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  • Malorie Nilson

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day: Indigenous Voices in Speculative Fiction




I wanted to take a moment to talk about a potentially sensitive topic because, if there is one thing that we have learned from recent times, it is crucial to be vocal. It is especially important to me because I believe that words hold incredible power. As a lover of books and a person involved in bringing stories into the world, I am in a unique position to funnel a little bit of that word power into an issue.


Today is Indigenous Peoples Day in the United States, or, as many still celebrate, Columbus Day. Recently, there has been a resurgence of attention on the national holiday with calls to replace it with the aforementioned Indigenous Peoples Day as a way to subvert a whitewashed telling of US history and a celebration of colonialism. By creating the opportunity to educate around indigenous issues, the hope is to thwart the persistence of the erasure of Native American history.


To date, 13 states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Virginia—celebrate Indigenous People's Day in place of Columbus Day. Additionally, many cities—including my own— and school districts across the country have adopted this celebration. It has been 31 years since South Dakota codified Native American Day in 1989, and we still have a lot of work to do.


Though this is a small step in recognizing the colonial history of North America and the genocide of indigenous peoples, it is an opportunity for us to honor the many vibrant and essential indigenous voices in speculative fiction. Each of these authors, from what is now known as the United States and Canada, brings the sum of their experience—their inherited experiences and stories.


I genuinely hope that you find a book on this list that captivates you. I hope that you have the joy of seeing representation of someone like you reflected in their pages, or that you experience the delight of inhabiting a perspective outside of your own. Some of the most compelling voices in speculative fiction include authors listed below, and I am so excited for any new readers to discover them. As always, happy reading.



MAPPING THE INTERIOR by Stephen Graham Jones


Walking through his own house at night, a twelve-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.


The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you'd rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.



DEER WOMAN: AN ANTHOLOGY edited by Elizabeth Lapensée and Weshoyot Alvitre


Produced by Native Realities (Tribal Force, Tales of the Might Code Talkers, The Wool of Jonesy, DemiCon) and co-edited by Elizabeth LaPensée (Honour Water, Sequential Survivance, Indigenous Love) & Weshoyot Alvitre (Umbrella Academy, Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, Native American Graphic Classics), DEER WOMAN: AN ANTHOLOGY brings together more than a dozen Native and Indigenous women artists and illustrators to present stories of resistance, survival, empowerment and hope.


Drawing from the inspiration of traditional Deer Woman stories, DEER WOMAN: AN ANTHOLOGY will be a powerful collection of stories by Native women to bring determination and healing to those in need and those willing to listen with their hearts.

FUTURE HOME OF A LIVING GOD by Louise Erdrich


Louise Erdrich, theNew York Timesbestselling, National Book Award-winning author ofLaRoseandThe Round House, paints a startling portrait of a young woman fighting for her life and her unborn child against oppressive forces that manifest in the wake of a cataclysmic event.


The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.


Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.


There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.


A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient,Future Home of the Living Godis a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

LOVE AFTER THE END Edited by Joshua Whitehead


Love After the End is a new young adult anthology edited by Joshua Whitehead (Lambda Literary Award winner, Jonny Appleseed) featuring short stories by Indigenous authors with Two-Spirit & Queer heroes, in utopian and dystopian settings.


This is a sequel to the popular anthology, Love Beyond Body Space and Time (2019 AILA Youth Honor Book), and features several of the same authors returning, along with new voices!


MOONSHOT: THE INDIGENOUS COMICS COLLECTION, Vol. 1 Edited by Hope Nicholson


Produced by AH Comics Inc. (Titan: An Alternate History, Delta, Hobson's Gate, Jewish Comix Anthology) and edited by Hope Nicholson (Brok Windsor, Lost Heroes, Nelvana of the Northern Lights), MOONSHOT brings together dozens of creators from across North America to contribute comic book stories showcasing the rich heritage and identity of indigenous storytelling.


From traditional stories to exciting new visions of the future, this collection presents some of the finest comic book and graphic novel work in North America. The traditional stories presented in the book are with the permission from the elders in their respective communities, making this a truly genuine, never-before-seen publication. MOONSHOT is an incredible collection that is sure to amaze, intrigue and entertain!


Here are some of the talented writers and artists who have contributed to MOONSHOT:


Claude St-Aubin (R.E.B.E.L.S., Green Lantern, Captain Canuck), Jeffery Veregge (G.I. Joe, Judge Dredd), Stephen Gladue (MOONSHOT cover artist), Haiwei Hou (Two Brothers), Nicholas Burns (Arctic Comics, Curse of Chucky, Super Shamou), Jon Proudstar (Tribal Force), George Freeman (Captain Canuck, Aquaman, Batman), Elizabeth LaPensee (Survivance, The Nature of Snakes, Fala), Buffy Sainte-Marie (Fire & Fleet & Candlelight, Coincidence & Likely Stories), Richard Van Camp (Path of the Warrior, Kiss Me Deadly), David Robertson (The Evolution of Alice, Stone), David Cutler (The Northern Guard), Menton J. Matthews III (Monocyte, Memory Collectors, Three Feathers), Jay Odjick (Kagagi: The Raven), Ian Ross (Heart of a Distant Tribe, Bereav'd of Light, An Illustrated History of the Anishinabe), Lovern Kindzierski (X-Men, Wolverine, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Spiderman), Arigon Starr (Super Indian, Indigenous Narratives Collective), Michael Sheyahshe (Dark Owl, Native Americans in Comic Books), Fred Pashe (SpiritWolf) and more!re!


CELIA’S SONG BY Lee Maracle


Mink is a witness, a shape shifter, compelled to follow the story that has ensnared Celia and her village, on the West coast of Vancouver Island in Nu:Chahlnuth territory. Celia is a seer who - despite being convinced she's a little "off" - must heal her village with the assistance of her sister, her mother and father, and her nephews. While mink is visiting, a double-headed sea serpent falls off the house front during a fierce storm. The old snake, ostracized from the village decades earlier, has left his terrible influence on Amos, a residential school survivor. The occurrence signals the unfolding of an ordeal that pulls Celia out of her reveries and into the tragedy of her cousin's granddaughter. Each one of Celia's family becomes involved in creating a greater solution than merely attending to her cousin's granddaughter. Celia's Song relates one Nu:Chahlnuth family's harrowing experiences over several generations, after the brutality, interference, and neglect resulting from contact with Europeans.


TRAIL OF LIGHTNING (THE SIXTH WORLD, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse


While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.


Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.


Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.


As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.


Welcome to the Sixth World.


SON OF A TRICKSTER (TRICKSTER, #1) by Eden Robinson


With striking originality and precision, Eden Robinson, the Giller-shortlisted author of the classicMonkey Beachand winner of the Writers Trust Engel/Findley Award, blends humour with heartbreak in this compelling coming-of-age novel. Everyday teen existence meets indigenous beliefs, crazy family dynamics, and cannibalistic river otter . . . The exciting first novel in her trickster trilogy.


Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who's often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he's also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can't rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby)--and now she's dead.


Jared can't count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can't rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family's life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat...and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he's the son of a trickster, that he isn't human. Mind you, ravens speak to him--even when he's not stoned.


You think you know Jared, but you don't.



THE MARROW THIEVES by Cherie Dimaline


In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America's Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the "recruiters" who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing "factories."



TANTALIZE (TANTALIZE, #1) by Cynthia Leitich Smith


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Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her parents are dead, and her hybrid-werewolf first love is threatening to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. Then, as she and her uncle are about to unveil their hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef. Can Quincie transform their new hire into a culinary Dark Lord before opening night? Can he wow the crowd in his fake fangs, cheap cape, and red contact lenses - or is there more to this earnest face than meets the eye? As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms, and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who's playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything? TANTALIZE marks Cynthia Leitich Smith's delicious debut as a preeminent author of dark fantasy.



And to mix things up a bit—Australia!



THE INTERROGATION OF ASHALA WOLF (THE TRIBE, #1) by Ambelin Kwaymullina


“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below. . . . And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.”


Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind.


And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move.


Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

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