- Breaking Constraints
Hope Nicholson, ed.
120 Pages; Print, $10.00
Last week, I needed Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-fi Anthology. I’m glad it came to me when it did, right after I watched a livestream video of militarized police punishing Indigenous people and their allies for attempting to cross a newly-imagined border. I needed to remember that Indigenous sovereignty expressed through narrative can empower the imagination enough to sustain a people despite threats to life and limb. It reminded me that Indigenous futures—not to mention love—exist as long as we can imagine them. That’s what this collection does, and while some of the authors are long-established short-storiers, novelists, and scholars, the newer-to-publication authors offer just as much vision—giving science fiction (SF) and urban fantasy fans a chance to geek out over newly-imagined technologies and transformations, while honoring a wide range of human experiences imagined by our LGBTQ2 relatives.
To the keepers and creators of boundaries, borders represent containment and order. To those of us who are held back by walls and by policed lines, such containment can represent oppressive, illegitimate control. The Indigenous Native American and Canadian First Nations authors whose two essays, seven stories, and one story-poem are collected in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time, would take the latter position, especially since gender and sexuality are also policed categories, and not so different from the geographic boundaries that have constricted Indigenous peoples in ever-tightening coils.
In her prefatory remarks, editor Hope Nicholson of Bedside Press writes that for this anthology, she “selected the genres of speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy,” because “there is a tendency to restrict indigenous stories to one time, one place, and force culture to be something to be looked at from a distance,” and those restrictions—the expected genres of Native fiction—are stretched and transformed throughout these “stories of people falling in love with bodies and minds unexpectedly. These are people who are learning to love themselves.” Each story is a celebration of being, and as I read, I too felt the constraints easing.
For readers who aren’t conversant in the constraints that Indigenous LGBTQ2 writers seek to dislodge, Nicholson precedes the collection with two essays, the first by literary and Indigenous studies scholar Grace L. Dillon, and the second, by literary and Indigenous scholar Niigaan Sinclair (both are Anishinaabe a.k.a. Ojibwe or Chippewa). Dillon’s essay, “Beyond the Grim Dust of What Was to a Radiant Possibility of what Could Be: Two-Spirit Survivance Stories,” connects the anthology’s Indigenous futurism and fantasy to several traditions: first, the Anishinaabe concept of biskaabiiyang, or “returning to ourselves,” which “is a healing impulse and a manifesto for all peoples, whether Indigenous or just passing through, about discarding the dirty baggage imposed by the impacts of oppression, and alternatively refashioning ancestral traditions in order to flourish in the post–Native Apocalypse.” Dillon also explains that Indigenous two-spirit SF writers engage in acts of survivance: stories about “persistence, adaptation, and flourishing in the future, in sometimes subtle but always important contrast to mere survival,” rejecting “creeds of isolation and victimhood.” Also helpful is Dillon’s long but partial list of “echoing precedents”—the Indigenous LGBTQ2 writers who’ve come before, laying the groundwork for this anthology. Sinclair’s essay, “Returning to Ourselves: Two Spirit Futures and the Now,” presents historical writings about an Anishinaabe niizh-manidoowag, or two-spirit individual named Ozawwendib (Yellow Head)—a “womanish man” as described by a fur trader named Alexander Henry in 1801. Ozawwendib didn’t “fit into Western and European sexual and gender norms—and perhaps even Anishinaabeg, too,” and yet, “Ozawwendib thrived. She clearly cared for and worked in the interests of community, living with a tremendous amount of agency over her body, identity, and definition.” Sinclair builds on this history with a discussion of the diversity of...