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So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy [Paperback]

Nalo Hopkinson , Uppinder Mehan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 1 2004

So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy is an anthology of original new stories by leading African, Asian, South Asian, and Aboriginal authors, as well as North American and British writers of colour.

Stories of imagined futures abound in Western writing. Writer and editor Nalo Hopkinson notes that the science fiction/fantasy genre "speaks so much about the experience of being alienated, but contains so little writing by alienated people themselves." It's an oversight that Hopkinson and Mehan aim to correct with this anthology.

The book depicts imagined futures from the perspectives of writers associated with what might loosely be termed the "third world." It includes stories that are bold, imaginative, edgy; stories that are centred in the worlds of the "developing" nations; stories that dare to dream what we might develop into.

The wealth of postcolonial literature has included many who have written insightfully about their pasts and presents. With So Long Been Dreaming they creatively address their futures.

With an introduction by Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Samuel R. Delany.

Contributors to So Long Been Dreaming are Opal Palmer Adisa, Celu Amberstone, Ven Begamudre, Tobias S. Buckell, Wayde Compton, Andrea Hairston, Maya Khankhoje, Tamai Kobayashi, Larissa Lai, Karin Lowachee, devorah major, Suzette Mayr, Carole McDonnell, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Eden Robinson, Nisi Shawl, Vandana Singh, Sheree R. Thomas, and Greg van Eekhout.


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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

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic - a must have June 26 2005
Format:Paperback
The stories are short but packed with depth and information. Fantastic writing from authors who should be paid attention to. A must buy for anyone interested in postcolonial writing, science fiction, race, and gender among others.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decolonializing the Alien Nov. 7 2005
By doomsdayer520 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Speculative fiction, at least that popular in the West, usually projects Western and White attitudes into the future or supernatural situations. This important book, which gets its title from a quote by Harriet Tubman, collects stories on such matters from people of color who have been informed by the colonial experience in their homelands. These submissions often utilize non-Western storytelling techniques featuring unexpected moral constructions and non-linear plotlines. Thus, several of these stories seem to have abrupt and inconclusive endings, but that's if you perceive them in a standard linear fashion. Meanwhile, a common motif in this collection is science fiction treatments of White/European colonialism through the eyes of aliens who are being colonized by humans. That's a great twist on a trusty sci-fi device, but many of these writers apparently came up with the concept before constructing their plots, leading to some stories that are very contrived and preachy (the most heavy-handed example is by Carole McDonnell).

But on the other hand, the stories here are almost uniformly haunting and incredibly thought-provoking for informed readers of any culture. Karin Lowachee and devorah major really make the aforementioned humans-colonizing-aliens motif work in exciting ways. Tobias S. Buckell offers an intriguing space war with a Mesoamerican twist, and Opal Palmer Adisa brings redemption in an alternative history of slavery. Wayde Compton creates a marvelously updated version of a piece of old African folklore, to illustrate post-human discrimination, while Larissa Lai finds the inherent humanity and prejudice of supposedly inhuman robots. The most moving tale here is by Celu Amberstone, in which humans who have been forcibly relocated by aliens to a new planet try to connect with this strange new Earth in a Native American fashion. As with any collection of stories by different authors, some submissions here work better than others, with preachiness being a common drawback. But overall, this is an especially stirring collection of tales that tackle shopworn sci-fi and fantasy concepts from fresh non-Western viewpoints, offering the reader new ways of looking at the past, present, and future of the real world. [~doomsdayer520~]
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The way to the stars Jan. 9 2005
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan have joined forces to produce a powerful and insightful anthology of Science Fiction literature from a broad spectrum of experience and (counter) experience. Please note, Amazon doesn't credit Boston-based professor Mehan (who teaches at Emerson College) with having much to do with this book, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out he had just as much say in assembling the contents as did his co-editor, Nalo Hopkinson, the famous novelist of Canada whom many credit as being the "next Octavia Butler." Together they make an imposing duo and they are wise indeed both in what they decided to do for and the people to whom they appealed for new work. The result is smashing and one of the very best books of 2004.

Wayde Compton's "fairy tale" is almost too beautiful to describe. A "growing ball of light as bright as a sky full of half moons" appears to our hero and tells him that his name is Mr. Polaris. By the way, the hero is called Lacuna and thus describes the position of writers of color, often, marginalized within the already marginalized community of science fiction. That is, it's a world filled with its own rules and domains, yet those in charge of the dominant culture regard it with skepticism and even violence, based on the fear of losing their own Antaean strength--the exploring strength of the colonizer.

The blind Victorian writer Celu Amberstone contributes a diaristic and chilling account of a mother-daughter relationship gone tragically wrong. In this brief and pointillistic tale, the daughter is called "Sleek" and she is almost like the spirit of the mother before society's pressures (and the pressures of colonization) took the free will out of her. The months and the days are each given beautiful and poetic names. The penultimate entry will bring tears to your eyes--even if you are a rock.

I wish I had time to list all the stories and what makes them good. Before I sign off I could add that, although Compton and Amberstone are both Canadian, the anthology has many writers from other parts of North America too, including the USA, as well as from other parts of the world. This world--our world. The editors have skillfully suggested to their readers the ways in which all science fiction embodies aspects both of colonizing and post colonialist teleology. It's an eye opener. Hooray for Arsenal Pulp for bringing us the news in this handsome and durabe volume.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treat to read. Aug. 29 2013
By Jeanette - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading "So Long Been Dreaming" many stories in this anthology push the boundaries of what we are familiar with in a fantasy or Science Fiction world, the authors have taken risks in exploring the issues raised, and in the fascinating look at colonizing, colonized, and colonizers.

Like any anthology some stories in this collection were fantastic, some were great, and many were good. Some of the stories felt like they ended to soon,or were rushed, and perhaps they are snippets of fuller stories to come by these amazing authors.

Though I am a life long Sci-Fi Fantasy, speculative fiction reader it is a treat to be introduced to a wide range of writers looking at SF/F from a different viewpoint and culture, it is always a treat to read new authors I have not discovered yet.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic - a must have June 26 2005
By R. Dhrodia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The stories are short but packed with depth and information. Fantastic writing from authors who should be paid attention to. A must buy for anyone interested in postcolonial writing, science fiction, race, and gender among others.
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Several great stoies Nov. 12 2007
By Tommy Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As the author of, The Second Virgin Birth, I have to say that Hopkinson book is very believable, with well developed-characters with amazing dialogue that surrounds several action-packed stories that will keep you guessing the entire time. It's an easy read, and extremely well written.
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