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A Companion


Edited By Jack Fennell

What is Sci-Fi?

Science fiction is a non-realist genre that foregrounds a sense of material plausibility, insisting that despite seeming outlandish, it is consonant with history and the laws of nature. By turns subtle and bombastic, sci-fi revels in discovery and revelation, whether through human ingenuity or world-altering paradigm shifts. The same impulse informs both the idealism of Star Trek and the existential terror of Frankenstein.

Each chapter of this book examines a specific trope or theme through a different critical lens – including eco-criticism, feminism and historicism – while also providing a historical overview of the genre, from its disputed origins to the pulp era, the New Wave, and the exponential growth of Afrofuturism and Indigenous Futurisms. Revered masters such as Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler and Iain M. Banks are considered alongside newer talents, including Rebecca Roanhorse and N. K. Jemisin. Other chapters provide overviews of different media, from television (Doctor Who, Westworld) to comics/manga (2000AD, Métal Hurlant), video games (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) and theatre (Alistair McDowall’s X).

Sci-Fi: A Companion not only provides an accessible introduction to sci-fi for general readers and researchers alike, but also illuminates new approaches to a familiar genre.

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Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018) – Afrofuturism (Isiah Lavender III)


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Isiah Lavender III

Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018)

Afrofuturism has seemingly been around for a long time, twenty-five years more or less, dating back to Mark Dery’s original definition in 1993. Dery states:

speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth century technoculture – and, more generally, African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future – might for want of a better term, be called ‘Afrofuturism’. (Dery 1993: 736)

In other words, Dery describes art that explores issues of science, technology, and race from the standpoints of science fiction and technoculture in reference to contemporary African American art, music, and literature. In terms of art, Dery suggests visual artists like John Michel Basquiat, Rammellzee, John Jennings, Stacey Robinson, and Krista Franklin, to name a few; in music, Dery means Sun Ra, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire, OutKast, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, among others; and in literature, he designates the likes of Samuel R. Delany, Jr, Octavia Butler, Steven Barnes, Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, and others as Afrofuturists. Dery coined Afrofuturism in a brief introduction titled ‘Black to the Future’, a framing essay that went along with a set of interviews he conducted with black thinkers Samuel R. Delany, Jr, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose first published in the South Atlantic Quarterly.

Dery deserves enormous credit for gathering...

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