The Black Imagination, Science Fiction and the Speculative

The Black Imagination, Science Fiction and the Speculative

The Black Imagination, Science Fiction and the Speculative

The Black Imagination, Science Fiction and the Speculative


This book expands the discourse as well as the nature of critical commentary on science fiction, speculative fiction and futurism - literary and cinematic by Black writers. The range of topics include the following: black superheroes; issues and themes in selected works by Octavia Butler; selected work of Nalo Hopkinson; the utopian and dystopian impulse in the work of W.E. B. Du Bois and George Schuyler; Derrick Bell's Space Traders; the Star Trek Franchise; female protagonists through the lens of race and gender in the Alien and Predator film franchises; science fiction in the Caribbean Diaspora; commentary on select African films regarding near-future narratives; as well as a science fiction/speculative literature writer's discussion of why she writes and how. This book was published as a special issue of African Identities: An International Journal.


Adilifu Nama

Pan African Studies, California State University, Northridge, California, United States

Without a doubt, superheroes have played a significant role in presenting idealised
projections of ourselves as physically powerful, amazing and fantastic versions of
ourselves. Superhero comics also invite readers to imagine a world where advanced
science, UFOs, aliens, space exploration, time travel and high-tech gadgets are common
occurrences. Accordingly, the genre draws significantly from the science fiction (SF)
idiom, making what is drawn and written across a multitude of superhero comics
extremely significant as an expression of sf and American culture. Often overlooked,
however, in the intersection between superheroes and sf is the place black racial
representation occupies in the genre. This article examines how black superheroes,
ensconced in a sf motif, function not only as counter-hegemonic symbolic expressions of
black racial pride and racial progress but possibly even as transformational Afrofuturistic
metaphors for imagining race and black racial identity in new and provocative ways.

Black identity is not simply a social and political category to be used or abandoned according
to the extent to which the rhetoric that supports and legitimizes it is persuasive or
institutionally powerful. (Paul Gilroy, The black Atlantic)

As you know I’m quite keen on comic books, especially the ones about superheroes. I find the
whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. (Bill, Kill Bill: Volume 2)

With Jules Verne’s visionary tales of Captain Nemo in 20,000 leagues under the sea (1870), Georges Méliès’s bullet-shaped rocket ship in A voyage to the moon (1902) and the opening notes and narration of Rod Serling’s The twilight zone (1959–1964), science fiction (SF) literature, cinema and television have for quite some time captured our collective attention and provided wide-eyed enjoyment for readers, movie-going audiences and television viewers alike. Despite the widespread popularity and wonderfully imaginative scope of the sf idiom across much of the genre, black folk and people of colour were absent. With, however, the notable contributions of Octavia Butler, Samuel Delaney, Walter Mosley, Will Smith and, my personal favorite, Sun Ra, these black sf luminaries have increasingly made the rarified world of science fiction a more multicultural and diverse realm of futuristic speculation and alternative worlds.

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