I was recently published in Shoreline of Infinity 18. I finally got around to reading the stories and essays and they’re amazing! We’re all running around selling diversity these days, and this anthology really nails it. I’m largely involved in the African Speculative Fiction scene, but issue 18 of Shoreline was a BAME (black and minority ethnic) issue. This allowed me to branch my reading out further as I’ve been dying to get into more Asian Speculative Fiction.
We have stories from writers of Malaysian, Jamaican, Indian, Sri Lankan, and Nigerian descent. I enjoyed all the short stories, though I have two picks.
- Odette by Zen Cho: A lovely horror short with the ever ominous presence of Uncle Andrew. Much to my horror preferences the supernatural elements link to trauma. It’s a familiar tale: ill-tempered Uncle feels sense of ownership over a young person since they’ve provided for them, and has razor sharp claws of passive-aggressive condescension, because why? Because I own you bitch! Excuse my french. This tale’s themes reminded me a lot about similar themes you see in African Speculative Fiction from the younger generation. Difficulties with family accepting you for who you are, accepting your career paths, accepting you’re not useless just because you’re over 25 five and you don’t have a decent job, family, house, oh and gasp, you’re not a good Christian. Woe is me, how can you not believe in the big colonial white guy living in the sky, you heathen! Speculative Fiction seems to be the way many of us are processing these domestic traumas, and this short does it specifically well.
- Perumal and the God of Words by Prashanth Srivatsa: The power of language. This story revolves around language in a fantastical setting. Words of invocation are a common staple of fantasy narratives, but the usage here really stands out. I’m not too clued up on Tamil vs Hindi cleavages, but being South African I’m all to familiar with cleavages. And yes, I am talking about boobs and not the political kind. I’m also familiar with fears around language loss vs dominance. I’m not particularly sure how stories like this read to readers who don’t confront these kinds of issues daily, but this one certainly hit home for me. Mobs lining the street on a witch hunt for people who are ‘different’ to them. Being able to insulate themselves from the mob simply by changing language, as you probably look similar, and have a shared heritage that was butchered at some time or another. For me, that kind of setting was all to familiar, and held a strong emotional resonance. The fantasy element is deftly woven into the fracas in a way I’m sure many will appreciate.
Apart from the fiction, I recommend reading Stepping Through the Portal, the chat between guest editors Tendai Huchu and Raman Mundair. There are many fascinating tidbits on the diversity of Speculative Fiction and the difficulty in editing diversity. My experience has certainly been trying to retain South Africanisms in my short fiction, even when it reduces your chances of getting published in certain places. This conversation broadens these experiences, with every country having it’s own idiosyncrasies in culture and language that Western editors often interpret incorrectly as unrealistic or incorrect. Tendai even touches on his own possible mistakes in interpreting Asian stories, while editing Shoreline of Infinity 18. This humble attitude to editing is exactly what is needed when editing a diverse lineup.
There are some great essays as well. The Danger of Expectation in African Fiction was great, but there was not much in it that I didn’t know, or haven’t experienced. If however, you’re not particularly clued up on the recent history of African publishing, and the difficulties we face on the continent you might find it informative. If you’ve picked up the the undercurrent of rage and despondency towards non-fiction from young African fiction writers, this also might explain a lot to you. There are a lot of archaic confines many of us are actively raging against, like the still existing, embarrassing, and extremely condescending concept that Africans only read non-fiction, and can’t fathom fiction, let alone Speculative Fiction. This misconception is often propagated by Africans themselves no less. Ludicrous!
Finally, and another personal favorite as I’m rather ignorant to the scene, is The History of Japanese Science Fiction: from the 1930s to the 2010s. I’ve already made a long list of (and purchased, ha!) a number of works I uncovered through this essay. I’m a bit of an anime and manga fan, so learning a bit more about the rich history of Japanese prose Speculative Fiction was really exciting for me.
Admittedly I didn’t go through the reviews, as I like to cold read stuff, so I tend to stay away from reviews until after the fact. I also won’t comment on the poetry section as I’m in it, and that would be kind of weird. But for the short fiction and essays alone, Shoreline of Infinity 18 comes highly recommended.
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