Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2019, pt. 15: Tara Campbell

My Year of Expansive Pleasure

by Tara Campbell

This year it has been my extreme pleasure to continue expanding my familiarity with diverse/underrepresented authors and topics. Here are some of the works I’ve enjoyed over the past year.

Orbit, November 2018

The stupendous new collection by the celebrated N.K. Jemisin, winner of the 2019 Locus Award for Best Collection, showcases the breadth of Jemisin’s creativity over a 15-year span. 

Editors: Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin; Solaris, March 2017

A charming collection of stories revolving around djinn. Not all of the stories are written by POC, but if the editors are satisfied, so am I. Highlights for me include:

“How We Remember You by Kuzhali Manickavel”: a haunting account of cousins’ memories of—and regrets about—how they treated a magical friend of their youth. This one will stay with you.

“A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds by Amal El-Mohtar”: an enigmatic, shape-shifting story which, according to the author on Twitter, is “quite nakedly about immigration & refugees & I hate reading it out loud because I choke up at the same part every time.” I certainly understand why.

“Reap by Sami Shah”: a vivid and engrossing story about the stakes of drone warfare.

“The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice” by E.J. Swift: An engaging piece of space-noir with a haunted ships and a cheeky twist.

“The Spite House” by Kirsty Logan: usually the djinn is the trickster, but in this tale, an even wilier human places this genie in a bind.

Series Editor: John Joseph Adams, Guest Editor: N.K. Jemisin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2018

What I love about this collection is its sheer range, covering everything from fantasy to legend to hard science fiction to crossover literary. It’s like a primer to the breadth of today’s speculative fiction. Stories with elements of diversity include:

You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych by Kathleen Kayembe: a Congolese ghost story

The Last Cheng Beng Gift by Jaymee Goh: the potential pitfalls of Chinese tradition

The Wretched and the Beautiful by E. Lily Yu: a poignant parable of interstellar refugees

The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant by Rachael K. Jones: how often do you read a story about a spaceship with an all-female robot crew?

Editor: Nisi Shawl
Amazon Digital Services, March 2019

This collection edited by the inimitable Nisi Shawl, whose latest novel Everfair has garnered mountains of praise, was a pleasure to read. Some of my favorite stories:

“Come Home to Atropos” by Steven Barnes: blistering satire re: euthanasia tourism on former colonial island

“The Fine Print” by Chinelo Onwualu: a catalog of wishes keeps humans in debt to djinns, who send spells in human form as debt collectors

“One Easy Trick” by Hiromi Goto: a woman loses her belly fat in a forest—then goes back to find it

“Harvest” by Rebecca Roanhorse: “Never fall in love with a deer woman.” A tale of retribution and horror.

(5) Speaking of Rebecca Roanhorse, I’m currently making my way through the recommendations in her 2018 Tor article “Five Indigenous Speculative Fiction Authors You Should Be Reading.” I just finished The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, and loved it. Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson is next on my desk. Read Roanhorse’s article for descriptions of these two books and more.

What better way to start a Happy New Year?

Tara Campbell ( is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. She made her Aqueduct debut with her Conversation Pieces edition Midnight at the Organporium in 2019. Prior publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Monkeybicycle, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod/Artemis Rising. She's the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and a hybrid fiction/poetry collection, Circe's Bicycle. She received her MFA from American University in 2019.

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