We’ve reached the double digits!!
My continuing series on Fridays where I share excerpts of writing that I’ve done in the past through writing prompts, random stream of consciousness, parts of larger works, or as part of my 100-200 daily word exercises.
The point being to attempt to examine what I’ve done for clarity sake and whether or not I can make sense of it…not only to those who read it but to myself as well. Or I highlight something else that I’m interested in that week and want to speak at length about. Vomiting out words if you will.
It’s been a looooooooooooong week at work. True to form, I’ve been pretty exhausted and my favorite phrase of ‘Life Happens’ has been ringing in my head. But there was never any threat of me not putting out a post for today. Truth be told, I was looking forward to it. Especially after stumbling upon an awesome picture on Facebook back on Wednesday.
The header by itself gave me pause: “A Lord of the Rings-inspired space opera wants to reconnect people with African mythology.” You can bet I was intrigued and clicked the image to be taken to an article speaking on Louise-Julie, an American born artist with a rich cultural background. Through a trip spent abroad in Burkina Faso in West Africa, he learned of a rich culture he previously was unaware of through a Senegalese storyteller. The result would make him want to fuse Tolkien-like fantasy concepts and operatic science fiction themes with African mythology. Something not often done.
Now I’m not doing this simply to draw attention to their site. Or to necessarily put more eyes on that project (although I wouldn’t mind supporting it in some way). Instead, I wanted to establish proper context before expanding upon an idea that’s been growing inside me for a while now.
Diversity in fiction.
It’s a topic that needs to be discussed. My aim though, is a bit more specific. The ‘specific’ being in science fiction. This holds a special place for me because it’s my favorite genre of fiction. I have fond memories of growing up watching The Twilight Zone with my father, attempting to figure out the deeper meanings behind the themes and the characters in the show (it still remains my favorite show of all time). I still try to catch a few episodes every New Years when they run a marathon on the SciFi channel. My favorite comic book character is the Silver Surfer, who was literally created by a space god named Galactus to travel the universe and find him sustenance, experiencing firsthand the cosmic wonders of everything we wish we could see here on Earth. I was, am, and will probably always be a Physics nerd, begging my parents to buy me books on our solar system when I was young and looking up periodic elements and their natural occurring states for fun as an adult (no surprise that I was in the science club back in middle school).
The point being that I love the idea of starting with reality, and what we have already determined with cold hard facts (i.e. how fast light travels, gravity, etc), and then nudge it away from that comfortable center point, stretching the confines of normalcy. I love envisioning a world like Star Wars and seeing the parallels in society attempting to fight against their morals being corrupted…..albeit with people who are highly trained with lightsabers and can affect reality on command. I like video games like the Fallout series, that envision a slightly parallel earth that skewed following the 1950s with nuclear annihilation effecting the planet, and things like the Mass Effect series, which demonstrated the pinnacle of cross species cohabitation, truly pushing our view of the future to its limit (more on that great series HERE).
Through my childhood and adolescence, I didn’t really think too hard on the stories that I read and who were in them; and more importantly, who WASN’T in them. I focused instead on faster-than-light travel, new alien species, main characters exploring the vast cosmos, and much more. However, it wasn’t until college that I started to noticed something deeper.
I didn’t see anyone that looked like me.
Now of course I’m not dealing in absolutes. Every now and then, you’d find smatterings of racial diversity sprinkled amongst the stories I read/watched. But that was rarely in the titular role or extending past cameos or stereotypes. It’s fascinating to be thinking about that now, especially with the current climate in the country and mainstream America finally in tune with the idea that there is systemic inequality.
This topics means a lot to me not just because I’m a black man (surprise if you didn’t see my ‘About’ page!) but because it’s important to tell the WHOLE story. It’s more than just black and white faces……I want to see all races, women, transgendered, gay, and everything else underneath the sun represented equally and executed in a manner that doesn’t play on cultural stereotypes unless the narrative has a specific reason for it; and while culture adds an extremely interesting perspective and dimension to science fiction, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a determining factor. Maybe it’s enough for a young kid to see someone who looks just like him or her doing something extraordinarily cool, to motivate them to aspire for the same heights in something positive down the road?
Being an adult doesn’t remove that feeling of intrigue either. Do you know how excited I am to see someone like John Boyega as a lead role in Star Wars?! Believe it or not, people love to experience new things; and while we’ve begun to see some change, there’s still SO FAR we have to go. A plethora of new authors and ideas are taking root, planting seeds in what was once a homogeneous genre of storytelling; and I can only look forward to the next ten years.
Here’s hoping I can be a part of it by then.
Until next time.
*Once again, the image used above is from the Quartz Africa website. All credit to them. Visit their site (with more information on the project I spoke on) HERE.
*Credit goes to Amanda Mason for the above ‘Word Vomit’ image. Copyright 2014 at http://www.creativetake.net/