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Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction

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"Black and Brown Planets" embarks on a timely exploration of the American obsession with color in its look at the sometimes contrary intersections of politics and race in science fiction. The contributors, including De Witt D. Kilgore, Edward James, Lisa Yaszek, and Marleen S. Barr, among others, explore science fiction worlds of possibility (literature, television, and fi "Black and Brown Planets" embarks on a timely exploration of the American obsession with color in its look at the sometimes contrary intersections of politics and race in science fiction. The contributors, including De Witt D. Kilgore, Edward James, Lisa Yaszek, and Marleen S. Barr, among others, explore science fiction worlds of possibility (literature, television, and film), lifting blacks, Latin Americans, and indigenous peoples out from the background of this historically white genre. This collection considers the role of race and ethnicity in our visions of the future. The first section emphasizes the political elements of black identity portrayed in science fiction from black America to the vast reaches of interstellar space framed by racial history. In the next section, analysis of indigenous science fiction addresses the effects of colonization, helps discard the emotional and psychological baggage carried from its impact, and recovers ancestral traditions in order to adapt in a post-Native-apocalyptic world. Likewise, this section explores the affinity between science fiction and subjectivity in Latin American cultures from the role of science and industrialization to the effects of being in and moving between two cultures. By infusing more color in this otherwise monochrome genre, "Black and Brown Planets" imagines alternate racial galaxies with viable political futures in which people of color determine human destiny. CONTENTS: Introduction: “Coloring Science Fiction” by Isiah Lavender III Part One – Black Planets: “The Bannekerade: Genius, Madness and Magic in Black Science Fiction” by Lisa Yaszek “The Best is Yet to Come; or, Saving the Future: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Reform Astrofuturism” by De Witt Douglas Kilgore “Far Beyond the Star Pit: Samuel R. Delany” by Gerry Canavan “Digging Deep: Ailments of Difference in Octavia Butler’s The Evening and the Morning and the Night” by Isiah Lavender III “The Laugh of Anansi: Why Science Fiction is Pertinent to Black Children’s Literature Pedagogy” by Marleen S. Barr Part Two – Brown Planets: “Haint Stories Rooted in Conjure Science: Indigenous Scientific Literacies in Andrea Hairston’s Redwood and Wildfire” by Grace L. Dillon “Questing for an Indigenous Future: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony as Indigenous Science Fiction” by Patrick B. Sharp “Monteiro Lobato’s O presidente negro: Eugenics and the Corporate State in Brazil” by m. Elizabeth Ginway “Mestizaje and Heterotopia in Ernest Hogan’s High Aztech” by M. Rivera “Virtual Reality at the Border of Migration, Race, and Labor” by Matthew Goodwin “A Dis-(Orient)ation: Race, Technoscience, and The Windup Girl” by Malisa Kurtz “Yellow, Black, Metal, and Tentacled: The Race Question in American Science Fiction” by Edward James (updated with additional reflections ‘Twenty-Four Years On”) Coda: “The Wild Unicorn Herd Check-In: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction Fandom” by Robin Anne Reid


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"Black and Brown Planets" embarks on a timely exploration of the American obsession with color in its look at the sometimes contrary intersections of politics and race in science fiction. The contributors, including De Witt D. Kilgore, Edward James, Lisa Yaszek, and Marleen S. Barr, among others, explore science fiction worlds of possibility (literature, television, and fi "Black and Brown Planets" embarks on a timely exploration of the American obsession with color in its look at the sometimes contrary intersections of politics and race in science fiction. The contributors, including De Witt D. Kilgore, Edward James, Lisa Yaszek, and Marleen S. Barr, among others, explore science fiction worlds of possibility (literature, television, and film), lifting blacks, Latin Americans, and indigenous peoples out from the background of this historically white genre. This collection considers the role of race and ethnicity in our visions of the future. The first section emphasizes the political elements of black identity portrayed in science fiction from black America to the vast reaches of interstellar space framed by racial history. In the next section, analysis of indigenous science fiction addresses the effects of colonization, helps discard the emotional and psychological baggage carried from its impact, and recovers ancestral traditions in order to adapt in a post-Native-apocalyptic world. Likewise, this section explores the affinity between science fiction and subjectivity in Latin American cultures from the role of science and industrialization to the effects of being in and moving between two cultures. By infusing more color in this otherwise monochrome genre, "Black and Brown Planets" imagines alternate racial galaxies with viable political futures in which people of color determine human destiny. CONTENTS: Introduction: “Coloring Science Fiction” by Isiah Lavender III Part One – Black Planets: “The Bannekerade: Genius, Madness and Magic in Black Science Fiction” by Lisa Yaszek “The Best is Yet to Come; or, Saving the Future: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Reform Astrofuturism” by De Witt Douglas Kilgore “Far Beyond the Star Pit: Samuel R. Delany” by Gerry Canavan “Digging Deep: Ailments of Difference in Octavia Butler’s The Evening and the Morning and the Night” by Isiah Lavender III “The Laugh of Anansi: Why Science Fiction is Pertinent to Black Children’s Literature Pedagogy” by Marleen S. Barr Part Two – Brown Planets: “Haint Stories Rooted in Conjure Science: Indigenous Scientific Literacies in Andrea Hairston’s Redwood and Wildfire” by Grace L. Dillon “Questing for an Indigenous Future: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony as Indigenous Science Fiction” by Patrick B. Sharp “Monteiro Lobato’s O presidente negro: Eugenics and the Corporate State in Brazil” by m. Elizabeth Ginway “Mestizaje and Heterotopia in Ernest Hogan’s High Aztech” by M. Rivera “Virtual Reality at the Border of Migration, Race, and Labor” by Matthew Goodwin “A Dis-(Orient)ation: Race, Technoscience, and The Windup Girl” by Malisa Kurtz “Yellow, Black, Metal, and Tentacled: The Race Question in American Science Fiction” by Edward James (updated with additional reflections ‘Twenty-Four Years On”) Coda: “The Wild Unicorn Herd Check-In: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction Fandom” by Robin Anne Reid

50 review for Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    The only stuff like this I've read before was during my degree, when I read books on postcolonial fiction as part of my Welsh Fiction in English class. The whole topic fascinated me, particularly because of the parallels between Welsh fiction and that of other non-dominant identities, so I have kept an eye on fandom discussions, and become involved in some (on both the right and the wrong sides, sometimes simultaneously). That's not quite the same as reading a book like this one, with references The only stuff like this I've read before was during my degree, when I read books on postcolonial fiction as part of my Welsh Fiction in English class. The whole topic fascinated me, particularly because of the parallels between Welsh fiction and that of other non-dominant identities, so I have kept an eye on fandom discussions, and become involved in some (on both the right and the wrong sides, sometimes simultaneously). That's not quite the same as reading a book like this one, with references, formal language, bibliographies, etc. So I was interested to see how I got on with academic language again, since it's been a while. Fortunately for me, this one is on 'read now' on Netgalley. And unfortunately for me, as well as being an interesting exploration of race in SF, it's also generated a list of books I want to read/reread. For example, Malisa Kurtz's piece on Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl. I remember not enjoying that, but picking apart the complexities of it has made me interested all over again. I was also a big fan of De Witt Douglas Kilgore's essay discussing DS9, and Gerry Canavan's referencing it as well. I remember being quite a fan of DS9 as a kid, and never realising that Ben Sisko was that revolutionary a character. I just took him for granted. The possible link Kilgore draws between Sisko and Obama becoming present seems to me like a big jump because of that, but I'll keep my mouth shut on that one since that's very much a US politics thing. Oh, and I loved Isiah Lavender III's own essay on Octavia Butler's work; I haven't read enough Butler yet, but she's excellent and well worth the analysis. I don't know when, but I will be picking up some of the books -- both fiction and non-fiction -- mentioned in this collection, in future. It's an area of literature about which I know I've got tons to learn, and I hate having to admit ignorance. This makes a good start.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ernest Hogan

    You want to know what's been going on in science fiction this century, and where it's going in the future? Read this book. You want to know what's been going on in science fiction this century, and where it's going in the future? Read this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Definitely an enjoyable read and, despite the slightly intimidating name, a fairly smooth read. I have to give props to the editor for the diversity in topics-- it's not often that books on race in sci-fi consider more than Black and [email protected] US concerns (although some non-American continental writing would not have been out of place). The essays were, almost across the board, insightful and fascinating. Specifically, Grace Dillon, M. Elizabeth Ginway and Matthew Goodwin's pieces explored topics t Definitely an enjoyable read and, despite the slightly intimidating name, a fairly smooth read. I have to give props to the editor for the diversity in topics-- it's not often that books on race in sci-fi consider more than Black and [email protected] US concerns (although some non-American continental writing would not have been out of place). The essays were, almost across the board, insightful and fascinating. Specifically, Grace Dillon, M. Elizabeth Ginway and Matthew Goodwin's pieces explored topics that I haven't seen much of, and did it in an accessible way. The only flaws in the book were Isiah Lavender's own essay-- which neglected intersectional and historical concerns in favor of a straight-forward racial reading of "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" (I would have appreciated consideration of the treatment of disabled Black men and women, especially given that the story was written just after the height of the AIDs epidemic), and Robin Anne Reid's "The Wild Unicorn Herd Check-In". Reid's piece was interesting, but suffered from being quantitative analysis taken from a large thesis, and so fell a little flat. All in all, a satisfying collection.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    In his introduction to this collection of essays, Isiah Lavender III explains that Black and Brown Planets continues a conversation started in the science fiction community with Elisabeth Leonard’s 1997 anthology, Into Darkness Peering: Race and Color in the Fantastic. The cultural and literary criticism found here in looking at works of the recent past become particularly significant as we comprehend a future where, as Lavender III puts it, “the Western world ceases to be dominated by the white In his introduction to this collection of essays, Isiah Lavender III explains that Black and Brown Planets continues a conversation started in the science fiction community with Elisabeth Leonard’s 1997 anthology, Into Darkness Peering: Race and Color in the Fantastic. The cultural and literary criticism found here in looking at works of the recent past become particularly significant as we comprehend a future where, as Lavender III puts it, “the Western world ceases to be dominated by the white majority”: "SF has charted a few of the alternatives for this unknown territory, and the change presents both opportunities and challenges for society to establish new values. In short, skin color matters in our visions of the future…[To] transcend various repetitions of the color line – black, red, and brown – we must be conscious of these repetitions." As subtitled, Black and Brown Planets focuses on the politics (the strategy of obtaining a position of power/control) of race in science fiction with the essays divided into two parts. As with any criticism, it can be most fully appreciated if you are intimately familiar with the material being discussed. Yet, while helpful, I wouldn’t consider it essential for several of the essays here; they still have relevance that can be conveyed to interested readers. Part One focuses on the portrayal of Black identity in science fiction from the African-American to Afrofuturism to postcolonial analysis in general. Living in the United States, having traveled to Africa, and having studied some French postcolonial literature, I personally found this part of the collection to be more approachable and comprehensible due to familiarity. In this Black Planets part, essays by De Witt Douglas Kilgore and Gerry Canavan consider the simple but profound “Far Beyond the Stars” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which addresses racism and gender bias in the history of science fiction publication. Simultaneously, as Kilgore points out, the episode marks a contrast of the past to a present-day vision of the future where a Black man is a Starfleet captain, station commander, and a political and spiritual emissary to another race: an Afrocentric politic where “people of color determine human destiny” (as put by Lavender in his intro). Though I’ve seen “Far Beyond the Stars”, I haven’t read The Star Pit, the other focal point of Canavan’s essay. Similarly, I haven’t read The Evening and the Morning and the Night discussed in Lavender’s contribution. However, I have at least read enough works by Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler to be familiar with their style and themes, permitting me to appreciate the general critiques. In a way, extending Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor criticism, Lavender’s essay considers Butler’s story of disease as metaphor for race where “those suffering from [a] fictional genetic illness…are in fact victims of cultural racism.” I look forward to reading these stories and returning to their discussion in these essays anew. The final essay in the Black Planets portion of the book by Marleen S. Barr is noteworthy for offering appreciation for the power and potential the science fiction genre has had — and can achieve — to promote positive change from a young age. Yet, it also servers equally as a warning of how perpetuation of racial dominance or the ‘erasure’/’disregard’ of the Other’s presence in the genre can be dangerously manifested. Brown Planets makes up the second part of the collection and includes consideration of Hispanic, Amerindian (indigenous), and, briefly, Oriental identity in science fiction. The specific discussions of these essays were admittedly harder for me to grasp, but their overall themes of addressing the effects of colonization and postcolonial recovery (return to the traditional) should be clear to all. Likewise, the connection of this process to the apocalyptic genre is intriguing. The second portion also contains interesting reflections on the science fiction themes of technological and/or corporate dominance and how these are used in plots and settings to alienate and repress. This analysis for me was clearest in Malisa Kurtz’ essay — again because of my familiarity with the subject, in this case her focus on the works of Paolo Bacigalupi. Bacigalupi’s works are intentionally disquieting in terms of technology, class, and environment. But for some reason, I had not recognized their equal critique of racial inequity that continues to be violently perpetuated in the bleak futures that many of his stories serve to paint. Lavender concludes Black and Brown Planets with a “coda”, an essay by Robin Anne Reid that is one part criticism and one part data compilation/statistical analysis. Subtitled “The Politics of Race in Science Fiction Fandom”, it begins equally with the politics of gender. Reid reviews the formation of the Carl Brandon Society at “the oldest and only feminist science fiction convention”, WisCon, in 1999. Forming in response to Delany’s 1998 article, “Racism and Science Fiction,” in The New York Review of Science Fiction, the group took its name from a 1950s fictional black fan invented by Terry Carr and Peter Graham. Its mission is “to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction,” and its vision is “a world in which speculative fiction, about complex and diverse cultures from writers of all backgrounds, is used to understand the present and model possible futures; and where people of color are full citizens in the community of imagination and progress.” She then proceeds to relate the online fan ‘call-out’ dubbed The Wild Unicorn Check-In, where fans of color responded to a generalization by Lois McMaster Bujold by ‘calling out’ the white science fiction community for remaining ignorant of their existence (both present and past) in this “community of imagination and progress.” Bujold’s comment was viewed as a form of erasure, similar to one that can occur in alternate-history forms of science fiction where exploitations or non-dominant cultures are glossed over or excised. After the historical background is established, Reid sets out to present an ontological study of this fan ‘call-out’ through a series of tables that illustrate the diversity of terms that were used by fans as self-identification: racial, ethnic, national, etc. I found Reid’s essay particularly relevant in light of another fictional fan (in this case an invented reviewer persona that served as social critique/performance art) and the questionable behaviors in reaction to her recent identification online. This incidence reinforces the points of Reid’s critique and The Wild Unicorn Chick-In itself. Namely, that “erasure of entire cultures based on racism exists, as do erasures of women and queer people” and that both the politics of race and gender continue to rear their ugly heads as individuals either willingly or unwillingly act/react to maintain dominance and control, perceived or actual. The coda thereby serves as a fitting close to the collection, illustrating that the concerns of Black and Brown Planets extends beyond the physical pages of science fiction publications to the social interactions of the community itself, even online. Though it is the end to Lavender’s collection, he speaks in the introductory acknowledgements of additional essays that he couldn’t include, presumably due to length and publication costs. I recommend checking these essays out and will hope that this collection’s success will permit a follow-up, including discussion of African literature which is beyond the scope of this collection. Disclaimer: I received an electronic advanced reading copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Review originally posted at skiffyandfanty.com

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    As a scholarly anthology, I expected to get more out of this than I ended up drawing from these essays. The anthology is not bad by any means, but I question if Lavender went too broad with this collection's focus. Analysis of concepts such as the Bannekerade that Lisa Yaszek writes about and the limitations of Star Treks approach to race prior to Deep Space Nine in Kilgore's contribution represent some of this anthology's high points, but I found many of the Brown Planet section essays to be to As a scholarly anthology, I expected to get more out of this than I ended up drawing from these essays. The anthology is not bad by any means, but I question if Lavender went too broad with this collection's focus. Analysis of concepts such as the Bannekerade that Lisa Yaszek writes about and the limitations of Star Treks approach to race prior to Deep Space Nine in Kilgore's contribution represent some of this anthology's high points, but I found many of the Brown Planet section essays to be too scattered in focus to be engaging in a coherent scholarly conversation beyond the broad strokes covered in both Edward James's original "Yellow, Black, Metal, and Tentacled" and "Reflections on" the aforementioned essay. I feel this may just be a byproduct of Brown serving as a stand-in for such a wide array of disparate ethnic identities that span multiple continents, whereas Black identities, though far from a monolith, describes a group of people with a single continental heritage that may commingle with other identities but has largely been unified by the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The essays in Black section do not seem to investigate the variance that can occur when directing throughout African ethnic cultures or the multitude of fusion cultures that emerge amongst Black people outside of the United States, which is great for an Americanist like me, but could disappoint readers wanting more of an international approach to Black authored Science Fiction. These critiques aside, Isiah Lavender III's Black and Brown Planets is likely to excite anyone interested in Afrofuturism, though they may best enjoy the anthology focusing on the essays that most directly pertain to their scholarly interests.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Subdee

    Good mix of deep readings of individual SF stories and overviews of what's been done in the genre, I liked the essays on the Bannekerade (Lisa Yaszek) and virtual reality in Mexico (Matthew Goodwin) and the overview on race in sci fi (Edward James) the best. The essay on Paulo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl is convincing me that maybe I should give it another try, I really really really hated it the first time through. Good mix of deep readings of individual SF stories and overviews of what's been done in the genre, I liked the essays on the Bannekerade (Lisa Yaszek) and virtual reality in Mexico (Matthew Goodwin) and the overview on race in sci fi (Edward James) the best. The essay on Paulo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl is convincing me that maybe I should give it another try, I really really really hated it the first time through.

  7. 5 out of 5

    behemothing

    Really solid collection of interesting essays, lots to add to my reading list. I really enjoyed Lisa Yaszek's conception of the "Bannekerade" (based on the "Edisonade") and how specific ideas about race and marginalization changed the way these narratives discuss technology, statecraft, and the future. Really solid collection of interesting essays, lots to add to my reading list. I really enjoyed Lisa Yaszek's conception of the "Bannekerade" (based on the "Edisonade") and how specific ideas about race and marginalization changed the way these narratives discuss technology, statecraft, and the future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Liz De Coster

    A strong collection of essays, discussing racial issues in the science fiction community as well as providing commentary on specific works both contemporary and historic.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

  10. 4 out of 5

    Monolatry

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jasmin

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cole Jack

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rose

  14. 5 out of 5

    Iris

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Erickson

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    813.08762 B6271b 2014

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sage

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Theaker

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liana

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elta

  23. 5 out of 5

    K

  24. 4 out of 5

    EDDY

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rt

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katerina

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eldritch Reading Reindeer 2021 In Cobwebs

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  30. 5 out of 5

    Z

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jaymee Goh

  32. 4 out of 5

    Mely

  33. 5 out of 5

    David

  34. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

  35. 5 out of 5

    Yulande Lindsay

  36. 5 out of 5

    Taya

  37. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

  38. 5 out of 5

    Ayla

  39. 5 out of 5

    Maree

  40. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Artis

  41. 4 out of 5

    Olivier

  42. 5 out of 5

    Cat

  43. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  44. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  45. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  46. 4 out of 5

    Besha

  47. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Murray

  48. 4 out of 5

    Richard S. He

  49. 4 out of 5

    BMR, LCSW

  50. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

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