Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

A Reluctant Ambassador from the Planet of Midnight

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

A Reluctant Ambassador from the Planet of Midnight

Article excerpt

Note: The bracketed portions of the text indicate actions by the speaker.

I'D LIKE TO THANK THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE FANTASTIC IN the Arts for dedicating this year's ICFA to the theme of race in the literature of the fantastic, and for inviting Mr. Tatsumi, Mr. Yep, me, and many others to address the topic.

The first thing I'd like to say is

[The speaker becomes a "horse," possessed by an alien being.] (1) Uh...oh my. It worked. I'm here. [She looks at hands, then at audience.] Dear people, please don't be alarmed. I mean no harm. I really don't. I'm riding on the head of this horse only for a short time, I promise you. Please don't hurt me. This was an extreme measure. There seemed to be no other way to communicate directly with you.

I come from another planet. For decades now, we have been receiving broadcasts from your planet that seem to be intended for us. We are delighted, and honored, and also puzzled. We have teams of our best translators working to decipher your messages, and we cannot honestly tell whether they are gestures of friendship, or of aggression. As you might imagine, it's quite important for us to know which. If it is indeed friendship, we would be delighted to reciprocate. If of aggression, well, as one of our ethnocultural groups might say, "Don't start none, there won't be none."

I should be very clear: I do not represent my whole planet. Neither do I represent my whole ethnocultural group. Or even all of the translators assigned to this project; try to get any two of us to agree to the same thing... There was vehement disagreement among us about whether I should attempt this dire method of direct communication. So, frankly, I snuck away when no-one was looking.


My, this horse does dress most uncomfortably, doesn't she?



This? This is merely my name, dear friends. Or my title, if you will. I hope I may indeed call you friends. But to help ensure my safety, or at least to create a record of what happens this day, I am accompanied by my companion, Dances With White People, and his recording device. [She INDICATES DAVID FINDLAY, WHO'S VIDEOTAPING.] Again, please don't be alarmed. It is not a weapon of any kind.

So. To the business at hand. It is my hope that if I repeat to you some of the most vexing phrases we've received from your peoples, that you might be able to clarify their meanings. I decided to address this erstwhile conference because as you might imagine, we, as a different race of beings than you are, are very interested in the stories you tell each other about interracial relations. We have had bad experiences with the collision of cultures. Some of them even between groups on our own planet. So I'm sure you can understand why we are concerned.

Our first sign that perhaps our responses to you were going awry was when we released this document into your world:

[SLIDE: Original cover of novel Midnight Robber accurately depicting the protagonist, who is a brown-skinned little girl with black African features].


When one of the cultures of your world reconfigured it, this was the result:

[SLIDE: Cover of Italian translation of Midnight Robber (Il Pianeta di Mezzanotte) showing protagonist in her later years as a blue-skinned young woman with European features and straight hair, wearing a bra top and fringed miniskirt].

As far as our translators can tell, the title of this version can be rendered as The Planet of Midnight, which, according to your understanding, seems to be where the blue people live. We have noticed a preponderance of wistful references in your literature to magical people with blue skin.


[SLIDES: Nightcrawler; Mystique; The Beast (all from The X-Men); Kali; Krishna; Dr. …

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