The stories in Renee Simms’ debut collection Meet Behind Mars don’t take place on another planet. They aren’t magical realism, or science fiction, or supernatural. Instead they center on Black women who are on their own frontiers — and only one of them involves the actual atmosphere.
When I was in grad school at Berkeley near the end of the last century, one of my labmates was side hustling as a daytrader. We were all ostensibly there to become more expert in computational fluid dynamics, writing our code in Fortran or C++ and then calculating everything from cardiovascular flow to the swirling red spot of Jupiter to the formation of stars.
A few years ago, having arrived early for a flight that was then delayed, I found myself at a champagne bar in the Edinburgh airport, where I recognized the woman sitting to my right. It had been twenty years since we’d spoken, though of course from my seat in the balcony, I’d seen her at concerts, sitting in the chair just behind her father’s on stage.
“The aliens were here again last night,” the woman beside me at the dinner party proclaimed. Others murmured in agreement; the mysterious lights had been sighted over Costa Rica’s Central Valley and reported in the paper.
The woman was jogging through the park when she spotted the man, hunched at the base of an oak tree and caressing a ruffled, beach ball-sized mushroom. She stopped to catch her breath. “What on earth?”
In 1926, when he was dying in the hospital of a ruptured appendix, Harry Houdini said he had a yen for Farmer’s Chop Suey. They ordered out from a Jewish deli. It was his last meal.
The Oyisis were having a family meeting, at the prodding of Grandmother, when death walked in.
Fall in love, fall out of love, over and over. Make it a life project to engage in the most destructive, euphoric waste of time you’ll likely never quit.
It’s fine to be saved but what happens afterwards? The ship lands, thrusters smoldering on the tarmac, and the cameras rush in: Welcome home, Colonel. What are you going to do next?
Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s White Dancing Elephants is a treatise on love and justice that will sear the heart of anyone willing to listen.
You could say that the research for my short story collection Love Songs for a Lost Continent begins with the unanswerable question I have about my first memory.