In our final live edition of Hard NOC Life from the NOC Reading Lounge at CTRL+ALT — the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s pop-up culture lab in the former Pear River Mart location in SoHo, award-winning poet Bryan Thao Worra discusses the literature of the Laotian diaspora and explains why the Asian American literay canon needs more speculative fiction.
This is an excerpt from a book I started in 2008. I wanted to take a more academic approach to afrogeek and afrofuturist culture and cultural artifacts. I felt this section was important in the present, in light of our new political reality. The books is done, but I’m not sure how I feel about publishing an academic text in a time when we need information to be as clear as possible. Continue reading “Butler, Dystopia, Propaganda, and a Way Through?”
My friends Noah, Ian, and I were sitting in Ian’s garage studio, trying to figure out what to do that evening. None of us were big partiers, but having been friends for more than a decade on both sides of the continent, we felt like we had to mark Noah’s visit to town with more than a movie marathon. Since both Noah and Ian had been involved in emceeing and DJ-ing respectively for years, we decided to make a hip hop track, just for fun.
While Ian happily dove into his seemingly endless stack of records, I sat with some trepidation. I had started my spoken word career as a slam poet, the loud-mouthed step-sibling to hip hop. And as much as slam poets want to say that emceeing and spoken word are pretty much the same thing; seriously, they’re not. Riding a beat may be like riding a bike in that once you learn you never forget, but it’s a hell of a lot harder. So as Ian began sampling records, I concentrated on how to make sure I don’t embarrass myself on this track.
But the second I heard Ian’s beat, all of that flew out of my head. The outer space pulsations were a galactic siren’s call, drawing me further out into the stars. When I got up to record my part, I wasn’t worried at all. Partially because Noah and Ian were super supportive and patient, and because it was Ian’s studio, there was no pressure about going over on recording time.
But it was also because I realized I was home. Immersed in the sci-fi geekiness I had known since I was in the womb, and getting to pair that with my political analysis. Watching Star Trek is my first memory. I begged my mother to send me to Klingon language camp when I was in middle school, and when she wouldn’t, I set up a weekly tutoring session with my best friend and fellow geek Yvonne who had gotten to go.