Despite the high levels of ridiculously violent and sexual content in manga/anime, the folks who participate are some of the nicest, most polite folks that I have ever met. Instead of battling constantly to hone their skills, many choose cooperate. No cliques/clans/squads on seek and destroy missions — just groups of people connecting because of their love of this wild and crazy stuff.
Engaging in fantasy stories that meld uber-tech and ancient myth may seem worthless, I met two brothas and a sista (who just accepted a full ride to MIT) who all speak fluent Japanese because of their love for these cultural forms. This stuff made folks voluntarily study one of the most difficult languages on this planet. While I am a hip-hop head, there is more than a little that I can do without. We can get into the silliness of an infinite regress argument about what hip-hop is and what it isn’t (not sure anyone is qualified to provide a definitive) but what can be agreed on is that there has been an enormous swath of cultural destruction done in hip-hop’s name. I will never take away or countermand the positive and amazing effects and affects that hip-hop has repeatedly imparted, but as Kool Moe Dee said, “Ya’ll ain’t living it like we lived it.”
But back to the original question.
Octavia E. Butler gave us some of the most important Black and Woman-centered Sci-Fi ever written. Steven Barnes’ and Tananarive Due have been putting in work for years, along with Nalo Hopkinson and others. David Walker’s new Shaft comic is a great example of what I’m getting at, as John Shaft is my generation’s Stagger Lee. Bernadin, Freeman, and Richardson’s Genius is the Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door update we need and most important social commentary, considering what is happening in our over-policed times. But these are products, and not the cohesive movement or economic and cultural powerhouse that manga/anime are.
There is a wealth of African/African-American folklore and myth (which all this stuff is) that can be tapped into, but we all seem content with playing in creative sandboxes created by white men who had no intention of making their creations inclusive. Even when we laud or cosplay as Storm or Blade or Black Panther, we’re still supernaturally happy consuming table scraps.
I am not discounting the work of, say, Onyxcon or Black Science Fiction Society, and the tons of folks making art and culture from their unique ethno-cultural perspectives, but I think it is time for a hip-hop level of artistic explosion for and by black folks and other people of color. Whiteness in Sci-Fi et al should not be the default. I’m also not advocating divesting our time and interest from existing Sci-Fi, etc. There is room (and a need) for it all.
The sky is ours. The underworld is ours. There are automatons being built in the yards of Kingston. There are portals in your grandmother’s family bible. The magic is ours. Now, let’s claim it.