Static, Moving: A Book Review of ‘We See A Different Frontier’ (Part 1)
Nearly four months ago, a friend introduced me to Future Fire because she was tired of hearing me complain about how a lot of the fiction I was reading, while interesting, wasn’t precisely what I wanted to consume. I’d read this story, you see, called La muerte y el jardin, and I wanted more along those lines. I was looking for a short story, fantastical, without a disavowal of a historical background, and not set in the sort of nebulous “post-racial” future that people insist is the hallmark of “good” science fiction where differences are shifted to humans versus aliens without any acknowledgement of the fact that even within that dichotomy, there would be layers upon layers of hierarchy that would be based on race, class, language, (forgotten) nationalities - that these would persist.
What I wanted was something that acknowledged that as much as our histories were evolving, part of it was static simply because there was a rupture in the thread, and no amount of returning to it or wending over it could ever quite close the gap. I didn’t want to read endlessly about the rupture (though sometimes I did) and I didn’t want not to read about continued evolution (sometimes I did), but I wanted something that didn’t gloss over these jagged portions for the sake of convenience or an inability to come to terms with it, or because (and I hear this so often, it genuinely enrages me) they “didn’t want to tell a political story.” ALL STORIES ARE POLITICAL STORIES. Do you have characters? Do they speak and interact? Are you writing in a language? Do you have access to technology that makes writing and disseminating your story possible? THEN IT IS POLITICAL ALREADY. There is NO SUCH THING as a non-political or divorced writing. Anyone who says otherwise is deliberately ignoring their own ability to give voice to that opinion.
And if nothing is produced in a political vaccuum, then everything is inherently political and the stories that we tell are in large part responsible for the ways in which it is propagated. Fact.
This is why I didn’t want to be reading stories that implied that the issues that we face right now in the aftermath of overt colonisation and with continued neocolonisation, in a world that is largely capitalist (and where capitalism and colonisation are pretty much intertwined) and in which racial, social, linguistic, national, and caste-based systems of hierarchy exist and persist, are no longer concerns. Giving me a story in which that just magically disappears despite the fact that its effects are not just ongoing but deliberately kept up in order to maintain hierarchies… After a while, I couldn’t read it. Or if I did, I couldn’t enjoy or endorse it.
In short, I wanted something that I didn’t think I could easily find and it meant that I was writing reams of scathing commentary on the stuff I was finding because it simply wasn’t giving me what I felt I needed. I was tearing through novels and TV shows and feeling increasingly disheartened because the few that did choose to engage tended to lack care, subtlety, nuance. They provided a sop and expected kudos and I was increasingly unwilling to consume those products without at least putting down its shortfalls, either here or in journals.
So coming to We See A Different Frontier, I was excited but somewhat skeptical. The introduction insisted that they were going to take on colonisation, tell stories from a post-colonial perspective, and I sat down and tried to think through how this would work, and whether I would be able to deal with a book that might preach to me about some of my own experiences. (I do not do well with preachy books.) And I didn’t want it to give me perfect resolution because I didn’t see a way in which I could ever believe it. But I opened it up and I sat down to read.
I’m really glad I did.