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May 11, 2022

Unlimited Futures: An Australian Own-Voice Speculative Fiction Anthology

Kathryn Shanks
Unlimited Futures: An Australian Own-Voice Speculative Fiction Anthology
With 21 pieces by Blak and Black authors, Fremantle Press’s Unlimited Futures ushers in a breadth of diversity within a visionary genre.

Edited by Rafeif Ismail and Ellen van Neerven, Unlimited Futures is an anthology of speculative fiction by Black and First Nations authors, featuring a range of emerging and established voices. The poems and short stories of the anthology explore parallel worlds, alternative futures, and narratives outside of time, with contributors telling the tales they wish they had when they were growing up in Australia.

Alongside established writers, such as Claire G Coleman and Ambelin Kwaymullina, sit a variety of emerging authors whose works have never before been published; this was an important element of the project for the editors, Ismail and van Neerven, who sought to provide an avenue for Blak and Black writers beyond the usual personal essay or memoir route. Published by Fremantle Press in collaboration with Djed Press, the project allowed many authors to publish for the first time in ‘genre fiction’, bringing together a wealth of own-voice narratives through an open-submissions process.

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.
– RAFEIF ISMAIL, CO-EDITOR OF UNLIMITED FUTURES.

Unlimited Futures is such an exciting anthology, and we at Casper Magazine were thrilled to be given the opportunity to hear more from one of the anthology’s contributors, Tuesday Atzinger, who authored the first entry in the book – a poem titled The River. Read on to hear their thoughts on Unlimited Futures and the making of their poem, which is a fantastic opening to the anthology.

Writer and Poet Tuesday Atzinger.

1) Unlimited Futures is an anthology centred on own-voice works by Black and Blak authors, which will bring many diverse perspectives to the speculative fiction genre. What was it like working with this wonderful project? Have you had a chance to read any of the other featured works?

It was — and continues to be — a really validating, joyful experience. It’s been really meaningful working with people who understand and support the elements of your work that deviate from hegemonic conventions, but ultimately constitute the soul of your story. Working with Ellen van Neerven and Rafeif Ismail as editors on a project specifically by Blak and Black authors is such a tremendously privileged way to first get published! I’ve read Unlimited Futures multiple times now. My emotions ran the gamut the first time I read it. Every single title is powerful and poignant, and I feel really honoured to be featured alongside so many talented writers. I am drawn to 'Thylacine' by Jasper Wyld over and over again.

2) Your poem, The River, is the first work to appear in Unlimited Futures, leading readers into the anthology. What does that mean to you, and how do you feel more broadly about contributing to the anthology?

It’s very, very humbling! Mostly though, especially given what Ellen and Rafeif have said in the foreword regarding the placement of each work, I think the way all of the pieces flow and fit together symbolically and thematically is really mindful. I wrote 'The River' specifically for Unlimited Futures. I spent a long time mapping out the story I wanted to tell, and how — particularly as an Afro-Black settler in this colony. The first two phrases I typed out in the planning stages were 'Epic poem, Ndebele, Queer' and 'The things we owe to others'.

3) The River is a stunning piece – extremely compelling and transportive. Can you tell us about the poem and the inspiration behind it?

Thank you! The poem is mainly inspired by the storytelling traditions I grew up with as a very young child. The River is my attempt at imparting the feelings of awe and wonder behind those experiences. I had a myriad of different ideas churning in my head, then I had a nightmare about a body of water that really stuck with me. I wanted to use horror and fantasy to explore how cracks in the fundamental things people owe each other (and the environment) can lead to entropy. Water has so many contradictory associations, and felt like a fitting setting for a tale like that. Also, it really was a harrowing nightmare!

4) Something I really love about The River is your use of text alignment, where most of the poem is left-aligned, but certain lines align to the righthand side, building great tension. Can you speak a little on this decision?

I experimented with a couple of techniques, and in the end, the text alignment felt the most fitting. I like the implication that even the narrator, or author, cannot dictate how the otherworldly presents itself on the page. The River starts off as a very rhythmic poem, with a repetition that is supposed to feel very lyrical and relaxed. Having the text alignment or poetic structure shift abruptly works as a form of poetic 'oblique angle', because the landscape of the text itself has changed. As events unfold, what starts off as a suggestion of the uncanny becomes more apparent as the rhythm of the poem shifts completely and everything truly devolves. Another intention was a much more sentimental. In my family, storytelling is so dynamic, with multiple people interjecting because they tell a particular part The Best, or had the Most Appropriate Voice for a certain character.

5) The River features two queer characters, Amandla and Thandeka, which is a beautiful thing to see (particularly in the first entry of the anthology!). As a queer author, what are your views on queer representation in speculative fiction, particularly as it intersects with cultural diversity?

I loved writing them! I wanted to upend the narrative I grew up with that queer identities are 'un-African', and maybe undermine a few other tropes along the way. I think more chances for diverse queer writers to reach an audience would add so much to the arena. Ultimately, we are the best at telling our own stories, especially outside hegemonic ideas of what 'queer' means. We have such a diversity of identities and experience, and a wealth of stories to tell.

6) Where can people go to read more of your works? Do you have anything upcoming for us to look forward to?

I’ve written an article on the impact of medical racism in the recently released Disability Issue of Archer Magazine. Later this year, I will be going back to my performance poetry roots for the Emerging Writers Festival. Regarding any upcoming written projects, I’m currently working on my first poetry collection, as well as a book of short stories.

7) Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

I think the reason why speculative fiction resonates with so many people is because it reaches beyond the confines of what we’re told is possible. To me, there is a power behind being able to imagine better for ourselves and others. Unlimited Futures captures the 'Why Not?' of speculative fiction beautifully.

 

We’d like to thank Tuesday Atzinger for speaking with us about their experience contributing to Unlimited Futures, and we encourage everyone to pick up a copy of the anthology for themselves! It’s such an exceptional collection of speculative fiction and it’s available now through Fremantle Press or in your usual bookstores.

Rafeif Ismail, Co-Editor of Unlimited Futures.
Ellen van Neerven, Co-Editor of Unlimited Futures.

If you liked this article, you might like our feature about TheArtists, a platform showcasing emerging artists across the globe.

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