From the origins of the genres, images of Black people in fantasy, horror and science fiction or speculative fiction (SF) have been inauthentic at best in the imaginations of white creators. From the “Fantastic Voyages” of the 1700s where Black pirates kidnapped white explorers to far off “alien” lands, to technologically advanced futures where Black people didn’t exist in any significant population, to post-nuclear holocaust America where modern Blacks took on aggressive pre-civilized behaviors, many of these ideas have created lasting impressions in the minds of their audiences and future creators. And though there were a few attempts by some white writers to use the genres for social commentary, for instance on race relations, these efforts were few and far in between.
There is however a significant output of work by Black creators, who used the techniques and themes of the genres to write alternative stories and to produce films that spoke closer to the realities of Black life. At the turn of the 20th century, Black writers wrote utopian and fantastical novels set during the days of slavery and Reconstruction. Independent Black filmmakers created low budget feature films exploring the effects of science and fantastical religious beliefs on the Black imagination. Harlem Renaissance writers jumped into the genre with “mad scientist” and “end of the world” scenarios commenting on the American race relations. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, two powerful and original voices emerged in the SF world writing tales with more inclusive pasts, presents and futures. Also in the 1970s, Black anti-heroes utilized science and the supernatural to secure Black justice. And later, there was the emergence of Black superheroes, who, though ready, willing and able to save the entire universe, first had to fight a homogenous industry.
Brought to life via interviews, film and event clips, text, graphics, music and narration, this documentary ultimately reveals that though often intermittent and mostly unseen, there is a canon of artistic work by Black creators in the SF genres, creating a universe all its own.