Originally published on Polite On Society- August 2010
When people hear the term science fiction, it conjures up images of future settings and technology far beyond what can be imagined today. The homicidal robots of Battlestar Galactica and the vast spaceships of Star Trek are some of what typifies this type of entertainment. While sciencefiction is very visible and much of it is popularized, elements of itremain a niche genre. One of those elements is Afro-futurism.
What is that you may ask? Afro-futurism is the exploration of science fiction themes and how technological advances will affect the Black experience. Speculative fiction is the preferred name for it in writer’s circles. Much of it is in the literaryworld, and some proponents of the sub-genre trace it back to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.
Mainstream science fiction takes inspiration from things that are going on in society, but often does not include the viewpoint of those in the African Diaspora. In the spirit of filling in this gap, the artists and writers in the Afro-futurist tradition seek to include us inthe future settings that we are often left out of.
Unfortunately, not a lot of this tradition is known. Having come across some of the literary people that I have in the past few years has been eye opening. I must admit that my familiarity with science fiction comes from the staples of the genre. Shows like Alien Nation, V, War of the Worlds, Lost in Space, the O.G. Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and countless others were my introduction to sci-fi as a young person concerned with the future and what it might hold.
Today, we have the works of people like Walter Mosley and Nalo Hopkinson, and a whole bunch of other authors I need to get caught up on. I am anxiously awaiting my copy of Dark Matter, the first in a series of anthologies of speculative fiction. What I would like to see is more of this type of writing in differentformats. I think it’s a shame that the work of Octavia Butler was neveradapted to film. There is a potential here to introduce people who are fans of science fiction to new concepts and delve into areas untapped by what is currently out there. District 9 was one of the better science fiction films of last year, and it came from outside theover-franchised Hollywood factory. In the era of Youtube and all the short films that come from it, there is no reason this can’t happen. Aslong as we don’t get another Homeboys in Outer Space, we will do just fine.
Marc W. Polite