The introduction of the anthology begins with this:
Before Long Hidden was a book, it was a conversation. Really, it was many conversations, over the course of many different lives; these fed into one conversation in particular, a back-and-forth on Twitter in December 2012 about representations of African diasporic voices in historical speculative fiction, and the ways that history “written by the victors” demonizes and erases already marginalized stories. That discussion became an idea that became the book you’re about to read.
We grew up reading stories about people who weren’t much like us. Speculative fiction promised to take us to places where anything was possible, but the spaceship captains and valiant questers were always white, always straight, always cisgender, and almost always men. We tried to force ourselves into those boxes, but we never fit. When we looked for faces and thoughts like our own, we found orcs and deviants and villains. And we began to wonder why some people’s stories were told over and over, while ours were almost never even alluded to.
So, as you might have gathered, Long Hidden is an anthology meant to tell the stories of marginalized people in history (in speculative fashion). The setting varies, as well as the particular marginalized group, though the time period seemed to be most often between the 1600s and the 1800s. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites here.
“Lone Women” by Victor Lavalle
Adelaide Henry is a woman living by herself in the rough country of Montana in 1914. Well, by herself apart from the company of her sister, an inhuman monster she keeps locked in a steamer chest for the safety of everyone. There are those who would take advantage of a woman living alone in that wide open country, but Adelaide has been dealing with the terror of her sister since she was very young–she’s not so easily cowed.
Adelaide was a great character to root for. I wanted her to succeed in everything, even though the deck was stacked against her from the beginning.
“Medu” by Lisa Bolekaja
Lil Bit is a Negro girl working as a cattle drover with her father on the range in Kansas in 1877. But she’s no ordinary girl. She’s a Medu, like her mother–whose hair grows in venomous coils that can strike like snakes when she feels threatened. If she concentrates she can keep them retracted under her scalp so she can pass as normal, but when dangerous men threaten her and her father she has to choose whether she can go on pretending to be like everyone else.
Loved the mix of the mythical Gorgon-like powers with the rough setting.
“Knotting Grass, Holding Ring” by Ken Liu
Sparrow is a girl of the blue houses in Yangzhou, China, 1645, where she serves alongside her idol the beautiful Green Siskin. Green Siskin is everything that Sparrow wishes she could be–clever and beautiful and perfect. Sparrow’s feet had never been bound, so her feet are large and ugly and undesirable so she serves the blue houses by running errands on feet much quicker than the other girls. The Manchu armies are at the gates of the city, and soon they break their way through with orders to slaughter everyone they find. Sparrow and Green Siskin are not fighters, and they each do their best to survive.
This story is a great example of how those who can’t fight can do extraordinary things in times of war.
This anthology was a great idea, and its success seems to indicate there’s an audience eager for this kind of content. I’d say that Long Hidden succeeded at its mission statement, and seems to have been well received. I certainly learned about some periods and groups that I hadn’t been aware of, with the themes enhanced by speculative elements. There are a lot of really solid characters here that are easy to root for, and all the more so because the odds are stacked against them just because of who they are.
As far as overall quality, setting aside the mission statement itself, I thought it was on par with any professional publication out there. There were stories I liked and those I didn’t. The ones I didn’t care for were more a matter of personal taste than a matter of quality, so I don’t think it’s worth calling them out–I expect that many other readers will love the ones I didn’t.
Crossed Genres is currently in an open submission call for Hidden Youth, a followup anthology that focuses on the youth of marginalized groups in history–it’s not YA targeted, but has young protagonists. It is open for submissions through the end of May 2015.
If the idea of the anthology sounds appealing, you can buy it here–$10 for ebook, $20 for print. And there’s more to come with the followup anthology.