This year, over 8 cities abolished Columbus Day. Many in fact adopted Indigenous Peoples Day’ as a replacement. The move reflects a growing acknowledgement by larger society of the meaning and historical legacy of Christopher Columbus and “Age of Exploration.” It’s a victory, albeit a minor one. History of course can move backwards as well as forwards. And there are those forces who are determined to keep Columbus as a transnational hero: to give a one-sided perspective–often apologist–of the era. The truth is that the abolishing of a commemoration can’t possibly erase the enormity of the crimes of which Columbus will forever remain a symbol. He is a part of our latent fears. The ones that we fill our stories with as we look out upon the stars. He is our original invader from Mars.
Originally written in 2013, this is the final chapter in a three-part installment on Christopher Columbus beginning with The Other Explorers and Hunting Prestor John in the End Times. This post ponders how the destruction of the Americas, and the accompanying legacies of colonialism and slavery, help shape the fears of our popular imaginings–including science fiction.
In the wake of a controversy over who the culture of an entire continent belongs to within the context of its far-flung descendants (many quite involuntarily flung at that), I revisit a set of blog posts I wrote several years ago regarding speculative fiction, world building, “appropriation” and the Africa of our imaginations. Can one appropriate the self?
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as race science blended with the new colonial imperialism, “human zoos” became all the rage in the west. Placed into “natural habitats,” adorned in “traditional dress” and sometimes behind bars, people from “exotic” lands were put on display for a gawking public. All of this to prove the racial theories of the day–that people after all were not alike all over.
Art- Poster of the “Peoples Show” (Völkerschau) in Stuttgart (Germany), 1928
It’s that time of year again, Black History Month. Beginning every February in the United States, the country sets aside 28 (or 29 in a leap year) days to celebrate, discuss and engage Black History. Innocuous enough. And yet what seems to happen every Feb. 1st, is the beginning of a 28-days long ritual of whining (how come they get their own month?), misconceptions and endless micro-aggressive racial faux-pas. And this isn’t just from the usual sky boxes of white privilege; there are black people (some of them noteworthy) who wade into…well…the stupid. So here are a few tips to better understand the month, both for those who have to endure the stupid and for those who might be enticed to engage in the stupid.
This is just an updated list from an identical post I did last year. But guess what? It never gets old because the stupid never changes.
Sisters of the Spear is an anthology of “seventeen original and exciting” fantasy tales featuring heroines of color, set in realms of magic, monsters and myth outside of the Eurocentric norm. Yes Virginia, there is life–and fantastic stories to be told–beyond Westeros.
“Ayen and Bull”- art by Jason Reeves. Story by “moi”
“Whatever happens, we have got, The Maxim Gun, and they have not.”–Hilaire Belloc, 1898.
Peruse through a few images of steampunk dress and gadgetry, and the gun will make its appearance soon enough. Fitted into holsters, held haughtily over the shoulder, brandished in threat, tucked between bustles or even adapted to retro-futurist cybernetics, the gun has become a staple of the genre in both literature, film and cosplay. Given the era that steampunk attempts to navigate, recreate and/or re-imagine, the gun only seems fitting. But like so much else from our collective past, it comes with its own troubled histories. This was also an era of racialized subjugation, colonialism and imperialism. And the gun played a central role.
Much of the mental imagery we conjure of the non-Western world in the past century come from endless photos–often of varied peoples in fantastic headdress, wrapped in “exotic” clothing and striking regal poses. For artists, creators and those looking for “authenticity” or understandings of cultures and peoples seemingly “lost in time,” these images are invaluable. But how authentic are such glimpses of the past? Especially when constructed through a colonial lens? Can photos…lie?