Recuerdo el día en que mi papá se murió. Mientras se elevaba, creí que me estaba sonriendo. Había volado por un momento, justo como dijo que lo iba a hacer, como Dédalo con altas de plata. De repente todo terminó, y él cayó a la tierra, desplomándose y girando como un pájaro herido. Vi todo porque, en medio de la gritería, a mi mamá se le olvidó taparme los ojos.
So begins the Spanish translation of my short story “Wings for Icarus,” which was read at a conference on innovation, technology and mobility in Medellín, Colombia this past month. The tale was originally published in Daily Science Fiction in 2011, and was picked up by the Fractal Project. So a story written in Brooklyn inspired by my Trinidadian father falling out of a tree in Houston, Texas was read and listened to by students in Medellín, Colombia. Now that’s sci-fi globalisation from the bottom up! More to follow…
Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones, and HOLY HELL DID YOU SEE THE BATTLE OF THE BLACKWATER!?! Glad it was a holiday because I’m still recovering… Only one more episode until the end of the season, and HBO has decided to throw everything at us at once–in fantastic style! As usual, minor a whole lotta SPOILERS to follow.
There’s a scene in Steven Spielberg’s 2006 film Munich, where the Israeli assassination team sent to seek vengeance for the slaying of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, end up at a safe house in Athens where they unexpectedly run into a set of Palestinian radicals. Changing their identities, the Israeli assassins name themselves radicals as well–taking false identities ranging from a Basque liberation group to an anti-apartheid freedom fighter from South Africa. Though the scene, like much of the movie, is more fiction than history, it did spark a thought. There was this era radicalism in the 1960s through the early 1970s that had global reach and interconnectedness. With the fall of the old colonial empires, struggles to knit together new states and domestic social movements, many people sought to radically change their societies or rebelled against it outright–through protest, confrontations with authority or by any means necessary. Many of these radicals not only knew of each other’s existence, but also promoted far-flung causes as relatable to their own–so it wasn’t abnormal to see Black Power advocate Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael) making impassioned speeches to a packed groups of Swedish students, or have Malcolm X and Fidel Castro meeting in a hotel room in Harlem. So, I got to thinking. With the many spinoff genres of cyberpunk (steampunk, dieselpunk, atomicpunk, etc) delving into alternate histories and societies shaped heavily by some technological advancement, what about something similar but shaped instead by ideologies and politics? What about a world where this radical fervor never died away, but grew stronger, defining the world as we know it? How about some Revolutionpunk!
You know what’s great about posting videos to your blog? Very little writing. Following my previous piece deriding uninformed claims that Hip Hop and speculative fiction are somehow averse to each other, I thought it might be good to post some examples showing the best blending of my two favorite artistic expressions–especially those that pull from classic speculative fiction tropes. In this mash up, one of the most phenomenal duos to ever grace the mic and turntables, Gang Starr, meets pre-Star Wars icon George Lucas’s first major film, THX 1138.
Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones, and things are heating up! Well… no. They’re just simmering to a slow boil. I know the whole adage of the watched pot, but these watched plots need to pick up the pace. There are only two more episodes until the end of this season, and we are very slowwwwly working our way to a series of climaxes. Just wish they’d get on with it already. As usual, minor SPOILERS to follow.
“I think that, especially if you’re a Westerner doing another culture, you have responsibilities to do the best darn research you can (and not just appropriate the cool bits). You must take care not to promote harmful stereotypes ; especially since, as a Western writer (especially, but not only, if you live in the West), you must be aware that your narrative is going to be privileged over that of locals. That gives you extra responsibility to get it as right as you can.”–Aliette de Bodard
French-American author Aliette de Bodard’s comment was made during a recent roundtable at The World SF Blog (TWSFB) on the issue of depictions of non-Western societies and cultures in speculative fiction. In this case, de Bodard was specifically addressing those writers in the West who take the (brave) plunge and attempt to write about cultures and societies outside of their own. I actually applaud this, and suggested in a recent blog that speculative fiction authors (of any racial/ethnic background, and specifically those in fantasy) should make this attempt more often. Yet, as I also noted in that same post, this comes with risks. As an outsider, it’s all too easy to fall back (intentionally or no) on stereotypes or exoticism as a means of depicting “difference.” So, continuing with this talk of spears, sorcery and black double-consciousness, how does a black Western writer create African fantasy that avoids (or at least tries to avoid) these pitfalls? I don’t have all the answers. Surprise. I don’t even know if anything I have to say qualify as answers. Double surprise. But here are some personal thoughts anyway, for what they’re worth…
When the inspiration first came to me, to try my hand at writing fantasy outside of the usual medieval European framework, I knew exactly where I wanted to begin. I hadn’t read Charles Saunders. I thought for certain I was doing something new–a speculative fiction Jackie Robinson. I’d read enough fantasy to know the basics. I had to create a world, a setting distinct from the Eurocentric fantasy I’d grown up with. I chose Africa with hardly a second thought. Most fantasy works by white authors were set in some version of medieval Europe. Black people were from Africa–that’s what I was going with. Besides, I was no slouch on Africa. My parents had filled our house with books on African culture, art and history. I was taken to see African theater. I’d visited Africa at least once. Being a political junkie, I even felt it my responsibility to read African newspapers to keep up with what was going on. Heck, I listened to Fela! Sure, as the child of Caribbean immigrants, I was more than a few generations removed; but in my mind Africa was something always near–in my music, in celebrations like Carnival, in my fashion, my thoughts. So when I began creating worlds out of varied kingdoms, and scoured through the folklore and myths of diverse African cultures for magic systems, gods and monsters, I never thought of it as “appropriation.” Africa was mine. Wasn’t it?