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Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

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Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing visionary fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. This book brings twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia's Brood span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to experiment with new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. The collection is rounded off with essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a foreword by Sheree Renée Thomas.

296 pages, Paperback

First published March 23, 2015

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About the author

Adrienne Maree Brown

25 books2,109 followers
adrienne maree brown is the author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and the co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is the cohost of the How to Survive the End of the World and Octavia’s Parables podcasts. adrienne is rooted in Detroit.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 517 reviews
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
February 12, 2020
I love speculative fiction that reflects political activism and intersectionality, and found a lot of the ideas to be interesting. I would've loved to have seen them expanded into a full-length novel because many of them feel incomplete or end abruptly. There were quite a few stories where I could tell this was an author's first published work, resulting in a dip in the quality of writing or a choppy story. Because of that, the anthology is inconsistent with not many stories that stood out to be strong enough on its own or that I still wanted to think about after I was done reading.
Profile Image for Kalin.
96 reviews26 followers
January 7, 2016
I love Octavia Butler, I love her stories and her ideas, love sci-fi, and I am more than happy to try any creative writing that aspires to inspire radical and revolutionary political activism. The thought of Butler's writing giving birth to a generation of speculative fiction activists who use the written word to support the intentional dreaming of radical movements as they/we struggle towards a better, free-er future -- that thought is sends chills. It gives a few extra ticks to the beating of my heart. Octavia's Brood was an exciting prospect from the moment I first heard of the project, and I was extremely happy to get a copy (in detroit no less where a much of this book was born).

The book consists of a few dozen short stories, with a few essays and other types of writing. Within lie stories drawing on a diversity of speculative fiction genres, or as the editors have coined, visionary fiction. I will say this: the book was fun to read. I would recommend it to anyone interested in tasting the sweet intersection of sci-fi and social justice. There was a lot of intriguing world-building.

Though, like many other reviewers I've seen on goodreads, I struggled at times with the book. The editors are up-front that many of the stories are published by first-time writers, not professional writers working with the sci-fi genre or even creative writing necessarily. It didn't surface as much in the world-building -- though other reviewers have said that the world-building and conceptual elements of many of the stories were bland, I found them interesting enough -- but in the structure of the stories. One after the other would end on a cliffhanger note just teetering on the edge of the "real" action, having spent most of their 10 or so pages introducing a character or social situation (often a blatantly bleak picture of a dystopian/authoritarian near-future) to which a protagonist is responding with resistance. I'm not incredibly well-read in the medium of short story, but I'm pretty sure they're supposed to have some sort of beginning, middle, and end. Many of the stories I read in Octavia's Brood felt like beginnings with no middle or end, like they were a teaser trailer for the novel-length version of the same story. To their credit, I found myself repeatedly wanting to put down Octavia's Brood and read the next 190 pages of that other novel.

Visionary fiction. It's a wonderful concept, but I found myself wondering (and not convinced either way) if a collection of stories that so repeatedly create totalitarian and seemingly all-powerful state and corporate antagonists have actually managed to use their writing to vision pathways to the future that movements will find relevant, or have simply reflected contemporary frustrations with the powers of oppressive forces that resonate with the radicals of the 2010s. There were only a couple stories in the collection that I would feel comfortable characterizing as positive or hopeful (and not in the stubborn-hope-in-the-face-of-despair variety); many of the rest featured brutal violence and a focus on the many oppressions that activists struggle against day to day. Lalibela broke this pattern inventively and I thank the author for that!

Regardless of what I write here, I think anyone reading should get the book, read it, try writing some visionary fiction of your own, etc! It wasn't perfect, but it was a GOOD effort at something new, and here's to hoping for a GREAT sophomore release.
Profile Image for Hafidha.
193 reviews
May 1, 2015
For conception, experimentation and and variety I give the book four stars; for well-executed fiction, I give it 2.5 or 3. There were a couple stories I really liked - mostly in the 2nd or 3rd parts of the book. I tried to mark all of those in the updates. The last three or four pieces are essays. Tananarive Due's essay about Octavia Butler as a speculative storyteller and inspiration is well worth a read for its distillation of Butler's recurring themes, little tidbits about the early AfAm spec fiction community and descriptions of Butler's personality and effect on other Black spec writers. The outro explains the book's intent and how social justice spec fiction (here called "visionary fiction") is being used in community organizing. There were also some useful definitions, such as "the elements of visionary fiction," and so on.
Profile Image for Kevin.
290 reviews924 followers
January 19, 2022
Between escapism and social imagination?

--Prior to reading critical nonfiction, I read like a child. Reading fiction was like watching television, in-and-out escapism with some visceral reactions. Whatever deep social commentary the authors may or may not have intended, I simply filled in with whatever nonsense I was raised on. This reminds me of seeing Orwell’s 1984 in so many readers’ favorites list, despite their vast range of sociopolitical affiliations (consider: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). Fiction provides you room to play, so you best come prepared.

--These days, I only resort to fiction when my brain is fried and I’d waste time regardless. I do try to be much more selective of fiction in choosing diverse radical voices in hopes of challenging my social imagination, but I still much prefer radical nonfiction (many foundational gems out there by talented writers like Yanis Varoufakis, David Graeber, Jason Hickel, not just academic tomes, as well as diverse topics like Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation, etc.).
...I want to read the censored experiences of those struggling for social imagination in the real world, from Becoming Native to This Place (Cooperation Jackson) to Building the Commune: Radical Democracy in Venezuela, No Free Lunch: Food & Revolution in Cuba Today, Revolution in a Chinese Village: Ten Mile Inn, etc.
--The fiction I gravitate to tend to be from authors who also excel in nonfiction, like Arundhati Roy. Her fiction provides more time/space to sink in and explore the tapestry of social relations, although I still get more out of her nonfiction: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show.... Recently, Varoufakis stepped into sci-fi (Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present), but this is still built on his tremendous nonfiction (political economy). Thus, my preference is first a critical nonfiction grounding followed by experimenting with fictitious social imagination (“dialectical materialism”?). The reverse direction would be, say, sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson’s speculations on the near-future ecological crises in The Ministry for the Future; the rhetoric is there but I question the author’s critical grasp of the actual ideas.

--After going through some Ursula K. Le Guin classics (neat, but then reading the bits of sociopolitical commentary in her nonfiction No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters was a letdown) and How Long 'til Black Future Month?, I tried Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred only to retreat and try to ease in with this collection of short stories inspired by Butler.
--Well, the memorable entries were predictably the nonfiction essays. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s “Star Wars and the American Imagination” obviously, given the topic of imperialism, although it was brief. The essays reflecting on Butler’s methodology (“The Only Lasting Truth: Theme of Change in Octavia”, Adrienne Maree Brown’s outro) were intriguing, on the uses of “Speculative Fiction” (or more precisely “Visionary Fiction”) and “emergent strategy” to experiment with scenarios for the purpose of social change (“adaptive”, “resilient”). I mean, these are lovely words, so I’m delighted by those who can bring them to life and experience this.
--As for me, a mention of W.E.B. Du Bois’ fictional essay The Comet reminded me that I have better success with autobiographies/essays than fiction books. Since I haven’t been able to prioritize Du Bois’ legendary nonfiction, time to ease in with Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil...
Profile Image for Heron.
564 reviews15 followers
November 10, 2015
This collection of stories isn't perfect, but how could it be. It is more like a collection of passionate conversations held around a dinner table with brilliant people, terrified and exhilarated for the future. Some are clumsy in their passion, some are cooly pessimistic, some are flighty with imagination, some grounded in present day inequality. I love this book and I will reread it over and over. This is the future, both of writing and of humanity.
Profile Image for Alan.
1,124 reviews112 followers
June 9, 2019
Make no mistake: Octavia's Brood belongs. It is modern sf—an anthology of speculative fiction (including both science fiction and fantasy, wherever you draw that line) from authors both known and unknown, collected here in honor of the late Octavia E. Butler by editors Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha (who is a local, by the way—on the faculty at Portland State University!). This anthology contains dystopias and utopias, angels and aliens, genetic engineering and time travel—even a couple of nonfiction essays—but on the face of it, nothing about it would set Octavia's Brood apart from any other sf anthology published in the last fifty years.

Except... except for those faces.

The difference is difference. These stories were all written by and about people other than the white, male, able-bodied and heterosexual engineer who was the writer and default protagonist for so much 20th-Century sf. And good riddance... having that one guy be the hero of so many stories was never more than a failure of imagination, anyway—an ironic failure indeed, since speculative fiction is, precisely, the literature of imagination. And as such, sf should at a minimum be able to include all of the varieties of human being.

Octavia's Brood goes a long way toward that goal. Standouts for me included:
* Walidah Imarisha's "Black Angel," an urban fantasy about a disabled angel;
* The lively "Sanford and Sun," by Dawolu Jabari Anderson, which puts Sun Ra into Fred Sanford's living room. Sitcom meets sat-comm, or some such;
* Gabriel Teodros' time-twisted "Lalibela";
but there are many others.

And definitely don't miss the essay "The Only Lasting Truth," by Tananarive Due, a moving personal retrospective about Octavia Butler's life and work that goes a long way toward explaining why an anthology named after her came to exist.

I did have a few issues with the selections that appear in Octavia's Brood. Too many of them are just vignettes—fragments of larger tales, not self-contained stories. The tropes explored are often familiar ones. And—again ironically, perhaps—many of the tales here hark back a little too well to the earliest days of sf: like Hugo Gernsback's "scientifiction," they are didactic, idea-driven and energetic but often stiff, more focused on the lessons we are to learn than on the characters who convey those lessons. Walidah Imarisha says in her Introduction that many contributors "had never written fiction before, let alone science fiction." (p.4) Sometimes that shows. But... even then, the energy's still there. The ideas are still there.

Octavia's Brood is not perfect, but it's a start—and a damned good homage to its namesake.
Profile Image for Juushika.
1,561 reviews166 followers
July 17, 2017
An anthology of 20 stories--many of them quite short--of visionary fiction: speculative narratives that explore marginalization, social justice, and radical social change. Many of these stories come from activists who have never written fiction (others are poets, writing here in prose). The lack of experience shows in clumsy, unconvincing worldbuilding, hamfisted social justice themes, and a general dearth of technical skill. There are a few happy exceptions, like the density of "Evidence" by Gumbs and the fluidity of "Lalibela" by Teodros. Editor adrienne maree brown's "the river" is also strong. But, surprisingly, work from published authors isn't much better; the excerpt from Fire on the Mountain by Bisson is the most promising, but it doesn't work as a short story. The intent of this anthology is pointed and brilliant, and there's something refreshing about reading work from activists whom I otherwise might not encounter. But it's simply not very good. The majority of stories share a structure which frontloads worldbuilding and characterization, but cuts off plot while the larger conflict remains unresolved--a logical limitation, given the complexity of the social conflicts at hand and the lengths of these stories, but still repetitive and oddly self-defeating: all these narratives about social change, rarely offering a plan to change society. There are exceptions--there are uplifting stories, cathartic stories, productive stories; but on the whole, this collection feels like an unfulfilled ambition as well as being technically unaccomplished. I admire it, but didn't enjoy it, and don't recommend it.

There are also two nonfiction essays; "The Only Lasting Truth," Tananarive Due writing on Octavia Butler, is a good read and strong finish to the anthology.
Profile Image for Naori.
161 reviews
June 15, 2018
Octavia Butler united us in a way, as one of her books suggested, as kin. She united all who have needed worlds where we could find inclusion, because for so many of us, painfully, we have met with some form of exclusion or another. During an interview once someone asked Octavia what made her write the way she did; what drove her. She responded, “You’ve got to write yourself in.” To paraphrase, if you don’t already see yourself in a world, then you write yourself into it.
I can’t say that I loved every single story in this collection, but I can say that so many of them drew out something in me I have rarely felt, mainly only when reading her work. Something very old that I haven’t felt for a very long time.

There are times in literature where there are certain scenes that are so powerful, so vivid, that even if you read them twenty years ago, you could sit down today and sketch out every scene, detail, emotion, character of that moment. I would say there were about ten stories like that in this collection for me - and what a powerful thing that is to have...

We all inherit things in different ways. Some of us tangible, some of us familial, and some of us hopeful. What this collection has made possible is for us all to inherit being a part of Octavia’s Brood...and I wish I could see what that kind of group of beautiful diversity would look like...
Profile Image for Brian.
644 reviews7 followers
April 24, 2015
Add a new category to your bookshelves (and your life): "visionary fiction." This impressive collection, a publication collaboration by AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studies, defines the genre as connecting science fiction with social justice. There are 22 authors contributing the stories that comprise this volume, and their bios, printed at the end, provide an additional dimension of enjoyment and interpretation for the book. They all are community activists of various sorts (an amazing range, from the well-known--actor/educator LeVar Burton, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal--to others perhaps less familiar, but soon to become your new best friend icons), and the stories they write entertain us with visions of other, mostly future, worlds while challenging us to imagine, to "vision" how we got there, how we can get there, how we can change the injustice that we see around us in this world (the afterward outlines a set of three "tools" for supporting communities to take up this work, part of a "road show" the Octavia's Brood crew has been taking around America). They all, in a variety of styles and voices, honor the great Octavia Butler.
Profile Image for Lis Carey.
2,190 reviews101 followers
October 23, 2019
As the subtitle makes clear, this is an anthology with an agenda, and it's an agenda that will inflame certain parties in recent kerfuffles in the science fiction community.

That said, this is an enjoyable collection. The stories are varied in setting, viewpoint, and kind. There's an incipient uprising against both a horde of zombies and the politically repressive response to the zombie horde. There's a gentle story of a woman attempting to reconnect with both her dead grandfather and her very much alive daughter, in an alternate history where the Civil War started in 1859, and the slaves won. A woman has to decide how she's going to react to a government that's finally responding to global warming, in a way that may be both too much, and not enough. One choice will cut her off from her mother and the place she grew up; another will cut her off from her partner and her life now. Is there a third choice, and can she do it? A young man who is the token black superhero opts out of the nonsense--until he finds out how he matters to young people, and finds a way to make a contribution that matters to him.

The authors include names all sf readers will recognize, like Tananarive Due and Terry Bisson, and people who've never written sf, or even fiction, before. Possibly for that reason, there are a number of stories that I read and thought, that's a set-up for a story I'd like to read the rest of...

Having said that, while there are a number of "beginning, middle, no actual end" pieces, there's nothing here I didn't enjoy. There's nothing here that has that special sense you get when mainstream writers go slumming and assume that "science fiction means it doesn't have to make sense." All the writers here respect their readers and their material. The editors didn't excuse lesser work because they wanted a particular name or a particular theme included. Despite being an anthology with an agenda, there's no pounding the reader over the head, except to the extent that happens with any themed anthology when you read straight through rather than dipping in.

I'll carry away from it a particular fondness for "The Token Superhero," by David Walker, and "The River," by Andrienne Maree Brown.

I've been saying "read" throughout this review; that's a very loose usage. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator's voice is excellent, strong, clear, and expressive.


I received a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jukaschar.
205 reviews6 followers
September 3, 2022
Stories I liked best: the river - adrienne maree brown, The Long Memory - Morrigan Philipps, In Spite of Darkness - Alixa Garcia, Hollow - Mia Mingus, Sanford and Sun - Dawolu Jaban Anderson.

At the moment, this is probably the most exciting collection of short stories I've ever read. The quality of writing is varying, however I felt like the importance of being chosen to contribute to this collection really shines through. There's just so much passion to all of them.
It's also really striking how speculative fiction about social change and radical political and sociological ideas comes in so many different shapes and sizes. It's a super positive contrast to non-fiction books about the same themes that are oftentimes very homogenous and therefore inherently uninspiring.
Profile Image for Victoria Law.
Author 9 books267 followers
January 3, 2016
Amazing collection, but many of these short stories seemed like they wanted to be longer works. Several times, I turned to the last page of a story and thought, "That's it? Where's the ending?" But even though many of the stories seemed to leave me dangling, the authors build worlds or futures that suck you in and create characters that you want to keep following. Here's hoping that they continue writing (and that some of them pick up full-length book contracts to continue building those worlds and story arcs).

Profile Image for ash | spaceyreads.
349 reviews209 followers
April 28, 2020
One of the joys of reading science fiction is the vastness of the genre and the speculative nature of it. Science fiction is, more often than not, the genre that challenge mindsets, addresses social issues, prompts imagination of different realities. It asks the questions "Why are things this way" and "Why can't they be another way". By its visionary nature, it is well-suited tackle topics of social justice such as gender norms, sexuality, discrimination, work and labor, and more. So I was very excited to see this homage to Octavia E. Butler by adrienne maree brown in the form of supporting first time or new-ish authors to use science fiction to tell stories about the social justice movement.

I found it hard, however, to get immersed into the stories as they often tell instead of show and are awkwardly written. Short stories are hard to get right and the effect of a story with no ending, beginning, or plot is felt harder when it's a short story. (Even harder when it's a collection of some twenty stories and a lot of them are similarly written). A good science fiction story is passionate about inviting the reader to ponder questions that they don't usually think about, sometimes simply through presenting a different world or reality that works. This can't be done with stories that don't arouse imagination.

I found myself skimming through a lot of them, unfortunately. I love the idea and I wished it could have been better. I understand that the collection was a space for alternative, radical ideas carved from a genre typically dominated by old white men. I wouldn't want to take away from that either. Perhaps through better editing more can be achieved.
Profile Image for Edie.
90 reviews28 followers
November 15, 2015
This incredible collection of stories is as important as it is fun and fascinating. Sure, not all the stories are brilliant or perfect, but most of them were compelling and many left me wanting more. I laughed out loud, cried, had my expectations continually exceeded, and was very sad to finish the last story. In fact I put off finishing this book for months because I didn't want it to end.

The themes of change, struggle, spirit, and hope in the face of extreme challenges are reminiscent of Butler's themes (done great justice by Tananarive Due's essay). They are what we all should be thinking and imagining about in these times. The editors' articulation of Visionary Fiction as a genre is absolutely perfect, and just in time.

My favorite stories were the river, Homing Instinct, The Long Memory, Evidence, and Hollow. Lots of other good ones too though, it was definitely a fun read.
Profile Image for Sunny.
245 reviews35 followers
April 19, 2015
This book calls upon the knowledge, creativity and experiences of folks fighting for social justice. The stories in here use many themes Octavia Butler focused on: community, interdependence, shaping the future, dreaming of the stars and surviving as a human race worth saving. There are stories of resistance and resilience (Hollow by Mia Mingus), characters who choose to fight for humanity despite great personal cost (Black Angel by Walidah Imarisha), and a warning about allowing history to be forgotten or hidden away by the few (The Long Memory by Morrigan Phillips). The editors really put in work to build something with these authors and with all of the communities where they held emergent strategy workshops. Don't miss out on this book. Guaranteed it will spark a lot of hearts and them towards justice.
Profile Image for JM.
128 reviews5 followers
February 23, 2021
This is a great anthology of writers who have been impacted by the legendary, Octavia Butler. It’s always a welcomed fresh air to read sci-fi though the African/African Diaspora lens.
Profile Image for Tomislav.
1,002 reviews68 followers
July 28, 2022
Wow, what a hodgepodge of writings. The stated theme of this anthology is “science fiction stories from social justice movements,” and I think I may have misread it at first. You see, I was thinking it would be mostly science fiction with a theme of social justice – but rather it is social justice writers attempting to write science fiction, some for the first time. In the introduction, Walidah Imarisha writes that organizers and movement builders need to be convinced of the relevance of science fiction to social justice. But SF readers and writers already know that. It is outsiders who seem to think it is just throw-away entertainment.

By the way, very little of the writing here is actually science fiction, but is from that much larger category of writing known as speculative fiction, which includes science fiction, science fantasy, fantasy, horror, alternate history, etc. The editors have coined their own phrase, visionary fiction, that I think appeals to social activists, but it seems to actually be the same thing as speculative fiction. Tananarive Due, in her comments on Octavia Butler, seems to be most in tune with the SF universe that Octavia Butler herself worked in.

Having framed that, I confess that I read and compared the stories in this anthology to other SF, rather than to non-SF social justice writing. There is a wide range in quality. Some I saw as the incomplete product of creative writing exercises, such as a setting or situation with no plot, or the regurgitation of tropes already worn out within the genre, or introductory material that allows characters to lecture the reader. Others, however, reached me. There are many fairly short pieces here, so I will not comment on each. Some of the best were these…

Black Angel, by Walidah Imarisha. A fallen angel on Earth, with only one remaining wing, confronts her own despondency, and finds new meaning in intervention against contemporary urban oppression. A creatively envisioned world, and a character that drew me in. This fantasy was written by one of the editors of the anthology.

Small and Bright, by Autumn Brown. A transgressor is exiled from her community, that has survived a generations-long underground banishment. Excellent slow reveal of the world building, and draws on allusions to real-world oppression.

Kafka’s Last Laugh, by Vagabond. A protestor is caught and tried in a future America where legal process is a complete pretense. The line between where we are and where this story is, is not that wide.

Fire on the Mountain, by Terry Bisson. An excerpt from Terry Bisson’s 1988 alternate history novel Fire on the Mountain, about an independent Black South brought about by the success of John Brown’s rebellion. What an intriguing concept. I intend to find the novel.

Overall, 2.5 stars rounded up to 3.
Profile Image for M..
Author 7 books57 followers
March 6, 2021
I have a great deal of respect for the concept and the actual badass organizing work the authors and editors do. I think the writing workshops & other events Octavia's Brood does as a group are incredibly innovative and necessary. But as for this book... I wish I knew who the audience was supposed to be. I would recommend giving it to that one cool relative or acquaintance in your life, who perhaps loves mainstream media sf but has not been exposed to much critical analysis of how it upholds white supremacist capitalist bullshit. It's got a lot of different concepts, narrative devices, and radical political leans that might be enough to get someone reading the good stuff (or writing their own). But I would also rather just give someone the good stuff. =/ For seasoned sf nerds, especially radical marginalized sf nerds (who write sf like me), you may feel frustrated (as I was) by the fledgling stories therein.

I feel like the book as an object of achievement, and as something to be analyzed or discussed in classrooms, is laudable and useful. I feel like people who are already familiar with what "social justice" even means will treasure the book on the premise alone, as something of their own. But as new sf, I wanted the stories to be much more innovative and compelling, ESPECIALLY given the deeply troubling resurgence of sf that is currently being produced to serve as pro-state/pro-military/white supremacist propaganda, actively normalizing the present-day actualization of 1980s/90s cyberpunk dystopia, while casting it as nostalgic/triumphant (a victory of Science & Progress!).

It should be said that I'm particularly harsh with my critique of this book as I belong to a collective of radical, queer speculative fiction writers of color, and my expectations and demands of sf at this juncture are just so incredibly high. This anthology has a very explicit introduction that contextualizes the stories as being written by people who have never written science fiction before, and I believe some who have never written fiction at all, but even with that (and even being an anthology, a format that almost always has hits and misses), I was largely disappointed.
Profile Image for Terence.
1,168 reviews394 followers
September 16, 2018
Reading this I'm reminded of a collection of Voltairine de Cleyre's work I have that includes her forays into fiction. There is a certain earnest conviction and honesty about the work but it just isn't good and often borders on unreadable.*

I found the same to be true about too many of the stories in this collection to be able to recommend it (regardless of how much I may sympathize with the authors' points of view).

I'm also reminded of When the Music's Over (subtitled: "An Anthology of Tales Against War and Violence," ed. Lewis Shiner), a collection with a similar goal to Octavia's Brood. There, too, most of the stories sacrifice readability to the theme. Except for Walter Jon Williams' "Prayers on the Wind," which turned out to be one of my favorite short stories. If you ever have a chance to read this anthology or come across the story in some other medium, read that one if nothing else.

* I wanted to make clear: It's de Cleyre's prose/poetry that I'm referring to here. Her essays, reviews, etc., are far more interesting (and readable).
Profile Image for Micah .
179 reviews10 followers
December 23, 2015
+2 stars because I respect Walidah.

I feel so many feelings about this book. You know when you want to like something SO MUCH, because it's something your friend made, or something on your team did, but no matter how hard you try, you can only see the things to work on? That was this book. The folks who wrote these stories are all strong bad-asses in their activism, but write spec-fic like they need to clobber the reader with their politics. I'm already on board with the politics, that's why I'm here! And if I wasn't I'd be pissed that someone was trying to metaphorically clobber me!

I feel like a harsh butthole for not being nice to the team, but Oh My God, please, just have less stories so they can go on longer and not continuously have these messy and dissatisfying endings. Put it into two books. Be willing to say 'no' and put some of the stories online as bonuses for folks who are really into it.

A couple of stand-out stories that have been mentioned in other reviews, I regret to say I only made it halfway before it had to be returned to the library, so I wasn't able to get to the final essays. If you think it's gonna be your thing, go for it. If not, give your time to Octavia herself. <3
Profile Image for Nikki Morse.
309 reviews12 followers
November 25, 2015
Concept: 5, writing: 3. The stories were uneven - but the idea of visionary fiction and the role it plays in organizing is beautiful and so necessary. And the really good stories carry the rest.
Profile Image for Jordan.
355 reviews2 followers
May 8, 2016
I was extremely interested in the premise of this collection: speculative fiction built around social justice movements and/or concerns of today. And, the collection partially lived up to the hype, with intersectionalities of race, gender, sexuality, reproductive rights, social class, and spirituality confounding the direction(s) we may or may not be taking as a society. And a damn good story by Levar Burton--why did no one tell me he's an author?!

Other stories in the collection were dull, or even totally incomprehensible (something about a psychic connection to rape victims, which is further complicated by the queer experience? Huh?). It stifled my enjoyment, and kept me re-reading and skipping around, not out of enjoyment or wonder, but out of confusion and frustration.

The varied writing quality surprised me, until I read the introduction: many of the authors featured in this collection are prominent figures in social justice movements, but for many, this was their first foray into fiction.

Well, okay. The background is cool. The premises are (mostly) cool. I can give bad writing a chance, especially with all the gems I still did find in here.

Buy this title from Powell's Books.
Profile Image for Bookish.
613 reviews141 followers
January 8, 2019
This has been the year of Octavia Butler and her legacy for me. I have never considered myself much of a science fiction reader because I don’t care about the names of gizmos or how space parliaments work. But Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, might just change me. The editors frame this collection of stories as visionary fiction and argue that all science fiction is political: It is about imagining a future beyond what we have today. And if you are sick of dystopias and need a reminder of the human capacity for bravery, care, optimism, and collective action, I couldn’t recommend this collection more highly. I especially loved reading Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ “Evidence,” where a young girl from a future utopia writes a letter to her ancestors (who are our contemporaries), thanking them for keeping faith and being brave even when they had no idea that they would win. Honestly, I’m tearing up again now. —Nina (excerpted from Staff Reads: December 14)
Profile Image for Matthew Hall.
153 reviews22 followers
July 20, 2015
As collections go, only about a third of the stories were really powerful, inventive or driving-- but it is worthwhile as a way of publishing folks who might otherwise not find a venue. A few of them get stuck in that kind of pointlessly optimistic/shallow-on-the-details "the revolution starts with me!" trope right before the story ends.
Profile Image for Jarrah.
839 reviews45 followers
January 29, 2021
Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in speculative fiction. All organizing is science fiction. - Walidah Imarisha

So begins the introduction for this excellent collection of science fiction short stories by writers dedicated to social justice, from more well-known figures like Tananarive Due and LeVar Burton to frontline activists, several of whom had never even written fiction before. In their dedication to bring these activists' vision to SF readers, the editors intensively workshopped pieces in a collaborative process with the writers. The result is a book full of visionary, powerful, skillfully written short stories, and you'd be hard pressed to tell on first impression who the less experienced writers were going in.

The end of the book includes a couple of excerpts from longer novels, which are harder to appreciate on their own, but interesting if you're looking for insights on writing techniques; followed by two non-fiction essays, one on Star Wars and one on Octavia Butler. If you're a fan of sci-fi or even just a social justice activist who isn't sure where to start with sci-fi, you should pick up this collection.
Profile Image for Sally Ember.
Author 4 books168 followers
March 2, 2016
I was very excited to get this anthology, Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, after watching a video with two of the anthology's authors who were the ones who conceived of the project and edited the volume, Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown, and because I was a big fan of Octavia Butler's original science-fiction stories and novels. Many of the stories in this collection are worthy of being included by their poetic, social-justice, imaginative language, characters and plots.

Among my favorites was "Lalibela" by Gabriel Teodros, which had these fabulous statements:
"Time travel was always possible, and is actually always happening, but in Ethiopa most people just use it to make the good moments last longer." Don't you love that?
"If you wish to prolong your existence on the planet, you must begin to understand that you, all humans, and all life on earth are inextricably linked. You are all one organism. Even us now. You are a part of us and we are a part of you. There is no separation."
Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls this condition of our existence "interbeing" and many Buddhists and others call it "interdependence."

Several others had components I liked, memorable characters and/or lingering ideas or plot elements that resonated with me strongly. The "fallen" angel of Walidah Imarisha's "Black Angel" intrigued me, particularly her cynicism mixed with heroism and stoicism. Morrigan Phillips built a world with inhabitants who worked for social justice in unique ways involving holding collective cultural memories.

I was disappointed in a few stories because I don't think they were actually well-written in the format of a short story. There were a few that seemed more to be excerpts from longer works (one was even labeled that way, which I appreciated) or which ended in odd places in the arc of the story that made me think the authors were unclear on the ways that short stories are uniquely structured.

I loved the recurring themes and plot points that focused on issues of social justice, mostly racism, sexism, classism and misogyny, and I especially appreciated those that utilized intersectionality without pounding readers on our heads with their messages. The authors who metaphorically stood, shouting, from a soap box with their stories, were not ones I liked as much.

Overall, many gems in this anthology which is a credit to Octavia Butler.
146 reviews8 followers
January 20, 2018
I loved the premise of this anthology: “visionary fiction,” or speculative fiction rooted in and building on social justice movements, a modern-day challenge to conventional science fiction that replicates dominant power structures (even while purporting to question them). And this book delivered, over and over again. I was captivated by almost every story in the collection, which is impressive when you consider how difficult it is to ensure consistency and quality across so many different authors, themes, and styles, and especially when you throw in that many of the contributors are first-time writers.

The stories are short (shorter than usual, I feel, and suspect they were constrained by submission guidelines of some sort) but the world-building does not suffer for it. The relative inexperience of some of the contributors mainly comes through in violating the “show, not tell” tenet of writing but it’s usually brief enough to be forgivable, if not outright preferable in making the reader’s life easier when moving so quickly from one story universe to another. My main complaint is that the pacing and structure of some of the stories weren’t always well-suited to the short story form — there are stories that you despair at the end of because they’re done and you don’t want them to be, but then there are those that aren’t done but you wish they were, and unfortunately one too many fell in the latter category. Too often I’d finally get into the rhythm of a story only to flip the page and find it prematurely finished but not finished.

Still, Octavia Butler is my favourite author and it does my heart good to encounter and enjoy the works of her contemporaries, and I hope at least some of these activists continue to find their voice in the written word. A couple of these stories even ended on hopeful notes — not usually what I’d expect in dystopic fiction, but I can’t say I’m complaining! I’m aware that a book like this reaching a reader like me is the very definition of preaching to the choir so I can’t say my own beliefs were challenged (there was some promise in taking on militant, simplistic environmentalism in Dani McClain’s Homing Instinct, but this too lamentably didn’t get far in enough) but I appreciate finding affirming, energising speculative fiction.
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