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Native perspective: ‘Black Sun’ brings indigenous storytelling to speculative fiction

Santa Fe-based author Rebecca Roanhorse recently released the novel “Black Sun.” (Courtesy of Stephen Land/Simon & Scheuster)

Rebecca Roanhorse is a fan of epic fantasy.

The words help catapult her into the world, offering her an escape from the daily grind.

Yet, while reading many of these fantasy series, she never could identify truly with the world.

Because of that, she decided to write something inspired by indigenous culture.

Enter “Black Sun.”

Roanhorse’s latest novel is her latest foray into bringing indigenous storytelling to speculative fiction.

“We were getting overlooked,” Roanhorse says of indigenous stories. “That’s what really inspired me. I wanted to see a book like that. So I wrote it.”

The Santa Fe-based artist will talk about her new novel, “Black Sun,” at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, during a virtual event hosted by Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe.

“Black Sun” is inspired by indigenous civilizations of the Americas before European colonization.

Roanhorse says it’s a thriller mixed with prophecy and magic, as it follows four warring matriarchies vying for power.

It is fiercely feminist, she says.

“For me, a story always starts with a character,” she says. “It’s usually a character that comes to me. ‘Black Sun’ focuses on four characters, and we sort of follow them through. They are going on this cosmic collision. They are on course to crash, and it’s going to change their world.”

Roanhorse says the four characters are outsiders.

They didn’t grow up in their communities, and they don’t fit in somehow, she says.

“Each of them is on their journey to find home and whether or not home wants them,” she says. “It’s a lot about found family and destiny and the decisions we make. For me, that’s a personal journey. I’m adopted, and I’ve reunited with brith mother. A lot of it is taken from me going through these issues. All of those issues circle back to me in ways. Of course, I’ve taken some liberties.”

Roanhorse’s journey to “Black Sun” took more than a year.

After writing an entire version of a 95,000 word draft, she turned it in to her editor.

“He said it was good and not great,” she says. “I took it back and rewrote the whole thing in a year. I redrafted the entire book. Objectively speaking, it was the right thing to do. It’s so much better.”

Roanhorse says the novel, in terms of scope and scale, takes place over two weeks.

She also wrote supplemental text, in which she created historical fiction for the story.

“Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Courtesy of Stephen Land/Simon & Scheuster)

“I wanted it to feel its own history, its own mythology and religion,” she says. “All of that stuff requires a lot of work.”

Roanhorse is staying busy these days at home writing, while balancing her home life and her child’s virtual learning.

On Aug. 19, it was announced that Roanhorse was going to be a contributing writer to Marvel Comics’ “Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1” anthology, scheduled for release in November.

She will be writing a story about Echo, joined by Weshoyot Alvitre on art.

Being able to tell indigenous stories is important for Roanhorse, whether it’s through novels or a comic book anthology.

“I think it’s vital to tell these stories,” she says. “Indigenous peoples and cultures have long been overlooked. For me, this is a work of indigenous futurism. It’s not just limited to putting indigenous people in the future; it’s allowing us to be part of this. To tell a story from our point of view is all we have asked. If we’re talking about a zombie apocalypse, let’s look at it from the indigenous perspective.”

“Black Sun” was released Oct. 13, and Roanhorse has been anticipating the reaction.

“I hope to take readers on a journey that allows them to really connect to the characters,” she says. “As much as I love it, it’s really the characters that are the heart of the story. I hope readers fall in love with the characters.”

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