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Science fiction has always led the way when it comes to exploring identity, with many writers offering radical reconstructions of sexuality, gender, and race. But for all its experimentation and theoretical diversity, the genre has been dominated by a remarkably narrow selection of voices, with its mainly white authors writing largely from a European tradition. The result is a lot of uncharted literary space, a void that So Long Been Dreaming fills by using the tropes and conventions of sci-fi to explore the legacy of colonialism--both in history and in the genre itself.
Co-editors Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan have selected writers from marginalized groups and asked them to use "massa's tools"--"stories that take the meme of colonizing the natives"--to rewrite the narratives of colonization and oppression. The result is an entirely new way of looking at science fiction and its presuppositions, one that offers a view from a parallel but profoundly different universe. Rising to the challenge, many of the writers collected here have appropriated familiar cultural models. Suzette Mayr adapts the Irish folk tale of the selkie--a mermaid-like creature--to explore notions of cultural displacement in "Toot Sweet Matricia," while in "Rachel" Larissa Lai highlights the ways in which the film Blade Runner glosses over issues of race. Tamai Kobayashi morphs Western social and cultural theories in "Panopte's Eye," a story of identity control in a post-apocalyptic military society in which Michel Foucault's panopticon makes a guest appearance. Nor is history itself exempt, as Eden Robinson uses the tensions of the Oka crisis and the fisheries disputes as source material for "Terminal Avenue," an examination of the psychology of assimilation.
The stories cover such a wide range of material--space opera, dimension travel, myth and fairy tale, fantasy, magic realism--that the anthology resists attempts to categorize it. It is not entirely science fiction, not entirely fantasy, not even entirely postcolonial literature. And this resistance is largely the point of So Long Been Dreaming. Such boundaries belong to the past, the anthology suggests, but we're living in the future now. --Peter Darbyshire
Lest postcolonial in the subtitle intimidate, let it be noted that this is a strong anthology that, regardless of thematic concern, showcases authors with some real experience of colonization from all over the world. Given that so much sf is concerned with encounters with the other or alien intending domination, the genre and colonialism are, of course, not strangers. The book's five sections are "The Body," the last of whose contents, Larissa Lai's fascinating "Rachel," glimpses a readily familiar character; "Future Earth," including Vandana Singh's "Delhi," in which one Aseem is unstuck in the city's timestream; "Allegory," which features a particularly chilling and timely presentation of enforced otherness in Wayde Compton's "The Blue Road: A Fairy Tale"; "Encounters with the Alien," in which Greg van Eekhout's "Native Aliens" questions the nature of being alien; and "Re-imagining the Past," with Tobias S. Buckell's "Necahual," about a soldier in a "liberation army" more concerned with making a pure-human society than with living with the no longer purely human and the natives of colonized planets. Regina Schroeder
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