Spears, Sorcery and Double-Consciousness- Part I

Recently, the World SF Blog held a roundtable on the issues of non-Western narratives in speculative fiction. Touched upon in the talk, were problems of inclusion, the lacking (or often-ignored) presence of non-Western writers in the genre and the entire post-colonial project when it comes to writing and the non-Western world. It was an insightful discussion that can be read in its two-part entirety starting here. What received the most discussion by the panelists however, was the topic of how Western writers depict non-Western settings, including issues of exoticism and the sometimes futile search for “authenticity.” This left me with my own set of questions. What about the “other” that exists within the non-Western world? What about those people within the larger dominant society, who are marginalized from its center similar to the ways in which a colonized geographical space is distanced from the metropole?
The clamor for diversity in speculative fiction has long been heard–and answered. In fantasy, this has come about partly in the form of writers of African descent creating their own realms of spears and sorcery. Termed “Sword and Soul” by some, this sub-genre of fantasy uses an often fictionalized Africa as a backdrop, creating heroes, stories, lands and adventures outside of the Eurocentric norm. Yet a cursory glance shows that most of these writers (self included) are several generations removed from the Africa of our imaginings. So what happens when the Westernized-other seeks to depict the non-Western world–one which remains both prominent and elusive in his/her imagination?
As with most things, there’s a history . . .

GOT- “A Man Without Honor”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones, where there’s always a surprise–even if you’ve read the books. There’s chaos, betrayals, coups and a general sense of discord throughout Westeros and beyond. With just two three more episodes left, and quite a bit to fill it with, the writers at HBO seem to be setting us up for some fast-paced happenings in the coming weeks. Buckle up, and watch for spoilers.

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Speculative Art: The Daily African- Diesel 2001

More alternate history and power reversals (for reasons I’m at pains to explain, I seem to be on this kick lately), this time from the fashionistas at Diesel. Created by DDB Stockholm advertising agency in 2001 for the overpriced famous denim company, the ad gained attention at the time for its provocative photos featuring the front page of a fictional newspaper, The Daily African. “Birthrate Booms in Italy and Spain,” one of them reads, “Europe Set Back Even Further;” the sub-headline continues: “With an average of 8.7 children born to every Italian woman and an annual GNP per capita below AFRO 45, there is a high risk of looming tragedy in southern Europe.” Another headline reads, “African hostages free after being held 148 days by Californian rebels,” while yet another proclaims “AU (African Union) agrees on financial aid to Europe.” Each daily is superimposed in white print against the backdrop of photos featuring African models, finely dressed (or in states of near undress) in various modes of play, lavishly indulging in decadent lifestyles of excess, while a poverty-stricken, politically unstable Third World Europe struggles to survive. Didactic enough for you?

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The Wild Rumpus

Maurice Sendak died today at the age of 83. Nothing more I can add that so many others haven’t already. But in his honor, I’m hosting my own Wild Rumpus…you’re welcome to join, and roar your terrible roar, gnash your terrible teeth, roll your terrible eyes and show your terrible claws. If you’ve never had the pleasure (and heck, even if you have), listen to Sendak read his famous Where the Wild Things Are, here.

But the Wild Things cried, Oh please don’t go, we’ll eat you up, we love you so!

GOT- “The Old Gods and the New”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones, wherein the HBO writers decide they’re not just going to modestly stray from the book, but hop into an all terrain 4X4 and drive it right off the map. This week’s episode makes some of the grandest departures from the novels so far, leaving me curiously puzzled and (for the first time) a bit disturbed–though not enough to stop watching. That’s crazy talk!

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Avengers- Why it was Frackin’ Fantastic

Saw The Avengers late last night and twelve hours later… I’m still catching my breath! The movie was fantastic–frackin’ fantastic. I’ve been pretty cynical lately about comic book flicks. With the stellar exceptions of Watchmen and The Dark Knight series, I’ve placed recent comic or graphic novel remakes into three categories: decent, lackluster or WTF? Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, ranked among my decent. These were okay movies with all the required action, though they didn’t rise above my expectations. I walked out feeling I’d gotten my money’s worth, but wasn’t itching to see either again. The Hulk and X-Men First Class, I found rather lackluster. There were superheroes so that was nice, but otherwise the storyline and plot earned a rating of “meh.” Wolverine, Green Lantern and Ghostrider were so god-awful, I left the theater wondering how a few screenwriters could so mangle a winning popular comic book? I mean, straight up guys, WTF!?! So what made the Avengers different? What did the film seem to “get” that so many of their recent counterparts hadn’t? More, after the jump. But be warned…there be SPOILERS!

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Speculative Art- Kehinde Wiley

I first saw the work of artist Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s still there. You walk in, and on the left wall is an immense mural of a figure that looks somewhat like Tony Starks (Ghostface, not Downey Jr.), on horseback crossing the alps–a reworking of Jacques-Louis David’s 1800 oil-painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps or Bonaparte at the St Bernard Pass.

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