Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, different in many ways […] share similarities. Both follow the plight of a second-generation immigrant of modest means who wishes to claim a place in a world of opulence and wealth, a place that is imagined simultaneously as ‘foreign’ and as an ‘original homeland’. Rachel, the protagonist of Crazy Rich Asians, visits her boyfriend’s home in Singapore, to be confronted with a world of nearly unimaginable wealth, comfort and beauty. The film’s opening quote, ‘Let China sleep, for when she awakens she will shake the world’ does not represent a Singapore remotely representative of the country. Instead, it shows a world of the mega-wealthy Chinese, who seem to signify a kind of ‘authenticity’ and untaintedness; they refer to Rachel as a ‘banana’ – yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Similarly, Eric Killmonger in Black Panther goes to Wakanda to claim his rightful place. Wakanda signifies both original ‘Africa’ and a kind of futuristic utopia. It is populated by Africans who are rich, talented, beautiful, and comfortable in their own skin, as opposed to the African-American Eric, who is represented as being damaged, fearful, and full of rage.
This hierarchy and perspective essentially places the working-class diasporics in both films as the underdogs, while the elite inhabitants of the non-western nations are in a position of power and desirability.
Kavita Bhanot and Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi on colonial fantasy.
This is from a really interesting longer essay that looks at the intersection between race and class, specifically in media produced by American creators of color (and, more often than not, sold for the consumption of white audiences).
Because ’tis the season, archive.org apparently has a scanned copy of Collected Editorials from Analog, a selection of John W. Campbell’s op-eds collated by Harry Harrison—he’s the guy who wrote the novel Soylent Green1 was very loosely based on—seemingly for the purpose of… dunking on John W. Campbell. Content warnings for the usual Campbell garbage, especially virulent racism.
For the tl;dr version, James Davis Nicoll did a review back in 2014 and, well. The title alone really should give it away.
I mean, y’all know I kinda side-eye so-called “hard” science fiction in general, but… ye-ee-eah. Given that this is the sort of garbage believed in by its so-called “father”…
- It’s people! [↩]
John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Amazing Stories, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.
But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.
Jeannette Ng accepts an award.
I was wondering why I was suddenly getting so many hits again on my old John Campbell post…
(I’m certainly not the first person to’ve pointed out that Campbell was an asshole, but I think I was kinda the most recent person to point out that the award really shouldn’t be named after him? Either way: still totally should rename that, hey.)
So the results are up. Some of you may remember I did some drive-by commentary on some of the nominees (novels, novellas, novellettes, short stories), so… meh. Biggest (pleasant) surprise here is Zen Cho’s win in the novellette category; I really loved that work but didn’t think it would win. So… yay for being wrong on that one.
So last weekend was GAMMA.CON, and for my sins I ended up manning the CSFG‘s booth through most of Saturday. We had a shared table with Conflux and it was, uh. An experience. Part of it was possibly the placement; we were up in the back corner near all the sword and prop manufacturers, when we’d probably have been more suited to being in the author’s alley segment. And part of it was straight-up lack of planning; our notification was very, uh. Short. So it was definitely a last-minute scramble to organize things to actually put on the table. We did okay—anthologies were sold, tentaplushies were squeezed—mostly thanks to the arrival of Kaaron Warren, who’s much better at this sort of thing than yours truly.
Yet I have come to suspect these punk derivatives signal something more than the usual merry-go-round of pop culture. These punks indicate that something is broken in our science fiction. Indeed, even when they reject it, these new subgenres often repeat the same gestures as cyberpunk, discover the same facts about the world, and tell the same story. Our hacker hero (or his magic-wielding counterpart) faces a huge system of power, overcomes long odds, and finally makes the world marginally better—but not so much better that the author can’t write a sequel. The 1980s have, in a sense, never ended; they seem as if they might never end.
We are still, in many ways, living in the world Reagan and Thatcher built—a neoliberal world of growing precarity, corporate dominance, divestment from the welfare state, and social atomization. In this sort of world, the reliance on narratives that feature hacker protagonists charged with solving insurmountable problems individually can seem all too familiar. In the absence of any sense of collective action, absent the understanding that history isn’t made by individuals but by social movements and groups working in tandem, it’s easy to see why some writers, editors, and critics have failed to think very far beyond the horizon cyberpunk helped define. If the best you can do is worm your way through gleaming arcologies you played little part in building—if your answer to dystopia is to develop some new anti-authoritarian style, attitude, or ethos—you might as well give up the game, don your mirrorshades, and admit you’re still doing cyberpunk (close to four decades later).
Lee Konstantinou on postpunk.
I’ve probably mentioned before that I am endlessly, endlessly cynical about anything with the suffix -punk attached to it, because to me it immediately flags someone as not learning a single damn thing from history.
You know what killed the punks? Like, the original ones?1 Capitalism. That’s always the failure mode of punk; it always sells out, or is appropriated. It’s turned into a marketable aesthetic, into thousand dollar handbags, into liberal communist propaganda for bougie middle-class kids who want to play in the sandpit of rebellion while not, ultimately, doing anything to change a system they know2 will benefit them in the end. And, okay sure. You could make that argument about everything—we live in a late-stage-capitalist hellhole, et cetera—but the fact that we apparently keep recycling this one particular failure mode over and over and over again, with an apparent utter lack of irony, is just frustrating.
Think up a new suffix, kids. Please. And stop retreading the same old paths dressed in different clothes. Trust on this: if you want to get somewhere different, you’re going to have to walk into the scrub.