|Are We Having Fun Yet? — American Indian Fantasy Stories by William Sanders
Published by: Wildside Press
Where I got the book: Public Library
This book was my selection for the r/fantasy bingo 2016 challenge: I8 Five Short Stories.
I first discovered William Sanders in Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction with his short story “When This World is all on Fire”. I have a habit of looking up every author who’s work I enjoyed in an anthology and Sanders’ story intrigued me. It was just such a unique story with fresh, clear writing that I fell easily into the story and got my heart broken at the end. After rereading the story a couple more times I quickly put a hold on Are We Having Fun Yet? at my library.
This is an excellent and unique collection of fantasy short stories that turns convention and stereotypes on their head. This collection contains the short story “The Undiscovered”, an alternate history story in which William Shakespeare is in North America and puts on a Cherokee version of Hamlet. It’s easy to see why this story was nominated for the 1998 Hugo Awards, Nebula Awards, and Theodore Sturgeon Award, with its simple yet brilliant concept and beautiful writing. “The Undiscovered” turns around everything we’ve learned about colonization and the arrival of Europeans in North America, causing the reader to question our perceptions of history and how natural they appear.
The other stories in Are We having Fun Yet? do not disappoint though. “Words and Music” tells the story of a guitar battle with the devil in order to save a church that’s been witched. “Elvis Bearpaw’s Luck” is an amazing twist on gambling stereotypes set in an alternative future that surprises and blows you away at the end. Other stories contain shapeshifting, time travel, magical pest removal, ghosts and ancient Egyptian gods. “When This World is All on Fire” is also included in this collection, telling a speculative fiction story about global warming that I enjoyed rereading just as much as I did the first time.
But ultimately, so many of the stories are about the complexities of people and relationships. Sanders’ stories are incredibly relatable and demonstrate great skill in how he carefully crafts them, building upon myth, contemporary lives and possible futures. Sanders has a very unique but consistent voice through out all the stories. It’s obvious that they’re all written by the same author but even though some of the characters are found in more that one story it never feels like Sanders is repeating himself and spinning in circles. I also really like how at the end of each story, Sanders included an endnote that talked about how the story came to be.
Overall this was a highly enjoyable read that I really recommend. Sadly my library doesn’t carry more of Sanders’ speculative fiction but it’s worth it in my opinion to either buy his work or request an inter-library loan.