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IR Editors Tell All: Favorite Future-themed Work

From September 1 to October 31, Indiana Review will be reading for the Futures Folio, a special themed insert that will appear in our fortieth issue next summer. Here, the editors imagine possibilities for the folio by discussing some of their favorite futuristic poems, essays, and stories.

Associate Editor Essence London

Lately I’ve been examining the world from an Afrofuturistic perspective, constantly asking how black folks can not only survive but thrive for many many years to come. I ran into Martine Syms’ The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto–and the documentary by the same name–while clicking around the internet one afternoon. It’s unforgiving in its critique of some popular narratives in black speculative work, but I still appreciate the honest and practical approach to imagining our futures: “While we are Othered, we are not aliens. Though our ancestors were mutilated, we are not mutants. Post-black is a misnomer. Post-colonialism is too. The most likely future is one in which we only have ourselves and this planet.”

Content-wise for the Futures Folio, I’d love to see descendants of today’s marginalized peoples thriving or just existing in believable and moving situations. Also, I’d love to see your work in innovative forms, because, who knows, you could change how literature looks in the future.

Web Editor Hannah Thompson

I grew up in the 90s and early 00s–I watched the twin towers fall, discussed Revelations and the Left Behind series at church, and anxiously waited for Y2K. Because of this, I gravitate towards apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic visions of the future like the serial fiction podcast Alice Isn’t Dead. This Night Vale Presents production is about truck driver searching the American highways for her wife, who disappeared into an elusive shipping company.

Fiction Editor Anthony Correale

I am open to the future of a full-blown science fiction visionary like William Gibson or to a work that might be termed speculative, like George Saunders’ “Escape From Spiderhead,” populated by disarmingly recognizable characters grappling with moral dilemmas that seem only a degree or two past where we sit right now or a magical fever dream of a future like Michael Andreasen’s “The King’s Teacup at Rest.”

But you do not need to project yourself into the strange and unrecognizable to explore the future. I am as concerned with the shape its shadow casts over the present. I want the stories of those forced to reckon with a future that has no place for them, a future that they can’t imagine, a future that they are trying to escape.

Nonfiction Editor Anna Cabe:

The “apocalypse,” in the popular imagination, is often conceived of as taking place in an unknown future,  the end of the world as we know it. However, in Elissa Washuta’s ferocious “Apocalypse Logic,” we are reminded that for many people in the United States, the apocalypse has already happened. In this wide-ranging essay, she examines the ways in which the Cowlitz Indian Tribe has grappled with the violent settlement of their land along the Columbia River and what measures they’ve taken to survive. “If this doesn’t make sense, don’t think about it,” she writes. “Don’t try to find explanations consistent with what might be called logic. Know that, if you are not from a post-apocalyptic people, you may not be familiar with these strategies we use to survive.”

Despite a continuing history of murder, exploitation, and erasure, Washuta points out that “apocalypse” in the Greek means something like “through the concealed.” In a nation-state that has threatened her and her people with death or cultural annihilation, they have endured.

Editor-in-chief Tessa Yang

Each of the stories in Alexander Weinstein’s Children of the New World offers a memorable vision of our future, but “Excerpts from The New World Authorized Dictionary” stands out to me because of its focus on language. Through eight fictive dictionary entries, Weinstein renders a near-future chock full of trends that are all too believable–from the “Toggers” who compulsively stream Inner-Ear Therapy Programs, to the men who glorify “mushing” their partners during sex (you’ll have to look that one up for yourself). I love this story because it strands me in that uncertain place between laughter and fear where the best futuristic fiction can take us.

Poetry Editor Anni Liu

Future is always linked with the question of survival, and Fatimah Asghar’s “If They Should Come For Us” names a survival through community lit by intimate specificity, holding close “the sikh uncle at the airport/ who apologizes for the pat/ down” and “the lone khala at the park/ pairing her kurta with crocs.” The people we look to for guidance, and with whom we claim kinship, will be the ones with whom we make our futures. Finally, I love the humility and attention to history this poem leaves us with: “I see you map/ my sky the light your lantern long/ ahead & I follow I follow.

What does the future look like to you? Submit your best fiction, poetry, and non-fiction to the Futures Folio by October 31.