Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Octavia’s Brood

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, eds Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown, reviewed by Luke Wilson

October 1, 2015
3 min read

octaviasbOctavia’s Brood is needed in a time when our imaginations are under assault. Despite the revolutionary potential of the genre, sci-fi is often guilty of reproducing current social patterns and power dynamics. However, within this anthology of 21 stories, we are shown alternative ways of imagining through the genre of ‘visionary fiction’. Visionary fiction is science fiction that centres the marginalised and promotes grassroots change. The worlds created in this collection are not only beautiful, challenging and hopeful but also explicitly radical.

Inspired by the life and work of sci-fi writer Octavia E Butler, Octavia’s Brood continues her legacy of challenging understandings of race, sex and power in sci-fi. In Adrienne Maree Brown’s The River, we are confronted with the racialised nature of gentrification through a supernatural fable. In Tara Betts’ incredible Runway Blackout, the modelling industry and society at large are discussed through the story of a Therianthrope, or shapeshifter, who rebels against a system that upholds white standards of beauty. The socially engaged fiction in the collection subverts classic sci-fi tropes. Each story is at once creatively sublime and politically radical, and all offer hope.

Octavia’s Brood persuades the reader to empathise with a future or alternative self. It is in this that visionary fiction has such radical potential in challenging our actions now, by giving personhood to those in the future. I have not read another collection of science fiction stories that place so many social issues at the heart of their narratives, rather than on the peripheries. Through this, the collection suggests that it is our individual and collective imaginations that are a central site of struggle and radical change. Through each story, new possibilities for reimagining the future are born.

Adrienne Maree Brown’s words in the concluding essay highlight one of the most powerful messages of the collection: ‘We hold so many worlds inside us. So many futures.’ Through each story we are at once transported to an alternative future or reality, while being invigorated into changing the present. While the stories and writers all speak for themselves, one central theme is that in order to change the world, we must collectively reimagine it. The reassuring words that echo throughout are those of Octavia E Butler herself, that ‘the only lasting truth is change’.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright