Thursday, September 21, 2023

Intense collection of eco-fiction both terrifying and wonderfully inspiring

Cover for You Are My Sunshine and Other Stories by Octavia Cade
I just read an intense collection of eco-fiction stories and wrote up a review. I gave a 5 out of 5 because it was freaking brilliant.

You Are My Sunshine and Other Stories

by Octavia Cade

Published by Stelliform Press on September 21, 2023

Short story collection, Eco-fiction (both really dark and really positive)

Adult (contains lots of death and graphic depictions of violence, including loss of limbs)

* Highly recommended for the range of stories dealing with our environment and how we can better adapt to and connect with the world we live in. *

18 stories by Octavia Cade collected in here. According to the story credits in the back of the book, at least 15 of them were previously published in various magazines and anthologies between 2013 to 2022. I'd experienced a few before, so I knew I was in for a real treat reading this one through.

I really enjoyed how the stories were organized. The themes and interests of the stories flowed beautifully together. Some of the stories spoke to each other well, dancing along the ideas of sunshine, environment having its revenge, and adapting to the world to create something deeply beautiful and sustainable.

Everything within is climate fiction of some sort, though it certainly shows Cade's range in considering the topic. Readers are presented an interesting mash-up of dark and frightening with hopeful and wonderfully alive. Do be warned, a few of the opening stories are not afraid to dip into horror, while others, especially towards the second half of the book are overjoyed to be more well-adjusted solarpunk, hopepunk, and/or completely joyous. You have stories with a constant barrage of death and sadness, limbs being cut off, bears devouring us, lots of death. The title story of course, which matches well with this book's excellent cover, opens with a severed arm in a mailbox with a brief apology note. Among the most intense of stories presented herein. And the first story is all about the bears and fears in an apocalyptic future: "We feed them pieces of ourselves. Sacrificial offerings, to make them go away. Sometimes it even works."

But then you have these stories full of so much love and brilliant adaptation to a world that's been broken, Gregor Samsa's sister making up for her disgust by helping children prepare to not be disgusted by all the insects we need to live closely with; a relationship breaking finds rejuvenation through the restoration of underwater passages and fish and eels; the unreal and fantastic treatment of making rivers people, after we have giving corporations recognition as a person, and considering what that leads to; the wonderful search for a species the protagonist adores.

"And if I spend most of my time underground, now, with the eels and with the fish… it's because things seem more hopeful here. Witnessing the restoration of a species in real time rejuvenates my faith in the restoration of other things." This story surprised me by how touched I felt by the end.

"A river was never just water; a mountain never just rocks and snow. They were systems as much as we were. So we made our landmarks people, and then we made ourselves--all of ourselves--believe it." This kind of idea is returned to in several stories, and done so well. An idea that needs to be applied by our governments and communities more.

Even the treatment of death can be rather refreshing, sometimes with the most simple of lines that punch you in the gut after what you've read:

"The kids asked if the grief was worth it.

I told them that it was."

I honestly could not pick out a favorite story. By the end, I adored every single one. But I am the kind of reader that dives in for both the darkness and the light. Perfect for me.

I'll be reading these again. And I hope you do, too. There's so much substance. There's so much to think about. There's so much our communities need to consider in adapting to the world around us.

Thank you Stelliform Press and BookSirens for providing me an advance review copy for free. I am happy to provide this honest review voluntarily. I’ll keep my eyes open for more from this publisher.

Final rating: 5/5 stars. So much depth. So much beautiful writing. So intense.

*The cover art for this is absolutely gorgeous. It's by Rachel Yu Lobbenberg who also won the Best Cover Art from the Aurora Awards for her work on Arboreality (also published by Stelliform Press). 


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