gretchening: Cover art for Stars Are Out Tonight, a creepy black-eyed sculptured alien/androgynous bust in black and white (Bowie Alien)
Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars ed. by Nisi Shawl

I recommend this anthology unreservedly. It's a collection of stories by writers of color who have been recipients of the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship, and it really showcases the variety of talent the scholarship has supported, and, I hope, gives these writers a strong platform for future work. Plus, it's an $8 ebook whose donation benefits the scholarship fund, so it's a win all around.

I tend to have a difficult time getting through anthologies and collections of short stories, as I can't help but compare the stories to one another. In this case, I did have some standout favorites but I definitely enjoyed all of the stories enough to finish them easily, which is unusual for me. I think that's a hallmark of a strong anthology and the organization of the stories within the volume really worked for me.

As a meta-aside, I really appreciated the two non-fiction pieces that opened the volume and sandwiched the reprint of Butler's "Speech Sounds". Hopkinson and McIntyre give personal accounts of Butler and give context for her legacy, both in terms of her work and in terms of her contributions in supporting other writers in the SF/F field. I cried reading each of these pieces, and was stunned at how much of an impact "Speech Sounds" has when read in this context as an introduction to work by talented up-and-coming writers. "Speech Sounds" is in so many ways a story about having no voice/ability to express oneself and feeling one's way in a bitterly dangerous world, only to find and nurture a new generation who are just beginning to find and develop that voice. This especially played against Hopkinson's introduction, in which she talks about being a young reader of color seeking "African diasporic culture, our aesthetics, our histories and lore, our speech stylings, our experiences and understandings of the world, our humor..." Hopkinson talks about how Butler was one of the first authors to do this for SF/F, and she went on to help protect and support other writers' voices to help expand the field further. To me, that is the work that the Octavia Butler Scholarship seeks to do for writers of color in the SF/F literary world, and that is the work Butler herself began before her untimely death. It was well-chosen and powerful, and it really prepared me as a reader to look with even more interest on the stories that followed, and to read them each as a representation of a *new* voice.

I think it's a grave mistake to compare all writers of color in SF/F to Butler (I have seen it happen so often on panels at conventions and in online discussions), and I'm glad to see this anthology --it's frustrating and does a disservice to their work. I think Shawl did well in curating examples of each writer's work that stood out from one another in a way that really enhanced their differences in structure, theme, voice, perspective. The anthology is arranged chronologically in terms of when the author received the scholarship, but it ends up working internally--the story placement worked for me most of the time, too.

I talk a little about my response to each story under the cut, including some spoilers. )


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March 2015

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