Sunday, December 29, 2013

Choosing A Future

  

Utopian and Dystopian Fiction in the African Diasporia

Yea! it is the year 2014. When I was a kid, I was sure that by the year 2000 we would all be living in the future -- like the Jetsons and their flying cars.  To my knowledge, however, the Jetsons never portrayed a single non-white character. Robots and space aliens were fine, but to offer an Asian or African person seems to have been forbidden by the Hanna-Barbera crew who created this cartoon predicting the future.

I don't want to discuss racist cartoonists. It would take too long.  But I can offer observations that anyone can  explore using "The Google".  I will probably offer a more detailed discussion at the African American Science Fiction website.

The Jetson's world was presented  as a utopia for  American style Western Capitalism. But first, let's steal some common text from Wikipedia:

The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal society, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction (sometimes referred to as apocalyptic literature) is the opposite: creation of an utterly horrible or degraded society that is generally headed to an irreversible oblivion, or dystopia. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures. 

In AFROCentric speculative fiction, there are  examples of "good world" and "bad world." I will mention just a few, but I welcome comments regarding Black utopias and dystopias especially as protrayed in films such as Pumzi by Wanuri Kahiu.

Octavia Butler gained fame by writing fiction where Black people prospered and suffered in various aspects of an alternative world.  Her "Parable" novels showed us how Black people living in a totally dysfunctional society used their wits and courage to survive and build a new future.

In "Steamfunk",  a derivative of Steampunk,  Black characters dominate and offer visions of  ex-slaves controlling the South of the United States after its Civil War.  Of course, Blacks had to defend against  crazy white people who sought to reclaim lost territory.

Black people were  the global leaders in  Lion's Blood and Zulu Heart by Steven Barnes. In those novels, Africans  colonized the Americas and created a formidable empire.

In the United States of Africa written by Abdourahman A. Waberi the fortunes of the world were reversed. A stream of  white humanity flows from the slums of America and the squalor of Europe, to by seeking entrance into the United States of Africa, a land of opportunity and prosperity.

George S. Schuyler dreamed of a world where white rulers were kicked out of Africa, an utopia for Black people was created and  Europe attacked by Africa in his compilation of serial stories called Black Empire.

Ask yourself,  how do people of African descent envision the future: A)  Utopia where everything is perfect and every elected president is of African descent;  B) Dystopia where evil and poverty reign and the Klan controls the voting boths;  or C) a mashup of both?

Your answer may depend upon the following:
  • are you sleeping on the streets or in a car bouncing between homeless shelters -- do you use the Internet at a public library for 10 minutes a session to look for jobs; 
  • are you are living in a house you purchased in a middle-class neighborhood that you are struggling maintain and keep creditors at bay --  occasionally you delay a payment on the water or electric bill to buy meds; 
  • or do you have mansions at the beach and on mountains as well as downtown condominiums  on different continents and never had a hungry day in your life because you have a personal jet to take you to any restaurant in the world for a private table at lunchtime. 
In fiction, Black writers expand perceptions,  encourage us to consider what type of world we want to live in. Speculative fictions inspires us to build tools and community to better our society by presenting the negative and the positive.

However, here I want to say, we can create the world we live in or want to live in -- some are good,  some are bad. We have the ability to choose.  If we make a bad choice, we must live with the consequences.