For a couple of years now, Amazon’s publishing arm has been selling digital anthologies that it calls “Amazon Original Stories”—shorter stories available on its Kindle and Audible platforms, which readers can read individually or as a package.
The company has released a handful of genre projects such as Faraway, Forward, and Warmer, which include authors ranging from Andy Weir to Ken Liu to N.K. Jemisin. It’s latest package, Black Stars, features six Black writers who tell stories that explore futures set in locales ranging from Earth all the way to deep space.
This particular package is edited by Nisi Shawl and Latoya Peterson, and features an excellent lineup of authors: Shawl, Nnedi Okorafor, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, C.T. Rwizi, Nalo Hopkinson, and Victor LaValle. Narrators for the project include LeVar Burton, Naomi Ackie, Nyambi Nyambi, Indya Moore, Adenrele Ojo, and Brian Tyree Henry.
Here are the plot blurbs for each story:
“2043…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” by Nisi Shawl
Five miles off the South Carolina coast, Darden and Catherina are getting their promised forty acres, all of it undersea. Like every Black “mer,” they’ve been experimentally modified to adapt to their new subaquatic home—and have met with extreme resistance from white supremacists. Darden has an inspired plan for resolution. For both those on land and the webbed bottom-dwellers below, Darden is hoping to change the wave of the future.
“The Black Pages” by Nnedi Okorafor
Issaka has returned home to Timbouctou and a devastating al-Qaeda raid. His only hope for survival is Faro, a stunning, blue-beaded supernatural entity who rises free from the flames of her imprisoning book as it burns. Compelled to follow Faro, Issaka is opening his eyes to their shared history and the ancestral wisdom of his own past.
“The Visit” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One night in Lagos, two former friends reunite. Obinna is a dutiful and unsophisticated stay-at-home husband and father married to a powerful businesswoman. Eze is single, a cautious rebel from his university days whose arrival soon upsets the balance in Obinna’s life. In a world where men are constantly under surveillance and subject to the whims of powerful women, more than Obinna’s ordered and accustomed routine might be on the line.
“These Alien Skies” by C.T. Rwizi
Copilots Msizi and Tariro are testing a newly constructed wormhole jump that presumably leads to unsettled habitable worlds. Then an explosion sends them off course, far from where they started and with little chance of ever making it back. Now they’re stranded on their new home for the diaspora. It’s called Malcolm X-b. But they’re beginning to wonder how many light-years from civilization they really are.
“Clap Back” by Nalo Hopkinson
Burri is a fashion designer and icon with a biochemistry background. Her latest pieces are African inspired and crafted to touch the heart. They enable wearers to absorb nanorobotic memories and recount the stories of Black lives and forgiveness. Wenda doesn’t buy it. A protest performance artist, Wenda knows exploitation when she sees it. What she’s going to do with Burri’s breakthrough technology could, in the right hands, change race relations forever.
“We Travel the Spaceways” by Victor LaValle
Grimace is a homeless man on a holy mission to free Black Americans from emotional slavery. His empty soda cans told him as much. Then he meets Kim, a transgender runaway who joins Grimace on his heroic quest. Is Grimace receiving aluminum missives from the gods, or is he a madman? Kim will find out soon enough on a strange journey they’ve been destined to share.
Each story can be purchased individually for $1.99 each (the audiobook versions are either a credit or $1.39 each), and are included in the company’s Kindle Unlimited program. All will be released on August 31st.