The cover of After Australia (Affirm Press 2020) is impressively distinctive: an old-fashioned picture, similar to those found in the Ladybird children’s books, shows a (white) nuclear family, but each of the faces has been scribbled over. It’s an image that is difficult to forget, and which suits this collection perfectly. In After Australia, edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad, 12 diverse writers of both Indigenous and POC backgrounds, imagine Australia at some time in the future, ‘after empire, after colony, after white supremacy…’. The result is a richly imagined collection that is sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, and often terrifying.

Some of the themes covered include climate change, genocide, police brutality and black history, with the characters responding through love, hate, courage, hope or revenge. Writers include Hannah Donnelly, Khalid Warsame, Claire G. Coleman, Roanna Gonsalves, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Kaya Ortiz and Sarah Ross.

This is a book that challenges our beliefs about politics, religion, class, race, the environment, culture and extremist hate groups. It ‘encourages us to ask important questions about who we are as a nation, how we got here, and where we are headed.’

White Flu by Omar Sakr affected me in a visceral, raw and confronting way. His writing is bold and brave while also being vulnerable and thought-provoking. We Live On, In Story by Karen Wyld, is a highly literary piece in beautiful language. Michelle Law’s story feels so personal and intimate. Displaced, by Zoya Patel, depicts a changed landscape and an uncomfortable future. One of the stories, by Future D. Fidel, is titled ‘Your Skin is the Only Cloth You Cannot Wash’ and this seems to me to be a metaphor for the entire book: our skins are indeed all different and diverse, and there is nothing we can do to change that, and yet beneath that soft layer, we are all the same, we bleed, we love, we hate, we hope, we yearn. This is a diverse work of speculative fiction that explores many questions and challenges the reader to begin searching for answers.