Bordered by Change

Bordered by Change

A review of Shades Within Us edited by Lucas K Law and Susan Forest (Laksa Media Groups Inc, 2018)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Borders are complex spaces of change and uncertainty where identities are made and also complicated. Lucas Law and Susan Forest’s Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders examines this complex space of border crossing, that ultimate liminality that invites questions about categories. The stories in this collection invite us to interrogate the ways that we divide up our world including, but not limited to geography. These tales ask how borders try to limit us and what it means to transcend those limitations, to question them, and to defy them.

These are tales of displacement, loss, and cultural assimilation, but they are also tales of coming together, of community formation beyond limits, and of speculating the new borders of the future. These tales explore the way that border-crossing can be a painful process, a process of losing person freedoms, having to navigate new ways of defining identity, and interrogating what ideas like “home” and “belonging” mean when we move.

In an era of globalization and yet also an era of increased border control and hegemonic control over who can and cannot come into a country, Shades Within Us is a timely collection that invites us to ask whether we still do (or still should) live in a space of national borders and national definitions of identity. It invites us to use our speculative imagination to think through new ways of understanding selfhood in relation to the borders, boxes, and categories that are placed around us.

As much as Shades Within Us is about the physical crossing of borders, it is more about the psychological borders that we cross, the way that we reconceptualize ourselves and imagine ourselves differently.

To discover more about Shades Within Us, visit

To read reviews of a few of the individual stories in this collection, see these posts:

Tonya Liburd’s Superfreak

Kate Heartfield’s Gilber Tong’s Life List

Rich Larson’s Porque El Girasol se Llama El Girasol

Karin Lowachee’s Invasio


Traditions and Time Travel

A review of Matthew Johnson’s “Another Country” in Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (ChiZine Publications, 2014)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Matthew Johnson’s “Another Country” introduces a new way of examining refugee status and travel. Instead of just looking at travel through space, but rather travel through time and space. Johnson explores the sense of dislocation that happens temporally, over time, and therefore considers the way that cultures change as time passes and that nothing is every fixed or stuck in time. He introduces the PREfugee, the refugee from the past. “Another Country” follows Geoff, a Roman who has assimilated to modern North American society and given up the cultural traditions of his Roman past. He prefers to speak in Latin, calls himself “Geoff” instead of “Galfridus”, and encourages other voyagers through time to assimilate into their new cultural context and give up their Roman heritage. 

The dislocation Johnson plays with ideas of tradition and modernity that often are applied by governmental bodies to actual refugees in our world when they are told that their traditions and cultural behaviours are “traditional” and therefore don’t apply. Assimilation is often applied by governments through the pretention of “modernity”, problematically suggesting that any culture that is not North American is “of the past”.

Johnson highlights this idea of dislocation by exploring the children of prefugees and their struggle with the question of whether to assimilate or whether to embrace Roman culture. The pressures to give up Roman culture are applied by Johnson’s imagined culture by using terminology like “Delayed Integrations” to describe people who want to keep their traditional Roman names, cultural beliefs, and the use of Latin language. 

Johnson explores the fears of North American culture that it will be changed by the introduction of new cultural ideas and traditions by abstracting this onto the idea of a temporal paradox and the government desire to prevent travel back through time because it may change the path of history. 

“Another Country” is a tale of loss and rediscovery, traditions and change. Johnson challenges established narratives of belonging by introducing the cultural conflict between dominant cultures and those of groups that represent a cultural minority. 

To find out more about Matthew Johnson’s Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, visit ChiZine Publications’ page at