REVIEW: FIYAH Issue #1: Rebirth

Yes, the whole anthology. I tried to pick just one story to talk about out of this issue but I quickly realized…nah. I have to tell you about them all. You know how sometimes in an anthology you’ll have some faves, and the rest are pretty good? This was all killer no filler.

For a little background, FIYAH is a sort of spiritual successor to the experimental black literature magazine FIRE!!, first published in 1926. Now, FIRE!! only lasted one issue due to, tragically, the magazine’s headquarters burning down. But, it’s still possible to unearth reproductions of the original print & I know for a fact most, if not all, of the stories are dispersed in other modern anthologies. So all is not lost!

Now, to tie into Fiyah, the original Fire was not a landmark simply because it was a collection of black authors and artists (although obviously that’s important). It was a space for black creatives to create freely without the restrictions of appealing to the mainstream or what is/isn’t black art. It dealt with sexuality, sex work, colorism…when I read it, I thought this isn’t just a magazine it’s a home.

That’s how I feel when I started to read the stories in Fiyah. These are, of course, stories that deal with contemporary issues. But they aren’t meant to educate. They’re weird because they can be, because that’s what the author wants. They’re beautiful and coherent and terrifying. That’s my kind of writing; when you’re completely unfettered (except by matters of taste…maybe) and free to explore worlds of your choosing.

It’s a fairly short issue, but as for standouts my personal favorite and probably most relevant to me was “Long Time Lurker, First Time Bomber” by Malon Edwards. Set in a futuristic Chicago, this story was refreshingly hard on the science and cyberpunk (body mods? Sign me up!) but never felt too over my head or weighed down in technobabble. My other personal best was “Revivial” by Wendi Dunlap, which is honestly horrifying in any political climate. You know those Twilight Zone episodes that basically tell you human nature doesn’t change whether we’re on Earth or Venus? It’s true. Curious how it affects women of color? Don’t be shocked.

As the old saying goes, if you’re trying to get free like the rest of us definitely give FIYAH a read. And if you’re curious as to its origins and the original Fire!! magazine, POC Zine Project has you covered.