By Pablo Vazquez (first published in PR #2)
Y’know, one of the beautiful things about jumping from convention to convention is discovering new books and genres I’ve never even heard of. Aristotelian Physics Science Fiction? Yes please. Alaskan Judaic Alternate History? Throw it my way! However, I’m also constantly surprised by how some of the great fen in the community know so very little about a genre I consider absolutely crucial to SF/F. Hey, buddy, ever heard of Afro-Futurism?
What’s that? No, it’s not Discopunk (though someone make that happen), though I consider it to have started with W.E.B Du Bois’ chilling social commentary SF story “The Comet” and has been inherited today most famously by Janelle Monáe. Alright, you might be confused there further. Why am I conflating music with literature? Well, Afro-Futurism is SF inspired by and usually written within the African Diaspora experience and we are quite the varied and especially musical people. Parliament Funkadelic? Afro-Futurist. Sun Ra? Afro-Futurist. Deltron 3030? Afro-Futurist. Those really weird high tech Kanye West music videos? Still Afro-Futurist.
Literature, art and music are forever intertwined in Afro-Futurism and actually Afro-Futurism has its biggest success within the realm of music. I mean, just look up the aforementioned and great Janelle Monáe, who is the android toast of Metropolis, so to speak. I’ve heard the complaint of “that’s not true SF” before, but it just shows that despite this being a rather ancient genre, explored in literature by the likes of Samuel Delaney, Steven Barnes, Tanavarie Due, Octavia Butler, and so many others, some folks just can’t get with 50 years ago still, and probably never will.
Oh well, they’re missing out on the Mothership and, baby, I’m riding this sucka all the way to Detcon1, which is looking to be the shining showcase of Afro-Futurism, especially if I have anything to say about it and thank those beautiful ebony gods that I do. Go out there, do some research and prepare yourself. Oh, and watch Attack the Block. You won’t regret it.