Behind-the-scenes with the editors and writers of UNLIMITED FUTURES
UNLIMITED FUTURES (out 29 March) is an anthology filled with speculative fiction from emerging and established First Nations and Black writers, reflecting visionary pasts, hopeful futures, and the invisible ties between First Nations people and People of Colour – these are the stories the authors wish had existed when they were growing up in Australia.
The #LoveOzYA team has been eagerly awaiting UNLIMITED FUTURES’ release since we first heard about it and were lucky enough to chat to both the editors and contributors to the Fremantle Press anthology to learn a bit more about how it about, key influences, and the vital power of young Blak and Black readers seeing themselves reflected on the page.
Editors Hella Ibrahim, Ellen van Neerven, and Rafeif Ismail
Ellen: To have [this] curation of First Nations voices as well as Afro-Black voices was something unique. Particularly when we really started working on this in early 2020, during an explosion of public consciousness on the Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter movements. Solidarity between our different communities is really important.
It’s incredible to have a strong percentage of emerging voices sitting beside established voices. The new authors excite me the most because this could launch their careers or be a significant moment for them.
Hella: Publishing this anthology was hugely important to us for so many reasons! There’s a whole sea of brilliant, passionate Blak and Black writers on this continent; we wanted to make a dedicated space for their stories, to showcase the incredible array of talent in our communities.
There’s a lot of love for speculative fiction within our communities, and magical realism has long been a part of our storytelling traditions, so focusing on that genre allowed us to intertwine culture and storytelling in a way that freed our writers from the expectations of ‘writing while Bla(c)k – we wanted to move away from the kinds of anthologies that ask Blak and Black writers to explain racism or justify their existence to a general audience. We wanted to show there’s a market for speculative fiction by Blak and Black writers, despite what we’ve been hearing from other publishers for years about a lack of audience.
We want people to read this collection, to get to know who we are beyond the usual ‘Racism 101’. But, and far more importantly, we want Blak and Black readers to see themselves reflected in these pages, honestly, authentically.
We want to continue an ongoing conversation, a shared vision, between First Nations and AfroBlack writers. We want Blak and Black readers to keep dreaming of a better future, to keep hope that there’s a better world coming – and it’s ours to create.
Rafeif: I thought it would be great to have a conversation. And what better way to have a conversation than through storytelling? That’s the language we all speak, to some degree.
And including a mixture of prose and poetry shows that speculative or science fiction doesn’t have to be written in one style. It’s just so beautifully interwoven. We’re seeing that with how the pieces in this anthology interact with each other. The commonalities, the differences, the hopes and dreams and the fears, but also the calls for action, the calls for change. Unlimited Futures is one conversation in an ongoing dialogue. And what I love about it is every single one of the stories does move towards justice in the end.
Contributors Chemutai Glasheen, Afeif Ismail, Jasmin McGaughey, Lisa Fuller, Tuesday Atzinger
Chemutai Glasheen – THE DEBT
I wrote this during the peak of Black Lives Matter. I was intrigued by BLM protests happening in Kenya, where police brutality did not have a racial element but abuse of power was evident. I also wanted to address the injustice that surrounds the disposal of waste to poorer nations. In my story, I wanted to make the point that what one does has implications on others who may be far away.
I hope (young people) enjoy it and that they understand that stories come from our everyday experiences. I hope they walk away with the understanding that the world has become so small that our actions and choices – both individual and collective – do have a huge impact on others. I hope they can see themselves in Imani, my central character.
Afeif Ismail – WHITE DUNES
This story was written and published in Arabic as part of my collection, As the Light Sleeps in Distance, which was published in Cairo in 2014. The book is a collection of hybrid tales in which reality is mixed with folklore and legend, along with some personal memories from my hometown. ‘White Dunes’ was inspired by the memories of a childhood friend who drowned in the Blue Nile River; this event had a significant impact on me, and so I keep his memory alive in my writing.
The primary purpose of any creative work is to achieve pleasure and knowledge. The reader can find that in the story’s main topic, which deals with the eternal struggle over life’s difficulties that push people to choose the most difficult choices and take the most dangerous and fateful decisions in a moment of despair. The reader can enjoy the magical story of worlds beyond our world, in addition to learning about writing from another culture and language. I believe that diversity in writing creates dimensions in our world.
Jasmin McGaughey – THE BREAKUP
I was looking at my old Twilight book and I wanted to see what would happen if something similar happened in Cairns. There aren’t any vampires, but there are super-powered teens!
I hope young readers feel like writing their own version of popular YA books or I hope they are able to see themselves in this story and in this book.
Lisa Fuller – HISTORY REPEATING
(My UNLIMITED FUTURES story) was a story that had been pushing at me for a while. I kept having moments where the character would pop into my mind and I could see where she was and what she was doing. I thought it would be a novel until I saw the call out for Unlimited Futures, and I’d really been wanting to work on my short story writing.
That we need to learn from the past, because without constant vigilance it’s very easy to slide down a road that no one imagines we’ll take. And also, that even in the worst of times, together we can find hope.
Tuesday Atzinger – THE RIVER
When I think back to my childhood, the most magical moments were the stories my grandmother, aunties and mother passed on to me. Their words made the world around me feel magnificent, and that my part in it was significant across time and place. Years later, I fell in love with epic poetry – the rhythm and narratives created the same sense of magic and vastness that extended beyond the end of the poem. Ultimately, my hope with ‘The River’ was to recreate that same feeling.
For me, ‘The River’ is a story about the cascading effect that malicious actions can have on individuals, across communities and on the environment.
Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes – I HAVE NO COUNTRY
My poem revolves around a question that Black immigrants like me are often asked: “Where is your country?” Even though I have lived in Australian for 15 years, I still get asked this today.
I know many young Australians – whether they were born here or they immigrated – get asked this too, and that they feel the questioner is often challenging their ‘Australianness’. My poems seeks to challenge this by saying that my heritage and my place in Australia transcends this idea – I am a country myself.
I hope young readers will consider the richness of Indigenous and African perspectives. I hope they will dare to learn new languages – Black languages – particularly those Indigenous languages that are spoken on the lands where they live. For young black readers, I hope the poem will be a reminder: your heritage is deeper than any question that seeks to define where you belong. You are boundless.
UNLIMITED FUTURES promises to be a powerful and unique collection of stories to inspire and educate us, and bring us together over shared conversations. Find more information on Unlimited Futures on Fremantle Press’ website here+