I love Sci-Fi and Fantasy.
If you had told me 2 years ago that I would have ever made that statement, I would have told you you were wrong (well aside from my Harry Potter fixation). And truth be told, I still haven’t watched Planet of the Apes, Star Trek or Star Wars. I still haven’t read Orson Scott Card, the only Tolkien I’ve read is The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. And I don’t know that I’ll get around to watching or reading any of them.
2 years ago though, I would have thought that was the extent of sci-fi and fantasy genres – I thought all it was was stories about white people discovering and colonizing new planets and species. And I’m sure some of those books/movies are interesting too, but I just feel like being a black Caribbean womon, my history books contain enough of that stuff to keep me “entertained”. But then in 2008 I had to read Nalo Hopkinson‘s Brown Girl in The Ring for one of my classes. And my world changed.
So I’m going to share with you, the sci-fi and fantasy works that I’ve read/watched that I think a lot of people with some anti-oppression/social justice/feminist/womonist inclinations might appreciate (in no particular order).
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler – I have convinced at least 5 of my friends to read this book. World changing. It’s set in the near future in a world where capitalism has all but collapsed, resources are scarce, racial tension is tangible, and people that were once middle class and comfortable are struggling to feed themselves. It centres around a young black womon who creates/discovers a religion of sorts that gives her direction – she believes her life purpose to build and create healthier and more sustainable communities of people. I might not have done the description justice but go read it! This book really made me think about how if the world were to collapse right now, I wouldn’t survive. I don’t even know how to grow food. I really need to start gardening! Also, there’s a sequel to it – Parable of the Talents that was also enjoyable.
- Brown Girl in The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson – the book that started it all. Also a dystopian novel that makes me think about how I can’t feed myself and am ill prepared for the end of the world. This book also opened me up to the reality that I’ve been reading “fantasy” all my life – all the Ananse/Anancy tales, jumbie stories, supernatural Caribbean and African folklore and even mainstream fairy tales that filled my childhood could be filed under the Fantasy/Speculative Fiction Genre. Hopkinson’s Skin Folk (recommended to me by trendsettah) is a great example of this as it gives a very different take on some popular fairy tales.
- So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan – I love short stories and so this anthology of short speculative fiction/fantasy/sci fi stories written by people of colour made me so happy. Its stories are divided into “The Body”, “Re-imagining the Past”, “Allegory”, “Encounters with the Alien” and “Future Earth”. I particularly enjoyed the Opal Palmer Adisa’s The Living Roots – she re-writes the Maroons of Jamaica as people who are able to almost literally disappear to avoid capture and enslavement, it was a really interesting take.
- World War Z by Max Brooks – One of my good friends gave this to me and I’m so grateful he forced me to get over my apprehensions about zombie lit (I’m still not reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies though, I love Pride and Prejudice too much. I can handle different interpretations – I’ve watched at least 5 different movie and miniseries versions, read the book a million times, and even read The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, but Elizabeth Bennet slaying the undead is quite too much). The reason I loved this so much was its powerful details – the book is a documentation of interviews with people around the world after a worldwide rise in zombies and it makes you think about things that no Zombie movie has ever made me think about – things related to the planned ways in which governments disseminate information about wars to control “the masses”, the practicality of dealing with new threats/diseases when little is known, how culture may play a role in how people might deal with zombies. I really wish I could explain it better but just know it was amazing and really made me think about war differently/think about different things within war.
- Attack the Block directed by Joe Cornish, starring John Boyega – derevolushunwidin put me onto this weeks ago but I just watched it today, so this is the film that inspired this post. In case you haven’t guessed, I loved it! It’s a really enjoyable action/sci fi film that is set on Guy Fawkes night in London – aliens attack a group of young (mostly black) boys in a housing project in South London and the movie follows the boys as they try to defeat the aliens. I generally enjoy action films, and this one contained a lot of class & race commentary which I really appreciated, and also since it’s young black men in London (as opposed to in the US) it contained a lot more Caribbean speech & music elements which I relate to as a Caribbean person and as a Caribbean person who lives in Toronto.
I feel like I should also give a shoutout to True Blood, since I actually regularly watch it – but they’ve been doing a lot of f*cked up things to its POC characters and Sookie annoys the shit outta me so I won’t even hyperlink it.
All in all, I really think that Sci-Fi & Fantasy provide some really great sites for conscious writers & directors to explore sexism, racism, classism, ableism, homophobia and other forms of oppression. It gives alot more free reign to the artist – because when you’re creating a different world or re-imagining our current one, you can push audiences & readers to ask themselves alot more about how race, class etc informs their worlds and their understandings.
So, do you like Sci Fi & Fantasy? Why/why not? What are some of your favourites?