Reading: Bill Campbell & Edward Austin Hall (eds.) – Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond

When I started reading Ytasha L. Womack’s Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture a couple of months ago, I think this is the book I was intending to read. Bill Campbell’s & Edward Austin Hall’s Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond arrived shortly after and it’s been a disorganised couple of months when it comes to reading (side-tracked by watching all three seasons of Person of Interest, twice), as well, my direction or enthusiasm has moved firmly back towards non-fiction.

I was looking on my bookshelves recently, and of the non-fiction stuff there is sod-all that doesn’t fall out of the at least a solid read category, if not indeed brilliant read territory. The opposite though I can say for most of the fiction. In fact besides the Mr. Reliables in the form of Charles Stross and Iain M. Banks, the skiffy/fantasy reading of late has been very dissatisfying.

Mothership also. Or as much of it as I’ve currently read – and I stopped not very far in at all. Certainly judging an anthology on the basis of a couple of short stories is decidedly biased, but it was while I was reading this I also read The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto which is by (I think this) Martine Syms (though ‘Conceptual Entrepreneur’ sounds like one of those Silicon Valley ‘job’ descriptions). The promises the Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto makes are broadly what I look for in skiffy/fantasy as the bare minimum (well, interstellar travel and alternate universes aside) for me to even pick a book up, and what I’d hoped to find in Mothership. By the third or fourth story in, it was going so much in the ‘piling up unexamined and hackneyed tropes’ direction I decided to stop.

Perhaps it’s a question here about what constitutes Afrofuturism. One one side there is the Afrofuturism of genre tropes, no different in its own way from mainstream fantasy mired in a deeply uncritical view of medieval Europe, all dragons and monarchies. On the other side is fiction that doesn’t begin from the disingenuous and cynical “all things being equal” position that allows for a universe of white science-fiction and fantasy to exist uncontested. Neither are these two mutually exclusive. However if the former is the only response to what the latter opposes, it’s merely replacing one hegemony with another.