January 2 is National Science Fiction Day and I love sci-fi. I’ve written before about why I think it’s important for schools but I also think the rest of us should be involved in thinking about how we can proactively shape the future as it forms around us. That’s why I spend so much time among artists and organizers who are doing that imaginative work alongside their community initiatives. Below are some of the works that helped spark my imagination in 2018.
If you haven’t visited your local public library in a while, most of these books are available at both the Houston and Harris County libraries! Pro-tip: you can check both simultaneously through houstonbook.link. Feel free to share any recommended readings in the comments or join us in Houston for the Afrofuturism Book Club!
Favorite Short Story: The Wages of Humanity in The Wandering Earth by Liu Cixin
Liu Cixin is China’s leading sci-fi author and I’ve been an avid fan since The Three-Body Problem. This story was jarring in its discussion of how the inequities in wealth and education could combine to create a world of poverty beyond recognition. From the same collection will come China’s first science fiction blockbuster in February 2019!
“The intelligence of a person who received this super-education was an entire level beyond what a normal person can ever hope to achieve. A chasm now gaped between the two, as wide as the canyon between a dog and an ordinary person; and this difference, of course, made itself known in almost all spheres of society….”
Favorite Novel/Novella: Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
In this final novella from the award-winning Binti series, we finally get the conclusion of the fascinating story of Binti, a Himba girl who studies at the most prestigious university in the galaxy. This quote reminds me that knowledge exists outside of our prominent university spaces.
“We’re people of time and space. We move about experiencing, collecting, becoming more. This is the philosophy and culture of our equation. There’s no one of our kind there, yet we hear it is the finest university in the galaxy. There is plenty we could learn from there and we’d like to apply.”
Favorite Manga/Comic: Darwin’s Game by FLIPFLOPs
I’m a sucker for anything with creative abilities that make me reconsider the ways that we can manipulate the world. Even as a child I thought it was strange that superheroes mostly just run fast, fly, or use psychic powers. In this manga, mysterious phone tech allows the Darwin’s Game app to give users abilities and throw them into a deadly competition. It’s also fun to think about what will happen when tech appears that’s so advanced it’s like magic. There’s a prequel novel adaptation coming as well!
Favorite Film (aside from Black Panther): Sorry to Bother You
I attended a preview screening in March just off the strength of Tessa Thompson and Lakeith Stanfield and had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was hilarious, edgy, and very very weird. It’s on Hulu! If you haven’t seen it yet here’s the trailer.
Favorite Series: Westworld
How come none of you told me about Westworld!? I feel betrayed. This near-future HBO series looks at a fictional world created for the varying pleasures of the very rich. Gotta love sentient robots; that always ends well for us. Here’s the trailer for the uninitiated.
Favorite Musical Moment: DJ Jazzy Jeff and Stro Elliot’s DJ battle at SXSW 2018
I was fortunate enough to see this in person and it was glorious. Jazzy Jeff is well known on the turntables but Stro Elliot held his own on the Ableton Push controller.
Honorable Nonfiction Mention: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown
Because as adrienne says, all organizing is science fiction. The book includes theory, tools, reflections, and spells drawing from her own practice.
“Here you are, in the cycle between the past and the future, choosing to spend your miraculous time in the exploration of how humans, especially those seeking to grow liberation and justice, can learn from the world around us how to best collaborate, how to shape change.”
Book I feel guilty about not having read yet but I’m sure it’s good so I’ll give it a blind endorsement even though I rarely give blind endorsements: How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
It’s three-peat Hugo winner N.K. Jemisin’s first book of short stories. We sampled this with one story, The City Born Great, in the Houston Afrofuturism Book Club this year which will hopefully give you a taste of what you’re in for!