An interesting piece on black SF and the challenges faced by authors and fans. It’s funny, I was just talking about this the other day, and I could have seriously used this article in my argument. Mental note: postpone all arguments for four days.
In the last decade, sci-fi/fantasy fans of color have begun creating their own communities. These spaces are necessary in a world where they stand out as geeks among blacks, and as “the other” in the speculative-fiction world. There are conferences such as 2004’s “Black to the Future: A Black Science Fiction Festival” in Seattle, and Web communities such as SciFiNoir (groups.yahoo.com/group/scifi noir2), the Carl Brandon Society (carlbrandon.org), and Afrofuturism (afrofuturism.net). The books “Dark Matter” and “Visions of the Third Millennium” show that the black contribution to science fiction goes beyond the well-known names of Delany and Butler. M. Asli Dukan is finishing a documentary about this unique community called “Invisible Universe: A History of Blackness in Speculative Fiction.”
“It’s tiny,” says Nalo Hopkinson, 46, from her Toronto home, of the black sci-fi community. “And it’s happening in an environment in which, particularly in the US, to talk about race is to be seen as racist. You become the problem because you bring up the problem. So you find people who are hesitant to talk about it.”
It’s also complicated. In his essay in “Dark Matter” titled “Racism and Science Fiction,” Delany writes about how race constricts black writers. He describes being paired with Hopkinson during a book signing at Readercon in 1998, and how grouping blacks together can affect how they’re perceived. “One of [racism's] strongest manifestations is as a socio-visual system in which people become used to always seeing blacks with other blacks and so — because people are used to it — being uncomfortable whenever they see blacks mixed in, at whatever proportion, with whites,” he wrote.