Posted: Friday, March 18, 2016 12:00 am
Bobbi Booker Tribune Staff Writer
André Carrington’s first book, “Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction” (University of Minnesota Press; $25), explores the meanings of race and genre through studies of science fiction, fanzines, comics, film and television, and other speculative fiction texts. Carrington, an assistant professor of African-American literature at Drexel University, explains the relationship between the racialized genre of speculative fiction in media and the meanings ascribed to Blackness in the popular imagination.
In an interview with Random Nerds, Carrington theorized what science fiction has to offer to Black fans. “Speculative fiction allows Black fans, Black audiences and Black critics to tap into what we consider to be impossible in real life. And a part of that is that when you’re freed from the conventions of being realistic, then you can imagine anything. I think for a lot of Black people, the limitations on our lives and on our imaginations are so radical. There’s a constant sense of, oh it would be impossible for me to choose any career I want, or, it would be impossible for me to never have to worry about racial stereotyping and constraints, or it would be impossible for me to participate in the same action, adventure, discovery, all the stuff that science fiction narratives offer. I think for so many of us, popular culture shows us mostly white people engaging in a whole range of things that are impossible in real life. And the idea is, what if Black people could tap into that and say on our own terms, what if we did participate?
“Or when we see a character who looks like us, or a writer or an artist who looks like us, then it offers us a chance to do things in real life that we think are impossible, and to imagine what we could do if things were different.”
Carrington argues that race in science fiction has been both marginalized and celebrated. In his review of the career of actor Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed the character Uhura in the original “Star Trek” television series, he writes “while her role may have spared [her] the hazards of actually becoming or being typecast as a domestic worker, her working conditions on the series bowed to racial and sexual norms.” Nichols would later became a recruiter for NASA, and join the spin-off series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” which was set on a space station commanded by a Black captain.
Ultimately, Carrington provides a new understandings of the significance of Blackness in 20th-century American literature and culture by offering a Black perspective on iconic works of science fiction.