New from BLF Press, Black From the Future: A Collection of Black Speculative Writing is an anthology of speculative fiction from across and between genres. This collection of 22 stories and poems features writers, new and experienced, from all areas of speculative fiction. Edited by Stephanie Andrea Allen, Ph.D. (writer, editor, founder of BLF Press) and Lauren Cherelle (writer, editor, managing editor of Resolute Publishing), all the content is written by Black women and most feature lesbian relationships. Across this range, all the writers have a shared goal: to center Black women in their fiction, exploring a full variety of our beauty, wonder, and power. That is to say, I’m the target audience. Let me tell you, the joy of being targeted in my fiction never gets old. But you don’t have to pick this one up on some “I’ll support the culture” feeling. These stories succeed. They are funny, scary, sexy… some are even terrifically weird.
The Real Real
The stories in Black From The Future run the gamut of speculative: science fiction, space opera, magical realism, alternative history, cyberpunk, horror and all the blends in between. The stories also range in length and quality. Some have the raw ring of personal truth, while others are flights of imagination, unglued from a messy reality. All have a thread of passion. These characters are Black women GOING THRU SOME THANGS. They are deep in the proverbial trying to make a way out of no way.
Mother-Daughter relationships come up multiple times and, as in “Some Far Off Frivolous Galaxy” by Leila Green, they are just as complicated and messy as in real life. Motherhood itself weighs heavy, as in “Luna 6000” by Stephanie Andrea Allen. As a mother who endured the heavy monitoring of a high-risk pregnancy, “Luna 6000,” a story bout a future mother-to-be who is implanted with an AI that can influence her behavior “for her own good and the good of her baby” was almost too close for comfort. It moved me, even as it terrified me, making for an excellent story.
Other stand-outs from the anthology include “Miss Buelah,” “After School Special,” and “Flyover”. “Miss Buelah” in particular left me with a “Neil Gaiman but done right” feeling. In the story, Miss Buelah is a magical beautician who can change lives as she changes your look. As many times as I’ve tried to rid myself of a bad breakup with a new hair cut, this one felt like it had actually already happened. After reading, I desperately want more of these characters. I want a whole novel of Miss Buelah changing destinies by changing hairstyles.
“After School Special” is not my usual kind of fiction. It is horror on multiple levels, with a strong Twilight Zone tone that makes it succeed, despite my sensitive disposition.
“Flyover” is a haunting mythological story, continuing the “the people could fly” tradition. One of my favorite features of modern Black spec fic is how we have our own tropes and symbols rooted in our traditions that some editors know how to preserve and showcase. This highlights the importance of BLF Press, and other outlets like it, that specialize in our voices.
One note: I don’t recall any stories that specifically speak to/feature a Black trans woman or a disabled Black woman. These would be great characters and themes for the editors to pick up for vol 2. As we continue to include us, we should be including all of us.
No Crystal Stair
All of the stories in Black From The Future speak strongly to Black women’s experiences. Colorism, abortion, rape, and ancestral trauma all feature in different stories. Some of the tales come with positive, upbeat endings, some not so much. Be warned as you dive in, the combination of realism and realness dished out here may require a pause between stories. These are certainly the kind of stories that, to a white editor, might seem “too Black” or “too niche” for a wide audience, which is obviously untrue. These are our stories and they deserve an audience.
One of the authors describes her work as womanist speculative fiction, which may be my new favorite thing. As Black spec fic continues to expand, esp in the short story arena, I’m excited that BLF press is out there bringing these tales to the world.
Black From The Future is available now on the BLP Press website and from wherever you buy your favorite books. Also, consider requesting the book from your local library. Not only would you be able to read it for free, you’d have it stocked on a shelf for someone else in your community to find and enjoy.
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This is an excellent review. I too was captivated by the stories and characters. It feels empowering to have a book that supports Black women writers by showcasing our talent. The stories remind me of Octavia Butler. Stephanie Allen is filling a void with BLF Press.
I was glad to see Gilda again. This is exactly what I been waiting for.