Welcome to the new terra nullius, or as Shakespeare referred to it so well in Hamlet, “the undiscovered country.” Or more fittingly, as stated in another classic using possibly the most famous split infinitive in history, you are about to “boldly go where no one has gone before.”

A million years ago when I was a child, I was always fascinated by what could be. I think this was primarily because I was surrounded by what is and what was. As a Native person, I was constantly and importantly made aware of our heritage, our culture, everything from the past that made us unique and special. Also I was conscious of the fact that, technologically speaking, we were at a bit of a disadvantage compared to those who showed up one day for dinner and never left. I clearly remember the first time I saw television, played with a computer, got an electric toothbrush, etc. Darn clever, those white people. Native people constantly wonder at the clever innovations and devices the dominant culture feels the need to create—everything from vibrators to nuclear bombs.

Admittedly, First Nations and science fiction don’t usually go together. In fact, they could be considered rather unusual topics to mention in the same sentence, much like fish and bicycles. As genre fiction goes, they are practically strangers, except for maybe the occasional parallel universe story. Many would argue that Native people are not known for their space-travelling abilities. Nor their mastery and innovation of that aforementioned modern and world-altering technology. We may have known what to do with every part of a buffalo, but how to cannibalize and utilize the parts from an Apple laptop to make a pair of moccasins… the less said the better.

Many people’s only contact with Native sci-fi is that famous episode from the original Star Trek series called “The Paradise Syndrome,” where Kirk loses his memory and ends up living with some transplanted Indigene on a faraway planet. These Aboriginal folks came complete with black wigs, standard 1960s headbands and fringed miniskirts. More recently there was the not-so-successful mixed-genre movie Cowboys & Aliens. But in between, the pickings were and are lean and hard to find.

I grew up reading science fiction or, as it’s sometimes called, speculative fiction (which in itself is a controversial term, since at its essence, isn’t all fiction speculative?). First it was comic books, then television, then pulp novels and finally what could be called the good stuff. My first serious sci-fi literary crush was H. G. Wells. I read and reread The Time Machine and The Invisible Man too many times to count. Discovered and devoured the first generation of masters including Jules Verne and H. P. Lovecraft (many consider him more of a horror writer, but I like to think he goes both ways) and so on up through the Golden Age of Science Fiction and into the more contemporary contributors.

To me, sci-fi was a world of possibilities. As a fan of writing, why shouldn’t my fascination extend to such unconventional works? It was still writing, still literature in all its glory, but here they used different tools to explore the human condition, be they aliens, advanced technology or other such novel approaches. That was my intention with this collection of short stories. I wanted to take traditional (a buzzword in the Native community) science-fiction characteristics and filter them through an Aboriginal consciousness. That is what you are holding in your hands.

Previously I dabbled a bit, sort of flirted with this concept over the decades. In my very first play, Toronto at Dreamer’s Rock, three sixteen-year-old boys from three different time periods meet at the top of a magical rock where boys have gone for thousands of years to have a vision quest. In another play, alterNatives, one of the characters is a twenty-four-year-old Ojibway man who wants to write science fiction (no relation). His partner dismisses the genre and wants him to write the great Canadian novel, and the drama (and comedy) begins.

I am an old hand at hybridizing. Perhaps it goes all the way back to my DNA—I’m half Ojibway and half… not. Combining genres of writing is a favourite hobby of mine. Over the years I’ve written Native comedies, what could be called a Native magic-realism novel, a Native vampire book and graphic novel, a Native musical, and so on… Why not Native science fiction? It seemed the time was finally right.

This book, for me, is also part of a larger personal expedition in the world of First Nations writing. Part of my journey in this life both as a First Nations individual and as a writer is to expand the boundaries of what is considered Native literature. I have always believed that literature should reflect all the different aspects and facets of life. There is more to the Indigenous existence than negative social issues and victim narratives. Thomas King has a collection of Aboriginal murder mysteries. Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm has published an assortment of Indigenous erotica, and Daniel Heath Justice has written a trilogy of adventure novels featuring elves and other fantastic characters. Out of sheer interest and a growing sense of excitement, I wanted to go where no other (well, very few) Native writers had gone before. Collectively, we have such broad experiences and diverse interests. Let’s explore that in our literature. Driving home my point, we have many fabulous and incredibly talented writers in our community, but some critics might argue our literary perspective is a little too predictable—of a certain limited perspective. For example, a lot of Indigenous novels and plays tend to walk a narrow path specifically restricted to stories of bygone days. Or angry/dysfunctional aspects of contemporary First Nations life. Or the hangover problems resulting from centuries of colonization. All worthwhile and necessary reflections of Aboriginal life for sure. But I wonder why it can’t be more?

Now, as we’re well into the twenty-first century, the time has come to explore the concept of Native Science Fiction, a phrase that I submit should no longer be considered a literary oxymoron.

It’s frequently said how difficult being a writer can be. But on occasion, it is a hell of a lot of fun. Yes, so many projects are labours of love. This, I am delighted to say, was truly a labour of fun.

Drew Hayden Taylor
Curve Lake First Nation, Ontario
May 2016 (Stardate 6129.6)