The Anti-Street / Urban Anti - Exotic / Lit Carnival
We need more science fiction writers of the African and African American perspectives. I am sick and tired of all of the gangsta, baby mama drama, and minstrel literature that is out there. Black people do and can think. There needs to be stories that reflect that.
I started collecting links for this carnival wanting to find us; wanting to find sites that uplifted and gave hope and were examples of what we're doing in in the SciFi & Fantasy world, how we're creating and making a place for ourselves. We meaning People of Colour.
Maybe I'm on the wrong mental frequency, maybe I found what I was feeling - which was frustration and anger. Because I started out thinking I was collecting links of hope but by the end as I started writing this up, the hopeful section seemed smaller and smaller. And then as I found more links, the cock-eyed wrongness, the sheer 'oh no they didn't' kept popping up neon red and singing.
So I'm going to say something long and loud, a heavy slice of this Carnival is about the harm of Street/ Urban Lit. And then I'm going to cheer myself and hopefully the rest of you up, by posting some FUBU links - For Us By Us.
Urban Lit has done for black folk what Manga has done for Asians. And I'm talking about the negatives here, not any positives. Anime and Manga has resulted in one aspect of Asian culture being up on a menu at the restaurant fast food joint of Cultural Appropriation (A limited liability company).
Is the general public aware that there exists more than manga in the Asian indie comic circuit? No, not usually. Heck a lot of the times there'll be a blank look if you mention a country that's not China or Japan. A few of them might nod to Korea, with Manhwa, but mention the Philippines and there's confusion. Say Sri Lanka and you could get a 'Huh?'. Remind them that the peoples of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are Asian peoples too, South Asian peoples and you might get someone asking if Pakistan isn't part of Korea. It might be enough to stop you pointing out instances of South Asian Fiction, far less with magical realism or fantasy elements.
Anime? There's Indian Animation?
Insert your head-thunk here. It's one thing not to know about it specifically it's another to feel as if it's impossible for countries that are not Y to have anything to do with Z.
As an aside, if you read The Green Turban at Desilit Magazine (the above link) tell me the story doesn't remind you of possible circumstances in many a movie involving white characters - except they got to be the hero in the end.
So Urban Lit, Street Lit; I get on the bus and I see women in their forties and fifties, reading books called 'Pappa Don't Preach' and 'My Daddy Pimp'. This is what the teenagers on the bus see them reading. This is the example being set. And not just by black folk, oh no. This stuff comes in spanish too.
There's usually a Black or Asian or Latina woman on the cover, wearing something too short and holding a wad of money, or being groped by some guy or wearing far too much jewelry. And if the woman on the cover is Asian, the title will mention something about 'Exotic'; His Little Slice of China or what the eff ever.
The cover on the book that lit the match to the explosion of my loathing for things Street Lit, has a woman leaning on a motorbike with DC behind her and a cigar in her hand. The picture's a little blurry, a little 'inexpensive' but the story was supposed to be about an African American woman who turns Vigilante; A Super Hero; Martial arts and maybe a little bit of gadgetry. A female semi Batman. My kind of thing.
But I Didn't Get A Heroine .
Ocyter's plea for recommendations of YA fic , with a strict 'No Gangs Please', let me know I'm not alone in being tired of this. In fact, I really like her phrasing:
"I am tired of scanning summaries of books about POC and going gang, unwanted pregnancy, gang, violence, gang, OPPRESSION, gang, racism, gang, abusive boyfriend, gang, historical oppression, gang."
We are more than fighting injustice over and over again. We are more than tales of "URBAN" life and how much do I loathe that word and how it's come to mean 'Black - Gangs, Drugs, Ho's. Film at 11'.
We have stories to tell about ourselves, about love and loss and family and adventure. We are more than colourful backdrops for whites to have an adventure against.
Why is it all only books where adventure is running from the cops? Why is it all; Blacks In The Hood, Latinos in Gangs, and South Asians, Asians and Middle Eastern/Saudi/Persian Descended Peoples all adjusting from their exotic life to a big complex majority white world? Usually Women of Colour fighting to fit their 'exotic' selves into a white world?
I don't know where to start, but I know something has to be done to counter-act this flood of - Street Lit Is The New Money! - stories that go around us and through us and discuss us, like we're bizarre animals in a zoo but aren't stories about us.
There is bank and flow and prosperity exchanges happening that focuses on our lives as OTHER. It's a situation where we're living in a Science Fiction reality and we're the aliens.
But I wrote a separate essay for that (linked above)
Moving on to yet another example of Us as OTHER ...
What a hot mess.
She's a prime example of what happens (regularly) when whites try to tell their version of a "positive portrayal"; Fetish dressed up with leather fringe thong and feathers in the hair. Delux-Vivens raises some of the same points that have had me fretting recently. It's all in her essay here:
What I find most interesting about the premise of these books, and the way in which it seemingly goes utterly unquestioned, is how, exactly, its supposed to be deeply OK for native men to be the targets of such a disturbing sexual fetish and everyone (esp native people) is supposed to be fine with that.
DV's article ties in nicely with this one about Dawnstar, a superheroine member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Cassie Edwards might have tried for specific tribal customs and geography, but Rob Schmidt points out the other side of the Noble Indian Savage is The Generic Indian Princess.
And then I found this in the blog, American Indians in Children's Literature, the write up is also about Cassie Edward; how she's not the first to steal the words of native writers and also how her stereotyped filled books misinform the readers, who may be parents. These parents then go on to buy books for their children based on what they think is solid research from a beloved author, only to end up buying and promoting more stereotypes.
Yeah, they're not any happier about The Savage Indian series than Delux-Vivens
Question - What is generic earth based spirituality and buckskin with fringes? A fetish? A box? (type?) A Disney movie?
Either way, it's all making money on OTHER.
It always seems to come back to other. Metempsychosis of the Machine: Science Fiction in the Halls of Karma.is a rich text about the cultural appropriation of the Third World for OTHER (the aliens, the strange culture that's so unlike 'our own' where our stands for definitions of whiteness and imperialism) Read it. Please just read it. I did, even though it hurt me to admit a harsh truth about my beloved DUNE (Frank Herbert)
What happens in Dune (amidst a wealth of future-Byzantine court intrigue) is that a rich white boy in a clearly recognisable fictional Middle East is adopted by some quasi-Islamic tribesfolk and becomes a version of Mohammed.
And actually I need to re-read it, slower and more thoughtfully because as a writer I don't want to get caught up in the conceit that all things not Eurocentric can serve as alien. I haven't really thought before of what it might mean to represent the culture of my birth as other to be read about by non-Caribbean peoples. I don't want to partake in the continual 'rape/mugging of the Third world'.
John Jenning's (link is his myspace, but don't hate the man for that - his art is beautiful) put some of his thoughts about that mugging of culture into "The Hole". A graphic novel, it places emphasis on African Americans in the US and is described as " a science fiction horror story depicting the buying and selling of race in America"; Race as a commodity even today in the form of hiphop culture. It's something I was personally aware of but hadn't thought about as closely as I should. I mean I hear all the time that it's white teenagers buying up the albums but hiphop isn't so much my thing, so I don't know like I should know.
There are sample pages up at the link. And if you can figure out how to buy the book or support him (because I'm too old to make sense of myspace) then I'd appreciate a comment or link back.
But speaking of hiphop culture and who buys into it the most and combine that with the seeming birds eye voyuerstic view on us that Street Lit would have buyers believe they have and suddenly certain attitudes make a whole lot more sense.
Attitudes like this:
From Girl Gamers, let me introduce you to i_am_pellucid involving him or herself in this thread.
on 2008-01-21 11:59 am - Racial bigotry will always exist as long as it is OK for one race to use a word, but not OK for another one to.
2008-01-21 12:07 pm - It's always annoyed me how the people who seem to most loudly claim they want equality in this country never think twice about shitting on a white person for saying or doing something that they encourage among non-white people all the time.
on 2008-01-21 02:39 pm - No, I'm sick of learning made-up laws about how I'm supposed to interact with people based on this, that, or the other superficial detail. I'm going to treat everyone in the exact same manner and I'm not going to let anyone to tell me to do otherwise under the banner of race relations, gender relations, or anything else.
on 2008-01-21 02:46 pm - If you want to be bound by every taboo that offends someone, be my guest, but I hope you're prepared to wear a burkha and not speak unless spoken to. Those of us who think that some social taboos were meant to be broken in half will continue to do as we please, however.
on 2008-01-21 02:55 pm - Of course it does. Affirmative action is racism. Some social organizations are still racist. Many scholarship programs are racist. Racism is all around us, and always will be unless people are willing to start treating everyone the same way. I know I'm basically hitting my head against the wall by doing it, but I'd rather hit my head against the wall doing what I think is right than sell my morals to make people feel better about themselves.
B. I. N. G. OMG! O! BINGO!
The muffler and blinders of institutional racism protecting institutional racism with a side order of "I know how you people think/are/whatever".
And if you want to further raise your pressure, check out the gift of words one comics fan left for author Dwayne Mcduffie, on MLK's birthday no less.
I can read about it, even talk about it hours on end with the elder black lady that walks the halls in the nursing home where I did security, and hold her as she would occasionally cry about it. I did not experience these problems, I can't know what it was like, I will never feel what they felt as they went through it.
Now, WENT through is the operative term to me. Past. The 30 year old black man barely went through anything as difficult as their previous generation, and NOW the teens can't even begin to know what their fathers and grandfathers went through, and they are still the "angry black man". Angry about what? your IPOD doesn't work??? Your gold is fake??? What?
Street Lit - Negative Expectations and Perceptions. It is its own
COMICS / ANIMATION
Yes there's a touch of Wild Black Man in there. But I saw it more as 'Lion of Judah'. And when's the last time outside of Deep Space Nine, a black man was the head of a team to do right?
Taken off the project's MySpace Page.
" DSX (Dread Society X) is the last group of Rebels left in a chaotic, post-apocolyptic world. Using the weapons of their ancestors from all cultures, they defend themselves from the Demonic Regime of the GRI (Global Reconstruction Initiative). Aza Khan leads a group of outlaws and rebels to return to the place of his father's birth. Upon returning he learns many truths about the world and his role in a prophecy foretold by elders of his father's tribe. Aza now faces his destiny...Will the GRI fall before Aza Khan.... " ©2003-2006 Dread Society X.
- Secret Identities
Way back in September of 07, Sigelphoenix was promoting this Anthology of Asian American Super Heroes due out this (2008) fall.
So was Jeff Yang and his article also turned me onto Larry Hama.
- Did you know the man who put the blood, sweat and tears into the G.I. Joe Comics Franchise was Asian? Larry Hama. I didn't until now. When I was a kid, I ate up G.I.Joe. I watched the movies. I read the comics. I had the action figures. Larry Hama was responsible for the character bios on the backing of the toys I so coveted. Larry Hama is responsible for my hard crush on Lady Jaye and Cover Girl. His female characters rocked hard core, and strong with the ass kicking.
And he's over at Devil's Due Publishing right now with G.I.Joe Declassified and a spin off for Storm Shadow.
- Also check out these Asian Indie Comic Creators: Bryan Lee O'Malley, Kean Soo, E.J. Su, Amy Kim Ganter, Kazu Kabuishi, Gene Yang
- Earlier I mentioned other Asian Indie Comics. Here are some Khmer Comics aka Cambodian & like manga.
- The Healthy Aboriginal is a site for a First Nations comic - a suicide prevention comic. I know, I know, it doesn't seem like an uplifting thing to promote. And yet it involves a Native American Superhero and it's for NA youth to both show that NA youth are a high risk group for suicide and to spread hope that suicide's not the only dream left. One article calls it iconic. I seriously wish I could get my hands on more than just a few scans.
- I mentioned Dawnstar earlier. The same blogger came up with a plausible backstory for her that would make her more two dimensional. I think the storyline is too complex for DC, especially for a female character in DC. I guess that shows what I think of DC.
- There is an amazing resource in AfriComics. The site calls itself The Black Science Fiction and Comic Book Portal. Someone get on my case about updating the Carnival's Del.icio.us site, because links like this need to be shared when found. This site compiles resources on novels, webcomics, indies, movies and tv. Unfortunately the official blog seems to have been last updated in November of 07. I can't find contact info to give you to go spread some love. But hits to the site have to count too.
- Stealth, it's a webcomic that offers its archive via Lulu. I hadn't known Lulu could be a resource for African Descended Comics (primarily African American, I think) or general AA Literature. Lulu somehow got stuck in my head as that place people from Nifty go to sell their sex novels. If you'd been thinking along those lines too, now's a good time to re-construct your vision.
- The following collection of links is likely not the best in the world for First Nations / American Indian sites of interest. It's been difficult to find too much that's science fiction / fantasy. Either it's listed under Magical Realism, like two books I read this summer, (whose titles I will find eventually) or simply labeled 'legend retelling'. Legend retelling, to my mind isn't the same thing at all. I'd like to see a King James Bible get labeled as 'legend' the uproar would be huge.
But either way these books get listed in other groups; contemporary fiction, folktales, etc.
Aside: I never knew magical realism was such a loaded term. I just always thought it was just inaccurate.
- Native American Author Project
- Reviews by Paula Geise a site that claims the last update was 1996, but has commentary on a whole host of YA Lit and others and all NA/AN/FN centric.
- A Native Wiki. How cool is that, Wiki plus Authors. It give me a happy smile at the very least.
- A Native Web Center, broader than just America it offers itself as a resource for indigenous cultures worldwide.
- And last but not least this little catch all university site for native authors
- BLACK SCIENCE FICTION A tinly little angelfire site devoted to the topic with stories by one John M Faucette
- The Ausarian Scrolls - The site is confusing as crap. There doesn't seem to have ever been any serious traffic and it's easy to understand why. Again? Site navigation, text, all confusing and tiny as crap. But the project itself was/is one ambitious undertaking and a lot of the imagery is gorgeous. Bear with it for ten mins for the art.
- Joseph R Wheeler Presents The New Art Order. Hasn't been updated since May of 07 apparently. But here is his full colour porfolio and here is his black and white porfolio.
STORIES & AUTHORS
Next Carnival: February. Ladyjax on livejournal
Special Note: To all the artists following the carnival, I'd like to do a special issue this year that's an all art issue. I'll post something separately as I get the idea more organized. But right now, who'd be interested in sketching a special piece for it? Who'd be willing to promote it? Would someone (an artist) like to host it themselves? Ideas welcome.