This All Come Back Now – the first anthology of its kind – is a collection of speculative fiction from First Nations writers, both well-known and emerging. As its editor, Koori and Lebanese writer Mykaela Saunders, writes, this is a book “for weird mob everywhere and everywhen, our brave and strange thinkers, feelers, lovers, warlords and healers – those who are dreaming up new ways to tell our stories and are pouring them back into the river of our collective culture”.
Saunders’ curation is carefully considered and eschews didacticism, covering themes such as mourning, loss, belonging, returning and kinship. These stories explore the repercussions of colonisation and gentrification and how violently they pervade Blak bodies. Each work is distinguished from the next through intricate divergences of voice, vantage point or prose style. The speculative narratives here expose the realities of the colonial world’s contempt for Country and its disregard for the traditional and dynamic Indigenous practices that have nurtured this land for millennia, gliding between imagined, foreseeable and inevitable realities.
Highlights include “Closing Time” by Munanjali writer Samuel Wagan Watson, who cleverly interweaves metaphor that nods to Country in a dystopian piece that explores realities at the onset of the pandemic. Jackson, a middle-aged lovesick Aboriginal man and mature-age university student, is hyper aware of his presence in the colony.
Watson’s prose is poetically adept as he explores differing intergenerational readings of the colonial landscape and the palpable effect colonial violence has on Blak bodies: “Deep, deep down in the labyrinths of where a Black man in such a superficial world lives, Jackson was coasting across a frozen lake that could crack and swallow him infernally – and it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.”
In “Jacaranda Street”, Torres Strait Islander and African American writer and editor Jasmin McGaughey plays with tropes, quickly illustrating a family’s dynamic through a crafted absence of words and deadpan dialogue.
Wiradjuri writer Hannah Donnelly brings traditional cultural practices into futurism in “After the End of Their World”. In a post-human colony, cyborg-like Yandamula and her sisters gather around their thermal heat source. Donnelly paints an allegory in which culture and the Dreaming are omnipresent despite colonial and capitalist destruction.
This All Come Back Now is a gift to Blackfella readers and storytellers. It’s a compelling and rich showcasing of Blak thought that illuminates the dire absurdity of western rationality.
UQP, 354pp, $32.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 4, 2022 as "This All Come Back Now, Mykaela Saunders (ed.)".
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