Byron Yee, a first-time filmmaker, grew up in Oklahoma, moved to San Francisco to pursue stand up comedy, and later headed to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Getting tired of waiting for Hollywood to create interesting roles for someone like him, Yee decided to write his own film. His new release, The Aliens, is a film about a UFO believer who must choose between the aliens above he has never seen or the mysterious guide who appears at his campsite week after week.
In a time where representation is such a hot topic in Hollywood, Netflix’s The OA does something few have done: cast an actual Asian transgender teenage boy as an Asian transgender teenage boy. Vietnamese-American teen Ian Alexander is one of multiple Asian actors in The OA’s main cast alongside Filipino/Puerto Rican-American Brandon Perea and British Pakistani Riz Ahmed (in a recurring role). Continuing the spotlight from his response to a viral anti-trans photo, Ian makes his on-screen acting debut as Buck Vu in the newly-released show having been cast from an online open casting call in 2015.
Growing up in places including Japan, Hawai’i, and D.C. have helped shape Ian. The fifteen-year-old high school junior has had more experiences than most teenagers his age, and his passion knows no bounds. He’s politically vocal, a huge admirer of actors and filmmakers like Jen Richards (Her Story) and Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) and relentless as a Marvel fanboy (he’s “Team Bucky” for those who are curious). Ian had time to sit down and talk about his upbringing and the show (don’t worry, there are no spoilers here).
This guy. Playing somebody named Takeshi, who is specifically described in the articles as being at least biracial Japanese.
Comic books, throughout their long history, have often existed as a playground for subversive and counter-cultural concepts. Famously, “Judgement Day” — the last story published by EC Comics — featured a socially stratified world of blue and orange robots set in the far future vying for entry into the “Great Galactic Republic.” Their inspector, an astronaut from Earth, tells them that their planet isn’t ready but that one day it might be. In the last panel he’s revealed to be a black man, something scandalous enough that the Comics Code Authority demanded he be changed to white or the comic couldn’t go to print. This was 1953.
Since then comics, specifically superhero comics, have continued to make attempts to grapple with social issues.
Full Disclosure: I have known Jeffrey Morris for over twenty years. In that time, our friendship has gone from tight to contentious to non-existent. We diverge on many social and political issues — we’re like objects that cannot occupy the same space at the same time, without disastrous consequences. But this will not stop me from extolling his absolute genius.
First off, I want to apologize for the video quality. We did this at the time of day that is heavy with Internet traffic, and we experienced some delays. I also didn’t label the speakers, but you know who he is.
This was some of the most fun I have ever had interviewing someone.
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.
The final cover for Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements has been sent to the AK Press production designer. The book is available for pre-order here. See the full hi-res cover after break.
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.
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!