ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? AMERICAN INDIAN FANTASY STORIES

William Sanders

Wildside Press / 204 pages / 1st Wildside Press edition (January 28, 2005)

ISBN: 1587157098

Chances are good that you’ve never had the pleasure of making William Sanders’ acquaintance. If that’s the case, take it from me:  this collection is the closest thing to an evening spent drinking beers and getting to know the real man. The dry wit, the intelligence, the unshakable pride, and the humility are waiting for you in every word. This is more a friend than a book, an introduction to one of the genre’s very best.

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(Oh! He also has a heart bigger than Oklahoma, but don’t tell him you heard it from me.)

The first story, “The Undiscovered,” is a prime example of Sanders’ masterful storytelling. Seen through the eyes of Mouse, man of many languages, the tale of growing trust between the village elder and a captured white man, swings gently between outright hilarity and bittersweet suggestion. Mouse’s friendship with this oddly talented slave make for an alternate history unlike any other.

Come to think of it, several stories in Are We Having Fun Yet? take on the task of straightening out some misinterpreted historical facts we’ve accepted. “Going After Old Man Alabama” offers a solution to one of the great puzzles of our time. Maybe it’s the deadpan delivery or the absolute confidence evident in the writing, but the explanation works fine for me.

Once history is straightened out, why not cast an eye to the future? The world of “Elvis Bearpaw’s Luck” works out a different conclusion to Manifest Destiny and takes a playful, if painful, jab at Native American and whitebread American customs, alike. It also delivers one of Sanders’ favourite lessons:  you can be too clever for your own good, and your comeuppance is always right there waiting to bite you in the ass.

But all is not chuckles and cherry-bombs. “Tenbears And The Bruja” and “Words And Music” take a look at the darker side of customs, magic, and “human relations.”  The interaction in these tales gets extremely hot — in many ways — and reminds readers of the dangers waiting just behind a half-smile.

And can’t you just tell by the title that “The Scuttling” is going to be one story you hope you never feature in?

The characters in Sanders’ stories never appear as anything short of human (remembering that that isn’t saying much). There are no “noble savages” or “evil white men.” Certainly, some of the people in these stories have an inherent dignity; some are very close to having just crawled out from under a rock, but that is purely the result of the choices made down the line. Skin colour doesn’t get you any free rides in this book; you earn your existence in this world.

And if you’ve been very, very good, you’ve earned the right to ask Are We Having Fun Yet?Read it and understand that you’ve just been handed a secret treasure that few people have discovered. But, no one has sworn you to secrecy, so clue your friends in on a talent and a mind unmatched.