July 13, 2009

Diversity Roll Call: Fantasy or Science Fiction

Our blog joins a new weekly meme created by the folks at Worducopia and Color Online. This meme, Diversity Roll Call, seeks to diversify our reading habits.

This week the focus is on science fiction and fantasy, two genres where people of color are often absent or sidekicks, but rarely the main character.

I am a science fiction fan. I read most of the books by Robert Heinlein and Larry Niven when I was a youngster. These were great stories about space, people, relationships and the future. Unfortunately, there were no African Americans in these stories.

So, I was blown away when I first began to read books by Octavia Butler. She had a vision for the future of our world that was often very bleak. However, she always have strong Black characters that are dealing with the elements, situations and issues like religion. Oddly, my favorite Octavia Butler story isn't about the future ... rather it is about the past. The book called, Kindred, tells the story of a modern-day Black woman transported into the American slavery era. It describes how a modern-day liberated sister would deal with life in a society that treats her as chattel rather than as a human being.

Another author that I like is Walter Mosley. This African American dabbled into science fiction with a book called Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World. Mosley is best known for his series of novels featuring characters like Easy and Mouse. It is wonderful to see him demonstrate creative range with this science fiction work set a generation from now.

Your assignment: spotlight science fiction and fantasy titles where people of color are the leads, works by people of color in these genres or discuss your thoughts about race in these genres. Do you notice the absence of color? In what ways is race portrayed in fantasy and science fiction beyond using traditional racial terms like black and white? If the book covers prominently features people of color, does it affect your perception? Are we more comfortable with imaginary characters versus different race in these works?


Color Online said...

Fantastic! Thanks for participating. Did you link at Color Online? Want readers to know you posted. If you didn't drop the link I will. Will come by to see what Villagers have to say.

For those who are interested in Roll Call, we alternate the assignment bi-weekly between Color Online and Worducopia.

I love Kindred. I've read 8(?) Butler titles. I love how she turns social mores and conventions on their heads. Relevant, challenging social critique.

I'm currently hosting a 9 book giveaway at Color Online. Do you remember Zetta Elliott? Well, her book, A Wish After Midnight has been rightly praised for it's comparison to Kindred. This YA novel is contemporary time travel. You want to get to know Genna and how she draws parallels to domestic terrorism, 9/11 and nationalism.

Giveaway open to all. Look forward to reading Roll Call entries from EV members.

Thanks again.

Villager said...

Color Online - I appreciate the efforts that you place into increasing reading and literacy amongst Black folks. Hopefully, this meme will continue to move us in that direction.

I did share link on Color Online earlier this morning.

I have never heard of Zetta Elliott. Of course, I never heard of Tanarive Due until last month. I read Due's 'Joplin's Ghost' last month. I will look for Zetta Elliott next time that I'm at the library based on your comments.

Currently, I'm reading 'The Shack'.

Color Online said...


Zetta came by here when you interviewed me. You might not find her book at the library. She self-published. No major house picked up her book. You can get it through Amazon. You can win a copy at Color Online. Drop a comment in the giveaway thread.

Zetta has written an award winning children's book as well. You'll find my interview with her at Color Online.

Have you read any Nalo Hopkinson?

Happy reading.

Color Online said...

Zetta Elliott's first picture book, BIRD, has “unusual depth and raw conviction… [the] child-centered narrative excels.” ~ starred review, Kirkus Reviews. Find out more about BIRD at http://www.leeandlow.com/books/176/hc/bird

“Zetta Elliott’s time travel novel A Wish After Midnight is a bit of a revelation…It’s vivid, violent and impressive history." ~ Colleen Mondor, Bookslut. View the trailer for A WISH AFTER MIDNIGHT at http://vimeo.com/2959156

Discover other titles from Rosetta Press at www.zettaelliott.wordpress.

Anonymous said...

Hey Villager.

Man, I didn't know you were a sci-fi fan??!! Me too. BIG TIME. Just like you, I was reading all that stuff as a kid. Asimov. Heinlein. Ray Bradbury. Jules Verne.

And just like you, when I read Octavia Butler my head exploded. "Kindred" and "Wildseed" were my favorites.

She really blew down the doors, man. She really did.

Villager said...

Keith - Talking about Butler's 'Wildseed' is making me want to go back and read it again.

re: Asimov - I loved his whole concept of robots and the 3 laws of robotics. Amazing to think that he did this work back in the 1950s and 1960.

re: Heinlein - I enjoyed his story-telling. My favorite was my first ... 'Stranger in a Strange Land'. However, the Heinlein character that I enjoyed the most was Lazurus ... the guy who lived forever!

Martin Lindsey. said...

How about the Mighty Ace and his Omega 7 team of super heroes? I bought a copy of this Black comic years ago at the Indiana Black Expo and it's in amazingly good shape actually. Even got an autographed t-shirt from the creator Alonzo Washington.

Not the same level as novels and book length fiction but hey, some of the biggest comic book consumers are adults. You can still make your kids aware of the series as well.


Villager said...

Marty - I've never heard of Omega 7 or Mighty Ace until your comment. I guess that my comic book days are well behind me (smile)!

susan said...


Have you read Glyphs by Rich Watson?


Anonymous said...

Hey, Villager--I, too, love Octavia Butler and Kindred had a profound impact on me. Many thanks to Susan for tirelessly promoting my YA novel, A Wish After Midnight. I know Kindred is taught in high schools here in Brooklyn, and I teach it at the college level; I just thought I novel with a similar time-travel twist might appeal to teens if the main character was someone they could relate to (someone contemporary, their age, etc.). If you'd like a complimentary review copy, just let me know!

Color Online said...

Here's my entry: Nalo Hopkinson

Claudia said...

Thanks for participating in the Roll Call! I'm a big fan of Butler too, but I have never been able to find a book my Mosley that really holds my interest - so I'll certainly take a look at Futureland. Thanks!