Academic Spotlight: Afrofuturism — The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack

This isn't an explicitly academic book, but I'm sure the academically-minded will find as much value in Ytasha Womack's upcoming Afrofuturism as anyone else who has an interest in the cultural movements within the SF/F field.  I first learned about the concept of Afrofuturism in an American Studies course on African American SF at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  We watched Sun Ra's Space is the Place, which I still think is a weird, but sort of brilliant film, and read a number of amazing works by folks like Nalo Hopkinson, Samuel R. Delany, Tananarive Due, Walter Mosley, and several others.  I mention all of this so you'll understand why I jumped up and down when I saw Womack's book on Twitter.

In any case, here are the details:

In this hip, accessible primer to the music, literature, and art of Afrofuturism, author Ytasha Womack introduces readers to the burgeoning community of artists creating Afrofuturist works, the innovators from the past, and the wide range of subjects they explore. From the sci-fi literature of Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and N. K. Jemisin to the musical cosmos of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and the Black Eyed Peas’, to the visual and multimedia artists inspired by African Dogon myths and Egyptian deities, the book’s topics range from the “alien” experience of blacks in America to the “wake up” cry that peppers sci-fi literature, sermons, and activism. With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.
Published by Chicago Review Press (release date:  Oct. 1, 2013)

About the Author
Ytasha L. Womack is an author, filmmaker, dancer and futurist. Her book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi and Fantasy explores black sci fi culture, bleeks, black comix, and the legacy of futurism.

She is author of the critically acclaimed book Post Black: How a New Generation is Redefining African American Identity and 2212: Book of Rayla. She is also the coeditor of the hip hop anthology Beats, Rhyme & Life: What We Love and Hate About Hip Hop.

Her films include Love Shorts (writer/producer) and The Engagement (director).

Ytasha is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and studied media management at Columbia College in Chicago. She resides in the Windy City. 
She can be found on her webpage, iAfrofuturism.

Academic Spotlight: Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure edited by Kathryn Allan

(The title for this post is insanely long...)

While perusing earlier this morning, I came across this interesting edited collection.  There isn't a lot of information currently available about the collection, except this brief blurb:
In science fiction, technology often modifies, supports, and attempts to "make normal" the disabled body. In this groundbreaking collection, twelve international scholars – with backgrounds in disability studies, English and world literature, classics, and history – discuss the representation of dis/ability, medical "cures," technology, and the body in science fiction. Bringing together the fields of disability studies and science fiction, this book explores the ways dis/abled bodies use prosthetics to challenge common ideas about ability and human being, as well as proposes new understandings of what "technology as cure" means for people with disabilities in a (post)human future.
Kathryn Allan, the editor, is probably best known as @bleedingchrome on Twitter, and, in academic circles, is one of those rising new voices (she presented at ICFA this year and has one of those PhD things).  She is, apparently, one of the few science fiction scholars working in disability studies -- an interesting field I imagine.

I'll try to put together an interview with Kathryn in the relatively near future (the book doesn't come out until August).  For now, enjoy the blurb and the cover!

ICFA (Are You Going?) and Disappeared Shaun (Temporary!)

Two things:

  1. I am presenting at this year's ICFA (International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts).  That means I will be rather busy this week with, well, paper stuff, conference stuff, and stuff stuff.  However, if you are attending ICFA and would like to get together, send me an email or leave a message or something.  Should be fun!

    (FYI:  I'm presenting a paper on the adaptation of Cloud Atlas.  I'm also creating a list which will include that film.  Mwahaha.)
  2. Due to #1 and to some PhD stuff I need to finish, I am putting the blog on a temporary hiatus.  And I mean temporary.  At most, I'll post nothing new until the end of next week.  However, I strongly suspect I'll be back at my old games on Sunday or Monday.  In any case, that means all the stuff I had planned to post this week is getting moved until later, including the Retro Nostalgia feature.  I just don't have the time to put my heart into it right now (PhD stuff, conference stuff, and teaching stuff = super busy Shaun).

    Again, this is temporary.  I am not disappearing.  This blog will fill up with my nonsense before the end of the month.  Promise.
And that's that.

Academic Spotlight: With Both Feet in the Clouds — Fantasy in Israeli Literature edited by Danielle Gurevitch

A new feature around these parts!  The Academic Spotlight's purpose will be to draw attention to the wide range of new and old scholarship on genre fiction floating about on the net, from special issues of academic journals, to essay collections, to books, and so on and so forth.  In some cases, I'll offer some thoughts on the work in question -- particularly if I'm familiar with it.  Why am I doing this?  Because I think academia is important, even if it is sometimes inaccessible to the wider public ($75 for an academic book is a lot to ask for; additionally, the writing styles are often not conducive to general reading).

The first entry into this feature is Gurevitch's With Both Feet in the Clouds:  Fantasy in Israeli Literature.  The book came out on the first of January, though I only discovered it today through the World SF blog.

Personally, I don't know much about Israeli genre fiction.  My exposure to writers from that part
of the world has been relatively limited:  Lavie Tidhar and Niv Yaniv are the two I can name off the top of my head.    Still, I'm fascinated by this work because it fills in some of the gaps in the genre/academic community.  The question I have is this:  What other works on Israeli genre fiction area already out there, and how much of it has been translated into English?  If you happen to know something about this particular sub-field, feel free to leave a comment.

You can read a review of the book by Abigail Nussbaum here.

Note:  The title seems to fluctuate between With Both Feet in the Clouds and With Both Feet on the Clouds.  I'm not sure why these differences exist, so you'll excuse the confusion between the title of this post and the title of the book image below.

Why do Israelis dislike fantasy? Put so bluntly, the question appears frivolous. But,in fact, it goes to the deepest sources of Israeli historical identity and literary tradition. Uniquely among developed nations, Israel s origin is in a utopian novel, Theodor Herzl s Altneuland (1902), which predicted the future Jewish state. Jewish writing in the Diaspora has always tended toward the fantastic, the mystical, and the magical. And yet, from its very inception, Israeli literature has been stubbornly realistic. The present volume challenges this stance. Originally published in Hebrew in 2009, it is the first serious, wide-ranging, and theoretically sophisticated exploration of fantasy in Israeli literature and culture. Its contributors jointly attempt to contest the question posed at the beginning: why do Israelis, living in a country whose very existence is predicated on the fulfillment of a utopian dream, distrust fantasy?

Adventures in Academia: Critical Theory Invades My Mailbox

I'm amused.  I didn't ask for them, but Oxford University Press sent me two books on critical theory and interpreting literature.  They are:

  1. How to Interpret Literature:  Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies by Robert Dale Parker
    (A fairly small book containing sections exploring the major fields of criticism -- structuralism, postcolonialism, deconstruction, etc.)
  2. Critical Theory:  A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies by Robert Dale Parker
    (A much larger book providing actual readings from the major fields of criticism -- Fanon, Marx, Foucault, Derrida, White, Propp, and so on and so forth.)

Now, I suspect these are meant to be texts assigned together, since they are by the same author and serve drastically different functions for learning goals.  Unfortunately, I don't teach critical theory on its own...yet.  I might one day.  I do, however, teach literature courses, which I find are benefited by intense discussion of literary theory, for which the first, smaller book might prove useful.  I'm currently using a book called Texts and Contexts:  Writing and Literature and Critical Theory by Steve J. Lynn from Pearson; I quite like it, but have run into the awful problem of students not reading the assigned readings.

Parker's smaller book, however, might prove more beneficial to me in the future, as its sections are broken down into smaller pieces (Lynn's book couples together all the schools of cultural and historical criticism into one chapter, whereas Parker splits them out).  Likewise, it seems to get into the particulars of these discourses in a way Lynn's book does not, though this is from a very limited, cursory glance which might prove false in the future.

This does not mean I'm going to suddenly drop Lynn for Parker; rather, it means I have some thinking to do for future courses.  Either way, I am excited to have these books, even if I can't justify teaching the monstrous tome containing some amazing selections from important figures in critical theory.  Now I really want to teach such a class...desperately... I wonder if OUP would let me create a book that crams together parts of each book.  That would be amazing.


(Originally posted on Google+ in a slightly different form.