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Science Fiction Can Rescue Black Communities

By Stafford L. Battle Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier | 10/17/2013, 6:33 p.m.
Zoe Saldana plays Nyota Uhura in the reboot "Star Trek" franchise.

(BlackNews.com) — October has been dubbed African American Speculative Fiction Month by a group of online enthusiasts. This was done to acknowledge the writers, artists, entertainers and independent publishers around the country and elsewhere who are producing science fiction narratives, performances and art featuring Afrocentric themes. African Americans also use October to celebrate the merger of science and the arts via AFROFuturism.

Speculative fiction encourages people to look beyond their day-to-day existence and consider new possibilities that could benefit and enrich their lives. AFROFuturism incorporates novels, short stories, comic books, graphic arts, music, dance, video and other artistic forms that embrace science fiction and fantasy — for entertainment, encouragement and education.

The unofficial hub of African American speculative fiction is Atlanta, Georgia.

During October for the last three years, the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History has offered readings, panel discussions, music and art demonstrating the Afrocentric involvement in science fiction and fantasy.

Digital communities such as “The Afrofuturist Affair”, “The Black Science Fiction Society” and “The Black Author Showcase” have sponsored online and offline activities to promote Black sci-fi and fantasy not only during October but throughout the year.

Black writers, artists, and filmmakers are gaining popularity as well as earning a few extra dollars. Book sales are low compared to urban romance and celebrity authors. But profitability is improving as more readers are exposed to Black sci-fi and fantasy. New titles are being published traditionally and independently.

Conventions and special events are drawing larger, multicultural audiences who are anxious to meet new writers and artists as well as pay homage to established Black Science Fiction icons such as Samuel Delany, Steven Barnes, Walter Mosley, and LaVar Burton. There are several well attended Black oriented comic book conventions such as the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia and ONYXCON in Atlanta.

According to public opinion and casual surveys at conferences and online, African Americans have moved beyond the desire to simply drink from a forbidden water fountain or live in a prestigious neighborhood outside of crowded urban centers; that was the past. People of African descent now can envision living on gravity-free space stations, traveling to distant planets or stars, building fantastic devices and molding new societies. Science and its literary kin, Speculative Fiction, is the catalyst for a dynamic and prosperous future.

Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to become a U.S. astronaut is currently working on humanity’s first starship. Her goal: “to help change the world by leading the effort to send and sustain humans in interstellar space travel within the next 100 years.” It has taken NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, the fastest man-made object to date, more than three decades just to penetrate the outer edge of the solar system to enter interstellar space. A conventional spaceship traveling to the nearest star, more than four light years away (25 trillion miles) would need 70,000 years to arrive at the destination. But the 100 Year Starship project is exploring techniques to reduce that travel time to a few decades or even hours.