Recently I received a copy of Octavia Butler’s Kindred graphic novel, which was adapted by Damien Duffy and John Jennings. Reading the story in graphic novel form gave me a chance to see aspects of the book that I didn’t pay as much attention to as before. One was the mechanism by which Dana traveled back in time. On her second trip back to the past, Rufus mentions to Dana that he had seen her in the water right before she came traveled back to the past to rescue him. Rufus tells Dana that he saw her with his eyes closed and that he had stepped into a “hole” in the river where he saw her in a room full of books. He also heard both Dana and Kevin before the second time Dana came back. Rufus, although problematic, has inklings of visionary insight, but does he because of his connection to his future legacy in Dana (Rufus only has black descendants as he only had children with Alice) or because he was at the edge of imagining a different society but the slaveholding, racist, sexist, generally oppressive society around him impeded that?
As a speculative fiction author, Octavia Butler broke new grounds in the genre, going beyond the patriarchal Eurocentric and white supremacist framework of a lot of early speculative fiction. In her novels, she explored underrepresented topics like the continuing impact of American slavery and racism on black bodies and minds and larger society, and the seeds of late capitalism leading to dystopia. She also gave us stories from the perspective of black people, specifically black women (herself being a black woman writer), something that was rare in these genres.
Last Sunday, I attended Brooklyn Book Festival and the panel, “The Legacy of Octavia Butler,” featuring author Ytasha Womack (Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy), author Daniel Jose Older (Shadowshaper), artist John Jennings (Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation) and author Ben Winters (Underground Airlines). Each panelist talked about the mega influence of Butler on their work and what was possible to write about and focus on in speculative fiction. Like me, all the panelists wished they found out about her work earlier because her work validated them and the truths of our histories and realities in ways other novels in the same genre did not. As Jennings expressed, Butler’s skill was destabilizing the stereotypes and categories that we place on ourselves and others; she was centered on exploring the liminal spaces and identities. Butler herself didn’t fit the stereotypes of a typical black woman — she was reclusive and reserved, and she was willing to go into and engage with spaces that others did not dare.
*For the next six months, most of my time will be invested in a big project, so I will be cutting back on posting here to probably once or twice a week, or a few times a month. But if you would like to be a guest blogger or help moderate this blog, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Wonder why there is a perception that black people experience less pain or why Darren Wilson described Mike Brown the way he did? Well, one reason may be the Magical Negro stereotype. According to a recent study, many white people have a “superhumanization bias,” where they think black people have superhuman abilities. While some may think that is positive, it actually works against us as I mentioned before Wilson described Brown like he was The Hulk.
*Media Diversified’s “Inside Afrofuturism: This movement is not for co-opting:” “Afrofuturism is a topic that we have addressed on numerous occasions on Media Diversified. Now, it makes its way to the BFI. Film critic, journalist, and film programmer, Ashley Clark has curated Inside Afrofuturism; a short season of movies, brought together under the afrofuturism rubric. I spoke with him about his inspiration for the programme, and afrofuturism’s place in the cultural firmament.”
*The Toast’s “Wave My Freak Flag High: Afrofuturism, Imagination, and Impostor Syndrome:” “I’ve only been familiar with the term afrofuturism for the past few years. It didn’t exist for me when I first read Octavia Butler more than a decade ago, or when I read the first Dark Matter anthology while I was still an undergrad in the late ’90s. Somewhere along the way, I saw the short film anthology Cosmic Slop, bought a copy of Sun Ra’s Space Is the Place on DVD, and noted that music videos from the likes of Tupac and Dr. Dre, Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes included post-apocalyptic, space, and robotic themes and elements. In hindsight, I can apply an axiom about porn to afrofuturism: I know it when I see it.”
*The Link Newspaper’s “Re-Remembering The Future:” “Alisha B. Wormsley Brings a Mythical Perspective to the Narratives of the African Diaspora”
*Get Futuristically Ancient t-shirts for $20 on teespring.
*Subtletea’s “David Herrle reviews NEAR KIN: A COLLECTION OF WORDS AND ART INSPIRED BY OCTAVIA ESTELLE BUTLER:” David Herrie writes an analysis of Butler’s work and her influence on the anthology, Near Kin. By the way, he include me and my poem in the review. Cool!
From Afropunk: “Working with artist-activist Dragonfly, we have been able to bring Helvetika to life as a living, breathing maven of moxie…Not only does she fictionally save the world, she leads with values and effective social justice communications messaging that actually demands action and change. The more support that Helvetika can gain, the more likely that her story can continue sooner rather than later, and the more damage she can do to The Status Quo!”
*Afrofuturism 849 is “a Chicago-based organization dedicated to creating artistic and educational events and programs that support the Afrofuturist global community,” featuring Floyd Webb and Ytasha Womack. “We encourage the visioning of a peaceful today and tomorrow that engages the best of diverse perspectives from the ancient to the future.
We celebrate the intersection between black cultures, indigenous cultures, technology, the imagination, liberation and mysticism as we champion innovation around the world. The number 8.49 is the apparent magnitude of Sirius B, a star celebrated by the Dogon. This star inspires people around the world and we recognize it as one of many symbols of innovation, uncovered pasts and created futures.” They are currently accepting submission for a February Black History Month film program. Email them at email@example.com.
Ever since my mother received her smart phone, she has constantly been coming to me with numerous questions about how to use it. She has such a difficult time adapting to how it works no matter how many times I show her. No matter how much she uses the smart phone, I don’t think she fully connects or pays attention to it in order to learn. She cannot learn how to use the smart phone if she does not open herself to learning how to use it. Half the time when I am showing her what to do, I am not exactly sure what I am doing myself; I am figuring it out as I go along based on a set of knowledge I have learned already from smart phones and just playing around with it. I try to work with the phone based on how it might move or based on the signs it gives.
Sometimes, I think she sees technology as a magic device that will just do for her and she doesn’t want to take the energy to work with it, to move with it. Sometimes, I think that she thinks of God in that way, too. God is somewhat detached from herself as much as the technology is and she lets it remain that way. This experience with my mother stirred my thoughts on our interaction with God (or higher spirit) and technology. Maybe we should see God (or higher spirit) much like the character Lauren Olamina does in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. If “God Is Change,” I have to learn its fundamentals and adapt with it. I have to interconnect with it as if it is a part of me, as if we are extensions of each other, that I have to attach it to me and bend it to my image to survive and grow as much as it bends and changes my image. As for technology, it should be looked at in a similar fashion. It adapts to you as much as you adapt to it.
*Wildseeds: The NOLA Octavia Butler Emergent Strategies Collective is presenting Cosmic Belonging: A Conversation on Afrofuturism, Sustainability, and Dreaming Black Into the Future. See more information about it in the picture below.
*John Jennings and Stacey Robinson has released their comic, Kid Code: Channel Zero via Rosarium Publishing. Here is the description of it: “Kid Code: Channel Zero is a rollicking, cosmic, time-traveling adventure, fusing classic hip-hop culture and outlandish sci-fi fantasy in this alternate universe to create the ultimate mash-up.
Everything’s a remix! And Kid Code and his comrades must fight against The Power, who eons ago sampled the first sounds made from the God MC and created the Dark Mix (a version of the universe that was never intended).
Now there’s a race against and for time throughout the universe to assemble The Everlasting Cosmic Mixtape–nine tracks that can re-assemble the God Sample and help set things back on course.
The adventure starts here in Kid Code: Channel Zero.”
*Daily News’ “Run-DMC’s rapper Darryl McDaniels launches new comic book line:” “The newly minted comic company, Darryl Makes Comics, is ready to debut its first novel, ‘DMC’ at New York Comic Con in October. Darryl McDaniels portrays himself as a superhero instead of a rapper in the graphic novels.”
*A Killing in the Sun, a collection of speculative fiction from Africa, was recently released: “It draws from the rich oral culture of the author’s childhood, to tell a wide variety of stories. Some of the stories are set in a futuristic Africa, where technology has transformed everyday life and a dark force rules. Others are set in the present day, with refugee aliens from outer space, ghosts haunting brides and grooms, evil scientists stalking villages, and greedy corporations creating apocalypses. There are murder mysteries, tales of reincarnation and of the walking dead, and alternative worlds whose themes any reader will identify with. This collection is deftly crafted, running along the thin boundary of speculative and literary genres.”
*The Sci-fi anthology, Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction From Social Justice Movements, will be released in Spring 2015 by AK Press! The anthology includes short stories from LeVar Burton, Terry Bisson, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Alixa Garcia, Autumn Brown, Bao Phi, David Walker, Dani McClain, Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Gabriel Teodros, Jelani Wilson, Kalamu ya Salaam, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Mia Mingus, Morrigan Phillips, Tara Betts, Tunde Oluniran, Vagabond, adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as an introduction by Sheree Renee Thomas.
*Kickstarter fundraiser for Latino/a Rising , an anthology featuring U.S.-based Latino/a science fiction work.
*Fundraiser for “Kindred: School-Wide Summer Reading” class project (Ms. Durkin‘s Books project at Coppin Academy 432 in Baltimore, MD): Help every student in the class receive a copy of Octavia Butler’s book!
*Afropunk’s “FEATURE: Visual Artist Melanie “Coco” McCoy Unravels The Mystery of Sankofa & Afrofuturism:” “When you scroll through Black Twitter or Tumblr you see a lot of young, Black radicals talking about protesting the injustices against our communities and wanting to change the mainstreams ideas pressed on us. However, how many of those “activists” do you really see out in the streets making that wanted change? Visual artist and writer Melanie “Coco” McCoy is regularly amongst the mobs of protesters on and off the computer screen. She stands for Black liberation, feminism/womanism, Black history, spirituality, Afrofuturism, Black female sexuality, and Afrocentric ideals. Many of these resonate in Coco’s paintings. She uses the ideas she studies at Temple University as a African American Studies major and incorporates them into much of her work. Much of her work is based on Sankofa. Sankofa is an Akan word (originating in Ghana) meaning, ‘to go back and fetch it.’ Coco believes deeply in that saying (that we’ve all heard time and time again) ‘you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’re coming from.’”
*Atlanta Blackstar’s Blerd’s “Black Speculative Tech – Uses of Technology in Black Science Fiction, Part 1:” Rasheedah Phillips (The Afrofuturist Affair) is looking for other examples as well.