Koori and Lebanese author Mykaela Saunders, has brought together 22, previously published, short stories by First Nations writers in This All Come Back Now (UQP. $32.99), labelled as "the world's first anthology of blackfella speculative fiction". Contributors include Evelyn Araluen, Karen Wyld, Lisa Fuller, Jasmin McGaughey, Samuel William Watson, John Morrissey, Ellen van Neerven, and Alexis Wright.
Saunders abbreviates speculative fiction to "spec fic" in her introduction, noting that "many common spec fic themes are just stone-cold reality for us . . . our cultural stories have dealt with for millennia - the difference is, to us these stories aren't always parsed out into fiction or fantasy, as they are often just ways we experience life. For example: time travel isn't such a big deal when you belong to a culture that experiences all times simultaneously, not in a progressive straight line like Western cultures do."
The opening story, "Muyum, a Transgression", by Goorie/Koori poet Evelyn Araluen, concludes with the words, "This all come back now", which Saunders notes alludes to the "spectral narrators singularity of thought and feeling that she's now become at one with everything right at the end of consciousness".
Araluen reflects the cyclic cosmology of First Nations, setting her story in an almost mystical landscape, "where sadness is born from intimate knowledge of place and people and what has been done to both".
Ellen van Neerven, of Mununjal and Dutch heritage, sets "Water" in a near future Australia in which a small number of a new species, "sandplants", part people, part plant, are found near Russell Island in Queensland, the site of a major scheduled development . A young indigenous woman, Kaden, is the designated Cultural Liaison Officer to the plant people, some of whom are literally rooted to the banks of Russell Island. As she grows emotionally closer to them and their possible fate, the links to Australia's history resonate, particularly in the context of land rights and the treatment of the stolen generation.
Adam Thompson, a Pakana Tasmanian author, infuses "Your Own Aborigine" with dark humour. A Liberal government, under threat from an ultra-right party, has passed an Aboriginal Welfare Bill in which aboriginal welfare recipients of Centrelink payments must be personally sponsored by an individual Australian taxpayer.
Many of the stories in This All Come Back Now reflect the themes of climate change, racial abuse, invasion and colonisation in a variety of present and future worlds.
Invasion and colonisation played out in two settings in Wirlomin Noongar woman, Claire G Coleman's first novel Terra Nullius (2017), which won the Norma K. Hemming Award and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize.
Enclave (Hachette.$29.99), her third novel, set in a near-future, climate change-impacted Australia, extrapolates from today's financial and social inequalities. Coleman has said in an interview, "Over the last few years I have become aware of increasing political polarisation and a rise in people trying to isolate themselves from opinions and lives different to their own. I wondered what sort of world would come about if the current cultural tendency towards isolation continued."
This sentiment plays out in Enclave. Twenty-year-old Christine lives with her family in Safetown, a secure, conservative, white city in which lifestyles are constantly reinforced by the personal algorithms of "the Agency".
Christine rails against her family's conservative outlook and their treatment of the dark skinned servant underclass, a sentiment which is accentuated when Christine falls in love with one of them, Sienna. Christine, whose relationship is spotted by surveillance cameras, is labelled an "Abo lover", but refuses to recant and is exiled from Safetown.
Coleman, in Part Two of the novel, follows a traditional SF path with Christine struggling to survive in an anarchic and dangerous wasteland. Ultimately, however, she reaches an almost utopian Melbourne of 10 million people. Here, refugees are welcome and everyone has free public transport and a guaranteed income.
Melbourne represents a black-and-white contrast to Safetown's sexual conservatism and corporate and individual greed. The conflict between the two societies escalates as the Agency pursues Christine to Melbourne, where she, Sienna and their colleagues prove to be a catalyst for an ultimate resolution.
Melbourne is now one of the greenest cities in the world; "no city is more green, more dedicated to fighting global warming through the growth of biomass; sometimes it has more in common with a rainforested mountain than a city".
Coleman is not an author focused on the underpinning of infrastructure detail. Rather her forte is in powerful messaging, in her words, "to unpack and interrogate the world around us" through her juxtaposition of conflicting societies.
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