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Science Friday Book Club: Conjuring An Alternate History Of Colonization – Science Friday


10/16/2020
Authors Catherine Ramirez and Aisha Matthews. Credit: Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University/Omar B Rimawi

This is a part of our fall Book Club conversation about the short story collection, New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction By Writers of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl. Want to participate? Sign up for our newsletter or record a voice message as you read on the Science Friday VoxPop app.


It’s week three of the SciFri Book Club’s exploration of New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color. This week’s story is ‘Burn the Ships,’ by author Alberto Yáñez. It’s set in a world that could be the Cortés-conquered Aztec Empire of 1520—but in this fictional version, the Spanish conquerors have modern guns, radios, railroads, and even scientific developments like vaccines. And as the Indigenous people are contained and slaughtered in camps, they use powerful magic to animate their dead against the invaders.

SciFri producer Christie Taylor, Journal of Science Fiction managing editor Aisha Matthews and University of California Santa Cruz professor Catherine S. Ramirez talk about how a story about the past can still be science fiction, and introduce Chicanafuturism—a literary cousin of the Afrofuturism we discussed in last week’s conversation about Andrea Hairston’s story ‘Dumb House.’

Read New Suns With Us!

  1. Grab a copy of the book and start reading! You can buy a physical copy via Powell’s Books (they’re offering a 20 percent discount for the rest of October!), Indiebound, Bookshop, or your favorite bookseller. Plus, we’re partnering with libraries across the country to give you more ways to read with us.
  2. Need a teaser? Read an excerpt from ‘Burn the Ships,’ this week’s story focus.
  3. Listen to the radio show every Friday through October 30. We’ll discuss one story every week: next week, it’s The Shadow We Cast Through Time by Indrapramit Das.
  4. Join us live on Zoom for a conversation with collection editor and speculative fiction author Nisi Shawl on Monday, October 26, 2020.
  5. Jump into the discussion with our online community at Mighty Networks! We’ll be chatting about New Suns every week with discussion questions and additional reading recommendations.
  6. Want to get e-mail from us? Sign up for our SciFri Book Club newsletter to get weekly updates, discussion questions, and information about other Book Club happenings.
  7. Tell us your stories using the SciFri VoxPop app. (Download the app on iPhone and Android.) This week we want to know what you’re observing as you read the stories in “New Suns.” Do you have a favorite story? Why or why not? We may play your answer on the show!
  8. Are you itching for more literary tales? Keep an eye out for Science Diction, a forthcoming podcast from Science Friday that digs into the scientific origin stories behind our words and language. Sign up for the Science Diction newsletter for updates.

Book Club Gathers With Nisi Shawl!

We’re closing out Fall Book Club with a virtual, call-in celebration! Christie Taylor and co-host Aisha Matthews will chat with speculative fiction author and editor Nisi Shawl, on Monday, October 26. Register now!


Further Reading

  • Read some of the writing of Chicana scholar Gloria Anzaldúa, whose ‘alien consciousness’ influenced Chicanafuturism

Stay up to speed with the SciFri Book Club Newsletter!


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Segment Guests

Aisha Matthews

Aisha Matthews is managing editor of the Journal of Science Fiction and the director of Literary Programming for the Museum of Science Fiction’s Escape Velocity conference in Washington, D.C..

Catherine S. Ramirez

Catherine S. Ramirez is a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California-Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, California.

Segment Transcript

The transcript for this segment is being processed. It will be posted within one week after the episode airs.

Meet the Producer

About Christie Taylor

Christie Taylor is a producer for Science Friday. Her day involves diligent research, too many phone calls for an introvert, and asking scientists if they have any audio of that narwhal heartbeat.