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’.


For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism? 

‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.

It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.

Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.

Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani

Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week

A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes