Discussions About Diversity In Science Fiction

me with Delany, Diaz, and Liu

NPR Books and Code Switch ran several great pieces for Black History Month this year, including the Hidden Black History one I talked about the other day and this one on letters and black history that I also wrote. My bud Alaya Dawn Johnson also put together a fantastic post wherein she interviewed some great Black science fiction writers about their impact on the genre and on shaping the future.

To the extent that science fiction is the literature of ideas, of plausible futurism, of extrapolation from social trends that can help us locate ourselves better in the present, we have helped to make science fiction more relevant than ever. Afrofuturism was a hugely important phenomenon in the black community, but George Clinton or Sun Ra never got invited to a World Science Fiction Convention. Last year, the groundbreaking musical artist Janelle Monae, whose work is strongly inspired by afrofuturism, received an honorable mention for the prestigious Tiptree Award for her album The Electric Lady. The lines are converging; we are rewriting our futures.

Please read the whole thing, it is well worth it.

And if you’re interested in such things, last week I was on the Marc Steiner Show talking about Octavia Butler (it was the anniversary of her death) and the state of Black science fiction. My fellow panelists, Ytasha L. Womack, adrienne maree brown, and Jason T. Harris, were a delight to converse with and big props to the host for keeping the conversation lively. When you have an hour listen to the podcast.

More Hidden Black History

Today NPR Books/Code Switch posted my second Black History Month reading list, Uncovering Hidden Black History. The idea was inspired by the neverending argument in fandom about whether having Blacks or other people of color in a movie or book set in The Past (fantastic or real) is historically accurate. We go round and round with this every few months it seems. If it’s not Tangled or Frozen it’s Game of Thrones or Agent Carter or a game or books or whatever.

The bottom line always is: POC didn’t exist here, here, or here. Or, if they did, there were only 3 of them and they were slaves.

The answer to this always is: No, no, OMG no.

The evidence for that is often easy to find, so I went looking for it. I found quite a bit, and I’m not a historian like Mikki Kendall or steeped in this stuff like Malisha/MedievalPOC who regularly drop this knowledge on unsuspecting heads. They helped me with my research in a big way–thank you!

I found so much material that some of it had to be cut for length, so I’m posting the cut bits here.

Black People In European Royalty


queen charlotte

Even though England’s Queen Elizabeth I tried to expel all “Negroes and black a moors” from her country at the turn of the 17th century, people of African descent managed to find their way into all strata of society during the Renaissance and beyond. That includes ruling families. Alessandro de Medici, called il moro/The Moor during his day, was the son of Lorenzo II de Medici and an African woman. He ruled Florence for seven years before being assassinated by a cousin (not all that unusual for a Medici).

Over in the British Isles, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (wife of Mad King George of Revolutionary War fame) may hold the distinction of being England’s first black queen. At least the first depicted with what contemporaries referred to as “Negroid features” in her official portraits. These paintings may have had a political purpose as well, since the first artist to depict the queen was vocally anti-slavery.

Further Reading and Research

Black People In the Tudor Court

john blanke

Europe’s Middle Ages aren’t nearly as monochrome as our cultural imagination envisions them, as art from the time attests. A great resource for images from the period is the MedievalPOC blog, where I first learned about trumpeter John Blanke. He regularly performed for Henrys VII and VIII and was immortalized in the Westminster Tournament Roll, a 60 foot long tapestry from the 1500s. Blanke was not the sole “blacke” person found at court–there were other Moorish employees as well as guests–nor were Moorish musicians and other artists restricted to the British Isles.

Further Reading and Research

Black People In Roman Briton

Ivory Bangle lady

The Sir Morien of Arthurian Legend I mention in the NPR piece wasn’t even the first African to travel to Briton. The remains of a woman from fourth century Roman York unearthed in 1901 shows that blacks were not just present, but also members of the elite class. The “Ivory Bangle Lady” as she’s been termed was a woman of North African descent who was buried with objects that point to wealth and high social standing.

Even during this time period she was not unique. Reading University archaeologist Hella Eckhardt told The Guardian that the population mix in fourth century York is close to that of contemporary Britain. “[T]he Roman population may have had more diverse origins than the city has now.”

This diversity is a natural side effect of the Roman empire’s vastness and is reflected not only in Britain, but throughout Europe, North Africa, and Mesopotamia.

Further Reading and Research

Black Women at the Dawn of the Feminist Movement

Anna Julia Cooper

In 1892 Anna Julia Cooper published a collection of essays called A Voice From The South, which might be considered the first work in the genre of My Feminism Will Be Intersectional or it Will Be Bullshit. In it, Cooper “criticizes black men for securing higher education for themselves through the ministry, while erecting roadblocks to deny women access to those same opportunities, and denounces the elitism and provinciality of the white women’s movement.” Some fights have to be fought and fought and fought again, even within progressive movements.

That collection plus several other essays, papers, and letters is available in one volume: The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper, edited by Charles Lemert and  Esme Bhan.

If you find this topic as intriguing as I do, I suggest you spend some time going through the #HistoricalPOC hashtag on Tumblr and Twitter where people are sharing bits of history and historical figures. Not all of them are obscure, but you won’t have to scroll long before you come up on something or someone you didn’t know about.

A Cold Day In Hell: I’m Actually On FOX’s Side For Once

A Cold Day In Hell: I'm Actually On FOX's Side For Once

Over on Tor.com I’ve got a piece up priasing FOX for its decision to cancel Dollhouse. I know, a bunch of you will disagree. A whole bunch of you won’t, though! I hope you’ll join me in supporting FOX at this difficult time. I wonder if I should grab up the URL dontsavedollhouse.com? Because there are already campaigns to save it. For once, I think we need a strong anti-campain so FOX won’t start to second guess itself. Down with bad television!

Star Trek Universe Prime

Star Trek Universe Prime

Today on Tor.com I’m mourning the loss of the Prime Star Trek Universe. You know, the one that now only exists in Spock’s memories? It saddens me, because I think Universe Prime deserves a good send-off at the very least. We have yet to see Captain Sisko’s return, perhaps many years later when Admiral Janeway and Captain Picard are on one last mission. sigh I can only dream, I fear. Anyway, if you feel the way I do (or think I’m a nutter) go chat on Tor.com about it.

Creating Better Magazines

Yesterday at Tor.com I nattered on about what it takes to create better magazines. Was at work when it went up, so I didn’t get a chance to post about it. The conversation in comments is actually interesting, though there does seem to be one person determined to make me out as a person who hates white people! Or something.

Also, Mike Ashley STILL hasn’t answered my open letter! Sadness.

Guest Blogging, Wiki-ing, and the like

Guest Blogging, Wiki-ing, and the like

I feel like I must have mentioned this before, but looking back it seems maybe not. Anyway, this month I’ve been guest blogging at the Carl Brandon Society blog. I think this is going to become a regular thing as it seems like they’re very pleased with the lists of POC fiction I’ve been posting.

By the way, if you’re POC and have short fiction coming out in 2009, please let me know so I can include you in future lists. Instructions at this link. If you already had something come out in 2009 and missed my announcement before, you can add your story yourself to the Carl Brandon wiki. There’s also a 2008 short fiction entry.

At some point I’d like to start listing novels on the wiki. But it may take someone other than me starting that project. Though if I continue blogging at CBS, then another thing I want to start doing is mini author interviews whenever a writer of color has a book coming out. Something similar to the author spotlights I did at Fantasy Magazine. A 4 – 6 stock questions that hopefully elicit interesting answers. It’ll be a quick and easy way to start keeping a list of who’s publishing what and when. Plus, promotion!

And finally, if you will all please head over to this post about artists of color in SF/F — I’m trying to create a list. I hope it will also go up on the wiki someday. I only have two comments, sad! I know there are many artists of color out there. Please add your favorites or add yourself.

Harry Potter and the… hmm, what was I saying?

Harry Potter and the... hmm, what was I saying?

My review of the latest HP movie is on Tor.com. What I did not say was that, during the scene in the cave when they go to get the locket? I kept falling asleep. It was THAT FUCKING DULL. I woke up at the end of it because there was fire. That is one of the most crucial, heart-rending scenes in the book and the movie managed to make it snooze-worthy. Sad.

Someone in comments pointed out that the scene with Hermione crying on Harry’s shoulder was well done — it was. I did forget to mention that.

Write-a-thon Week 4: BLARG

Write-a-thon Week 4: BLARG

So, the Write-a-thon is chugging along and all and I completed my revision of What Fairy-Like Music Steals Over The Sea and will send it out to Weird Tales shortly. But MAN, this last week was hard!

I don’t remember if I blogged this (I know I Tweeted and FaceBooked it) but I got a call about a month ago from my old job, Laptop, asking if I wanted to return, but in a different capacity: editorial instead of web. I’m now an associate editor whose job includes fact-checking and testing, which is different than what I’m used to but also very exciting.

Luckily, returning to a place I’ve already worked meant that the first week was less about getting to know people and settling in. But I’m learning the fact-checking process for the first time, so it’s been a very full and busy week. Plus, there was the special Clarion West KGB reading and preparing for my salon and… yeah.

But I got the writing done when I could and didn’t burn myself out completely.

Another cool thing that happened last week was an interview I did with Jeff Vandermeer about the WaT went up on Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog. I was thrilled when Jeff asked me to do this and very happy with the way it turned out. Plus, OMG I am on an Amazon blog being interviewed!

In essence, last week was a very good week. Plus, the weekend before I got to see many of my peeps at ReaderCon, which was equally wonderful. My life? Is good.

My (Long Overdue) Thoughts on the Dollhouse Finale

Over at Fantasy Magazine:

Eliza Dushku has had the opportunity to dazzle us with the range of her acting over the course of this season. She did not. In this final episode she had one more chance to shine. She had a great example before her — Alan Tudyk as Alpha struggling with the different brains in his brain, switching smoothly between them without making it look hammy and overdone. Then he puts a ton of personalities into Echo’s head and Eliza gives us… well, the same vague “kick-ass chick” character she’s been playing for eleven previous episodes. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we never saw her switch between them. There was nothing to switch.

There’s… a lot more. It took me a whole week to write because every time I sat and thought about ti some more I was like, “Oh, and ALSO I hated this! And this!” Watch as I also compare the show to Family Guy and Heroes. Clicky for the fun!