Book Review: This All Come Back Now, edited by Mykaela Saunders

This groundbreaking collection showcases the humor and creativity of First Nations writers from so-called Australia. It aims to redress the plethora of cliche novels published by non-Indigenous speculative fiction writers who use First Nations characters, sacred sites, and cosmology as plot devices for “their own colonial Dreamtime fantasies.”

Mykaela Saunders, Koori and Lebanese writer and teacher and winner of the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story, has brought together this kaleidoscope of speculative fiction to show the power of First Nations storytelling. As Saunders puts it, “Time travel isn’t so important when you’re in a culture that experiences all time simultaneously, not in a straight progressive line like Western cultures do.”

Speculative fiction is an expansive genre, encompassing the supernatural, dystopian fiction, gothic horror, science fiction, and fantasy. It’s all coming back now presents an explosive array of it all, written in styles that sometimes unexpectedly pit against each other.

Some are new, while many others have been republished from novels, poetry collections and literary journals like By the road. A Noteworthy Piece is a reprint of an excerpt from Samuel William Watson’s 1990 novel The Kadaitcha Sung, who explores the violence of settler colonialism in Australia within the framework of First Nations spiritual knowledge.

Some of the most memorable pieces written specifically for the collection imagine different visions of the apocalypse. John Morrissey’s “Five Minutes” is a meta-interpretation of a government department reacting to an invasion of gigantic centipedes while Timmah Bell’s experimental piece “An Invitation” tackles the phenomenon of buildings disappearing.

Like all anthologies, some will resonate more strongly than others for different readers. I found many pleasant, others puzzled. Those who like funny stories will find plenty of laughs in Adam Thompson’s Centrelink satire “Your Own Aborigine” and Merryana Salem’s parody of time-traveling filmmakers capturing footage of the Border War in “When From.” “Snake of Light” by Loki Liddle, an otherworldly fantasy story set in a small town pub was another memorable piece.

Many more feature thought-provoking conceptual proposals and some are downright chilling. The rapidly approaching climate catastrophe is never far from the surface, nor is the intergenerational psychic pain wrought by the horrors of genocide. So much of this news will haunt you long after you put the book down.

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It’s all coming back now is a mad dash through different universes and timelines, all wrapped up in the Book of the Year cover designed by talented Indigenous visual artist Jenna Lee. So many of these stories would make amazing movies; it’s a must-read for all Australian screenwriting talent scouts.

It’s all coming back now: An Anthology of First Nations Speculative Fiction, edited by Mykaela Saunders
Publisher: UQP
ISBN: 9780702265662
Format: Paperback
Pages: 360 pages
MSRP: $32.99
Release date: May 2, 2022

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