Joshua Whitehead and Darcie Little Badger talk about the power of Indigenous speculative fiction
This interview originally aired on May 1, 2021.
Love after the End is an anthology of speculative fiction that imagines a utopian future for LGBTQ and two-spirit people, curated and edited by poet and novelist Joshua Whitehead.
Whitehead is an Oji-nêhiyaw, two-spirit writer, poet and Indigiqueer scholar from Peguis First Nation. Jonny Appleseed, his debut novel, won Canada Reads 2021, when it was championed by actor and filmmaker Devery Jacobs.
Contributors to the anthology include Nathan Adler, Gabriel Castilloux Calderon, Adam Garnet Jones, Mari Kurisato, Kai Minosh Pyle, David A. Robertson and more.
Darcie Little Badger is one of the contributors. She is a Lipan Apache author with a PhD in oceanography.
Both Badger and Whitehead spoke with Shelagh Rogers about Love after the End.
Speculative fiction and Indigeneity
Joshua Whitehead (JW): "Indigenous authors are prime examples of already having survived multiple genocides. We're kind of like the Mad Max experts of how to survive the apocalypse — we've been doing it since 1492.
"With this anthology, I wanted the writers to think about the fact we've already lived dystopia, we've already lived through multiple apocalypses. What do we do now?
"Let's think about Utopia, let's think about joy — that's the angle that I wanted to take."
Let's think about Utopia, let's think about joy — that's the angle that I wanted to take.- Joshua Whitehead
Darcie Little Badger (DLB): I'm a scientist. In a lot of the works that I create, I incorporate that knowledge that I have, both in my training as an oceanographer, but also the knowledge that I've learned from the elders in my tribe — such as the types of endemic plants that grow well in drought-prone land. Something that I find cool with Indigenous speculative fiction is that it puts us not just in the past where we're often relegated, but as the people we are today and will be in the future — as thriving."
Celebration of self and community
JW: "Indigeneity, but more specifically queer or two-spirit Indigeneity, is always banished. With speculative fiction, we get to craft our own creation stories — and that's what I love about it."
With speculative fiction, we get to craft our own creation stories — and that's what I love about it.- Joshua Whitehead
DLB: "Growing up, I was always the kid who loved to read Goosebumps and watch the scary stories on TV. There's something cool to me about stories that can give you a chill.
"I'm a big horror fan. But I find a lot of acceptance in the weird because I'm a little bit weird myself."
Love and beyond
DLB: "I studied geosciences and oceanography, focusing on things like ocean acidification and sea level change. Essentially these are fields where we're trying to understand what will happen in the near future — and perhaps prepare people to survive that.
"Climate change is this overwhelming thing right now, but I want to approach it with a sense of hope. We cannot give up: even though things may be bad, they can always be worse."
We cannot give up: even though things may be bad, they can always be worse.- Darcie Little Badger
JW: What I think the title does, and why we formatted the anthology the way we did, was to think about finality. When I think about finality, or the final "end stage," I think about it in the epistemologies I've been taught, whereas it's like a circle, but there's a little gap in between the circle.
We put children and elders in the same register — in that a child's language is ancestral and elders' knowledge also is ancestral. It's the same register there.
"I wanted to convey that in the title, and keeping it in this continuum, even though we may be in a space that's ending with all kinds of the political strife that's happening across Turtle Island and the pandemic and economic collapse.
"Finality is just an opening into continuums and an opening into cyclicity."
- Joshua Whitehead reflects on music and the surprising connection he made with a neighbour while in isolation
Joshua Whitehead and Darcie Little Badger's comments have been edited for length and clarity.