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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dystopia Pointing to Utopia In Science Fiction


Early 20th Century Depiction of a Futuristic City
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons



Last week’s blog  was about Martin Luther King’s Dream as a utopian vision and its relation to science fiction. I said it relates to science fiction because the genre is basically a vision of social change for the future, good or bad. There is the utopia and the dystopia, the first one being the perfect or ideal society the second being a messed up society struggling to remain intact. Many might say that if all science fiction is utopian or teaches a need for a utopia then it’s boring because there’s no story or it sounds too much like a lecture. That’s not necessarily true. Science fiction does not have to take place in a utopian society in order to convey a need for social change. In fact, the best science fiction is probably just the opposite: dystopic yet often serving as a warning so we won’t allow such a bleak future to occur and so we can work towards the utopic.

Science fiction being visionary shows us where we might go as a society. It shows how future technology or scientific discovery can impact us. Good sci fi will do this without preaching and therefore without sounding like a boring lecture. However, there is science fiction that talks about social reform more overtly. Authors such as Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood have done this yet without sounding like lecturers and so have done it well. So whether it intends to or not, if science fiction is written well it will serve as a social commentary about both present and future society regardless of the time period it is set in.  

Like much of art and literature of any genre, science fiction is a starting point for social awareness.The best sci fi asks the what-if question: “What if we can download our consciences to computers?”; “What if we come in contact with aliens” (a more typical and classic example); “What if we could change our biological identities anytime we wanted to?” Then it shows how these phenomena effect society by showing how characters respond to them. Some examples: stories that show people downloading their consciences to machines might show the drive for capitalising on those consciences and the controversy it brings; humans will turn racist toward aliens that settle on our planet; if people could change their biological identities anytime they wanted to, there might be more crime in the world that would eventually lead to anarchy. Any of these three examples can lead to a dystopia even if they started out with utopian intentions on the characters’ parts, such as introducing instant biological identity shifting for reasons of annihilating inequality.

So science fiction can serve as a vision for utopian purposes even if it’s set in dystopian societies.  It criticizes society by showing what may happen to it if necessary changes are not made.

Things to Come

Speaking about necessary changes, I may have to change my agenda a little for The Hidden. Instead of publishing my short stories in this second collection, I am thinking about publishing each individual story as its own book first, mostly through Kindle. The good news is that readers would be able to buy each story for a lower price than they would an entire collection. I will eventually publish the stories under one collection as originally planned, it’s just that I won’t be doing it right away. I found out that putting all of them into one book is going to take a little longer than I originally thought. I’ll talk more about my reasons for this change in plans next time.  For now let me leave you with that and some further reading relevant to science fiction as social criticism. You can purchase each of the items below by clicking on their links.

Further Reading 





Until next time . . .




Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Sci Fi Tribute to Martin Luther King Day: Afrofuturism

This week has been one of tragic loss of two people in science fiction and fantasy, and also commemorates a tragic loss that occurred more than 40 years ago. As many of you already know, we lost former rock star David Bowie and Harry Potter actor Alan Rickman. It's easy to see how Rickman relates to the world of sci fi/fantasy but, unless you're a Bowie fan, it's perhaps not as known how Bowie relates to it (unless you happen to be a fan of the '80s movie, Labyrinth, which I'm not although Bowie's acting in it was good). But Bowie produced many sci fi-related songs and albums, his most popular being Ziggy Stardust (which was also a movie he starred in) and another that is perhaps not as popular but said by Westword.com to be very good is Low

David Bowie playing guitar as Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie on guitar as Ziggy Stardust
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Alan Rickman of the "Harry Potter" films
Alan Rickman of the Harry Potter films
Photo Credit: David Shankbon/Wikimedia Commons


A loss that was tragically experienced by the nation in 1968 was Martin Luther King, Jr. He may not have many close speculative fiction connections, at least not overtly, but he is relevant to this blog in a very big way: He was a visionary like many sci fi and fantasy artists. He had a vision for a future America, even a future world as a whole in certain respects, which at that time could have been considered a science fiction but one that was meant to turn into science fact, social science fact to be exact: an America of racial equality. Unfortunately, the vision hasn’t turned into science fact. It is becoming science fact. Blacks, as with many minorities of colour, have moved up in society a great deal since the ‘60s. For example, we have blacks who star as strong, major characters in movies unlike most movies in the ‘60s and back. The latest example is John Boyega who plays Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The reason I say that King’s vision is becoming science fact is because racism is not dead. The causes of the Black Lives Matter movement are examples of this. So this “science fiction”, this vision, is becoming science fact and much of it has already become it, but much more still has to materialise. The vision of equality is not only limited to racial issues but other social issues such as women’s rights, disability rights and tolerance of marginalized religions like Islam (marginalized in the western world, at least).

Such a vision is a major element of the black science fiction movement now becoming more known--Afrofuturism. If you're clueless to what Afrofuturism is specifically, check out one of my earlier posts at the links to below. The links make up a list of Afrofuturism sources, a list I conjured up as a tribute to Martin Luther King's ongoing dream. It's in no way exhaustive. So if you know of any other sources, please list them in the box below. Let’s all continue contributing to making the vision, the Dream, come true.

Afrofuturism Sources


I discuss Afrofuturism a little in this earlier Far Out Fantastic Finds post.  

A short post from last month about W.E.B. Dubois' science fiction. However, there is a link there to the Examiner article I did on the topic that gives a little more information.
   


This article talks about black super heroes, particularly Marvel Comics’ Black Panther who they will be making a movie of. It also talks about the fictional nation of Wakanda in the Black Panther comics as a kind of African utopia and futuristic society.

This New York Times calendar of events talks a little about the Black Comic-Book Festival running this weekend at the New York Public Library and black science fiction.


Nichelle Nichols as "Lt. Uhura" from "Star Trek" the Original Series
Nichelle Nichols of the original Star Trek series was one of the first black actresses to play a major role in a science fiction TV show.
Photo Credit: NBC Television/Wikimedia Commons



Until next time . . .

Monday, January 11, 2016

Good Sci fi News for a New Year and Writer’s Resolutions

2016 New Years greeting within a mosaic style border.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com


I hope everybody had a great holiday season. Mine was groovy. One of the best gifts I got was from my brother. He knows how much I like Neil Gaiman’s work so he got me Gaiman’s latest biography, The Art of Neil Gaiman: The Story of a Writer by Hayley Campbell. Campbell does a super job telling the story of Gaiman’s career as a writer and uses abundant photos and interview clips.

I’ve been a little burned out from writing several articles for clients over the weekend and so that’s why I’m posting late again, but I should be back on my Saturday publishing schedule this weekend now that the holiday rush is done. I’ve also had a bit of a cold today and so have been mostly taking it easy on this slightly moanday Monday, so I’m going to keep this post simple and short. I said I would post my writing resolutions for the new year but first I want to leave you with a couple of links to good sci fi news to start the year off.

Print books have actually rose again and so more werepurchased in 2015! While this may be news that already occurred last year, it actually occurred at the end so it can be considered news that carries into 2016. So, hopefully print books will have a greater influence on both the market and reading culture this year. This, however, in no way means that ebooks are out. People still don’t like lugging a pile of books around when they travel, so there’s still sales to be made with ebooks. But at least the art of tangible books will be around for a while longer, hopefully a lot longer.

The other good news is that more people read science fiction and fantasy last year! That shows you the speculative genre is becoming more popular and mainstream, even among books. Check out more about these two trends at io9.com.  

Speaking about the greater acceptance of sci fi and fantasy literature, the other great news is that the New York Times published their first science fiction/fantasy book review column! You can find out more in my article at Examiner.com. 

And now my writers’ resolutions for 2016:

  • Write a whole novel(la) (first draft).
  • Make a stricter and more organized writing schedule.
  • Learn a new medium to promote my work (e.g. video, podcasting).
  • Improve my networking. I tend to take too much work on my own thinking I can do it all.
  • Invite more guest bloggers. I’m going to try to feature more this year. So people who are interested in guest-blogging, please let me know in the box below and we’ll set something up that works best for you.
  • Guest-blog at least twice this year. Those of you who are looking for a guest blogger-- again, talk to me in the box below.

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So what are your writers’ or readers’ resolutions for the new year?


Until next time . . .