While at illogicon this weekend, one of the panels I’ve participated in was AfroFuturism, Blerds, and BlackTwitter. We also provided a brief overview of the cinematic history of African-Americans in speculative fiction. Below is the list of references that provide a brief introduction AfroFuturistm, Blerds, and Black Twitter.
Please note, this isn’t a complete list. It’s just a quick guide I compiled for introductory reasons. If you have suggestions or better resources, feel free to email or Tweet me (@nicolegkurtz).
Afrofuturism-Afrofuturism is a literary and cultural aesthetic that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of color, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past. First coined by Mark Dery in 1993, and explored in the late 1990s through conversations led by scholar Alondra Nelson.
Steamfunk-is defined as a philosophy or style of writing and visual aesthetic that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and/or steampunk fiction and cosplay.
Black Twitter- a cultural identity on the Twitter social network focused on issues of interest to the black community, particularly in the United States.
Continuing in the tradition of focusing on fantastic two-fisted action, Pulp genre, Pulp Fiction Fridays focuses on POWERS, the comic series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming.
I love pulp. I’ve been a fan of detective mysteries, cozy mysteries, high tech mysteries, and all points in between. I love a good whodunit, and I love private detectives that are self-directed, they march to their own drummer, and often to their detriment. Law & Order’s character Logan would forever be the pinnacle of this brash, but diligent detective. Law & Order SUV’s Elliot also fell right in step with the rogue detective, breaking rules and following his own code to justice.
And it cost him. Just as my protagonist in my Cybil Lewis series, Cybil handles her own issues and marches to her own drummer. She has a moral code that is patched together from her own trials and tribulations. She struggles to do the right thing, even when that means breaking the violations erected in post-apocalyptic D.C.
I also love comics. Comics + detectives=Major Love from Nicole.
Enter Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming’s Powers comics.
Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim are two polar opposites, not unlike my Cybil and Jane characters. Each balances the other, and over time, a well-oiled friendship steeped in mutual respect, rivalry, and platonic love emerges between them. This series is special because it takes some that Alan Moore’s Watchmen prompted in the early 80s and rooted in the real world.
What if super heroes were real?
If they were real, who would police them? A common problem for Justice League’s Batman was that the league was too powerful. He wanted procedures in place to deal with the league when the meta-humans became too powerful. As an ordinary man, Bruce was keenly aware of this danger and planned accordingly.
Christian Walker, an ordinary human, who once has a super power and was known as Diamond, now serves as a detective capturing and bringing those with powers to justice. Walker is the protagonist of POWERS, and he carries the weight of the loss of his powers. Initially, Walker is very much a man haunted by a glorious past that lingers. A washed up quarterback. A former star. He’s all those things and more.
Saddled with a spunky and impulsive partner in Deena Pilgrim, Christian, along with a host of secondary characters both powers (meta humans) and humans, investigate super-powered crimes. The world-building is amazing. The evolution of Deena and Christian throughout the series also demonstrates Bendis’ writing skills unchecked by someone else’s cannon or character.
POWERS is Bendis set free. It is what independent comic book creators are doing every single day. Breaking the mold of traditional DC and Marvel comic’s storytelling.
POWERS is two-fisted action. Sex. Violence. Mystery. Origin Story. Redemption.
And it is glorious. Gritty. Dark. Delicious. Every single freakin’ bite.
In a word, it’s pulp noir at its absolute sharpest. The writing slices through traditional stereotypes with razor precision, and at times when it looks as if Bendis is feeding right into a traditional storyline or characterization, he kicks the legs out from under it.
Recently POWERS made its live-action debut on Playstation Network (PSN). The casting director kept the characters, but cast Deena Pilgrim as a black woman. In fact, t felt like they’d blended Detective Sunshine and Deena into one character. It didn’t change my feelings for the show, or my love for Deena. In fact, Deena’s troubles seem much more plausible as an African-American female given the amount of challenges we face in our everyday life.
It’s hard to transition a comic book to live action Netflix’s Daredevil not withstanding. Because it was streamed via PSN, Bendis’s baby, POWERS, didn’t have the budget necessary to fully realize Bendis’s world-building. The actor portraying Christian Walker didn’t have the build, swagger, or anything else to make me identify him as WALKER.
So, honestly, I checked out of it fairly soon. It has been granted a season 2, so I will most likely make another attempt to watch the actual series.
For now, I returned to the POWERS comic and re-read them. Revisiting the world I found most enjoyable and Oeming’s illustrations. I knew those characters. I knew their stories. They spoke to me about the challenges of responsibility, class, racism, poverty, sexism, and all the other –isms that plague humanity.
It also had loyalty, redemption, and sacrifice.
Those wonderful other powers that resonate in each human being.
And if POWERS taught me anything, it’s that I don’t have to be a meta-human to use them.
October wasBlack Speculative Fiction Month, but we’re not done celebrating awesome pulp stories by and about people of color! Pulp Fiction Fridays guest author is Kimberly Richardson. Authors will contribute a post discussing pulp, mystery, spies, and whodunits in the realms of science fiction and speculative. Welcome to Kimbery to Pulp Reports.
What is Pulp? If you were to ask ten authors, you would receive 11 responses. For me, Pulp is the classic adventure story. You have your “good” character who has either been hired or is on a search or quest, and your “bad” character who can also be seen as the good character’s nemesis. Both characters or groups of characters that fall within those two classifications believe that what they are setting out to do is the “right thing” for either themselves or for the world. Pulp also involves a lot of action scenes and there is also a moment when the good character “stumbles”, yet rises again stronger and better. To me, I feel that other genres do have a sense of Pulp in them; the action, good vs. bad, and the moment of triumph.
I write Pulp because Tommy Hancock told me to! Just kidding! I began writing Pulp because it was a new field for me. Most of my work is dark fantasy, so when I was asked to submit a story for Pro Se Press’ anthology Black Pulp, I figured I would give it a shot. What I didn’t realize was that the story would begin a series that has exceeded my expectations. My second Pulp story, titled The Master of Tea, was just published in the recent Asian Pulp, also through Pro Se Press.
Once again, and this time I’m serious, Tommy Hancock inspired me to write in the genre. I owe him a great thanks for it and I can’t wait to write more!
I think the genre will incorporate more of other genres, even more so than now. So far, I have two Pulp stories and both of them incorporate a lot of fantasy and the supernatural. Seeing as how there has been a lot of crossover with mystery, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, and the like, I’d like to see more of Pulp within those genres and vice versa.
My favourite Pulp character is The Pulptress. After reading Andrea Judy’s work regarding the Bone Queen, I was hooked. The Pulptress is a strong character who is up for any challenge and doesn’t back down from a fight or a sticky situation. She is intelligent and resourceful.