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Joshua Whitehead, ed., Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit & Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction. A Review

Leah Van Dyk

Biography | Notes

Keywords: Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Indigiqueer futurities, Indigenous Literatures, Queer Studies


Joshua Whitehead’s (Peguis First Nation) compelling collection of edited short stories redefines futurity, asking what it means to imagine spaces and communities beyond the end that are grounded in love and possibility. Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit & Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction introduces the reader to nine voices, in addition to Whitehead’s, whose stories grapple with time, space travel, artificial intelligence, ceremony, virtual reality, recordkeeping, intimacy, and—above all—relationality and kinship. In their introduction to the collection, Whitehead explains the conceptual shift away from the dystopic towards the utopian as fundamental to the presentation of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer futurities. Whitehead notes that “we have already survived the apocalypse—this, right here, right now, is a dystopian present.”[1]

           Potawatomi scholar Kyle Powys Whyte expresses similar dystopic temporalities in their consideration of the post/paracolonial present, here in relation to climate change, as such: “Indigenous imaginations of our futures […] begin already with our living today in post-apocalyptic situations.”[2] In imagining a future defined by living—and loving—beyond the dystopic present, this collection reconceptualizes queer Indigenous community as a space that rejects fatalism and the settler hi/stories of queer and Indigenous erasure in favour of vital, complex, messy, and beautiful communities of being. Whitehead explains:

Originally, the project was designed to be geared toward the dystopic, and after careful conversations, we decided to queer it toward the utopian. This, in my opinion, was an important political shift in thinking about the temporalities of Two-Spirited, queer, trans, and non-binary Indigenous ways of being. […] What better way to imagine survivability than to think about how we may flourish into being joyously animated rather than merely alive?[3]

           Powerful and nuanced in its considerations of Indigenous futurities, Love After the End delivers on its promise of “being joyously animated.” The collection begins with Nathan Adler’s “Abacus,” a story about an AI rat and a boy who find love and freedom through virtual reality. In Adam Garnet Jones’ “History of the New World,” the colonization of a new planet and the Rainbow Peoples’ Camp contrast two futures for a dying planet. We are then transported through space to escape a dying planet in jaye simpson’s “The Ark of the Turtle’s Back,” offered lessons in survival from a journal in Kai Minosh Pyle’s “How To Survive the Apocalypse For Native Girls,” and witness living, embodied archives in Gabriel Castilloux Calderon’s “Andwànikàdjigan.” In Darcie Little Badger’s “Story for a Bottle” and Mari Kurisato’s “Seed Children”, we find ourselves engulfed in the worlds of cyborgs and AI. In Nazbah Tom’s “Nameless”, Travellers cross time to maintain kinship relations with past and future ancestors. The collection ends with David A. Robertson’s “Eloise,” a story that considers the haunting yet reparative possibilities of virtual reality as history and memory.

           Whether read individually or serially, the collection gives space to a cacophony of voices and experiences which call us into relationship with a hurting (and hurtful) world that is nonetheless punctuated by hope. Relevant to the fields of speculative/science fiction, queer studies, kinship studies, and Indigenous literatures, this collection offers new and essential perspectives for the high school and university classroom, and is suited for study from high school English courses, to undergraduate survey and topic courses, to graduate seminars. The imaginative, future-oriented dreamings curated here by Whitehead bridge the gap between utopian science fiction and Indigenous praxis, considering what it is to write back or write into a genre defined by the erasure of marginalized bodies. Here, Indigenous futurisms are queered and hope-filled; as Pyle writes in their story, love after the end is the imagining for Indigenous peoples of “ways that they could get free, ways they could hold their ancestors and descendants in the same hands.”[4] Love After the End offers its readers a way of finding “what we need when we need it”[5] and establishes itself as the first of what will hopefully be many speculative collections centring 2SQness.

[1]Joshua Whitehead, ed. Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit & Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction. (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020), 10.
[2]Kyle Powys Whyte, “Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene.” English Language Notes 55, no. 1-2 (Spring/Fall 2017): 160.
[3]Whitehead, 10-11.
[4] Kai Minosh Pyle. “How To Survive the Apocalypse For Native Girls,” in Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit & Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction, ed. Joshua Whitehead (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020), 79.
[5] Whitehead, 15.

Leah Van Dyk (she/her) holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Calgary. Her research focuses on environmental literary and community practices, literature as activism, and ecological kinship networks. She has recently published works in Jesmyn Ward: New Critical Essays, Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, and Studies in American Fiction (“The EcoGothic” issue) and has a forthcoming chapter in Carryin’ the Banner: Critical Essays on the Newsies Film and Broadway Adaptation.