Generations of science fiction writers have envisioned futures marked by space travel, robots, and galactic empires. While the most familiar futures imagined in literature have been produced by white authors, there has long been an unacknowledged tradition of SF written by people of color.
The University of California, Riverside will expand that universe with a yearlong exploration of ethnic futurisms that have been largely overlooked or marginalized until recently, a program of events funded by a prestigious $175,000 Sawyer Seminar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“Alternative Futurisms,” which will launch in September 2015, will bring together African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American scholars, artists and writers to examine the colonial roots and legacies of science fiction and the power of speculative fiction as a tool for social change….
“The canon is not monolithically white,” she added. “Questions of social justice are emerging, particularly with regard to colonialism, borders, DNA, and profiling. Our seminar will elicit and sustain dialogue among the many peoples of color who are using speculative techniques to combat systemic racism and will seek to displace the hegemony of the post-racial imaginary with a range of ethnic futurisms.”
The term Afrofuturism was coined in 1993 to describe the work of writers such as Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler that grappled with the African American experience of technologized modernity. Chicano and Latino writers have recently begun to articulate the importance of science-fiction techniques in addressing issues of social justice and cultural politics, Hopkinson said.