Book Review: _Love After the End_ ed. Joshua Whitehead

Book Review: Love After the End ed. Joshua Whitehead

by Renn

“Gina, can we put this book in our box, please pretty please pretty pretty please?” That was my initial reaction to Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction. The book wasn’t even out yet at the time, but I already knew it would blow my queer, nonbinary, sci-fi-loving mind.

And it did. Man oh man, it did.

For the best possible description of what Love After the End embodies, I present you with this paragraph from Joshua Whitehead’s (the editor’s) introduction. It’s a long quote, but I promise it’s worth reading the whole thing:

“For surely, like the histories of virologies written into our codex, from smallpox, to HIV/AIDS, to H1N1, and now COVID-19, the histories of our queerness, transness, nonbinary-ness, arc back to originality and our vertebrae are blooming heart berries and dripping seedlings. What does it mean to be Two-Spirit during an apocalypse? What does it mean to search out romance at a pipeline protest—can we have intimacy during doomsday? How do we procure affinity in a sleeping bag outside of city hall when the very ground is shaking beneath us with military tanks and thunderous gallops? What does it mean to be distanced under the weight of colonial occupation and relocation? It’s a story we know all too well. We find one another in the cybersphere, hyper Rez sphere, in the arenas of dreamscapes and love grounds. We emerge in pixel and airwave, and we have never lost the magic of our glamour within such a vanishing act; we’ve always controlled the ‘I’ of our narrativized eye. I supposed I note these ruminations in order to announce: Two-Spirit and Indigiqueers are the wildest kinds of biopunks, literally and literarily.”

Holy shit, right?!

On a more literary note, this is a collection of nine stories by as many writers—all of them Indigenous and 2SQ (Two-Spirit and queer)—from across North America. Each of them presents a different view of the future, of what it means to be Indigenous and 2SQ in a world that no longer resembles the land of their ancestors. There is violence woven into these stories, along with trauma and healing. There are artificial intelligence and artificial bodies and spaceships resembling trees. Woven through all these stories are the threads of memory and survival: how stories as living history are passed down through generations, how Indigenous identities and traditions are irreparably damaged by a dying Earth and complicated by the colonial nature of space exploration fantasy.

My favorite story in the collection is “How to Survive the Apocalypse for Native Girls,” for its nuanced themes of Indigi-futurism (as inspired by Afro-futurism) and what it means to be “Native enough” in a community that has historically been harmed by outsiders, and so now is hostile in turn towards those perceived as outsiders. I love the many Two-Spirit and all-gendered characters in all the stories, who are in queer relationships that don’t end in tragedy and have found families of fellow 2SQs of all ages and pronouns. I love the casual use of Anishinaabemowin and Nehiyawewin and Diné bizaad with no translation or explanation. Most of all, I love how every single one of these stories offers hope as a form of resistance against everything terrible that was, is, and could be.

As the world we live in tends closer and closer towards apocalypse every day, this anthology, blazing with imagination and a bright, visionary power, comes at the perfect time to counter helplessness and fear. These tales of potential futures have uplifted me from the worries of today. If you, too, have been looking for something to hold onto, this book gives you nine to carry with you into tomorrow.