Book: Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha
Reviewer: Jeriann Ireland
Content Notes: The stories in this collection discuss marginalization, oppression, death, and violence.
Genre/Audience Info: These sci-fi stories are appropriate for adults and young adults who are comfortable with mature themes.
Type of Bath: A hot sauna bath where you can sweat out the stress of the similarities between these fictional dystopias and our own
Bath Accessories: a local microbrew or cider, preferably run by socially aware, awesome people.
In 2016, a friend of mine was reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler and really enjoying it. I hadn’t really heard of Octavia Butler at the time, and was intrigued by the idea of a well-known female sci-fi author who I hadn’t heard of. I read Kindred and was blown away. I decided instantly that I would read more of her books. Currently, I have her Lillith’s Brood Trilogy on my Kindle, which I’m excited to finally read!
In November of 2017, I went to a conference called Compassionate Communities: We Choose All of Us. There, I attended several workshops and keynote speakers around subjects surrounding social justice and meeting the needs of the most marginalized in our communities. One of the keynote speakers was adrienne maree brown, co-editor of Octavia’s Brood, a collection of science fiction stories inspired by Octavia Butler. I loved listening to brown speak, and purchased a copy of the book at the conference.
As I started reading Octavia’s Brood (in the bath, of course, with homemade cinnamon bath fizzies), I was hooked just by the idea. The introduction explains that when we strive for a better world we are engaging in speculative fiction. Social justice organizers have to have active imaginations in order to envision their goals. Therefore, the Sci-fi genre and social justice organization are inherently connected. The stories are written by people working in social justice fields, some of whom are experienced authors and some of whom aren’t. I love that the editors were willing to work with contributors in-depth to create powerful, comprehensive stories that leave you wanting more.
The first story introduces us to a vietnamese-american pair reminiscing about bad tv and good food during a budding revolution. The second piece shows us a superhero trying to find real meaning in his work. I was excited for the third story, written by adrienne maree brown. It’s a beautiful piece where nature comes to life, possibly to right some of humanity’s wrongs.
“Evidence” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs stuck out to me because it’s written as a compilation of exhibits of evidence. This evidence isn’t for a court case, but isa historical archive of a character and her ancestors. The relationship between generations made me want to read a whole book written in this style and on this concept.
As I kept reading, I found myself taking note of authors to check out and explore further works from. I was sort of hoping against the odds that some of these were parts of larger works, though they each stood complete by themselves. My hopes were dashed when I came to Levar Burton’s piece “Aftermath,” which was labelled as an excerpt. This designation meant none of the pieces beforehand had been excerpts. Dang. Also, yes, Levar Burton has a story in this collection! Yet another reason to check it out.
There was one other excerpt in this collection, “Fire on the Mountain” by Terry Bisson. This piece weaves narratives from different points in time to show us a family’s progression from a past similar to our own, with key scenes of slavery in the American south, to a future with new borders and space exploration. I am definitely going to hunt down the complete book.
I loved all of the stories in this collection, but I’m not going to describe each one. If you love science fiction, you should check this out. If you want to read books and stories with diverse characters and authors, definitely get this.
One more thing I love is that this was published by AK Press, who describe themselves as an anarchist publishing company. I looked them up, and they have some great membership programs that allow accessible options to support alternative writing. I believe publishing companies like this are extremely important, not simply because of political views, but because mainstream publishing will always show an incomplete picture of the amazing writing that is out there. It’s important that people and companies outside the mainstream find ways to get other writing and messages out there.
I love how intentionally this collection was put together and I strongly recommend it to any fans of sci-fi and speculative fiction.