Whenever we envision a world without war, prisons, or capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have brought 20 of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. These visionary tales span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to inject a healthy dose of imagination and innovation into our political practice and to try on new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. Also features essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a preface by Sheree Renée Thomas.
"Those concerned with justice and liberation must always persuade the mass of people that a better world is possible. Our job begins with speculative fictions that fire society's imagination and its desire for change. In adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha's visionary conception, and by its activist-artists' often stunning acts of creative inception, Octavia's Brood makes for great thinking and damn good reading. The rest will be up to us." —Jeff Chang, Who We Be: The Colorization of America
“Conventional exclamatory phrases don’t come close to capturing the essence of what we have here in Octavia’s Brood. One part sacred text, one part social movement manual, one part diary of our future selves telling us, ‘It’s going to be okay, keep working, keep loving.’ Our radical imaginations are under siege and this text is the rescue mission. It is the new cornerstone of every class I teach on inequality, justice, and social change....This is the text we’ve been waiting for.” —Ruha Benjamin, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University.
So while most of the mainstream science fiction that has been released reinforces the dominant paradigms of power, science fiction doesn’t have to do so. Imagination is not the purview of the powerful. In fact, it is often the thing that has allowed oppressed people not only to survive, but to change their conditions, and the entire world. I think Ursula Le Guin summed up the power of sci-fi incredibly in her 2014 National Book Award speech, where she said that hard times were coming and we will need writers who can imagine alternative ways of living. “We will need writers who remember freedom,” she said.
That idea of remembering freedom, and remembering the dream of freedom, is especially poignant for adrienne and myself. As two Black women, we recognize that our ancestors, enslaved Black people, were phenomenal visionaries and sci-fi creators. They dared to dream of a world without chattel slavery, at a time when everything in society told them it was an impossibility, a fantasy. Then they bent reality, changed the whole world, to create us. We are their science fiction dream. All people on this planet who come from oppressed communities are walking science fiction. Someone dreamed us up.