Danged black thing by Eugen Bacon

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Described as 'speculative fiction' Eugen Bacon's collection of short stories are a highly original mix of myth, sci-fi, supernatural, and dystopian genres that provide a black, predominantly female, exploration of issues including gender, class, migration, military dictatorships and climate change. That might sound like a wildly eclectic range of themes, but that is exactly what Bacon manages to achieve with her imaginative and intriguing stories rich with poetic language and imagery.

In the titular short story, the 'danged black thing' is 'Embu', the sleek black laptop that Champ, the narrator, buys for her husband, Slade. The notebook is described in sexual terms as a 'dark truffle', and 'black velvet', a seductress that gradually wraps Slade in the silk of her web, until the jealous Champ is driven to smash and destroy her rival. But that is not the end of the story . . .

'The water runner' is a futuristic story of a water starved planet where water runners have the job of harvesting salvageable fluids from the dead. Picking up on this theme, another story 'When the water stops' describes volunteers giving 'bleeds' for their water content, until volunteers are exhausted, and yet blood must still flow for the survival of the species.

For me the most touching story was 'Still she visits' set in a psychiatrist's room with Segomotsi remembering her little sister Mokgosi, her name meaning 'a call for help', a sweet little sister who always stood ready to defend and protect; a little sister who dies of AIDS back in Africa, whilst Segomotsi is 7,000 miles away in Melbourne, unable to visit.

There are a variety of other stories, fascinating to read. Transit Lounge is to be commended for publishing this collection by a Tanzanian-Australian computer scientist turned author, whose work has, in the main, only been published in the U.K. and the U.S.

Themes: Short stories, Dystopia, Technology, Cultural diversity, Black experience, Migration, Women.

Helen Eddy