Alex Brown Reviews Voodoonauts Presents: (Re)Living Mythology by Shingai Njeri Kagunda, Yvette Lisa Ndlovu, H.D. Hunter, & LP Kindred, eds.

Voodoonauts Presents: (Re)Living Mythology, Shingai Njeri Kagunda, Yvette Lisa Ndlovu, HD Hunter & LP Kindred, eds. (Android 978-1-95812-111-5, $19.99, 177pp, tp) November 2022. Cover by Paul Lewin.

Voodoonauts Presents: (Re)Living My­thology is everything I’ve ever wanted from a speculative anthology. It’s a col­lection of short fiction and poetry rooted in stories and traditions from across the African continent and throughout the Black diaspora. I have read many of the authors before and loved their work. At under 200 pages, it was the perfect palate cleanser after a spate of several 500+ page novels I’d been working my way through.

The anthology was put together by Voodoonauts, ‘‘a grassroots Afrofuturist collective promoting connectivity & craft within the global Black SFF community,’’ as their website notes. The group was formed in the summer of 2020 in response to the woeful lack of representation of Black voices in speculative fiction. (Technically, Kagunda & Ndlovu got the idea the previous year, but it took until everything moved online due to COVID for that dream to become a reality.) That summer, many businesses, organizations, and industries did callouts for new Black voices to highlight. However, as many of us in the creative realm can attest, few of those opportunities saw the light of day, and many of those that did either didn’t pay at all, paid poorly, or eventually col­lapsed due to negligence or lack of interest on the part of a non-Black leadership team.

Voodoonauts was made by us, for us. It persists because we understand the value of our work and support each other in breaking down walls and forcing open locked doors. This anthology is the physical manifestation of this group’s commit­ment to our community. Filled with work from alumni and facilitators of the Voodoonauts fellow­ship, it collects some exciting work from writers you really should be paying more attention to.

The stories collected here weave across space and time, allowing the diaspora to explore the connections and differences in our cultures. As much as I liked all of the entries, a couple stuck out for me. Ernestine-Vera Kabushemeye Gahimbare’s ‘‘Paying Forward’’ is an unsettling story about scientists who stumble into a violent situation. The ending is perfect in that it’s not what the reader wants or expects. I love it when an author keeps me off balance. In T. L. Huchu’s ‘‘Gogo Maroto’’, a teenage girl enters the lair of a witch to uncover her past, her present, and her future. It is a story of yearning for a homeland you’ve never been to and of choosing a path that will change your life.

Normally, I’m not much for poetry. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just don’t often connect with it in a way that makes me want to seek it out. Poetry forms the bookends of this collection, setting the tone and bringing us back together at the close. Since it was Voodoonauts (and since I’d previously enjoyed short fiction by two of the poets), I decided to give the poems a try. To my very pleasant surprise, I enjoyed them. I’m not sure how to explain why, but they made me feel. Lysz Flo’s ‘‘La Siréne’’ in particular made my heart swell with ferocity and empowerment. If nothing else, the poems herein made me want to explore the world of speculative poetry more.

Overall, Voodoonauts Presents: (Re)Living Mythology is a startling­ly good speculative anthology. Espe­cially if you are a reader of FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, this should be an automatic purchase. Both are doing what the gatekeepers of speculative fiction have long re­fused to do: give Black voices a platform to speak, to shout, to proclaim, to invoke, to empower, to dismantle. And Paul Lewin’s cover! I need a print of that on my wall immediately. I hope this is the first of many Voodoonauts Presents collections.

Alex Brown is a queer Black librarian and writer. They have written two books on the history of Napa County, California’s marginalized communities. They write about adult and young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror as well as BIPOC history and librarianship. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and access set the foundation of all their work. Alex lives in Southern California with their pet rats and ever-increasing piles of books.

This review and more like it in the January 2023 issue of Locus.

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