Sunday, July 15, 2007

Recommended Reading--PoC SF Carnival and the SFS Afrofuturism issue

I recommend checking out Painted With A Bitter BrushPeople of Color SF Carnival #1, a significant collection of links posted by Willow. She writes, in her prologue:

I am never not black. Ever. Other people see me and react to me and force me to see myself as black first, a woman second, usually an immigrant third and then as a human being. And that's supposing I'm not holding another woman's hand and then a sexuality label gets pushed past my humanity. There are only a few very short options I've found to deal with it - be ashamed and apologetic and try to hide who I am, ie disappear. Or be proud of my heritage as part of the diaspora and look for myself in the world's art, literature and music so I can nod and smile and say 'There I am. I count'.

SF, SciFi & Fantasy are the slice of the world I look at to see myself reflected. It's where I go to feel a part of the myriad ideas about life, love, the future, space, life on other planets, magic and folktales and myth of old. But there's a decided lack of people like me in this slice of the world and that needs to change. I'm hoping this Carnival gives a chance to pull together discussions and experiences so we can work towards change.

I’ve just, by the way, received the new issue of Science Fiction Studies, which is devoted by Afrofuturism. I’ve only read the first couple of pieces, but these have been interesting.

Mark Bould’s introduction, “The Ships Landed Long Ago: Afrofuturism and Black SF,” not only critiques multiculturalism as “a disavowed, inverted, self-referential form of racism, a ‘racism with a distance’,” but also declares that “It is not the intention of this special issue to incorporate Afrofuturism into sf…In the era of digital samplingand the shift of emphasis from the diachronic to the synchronic encouraged as much by late capitalism by the linguistic turnit is easy to lose track of history.” He did not, in other words, perceive his editorial mission as one of putting out an issue that simply adds authors or characters of color to sf criticism and stirring.

Isiah Lavender, III’s’s “Ethnoscapes: Environment and Language in Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, and Samuel R.Delany’s Babel-17” introduces the illuminating notion of “ethnoscape.” Here is the author’s abstract: “In this essay, I start from some of the central concerns of Afrofuturism to investigate the ubiquity of race in sf. I map out a novel way to think about the various environment that sf provides as well as a way to think about characterization in sf semblances. I argue that social interactions, technology, and physical surroundings all contribute to the systematic nature of a racialized environmentwhat I term an ethnoscape. Sf ethnoscapes can both fabricate racial difference and reconceive it. The concept of the ethnoscape helps us unpack the racial or ethnic environments that sf can posit or assume. I explore Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo (1972), a marginally sf work, as a fabulist ethnoscape; Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist (1990) as a counterfactual ethnoscape; and Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17 (1966) as a linguistic ethnoscape.” I find that the idea of “ethnoscape” makes particular sense for sf, given that sf functions primarily in the objective than the subjective register. (For more about this characteristic of sf, see the second half of Lance Olsen's interview of me on Now What.)

Essays by Darryl A. Smith and Nabeel Zuberi look equally interesting, and there's a piece on Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber by Jillana Enteen and a review essay by Sherryl Vint on Thomas Foster's The Souls of Cyberfolk: Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory.

1 comment:

Oyceter said...

Thanks so much for the SFS issue tip; I'll have to find that one.