pieces of fiction we’re pretty sure are actually real (like happening now)

the other night i was watching the Walking Dead season 7, which has the most devious, charming, terrifying bad guy. it felt disturbingly current, including the zombies. i asked the ever generous facebook what fiction feels like it’s happening right now and generated this amazing list, an abundance of work to read or watch.

or, you know, just look around.

Books

the Kate Daniels books, Ilona Andrews

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Maddadam Trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, Maddadam) Margaret Atwood
(Elena says: “extreme genetic modification, separation of corporate-compound and pleebland communities (extreme economic imbalance). Also new beings, new ways of living and of communicating (even between different species).”

Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, Malcolm Azania (pen name Minister Faust)

Wind Up Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi

Blues for Mister Charlie, James Baldwin

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler
(Enei says: “make America great again”, Karissa says: “keep trying to convince people to go in on some property further North cause Octavia told us to go North.” Anne’s partner thinks we’re in the prequel.)
also everything else she wrote.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
(Judy pulls out this opening quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”)

Makers, Cory Doctorow
Walkaway, Cory Doctorow
(Dan says: “It’s maybe the only anarchist-ish future that I’ve read that didn’t sound like it would suck. Still not the future I’m trying to build, but if things do go that way, at least there’s been some good thinking on how to build good lives in it.”)

The Circle, Dave Eggers

American War, Omar El Akkad

Solitaire, Kelley Eskridge
(Vanissar says: “Because citizens vs people living on the margins, because technology + incarceration. Because our imaginations will save us.”)

Slow River, Nicola Griffith
(Vanissar says: “because water, technology. because desperation.”)

Journey to the East, Herman Hesse

Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston
(Supriya says: “As Irma was about to hit and Houston was reeling and Katrina was in my heart: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston.”)

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Redwall and Mossflower series, Brian Jacques
(Jessica says: “animals have rich and amazing lives.”)

In the Heart of the Valley of Love, Cynthia Kadohata

It, Stephen King

The Telling, and The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Ursula le Guin

the Wizard of Earthsea series, particularly The Other Wind, Ursula le Guin
(Morrigan says: “We’re finding lost languages, understanding our misguided limitations on magic, undoing the suppression of the wind. restoring the pattern.”)

California, Eden Lepucki

That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis
(Teika says: “I haven’t read it for years and don’t really remember a lot of the plot details, but the one element that really sucks with me is something about being governed by an embalmed head connect to a machine, and that 1984-style autocracy and the effed up psychology of state domination / oppression / greed.”)

It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

The Girl Who Owned A City, OT Nelson

Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brian

Who Fears Death?, Nnedi Okorafor
(Leah says: “bc Black femmes using spirit to destroy white medical industrial capital fuckery and climate chaos, Black survivors using witchcraft to defeat rapists, and spirits are present and walking with us.”)

Shadowshaper, Daniel José Older

1984, George Orwell

The Turner Diaries, William Luther Pierce (pseudonym Andrew Macdonald)
(Minaj says: “White supremacist utopian novel written in the 70s that has been downloaded millions of times and is their blueprint for the revolution. It starts with the police. They’re trying to make it happen. Also I should add major trigger warnings for racism, sexism, every kind of ism, n word usage, etc. Read it to know their game plan, not for literary insight.”)

Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy
(Mistinguette says: “Parallel utopia and oblivion, and making conscious choices about them.”)

Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield
(Amber says: “I feel like just as much as destruction occurs around us, humans are waking up to spiritual guidance en masse. More and more people are focusing on listening, balance, centering ourselves, opening our eyes, ears, and hearts to signs, etc. it’s easy to not see it when so much negative is happening, but we vibrating higher. I can feel it.”)

The Mars Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson
Three Californias Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
(Supriya says: “When I think of my beloved India and wretched nationalism, xenophobia, anti Muslim terror… the crack on the fissure of his face in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, or Mahdhweti Devi’s “Draupadi.”)

Almanac of the Dead, Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo)
(Sophia says: “Silko says she wrote it almost channeling the anger of the Earth herself. There’s also a lot in the book about amplified spiritual activation of Native & African ancestors as we fulfill prophecy (in this case, Mayan prophecy) by resisting corruption, chaos and white supremacist colonial greed- with some specific focus on the desecration of sacred Native sites. Her writing also gives a big fuck off to respectability politics, cuz many of the most significant characters have substance dependencies, are houseless, non-neurotypical, former sex workers or current drug smugglers…all that feels familiar in this moment too. Damn… *goes to reread it*”)

The Fifth Sacred Thing, Starhawk

The Book of Joan, Lidia Yuknovitch
(Marika says: Crazy dystopian novel. Can’t say I either enjoyed it or hated it, but it was poignant and sadly prescient:
“We are what happens when the seemingly unthinkable celebrity rises to power.
Our existence makes my eyes hurt.
People are forever thinking that the unthinkable can’t happen. If it doesn’t exist in thought, then it can’t exist in life. And then, in the blink of an eye, in a moment of danger, a figure who takes power from our weak desires and failures emerges like a rib from sand. Jean de Men. Some strange combination of a military dictator and a spiritual charlatan. A war-hungry mountebank. How stupidly we believe in our petty evolutions. Yet another case of something shiny that entertained us and then devoured us. We consume and become exactly what we create.”)

TV/Movies

Alien
American Gods
Black Mirror
God’s and Monsters
House of Cards
Idiocracy
Insecure
Mad Max
Mary Poppins
Matrix
Rats of NIMH
The Simpsons
Sleepdealer
Underground
X-Files (Gabriel says: “The alien / government coverup storyline is actually somewhat based on a book that says it’s nonfiction – ‘behold a pale horse’.”)

sabbatical book reviews for you!

beloveds – i kept track of all the books i read on my sabbatical, rating them on a scale of 1 (don’t read this) to 5 (don’t let your life end without having read this).

it was my 33rd year so i aimed to read 33 books. i did that, plus a few extra. here are the brief reviews i kept on the journey. happy reading 🙂

otherland volumes 1-4
tad williams
3.5
my friend nancy dalwin directed me towards this collection and wow. it’s a slow start, but that’s mostly because the ideas are so massive and you are dropped right into a truly other place. it’s all about what’s real and what’s not, and how those with unlimited resources think of the future, and what it means to be sentient. fascinating and exciting exploration of a virtual reality future.

divergent
veronica roth
2.5
read this because a near-stranger in Mexico put it in my hands, and said its kind of like hunger games. it wasn’t as good, but fast and entertaining and with some social critique. would recommend for high school sci-fi club.

Finn
jon clinch
3
saw this on the little outdoor library shelf of the front desk in my cabana hotel in tulum and had to grab it because my favorite little boy in the world is named Finn. gorgeously written, the idea is lifted from side note references to huck finn’s dad. sad story, hard read, racism is so ugly even when the words are pretty.

malcolm x: a life of reinvention
manning marable
3.6
marable was my college advisor and malcolm x is one of the thinkers whose story has shaped my life. there were a lot of critiques of his book and folks didn’t want it out, said it took away from malcolm’s image – i understood that. to me, it made him more human and his story even more powerful, but i also look for that. i don’t know that marable wanted to strip malcolm of his heroic story, but rather paint a deeper picture of a complex man. this is all through the lens of my love for malcolm tho. if you don’t love malcolm, skip it.

broken angels
richard morgan
4
i love the whole takeshi kovacs series (which starts with altered carbon) – the lead character is this emotionally charged superhuman who feels like a 1940s detective at times. morgan writes erotic scenes that wake me up. this book, second in the series, explores human relation to martians, basically to something utterly unhuman, in really fascinating and scary and lovely ways.

woken furies
richard morgan
3.5
more brilliant takeshi kovacs, he really is pushing up against ‘the system’ in this one. the idea of what is fair, what is right, is big in this one and we get to learn a lot more about the anarchist philosopher quelchrist falconer who is quoted throughout the other books in the series, and her thinking and words are exciting. ‘face the facts, then act’ is an actual mantra for me now.

the kingdom of gods
nk jemison
4

ahhh. i got to meet nk last year and it’s wonderful that such a grand, clever, cosmic series comes from such a humble, brilliant black brooklyn woman. this is the third book in the trilogy and all three are delightful and really play with ideas around what is human, what is divine, what is balance between good and evil. and race, class, sex, violence, incest, cosmic action scenes, shapeshifting? it’s all there.

midnight robber
nalo hopkinson
4
i love how nalo writes – this was taught to me before i read it, by dr. alexis pauline gumbs, at the allied media conference in 2011. it’s Caribbean science fiction, it’s about how we handle punishment, build community, build mythology, and our relationship to technology. grand.

dream park
steve barnes and larry niven
3
this was cool, though it definitely felt like it was written by guys who like to game – not so beautiful, but like a fun old fashioned whodunit set in a virtual reality game park.

annals of the western shore: gifts, voices, powers
ursula le guin
4.4
this collection is subtle, gorgeous, intricate and very radical. over the course of the three books, le guin explores what it means to accept your gifts, raise your voice, acquire and hold power. she is with the underdogs and the oddities and the magic ones as usual, and i fell in love with everyone, and i cried at the end of it all.

thirteen
richard morgan
3.5
i mostly like how morgan writes, though it is intensely violent stuff. in this, like in the takeshi kovacs series, morgan plays with the idea of how our desire for security and safety makes us create monsters, and then go deep in to find the humanity in those monsters.

his dark materials: the golden compass, The subtle knife, the amber spyglass
philip pullman
5

this is less a trilogy of books and more a world that you open the books and go over to. it’s a magnificent attack on blind faith, on anything that asks you to submit, to relinquish pleasure…all done through a set of intriguing imperfect characters on the constantly changing landscape of love.

wild
cheryl strayed
5

i am so in love with cheryl strayed i can’t see straight when it comes to her. i loved her anonymously as the author of the dear sugar columns, and when she revealed her identity i rushed to find every thing she’d written. This book wasn’t on kindle when i first looked, then i met this dope older gay couple in hawaii who raved about it and said it was on kindle. i read it while laughing, crying, rooting for her, forgetting where i was, and trying to slow down because it was that good and honest that i didn’t want it to end. it’s about her walking the pacific crest trail for three months on her own. from her heavy bag to wrong shoes to her grief and heartbreaking break-up and terrifying journey and loving nature and all of it, i felt this was a parallel to my journey and a Very Important Book

the host
stephenie myers
3.5
very cool book about an alien invasion and how humans survive and love – also what is human?, what is it we must protect, how we evolve. by the author of twilight, so has a bit of that love story overlay to it that’s kind of high school-y and thick. but good story, good idea.

love
toni morrison
4.5
picked up wanting a physical book in my hand. this is a bitter story about love, and the ways people grab onto each other in life, what grows the heart and what damages it. some big twists in here, brilliant mysterious morrison writing.


changing course

susan wells
3.5
lovely account of the retreat program i am on, the history of it, the changes it puts people through. great for leaders who are feeling burnt out, on how we heal, what we need.

journal of a solitude
may sarton
5

sarton documents her process of being a writer in solitude for a year. she is tough on herself, and so vulnerable, and the result is something every artist and writer should read. she understands humanity as she runs away from it, understands why we create, and wonders if happiness and creativity can coexist really. so good. (with me daily, still)

in the woods
tana french
2
i found this book frustrating. it was poised to be a scary book with one mystery hidden inside another, and that’s true, but it feels like a cheat of a book at the end.

the woman warrior: memoir of a girlhood amongst ghosts
maxine hong kingston
4.8

classic. this book is a mix of stories, memories, myths that altogether paint a portrait of the cultural space between america and those who immigrate here, particularly from china. this book made me feel the longing of family across cultural divides that were crossed for survival, and it makes me think women are the most resilient species on earth.

unquenchable fire
rachel pollack
4.5

truly remarkable and different. i like this story because it cuts so close to home, so much of it is both outlandish and maybe happening right now and that is a great tension to hold as the story unfolds, it’s hilarious, it’s another one that drops you into its world so completely that it’s hard to feel solid at the start, and then once you are in the other world, you kind of want the rapture of it, the key questions about why have faith?, the story telling culture. brilliant.

skin folk
nalo hopkinson
4
great collection of short stories, nalo writes with a distinct voice that balances between futurism and caribbean folklore – i feel like i’m learning and being challenged and expanded the whole time.

white tiger
aravind adiga
4
magnificent hilarious cocky critique of capitalism and racism and the fundamental flaw of societies that operate with servant classes.

friday night knitting club
kate jones
2.5
readable but lacked something for me, though i appreciated the community aspect of it. another part felt like diversity training and pop love. i was entertained, but felt like the book wanted me to feel more than i felt for the characters

futureland
walter mosley
5

apocalyptic science fiction at its best – really mindbending ideas, race/class analysis on point, particularly useful in imagining the future of prisons and justice, understanding class and servant/worker dynamics. How to subvert capitalism at the level of concept? mosley goes there.

cinnamon kiss
walter mosley
2.5
fun. i like his sci fi better, but this is entertaining and keeps the attention and has some wonderful thick woman loving sex scenes!

the known world
edward p jones
5

this is one of the best books that’s ever been written related to slavery. its about black slave owners just before the civil war. it’s so nuanced, it so thoroughly explains how slavery and freedom are internal conditions as much as they are external, how evil the institution is, but also how love and compassion stays intertwined in any human system.

bonus books

shadow tag
louise erdrich
ooph – this is a devastating beautiful book about privacy, love, longing, truth and lies.

inside/out, selected poems
marilyn buck
powerful, beautiful, haunting. so glad these were published, that her time in prison yielded something gorgeous.

ahab’s wife
sena jeter naslund
‘it was in her nature to love and to nurture; she would not leave those feelings within herself to fester and sour, but instead she chose someone who would receive her gifts gladly. she did not hold herself to be so special that only one special person could she find satisfactory.’
i thought this book was stunning, just stunning. i would love for schools to teach this and moby dick side by side. this is a fierce story.

crazy wisdom saves the world again
wes scoop nisker
brilliant, clear, accessible and funny reflections on religion and science and existence!

lessons from the damned: class struggle in the black community
by the damned
brutally honest, a necessary collection. my favorite essay is ‘the new education coming out of the old’.

read read read!!!