Recently, I put out the call for Black creators of Speculative works to join me in putting on the 2nd Annual Black Science Fiction and Fantasy…
When children use Science Fiction and Fantasy writing techniques and tropes they are often using their writing to explore themselves and their world, without any need for guidance and literal knowledge.
On the surface they are writing about zombies, spaceships and vampires, but do not be fooled –they are using these devices in the same way as Octavia Butler, Charles Saunders, Tananarive Due and Walter Mosley – to cloak methods of exploring and explaining – and finding explanations for – their worlds – both internal and external – in a way that straightforward ‘literal’ fiction cannot.
Realism has become a trap for black children and they realize it. According to my young students, who range in age from nine to fifteen, they tire of reading and writing stories that are about “problems” and crave fantastic tales of derring-do with cool, young, Black heroes and heroines.
Science fiction and fantasy offers black children an alternative way of dealing with legacy, tradition, and memory.
In honor of the upcoming, major group exhibition The Shadows Took Shape, please join The Studio Museum in Harlem for a new series of book club discussions moderated by prominent artists, scholars, and bloggers interested in science fiction and speculative literature. Discussions include nationally recognized cartoonist, designer and graphic novelist Professor John Jennings and "The AfroFuturist Affair" creator Rasheedah Phillips and more. These moderators were chosen to incite intriguing viewpoints, so there will definitely be a wonderful balance between deep, insightful discussion about the books and a profound engagement with Afrofuturism and related themes!
In Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
Additional scheduled Book Club dates:
December 15: Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)
January 26: Samuel R. Delany, Nova (1968)
February 23: Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist (1999)
March 6: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
All of the books listed above are available in the Studio Museum bookstore!
To RSVP for the Book Club, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Paul Sepuya
From October 11, 2013 to March 9, 2014, Brooklyn-based artist Wangechi Mutu’s will land at the Brooklyn Museum for her latest exhibition “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey.” Known for her stimulating collages merging female subjects with animal, plant and machine parts, Mutu’s work takes inspiration from the fashion industry, pornography, science fiction, African traditions and more in her collection of mixed-media pieces.
And here’s the thing: women have been in SFF from the very beginning. We might not always have been visible, hidden away behind initials and masculine-sounding pseudonyms, quietly running the conventions at which men ran around pinching women’s bottoms, but we were there. And people of color have been in SFF from the very beginning, hiding behind the racial anonymity of names and pseudonyms — and sometimes forcibly prevented from publishing our work by well-meaning editors, lest SFF audiences be troubled by the sight of a brown person in the protagonist’s role. Or a lesbian, or a poor person, or an old person, or a transwoman, or a person in a wheelchair. SFF has always been the literature of the human imagination, not just the imagination of a single demographic. Every culture on this planet produces it in some way, shape, or form. It thrives in video games and films and TV shows, and before that it lived in the oral histories kept by the griots, and the story circles of the Navajo, and the Dreamings of this country’s first peoples. People from every walk of life consume SFF, with relish, and that is because we have all, on some level, contributed to its inception and growth.
We tread upon the mythic ground of religions and civilizations that far predate “Western” nations and Christianity; we dream of traveling amid stars that were named by Arab astronomers, using the numbers they devised to help us find our way; we retell the colonization stories that were life and death for the Irish and the English and the Inka and the Inuit; we find drama in the struggles of the marginalized and not-quite-assimilated of every society. Speculative fiction is at its core syncretic; this stuff doesn’t come out of nowhere. And it certainly didn’t spring solely from the imaginations of a bunch of beardy old middle-class middle-American guys in the 1950s.