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Science fiction invites audiences to imagine new and different worlds — whether it's the brighter, kinder ones often found in Doctor Who or the harsh and harrowing dystopia that is The Handmaid's Tale. Soon readers (and listeners) will be able to add some new voices and stories to this mix, thanks to an upcoming collection of short stories from Amazon Original Stories.
Titled Black Stars, the collection showcases some of the biggest names writing science fiction today, highlighting their visions of what the future might look like for the human race and the issues we might have to tackle. The six authors forming this all-star lineup include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists), C. T. Rwizi (Requiem Moon), Victor LaValle (The Changeling), Nnedi Okorafor (Binti), Nalo Hopkinson (The House of Whispers), and Nisi Shawl (Everfair), who also edited the entire collection, along with co-editor Latoya Peterson.
"Freedom is the overarching theme among the stories," Shawl tells SYFY WIRE, while discussing the throughline that connects all six stories. "Freedom to explore new star systems, to develop new economies, to break away from stale stereotypes."
Part of what makes Black Stars so special is the fact that it is showcasing speculative science fiction from Black authors from around the world.
"I want readers to take away the dazzling diversity that is the Black experience," Shawl says. "I want us all to realize how our dreams and fantasies, our supposings and nightmares and aspirations are so very varied. Blackness is not a monolith! I've learned this, and I want to share with our readers the enormous wealth that is Black heritage and the many possible Black futures."
This collection could not have come at a better time as science-fiction media has never been more popular, with The Mandalorian proving to be one of Disney+'s biggest series, and there being multiple Star Trek shows on television right now. Even acclaimed author Octavia E. Butler shot onto the New York Times bestseller list with the dystopic look at the future in The Parable of the Sower, 14 years after her passing.
"At this moment we're experiencing a newly dawning acceptance of our world's potential for change, and stories such as those in Black Stars can show us a myriad of pathways toward that change," Shawl says. "Immersing ourselves in these stories written from historically marginalized viewpoints is crucial for understanding where we are, how we got here, where we might head next. If we can see how 'exotic' outsiders imagine the times to come, we can better shape them, because we have a larger perspective on what they could turn out to be."
Adichie's story, "The Visit," — of which you can read an exclusive excerpt below — takes place in Lagos, Nigeria, and imagines a future that sees women in charge, with men now the ones oppressed by The Matriarchy. The tale centers around two former friends who knew each other in university. Obinna is a dutiful, stay-at-home husband and father married to a powerful businesswoman, and Eze is a single rebel whose presence soon comes to upset the balance of Obinna's life and possibly the future.
"As with much of the best science fiction, Chimamanda's story is a sort of thought experiment," Shawl says about "The Visit." "Philosophers — for example, W.E.B. DuBois — have always turned to fiction to dramatize their ideas and vividly render their thoughts. It's a highly entertaining means of provoking thoughts. I invite you to enjoy it!"
Black Stars will be available in either digital or audio format on Aug. 31. It will be free for Prime members and Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
Read this exclusive excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's story below...
The American president was wearing too much makeup: her chocolate face powdered a shade too light, mascara clumped on her lashes, the smudge of berry lipstick like a small wound on her lower lip. She looked hastily prepared—her weave lank and in need of tonging—and she blinked at the cameras as she spoke. Before, this press conference would have been background television noise for Obinna, and if he did listen at all, it would’ve been desultory and perfunctory. Now, he watched closely, volume turned on high. He had always found it silly how many of his friends here in Lagos proudly ignored Nigerian news stations and watched only CNN, knowing more about the American Congress than they did about the Nigerian Senate, but he, for once, was behaving like them. He began obsessively watching American news about a month ago, after his old friend Eze called to say he was coming back to visit. The Male Masturbatory Act was all they seemed to talk about on the news, the forty-year-old law being challenged, with quick-talking pundits speculating about what the Supreme Court’s decision would be. And today it had been announced: male masturbation would remain illegal, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
The American president’s face was in close-up as she said, "I applaud the court for this just and moral decision. We must never lose sight of what this is about—a waste of a potential child."
She sounded too dramatic, but better that than the Nigerian president, she with her ill-fitting wigs and gaudy jewelry, who always read haltingly from speeches in a flat monotone as though she were seeing the sentences for the first time on camera. In the background on the TV screen were groups of men, Black and white and Asian and Hispanic, in suits, in hoodies, in T-shirts, holding placards. Respect the bodily autonomy of men. Government hands off my seed. Our Body Our Choice. Obinna didn’t understand why Americans always made a fuss over things that should be left unsaid. Male masturbation was technically illegal in Nigeria, too, but men did it all the time. Men had needs after all, he had done it many times himself, but everyone kept it quiet. The American who had challenged the law claimed he wanted to live in his truth and stop hiding the fact that he masturbated; it was his body, and he should be able to do whatever he wanted with it. Live in his truth sounded silly to Obinna, and why did Americans always have to make everything public? Still, he wanted to have a more sophisticated opinion about the decision, something that would impress Eze. He wondered if Eze still tinkered with old engines, old clocks, anything that had once worked and no longer did. Remembering how much Eze loved machines, and especially how he loved fixing and bringing them back to life, brought Obinna a poignant feeling of nostalgia, for a life that used to be.
Excerpted from Black Stars. © 2021 Published by Amazon Original Stories, August 31, 2021. All Rights Reserved.