Review: Take Us to Your Chief, Drew Hayden Taylor

Between Neil Gaiman and Nalo Hopkinson and now Drew Hayden Taylor, I may need to reconsider my stated position that I am not a fan of short story collections. The emended version of this position — triggered by my reading of Drew Hayden Taylor’s collection Take Us to Your Chief — is that I am not a fan of short story collections unless they are SFF.

Take Us to Your Chief

Take Us to Your Chief is a wonderfully charming, clever, melancholy collection of what Taylor describes as Native sci-fi. The author is an Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nations, and indigenous traditions and ways of living and thinking inform every one of these stories. In one, dream-catchers turn ominous; in another, a newly born artificial intelligence tries to find a place for its soul within native beliefs.

I was aware of Taylor as a playwright — I keep trying to convince my library to order alterNatives but so far no dice — and, more recently, as a humorist, but this is my first introduction to his SFF. As he notes in the afterword, this book exists because he didn’t have enough money to pay potential contributors to a Canadian Native sci-fi anthology; so it may also have been his first introduction to his SFF. At times there’s a little clumsiness with conveying complicated premises, but his writing is very assured overall. He weaves Native influences into familiar types of stories (first contact, government’s-gonna-get-you, etc.) in a way that makes them seem utterly fresh.

I also love the idea of a Native SFF anthology. Does that exist? Can someone point me to it? Failing that, I’d love to be pointed towards more First Nations / Indigenous / Indian authors of speculative fiction. Any recommendations?