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.

Week of Joy (Day Six): Heart of Fire by J. Damask (A Mini Interview)

J. Damask (a.k.a. Joyce Chng) was kind enough to answer a few questions about her new book, Heart of Fire, which hits digital shelves in September.  The book comes from Masque Books, a digital-only division of Prime Books, a notable small press genre publisher (notable most recently for releasing the absolutely amazing Yoon Ha Lee collection, Conservation of Shadows -- check out the Skiffy and Fanty interview here).  In other words, Heart of Fire is sure to be damned good!  Though you'll have to wait for a little while, you should bookmark this page and remember to buy it in a couple months!

Now for the mini interview:

If you had to describe your novel to someone who doesn't read a lot of genre fiction, how would you describe it?

It is set in Singapore, has a lot of mythological animals and creatures and Singapore food. And oh yes, it has werewolves.

What do you think makes fantasy such a compelling genre for so many readers?

I think it’s compelling, because it allows readers to slip into other worlds. You know, make-believe world. It’s like Narnia!

How would you say Heart of Fire fits in with the rest of your work?  Does it share certain sensibilities or thematic concerns?

It does, come to think of it. I tend to examine tropes of transformation and transfiguration, as well as motifs like family ties and relationships.  To me, the family is central and it does appear in many of my stories.  I often wonder if this is an Asian thing, to feature the family as an important motif/theme.

As a Singaporean author writing in English, what would you say are your greatest challenges in terms of reaching audiences abroad (particularly in other English-speaking parts of the world -- not just "the West," mind you)?


(Then again, what is authenticity?)

I am Singaporean Chinese. So, I sometimes feel that people would want me to write in Mandarin Chinese (no, I couldn’t – and my last (and only) Mandarin spec fic story was written when I was a kid as a school composition). I think people want to see an “authentic” voice, so to speak.

I think there are no such things as authentic voices.

What one thing that you know now do you wish you'd known when you first started treating writing as a professional endeavor?

That it couldn’t be a full-time job.

That it won’t be easy for people from Southeast Asia?

(Wait, that’s two things…)

And, last, for a silly question:  If you had to choose an animal to write your next book for you, which animal would you choose and why?

A wolf.

Because it’s cool.

(But hey, it doesn’t have opposable thumbs…)


About the Book:
Jan Xu, wolf and pack leader, faces more dangers when she saves a foreign male wolf in love with one of her ancient enemies, a jiang shi, a Chinese vampire. Throw in a love-struck drake—and Jan finds her situation suddenly precarious, with her reputation and health at stake. How much is a wolf going to take when everything is out of control again and her world thrown into disarray? How is she going to navigate the complexities of Myriad politics while keeping her pack and family intact without losing her mind? The third book of the Jan Xu Adventures will see Jan Xu’s continual fight as pack leader, her clan’s Eye (seer) and mother of three young children. Her mettle, courage and love for her family will be tested to her utmost limits.

Sneak Peak: Alphas Episode Promos (Syfy)

The folks behind the marketing campaign for Syfy's new/returning show, Alphas, have been sending me lots of video links.  I've decided to share those with all of you (by "share" I mean "use my blog space to point to things you might have found on Youtube if you had been looking").  If you have been watching the show, please let me know what you think in the comments.

Here are the video promos:

Sneak Peak: Alphas (Season Two)!

The marketing long arm of Syfy recently pointed me in the direction of these great sneak peaks into the second season of their hit show, Alphas (starring David Strathairn, Ryan Carthwright, Malik Yoba, and many others).  I must admit that I haven't been able to watch the show, being a poor graduate student who simply cannot afford cable, but I am quite intrigued and may have to check out the first season on DVD.

A bit about the show:

The second season of Syfy's hit series Alphas returns Monday, July 23 at 10PM ET/PT with a deep roster of guest stars. New this season are Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Rudy), C. Thomas Howell (Southland), Lauren Holly (NCIS), Steve Byers (Immortals, Total Recall), Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica) and Noah Reid (Rookie Blue). Summer Glau (Dollhouse, Firefly) who was a fan favorite last season playing an Alpha, Skylar Adams, will return for three episodes.

The new season picks up eight months after last year’s stunning season finale with the stage set for an explosive turn of events at the Binghamton facility (the Guantanamo of the Alpha world) that could have devastating, far-reaching consequences. Dr. Lee Rosen, having exposed the existence of Alphas to the unsuspecting public, finds himself discredited and imprisoned by a government desperate to cover up his stunning revelation. Some of the team have disbanded and without Dr. Rosen’s care and guidance, have regressed to their old, destructive ways. They must now battle their individual demons, reunite and try to save their own.

For those of you who have been watching, the following clips should get you salivating for the upcoming season!

Who is going to watch?

Promo Bits: The Art of Carpe Chaos (Kickstarter)

The folks behind this interesting SF/F comics project contacted me in hopes that I would post something about their Kickstarter campaign.  And so I shall!

Here's the blurb:
The independent graphic novel series Carpe Chaos has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a concept art book. The team of writers and artists behind the project have amassed thousands of concepts when fleshing out their huge universe, and they are hoping for the chance to share that artwork with fans. The book will include at least 150 pages of imaginative alien creatures along with their environments, technology, and spaceships, many of which haven't yet been shown to the public. Whether you're an artist looking for inspiration or simply a concept art aficionado, this book won't disappoint! Be sure to check out the Kickstarter video to see many of the concepts that will be included in the book.
If you're interested in supporting the project, you can do so here (there are lots of rewards for donating).  So far, they've collected $1,500 of their $7,500 goal, but there are still two weeks or so to go.  You can find out more about Carpe Chaos on the website.

Below are some images related to the project:

Promo Bits: The Fallen Queen by Jane Kindred

The folks over at Entangled Publishing brought this interesting book to my attention, and so I am passing on the information to all of you.  (FYI:  Lynn Flewelling, author of a whole bunch of lovely books, has a blurb on the back cover!)

Here goes:

Heaven can go to hell. 
Until her cousin slaughtered the supernal family, Anazakia’s father ruled the Heavens, governing noble Host and Fallen peasants alike. Now Anazakia is the last grand duchess of the House of Arkhangel’sk, and all she wants is to stay alive. 
Hunted by Seraph assassins, Anazakia flees Heaven with two Fallen thieves—fire demon Vasily and air demon Belphagor, each with their own nefarious agenda—who hide her in the world of Man. The line between vice and virtue soon blurs, and when Belphagor is imprisoned, the unexpected passion of Vasily warms her through the Russian winter. Heaven seems a distant dream, but when Anazakia learns the truth behind the celestial coup, she will have to return to fight for the throne—even if it means saving the man who murdered everyone she loved.
You can find out more about the book at Entangled Publishing (which includes an excerpt).  The book will be released in print and electronic forms.  The author can be found on her website.

Promo Bits: The Hermetica of Elysium by Annmarie Banks

Some interesting stuff is flying through my email.  I can't read it all, so I've offered to toss up some information for all of you who might be interested.

Here goes:
1494 Barcelona. As Torquemada lights the fires of religious fervor throughout the cities of Spain, accused heretics are not the only victims. Thousands of books and manuscripts are lost to the flames as the Black Friars attempt to purge Europe of the ancient secrets of the gods and the bold new ideas that are ushering in the Renaissance.

Nadira lives a dreary life as servant to a wealthy spice merchant until the night a dying scholar is brought to the merchant’s stable, beaten by mercenaries who are on the hunt for The Hermetica of Elysium. To Nadira, words are her life: she lives them as her master’s scrivener and dreams them in her mother’s poetry. She is pursued as passionately as the fabled manuscript for her rare skill as a reader of Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew that makes her valuable to men who pursue the book to exploit its magic.

Kidnapped by Baron Montrose, an adventurous nobleman, she is forced to read from the Hermetica. It is soon revealed to her that ideas and words are more powerful than steel or fire for within its pages are the words that incite the Dominicans to religious fervor, give the Templars their power and reveal the lost mysteries of Elysium.

As Nadira begins her transformation from servant to sorceress, will she escape the fires of the Inquisition, the clutches of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI and the French king, Charles VIII? And will Montrose’s growing fear of her powers cause her to lose her chance for love?

You can find out more about the book at Knox Robinson Publishing (where they have a magic excerpt).

Promo Bits: Ashes of the Black Frost by Chris Evans

It's time for a little bit of love for someone's book.  This time it's for Ashes of the Black Frost by Chris Evans, which is one of those Iron Elves books.  If you've read his books before, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of them.

Here goes:

Title: Ashes of a Black Frost: Book Three of the Iron ElvesBy: Chris EvansISBN: 9781439180662Format: HCPrice: $25.99/$29.99 CANOn Sale: 10/18/11
Bones jutted from the sand at angles—not odd angles, though, for that would suggest that there were ways bones could protrude that made sense—and the eyes of those still living stared and saw nothing. 
Amidst a scene of carnage on a desert battlefield blanketed in metallic snow, Major Konowa Swift Dragon sees his future, and it is one drenched in shadow and blood. Never mind that he has won a grand victory for the Calahrian Empire. He came here in search of his lost regiment of elves, while the Imperial Prince came looking for the treasures of a mystical library, and both ventures have failed. But Konowa knows, as do the Iron Elves—both living and dead—that another, far more important battle now looms before them. The campaign in the desert was only the latest obstacle on the twisted, darkening path leading inexorably to the Hyntaland, and the final confrontation with the dreaded Shadow Monarch. 
In this third novel of musket and magic in Chris Evans's Iron Elves saga, Konowa's ultimate journey is fraught with escalating danger. A vast, black forest finds a new source of dark power, spawning creatures even more monstrous than the blood trees from which they evolve. The maniacally unstable former emissary of the Shadow Monarch hungers for revenge, leading an army of ravenous beasts bent on utterly destroying the Iron Elves. A reluctant hero, Private Alwyn Renwar, struggles to maintain his connection to this world and that of the loyalty of the shades of the dead. And in a maze of underground tunnels, Visyna Tekoy, whom Konowa counts among those he has loved and lost, fights for her life against the very elves he so desperately wants to find. 
And so Konowa sets off from this Canyon of Bones, pursuing his freedom from a curse that has cast his life in darkness. For though his long, violent trek may indeed lead him to his destiny, he is ill prepared for the discovery he will make . . . with the fate of the Iron Elves, and the world, hinging on the courage of one wrathful elf. 
To get caught up with the Series click here or visit

Promo Bits: Kafkaesque edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly

The wonderful folks at Tachyon Publications are up to mischief again with a new anthology called Kafkaesque, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly.  I'm letting you all know about this book because I want it, and one of you is going to buy it for me for my Birthday, which is on the 6th of October.  Seriously.  You are.  Or we're not friends anymore, you hear?  And I don't care that the book doesn't come out until November 2011.  You can pre-order it.  Or steal an ARC from a reviewer.  It's only wrong if you get caught...

Anywho.  Enough of that.  Here's the back cover blurb (ToC to follow):

Franz Kafka died in obscurity in 1924, having published a handful of odd stories in little-known central European literary magazines. Yet modern culture has embraced the stark ideas and vivid imagery of his work. Even those who have never read a word of his fiction know enough to describe their tribulations with bureaucracy as “Kafkaesque.” 
Kafkaesque explores dystopian, comedic, and ironic fictions inspired by Franz Kafka’s work. In Philip Roth's alternate history, Kafka survives World War II and immigrates to America, Jorge Luis Borges envisions a labyrinthine public lottery that evolves into bureaucratically-mandated mysticism. Carol Emshwiller invents an exclusively male society faced with its first (mostly) female member. Paul Di Filippo’s journalist by day, costumed crime-fighter by night, copes with the bizarre amidst the mundane.  
Also includes Kafka’s classic story “The Hunger Artist,” in a brand-new translation, as well as an illustrated version by legendary cartoonist R. Crumb (Fritz the Cat). Additionally, each author discusses Kafka’s writing, its relevance, its personal influence, and Kafka’s enduring legacy.
The table of contents are as follows:

  1. "A Hunger Artist" (translated by Kessel) by Franz Kafka 
  2. "The Drowned Giant" by J.G. Ballard 
  3. "The Cockroach Hat" by Terry Bisson 
  4. "Hymenoptera" by Michael Blumlein 
  5. "The Lottery in Babylon" (tr: Hurley) by Jorge Luis Borges 
  6. "The Big Garage" by T. Coraghessan Boyle 
  7. "The Jackdaw's Last Case" by Paul Di Filippo 
  8. "Report to the Men's Club" by Carol Emshwiller 
  9. "Bright Morning" by Jeffrey Ford 
  10. "The Rapid Advance of Sorrow" by Theodora Goss 
  11. "Stable Strategies for Middle Management" by Eileen Gunn 
  12. "The Handler" by Damon Knight 
  13. "Receding Horizon" by Jonathan Lethem & Carter Scholz 
  14. "A Hunger Artist" by David Mairowitz & Robert Crumb 
  15. "I Always Wanted You to Admire my Fasting", or "Looking at Kafka" by Philip Roth 
  16. "The 57th Franz Kafka" by Rudy Rucker 
  17. "The Amount to Carry" by Carter Scholz 
  18. "Kafka in Brontëland" by Tamar Yellin
Let me just say that the ToC looks bloody amazing.  Ballard, Bisson, Borges, Filippo, Emschwiller, Ford, Roth, Rucker, Gunn...  What an impressive list, don't you think?  My friend Kendra will hear about this anthology promptly.  Because she's kind of obsessed with Kafka...

Admit it.  You want this book too...