showcase diversity that usually isn't privileged in the genre, I found their inclusion an interesting choice.) The stories range from those that are decidedly future to those set in the present and even several set in the past. In other words, it's not all Afro, nor all future.

So, that's a bigger weakness than uneven story quality - because it's a marketing error, and part of the point of the anthology is to get some of this stuff out to a larger audience.

Alright, titles matter. But aside from that?

What I'm taking away from the book is a couple of authors I was unfamiliar with. It didn't come as any surprise to me that N.K. Jemisin or Junot Diaz, for example, could write a good story, although it's always pleasurable to encounter new pieces by writers you generally enjoy. However, there were some writers whose names I was previously unfamiliar with who I am now on the lookout for - Chinelo Onwualu, Vandana Singh, S.P. Somtow, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Joseph Bruchac, Daniel Jose Older, Tade Thompson, Tenea D. Johnson - I am ashamed to say I had heard of none of them. What this means is the anthology has done its job. I can quibble about the title all I like, but at the end of the day I think you should read it, and also I have to go make my Amazon wishlist longer.