Jemisin, the latest guest editor for this series, has chosen stories with themes similar to the ones that appear in her own short story collection, How Long ’til Black Future Month? (2018).
As Jemisin notes in the introduction, primary among those themes is revolution. Most of these authors express that theme as the battle for bodily and spiritual autonomy. Zombie soldiers surrender their bodies and wills during brutal military operations in Peter Watts’ “ZeroS.” Charlie Jane Anders offers a sadly relevant tale about a brutal conversion “therapy” for transgenders involving the transfer of consciousness to corpses. A. Merc Rustad riffs on Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang with a tale of a cyborg starship resisting the oppressive government that created her. In Caroline M. Yoachim’s lovely “Carnival Nine,” a society of windup toys tries to make the most of its limited range of motion and lifespan. Kathleen Kayembe is both fascinatingly creepy and heartbreaking in a story of an angry dead twin occupying his brother’s corpse. Micah Dean Hicks explores the lonely ever after of the youngest prince in the fairy tale “The Six Swans,” who longs for his former existence as a bird. Sometimes the story’s theme is intermingled with another favorite Jemisin motif, food, as in a painfully grotesque tale by Rachael K. Jones, in which rebellious cyborgs masquerading as a spacefaring restaurant must cannibalize themselves for entrees. These are stories of accepting one’s true self and rejecting what others would make of you. Sometimes one must transform to escape, but the essence remains.
The stories in this collection will leave the reader mournful, angry, and inspired.