There are some people who like comics. There are others who love them. Then, there are those who live and breathe comics. Not as a way to keep copyrights up-to-date for further cinematic use, but who see the comic form as important; as a worthy and necessary part of our collective artistic and cultural life. Professor, scholar, and creator, John Ira Jennings, embodies the latter.
Dr. Who. Star Trek. The Twilight Zone. The Night Stalker. Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Battlestar Galactica (the original series) E. E. “Doc” Smith. JRR Tolkien. David Eddings. Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman. Joseph Campbell. The Avengers (tv show and comic), Spider-Man, The Uncanny X-Men, DC’s Trinity and on and on and on. What do all of these pieces of geek-pop have in common? They were all generated from the minds of (mostly) white men.
Not that there is anything inherently wrong with this, but it begs the question: Do I actually like this stuff, or is it all part of some kind of indoctrination into the dominant culture? Continue reading “Decolonizing My Fandom”
I just wanted to let you know about my new e-book (paperback version will drop in a week), Parables, Vampires, and Pregnant Men: The Narrative Resistance of Octavia E. Butler. Adapted from my graduate work, this little volume refutes C.M. Kornbluth’s assertion that science fiction is unable to work as social critique.
The way people are reacting (and/or responding) to our current political moment is all over the map. Some are taking the ostrich head in the sand approach: If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Some are happy that the end of the American experiment is closer than we ever thought possible. Some are going full-force with resisting, making sure that what is happening does not become the new default. Some are embracing the newly- burnished hate and division, their fantasies of a fourth and fifth Reich are invading our shared reality. Remember when these people used to be on the fringe? Some say this is the last gasp of a dying ideology. I’m of the mind that it is the first deep breath of a newborn. But what do I know? I’m a born pessimist.
When I heard Abrams was developing a graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred I was of two minds. I wasn’t sure if one of the most important books in the history of literature could be accurately represented in the graphic form. Even though I’m a rabid comic book fan, I felt a comic version of the novel would somehow cheapen it. But it was John Jennings and Dr. Damian Duffy, and I trust them implicitly. They have a decade plus relationship and have put out some of the most interesting and innovative comics work during this time.
They’re geniuses, and this isn’t hyperbole. This book here illustrates the genius of their partnership.
Last week, Abrams Books finally released the highly anticipated graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s classic novel, Kindred. Created by our friends John Jennings and Damian Duffy — collectively known as J2D2, the book has already shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover graphic novels! To celebrate this momentous occasion, revisit my conversation with them recorded last summer during San Diego Comic-Con. The conversation is also available via podcast from Soundcloud (embedded below). Please remember to subscribe to Hard NOC Life on YouTube or iTunes and leave us a rating and review so folks can find us there! And don’t forget to get your own copy of Kindred.
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?”
This January, Abrams Books will be publishing a graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s classic novel, Kindred. At San Diego Comic-Con, we had the opportunity to talk with the creators behind the graphic novel, John Jennings and Damian Duffy — collectively known as J2D2, as they were signing galley copies of the book!
I am in no way presenting that being adapted for the screen is a measure of success. I am exploring why someone as beloved, talented, and influential as Octavia Estelle Butler hasn’t been presented on television, or projected 50 feet tall in a movie theater. Here is an excerpt of my explorations:
When I tell people I am a prison abolitionist and that I believe in ending all prisons, they often look at me like I rode in on a unicorn sliding down a rainbow. Even people engaged in social movements, people who concede that the current prison system is flawed, voice their critiques but always seem to add, “But it’s all we have.”
For all of our ability to analyze and critique, the left has become rooted in what is. We often forget to envision what could be. We forget to mine the past for solutions that show us how we can exist in other forms in the future.
That is why I believe our justice movements desperately need science fiction. Stay with me on this one. I am the co-editor, along with visionary movement strategist adrienne maree brown, of the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, which comes out this spring from AK Press. Octavia’s Brood, named in honor of Black feminist sci-fi writer and MacArthur “Genius” grant winner Octavia Butler, is a collection of radical science fiction written by organizers, change makers, and visionaries.
We know it has been a while since you have received an update about the visionary sci-fi anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction From Social Justice Movements.
That is because we have been involved in a transition and re-evaluation phase. It’s the end of that phase, and we are so happy to be able to officially announce two incredible things: 1) the final list of contributors to the project, and 2) that AK Press (in conjunction with the Institute for Anarchist Studies) will publish Octavia’s Brood!
The above image is from the cover of my upcoming book: Diary of an AfroGeek.
Being an AfroGeek is all about being comfortable, and expecting, to hold immense contradictions. It is loving Firefly, Serenity, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but having a strong feeling that Joss Whedon doesn’t love you back. It is about getting into passionate discussions about why and how Storm’s original mohawk incarnation was one of the more powerful political statements in comics, but being appalled at how uninteresting she became when she married Black Panther.
Originally posted at Ghoststar.net
Originally posted at Super Justice Force
The recent death of celebrated author Walter Dean Myers has seemingly left a void in that corner of Young Adult literature that is aware of representation and diversity, and produces works of fiction populated with a rainbow coalition of characters. It seems like every week I’m reading something about the lack of diversity and representation in YA (as well as comics and films and whatever else you care to throw into the mix), much like this piece. And now that Myers is gone, he can join the list of authors frequently cited as those that did the most for those who are represented the least.
Unfortunately, while he was alive, a significant amount of what was written about the lack of diversity in YA failed to mention Myers and his work — which speaks to a problem almost as bad as the lack of diversity itself. That problem, of course, is the lack of dialog about those books and those writers who do put in the work to ensure diversity and representation.
Originally posted at Ghoststar.net
In January 2009, I decided to write a book. I’ve always written, always made up strange worlds and sent characters hurdling into them, always dreamt of monsters. But until that day, I was scattered: a screenplay here, a few essays there. Some poems. None of ‘em went very far.
I’d read all the Harry Potters and loved them, loved how they immersed me in the world so thoroughly and stayed grounded and exciting. And I wanted something more… I’d just finished Junot’s Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Walter Mosley’s Six Easy Pieces and the combined ferocity of those two singular and relentlessly truthful voices lit a fire inside me. Octavia Butler’s work stoked that fire and Stephen King’s On Writing reminded me that writing a book was something that can be done, long as you sit down and do it.
So I did.
In 1974, a baby arrived in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana from the planet Cripton. She looked like the offspring of two Chinese immigrants, Ma and Pa Wong, but something was different.
The Earth’s gravitational force made it difficult for this baby to raise her head. She couldn’t crawl and went straight from sitting to walking. Perplexed, Ma and Pa Wong took their baby to the doctor and found out: she is a mutant from Cripton!
This is her origin story.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece for Nerds of Color called Growing Octavia’s Brood: The Science Fiction Social Justice Created. It focused on the genesis of the anthology, Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements, an upcoming collection of sci fi short stories written by organizers and activists.
We are excited to announce we will be doing a Northwest Tour at the end of February! Though Octavia’s Brood won’t be out until the summer, my co-editor adrienne maree brown and I are excited to do a series of readings, writing workshops, organizing workshops, and presentations based on Octavia Butler, science fiction, social change, and the anthology.
Read on for details about each stop on the tour!
Recently, a perennial discussion about diversity, or lack thereof, amongst writers of speculative fiction, and their characters, storylines, settings, and perspectives, blew up on the Internet, resulting in the hashtag #DiversityinSFF
To investigate the fall out of that discussion, Jason Sperber (@dad_strangeland) fills in as guest host and welcomes a trio of speculative fiction writers (and fellow Nerds) of Color: Walidah Imarisha (@walidahimarisha), Claire Light (@seelight), and Daniel Jose Older (@djolder) on “Hard N.O.C. Life.”
During an interview in the 1980s, Black female science fiction writer Octavia Butler was asked her how it felt to be THE Black female science fiction writer. And Octavia replied she never wanted that title. She said she wanted to be one of hundreds of Black female sci-fi writers. She said she wanted thousands of folks writing sci-fi and writing themselves into the future.
My co-editor Adrienne Maree Brown and I didn’t even know explicitly we were answering the call Octavia laid down when we started working together on Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements, an anthology of radical (or what we call visionary) science fiction by organizers, activists and those immersed in social change. We just knew we felt the power, the potential and the necessity of visionary science fiction.
I wrote this poem as a kind of eulogy for Miss Butler. I took her death hard, especially as we were beginning to correspond right before she passed.