I went into “Heads of the Colored People” (both the titular story and the collection of the same same) completely blind. I’ll often head on over to Overdrive and arrange short story collections or anthologies by most recent and see if there are new things that spark an interest, and that was where I found Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s collection.
This story—a self-referencing meta-fiction piece that speaks directly to the reader—speaks first of a man named Riley (a black man who is currently wearing cosplay on his way to a convention), and then of another black man, “Brother-Man,” trying to sell some of his own works outside the convention itself, and then of an altercation between them, and then—though more meta-fiction character pieces told with a present author and comments often directed at the reader—ties everything together into an all-too-clear whole.
Frankly? It was brilliantly done. Broad strokes made with specifics, character asides that created an immediate depth of characterization, empathy (and more than a little anger and frustration) sharpened with the discourse directly aimed out at the reader (especially the ending)… Everything in “Heads of the Colored People” is incredibly effective, and I found myself pausing the audiobook after this first story to just walk on a few more blocks, letting it settle around me both as a reader and as a writer.
I don’t think I’ve encountered a meta-fiction this strong before in my life, really.