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Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

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2014 Locus Awards Finalist, Nonfiction Category 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, an 2014 Locus Awards Finalist, Nonfiction Category 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’ will.i.am, 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.


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2014 Locus Awards Finalist, Nonfiction Category 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, an 2014 Locus Awards Finalist, Nonfiction Category 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’ will.i.am, 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.

30 review for Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    Overall, a solid introduction to the history of Afrofuturism, the themes that often appear in Afrofuturistic texts, and its future. Womack argues that Afrofuturism uses hope to counter the hopelessness that experiences of systematic racism can bring forth in future generations. Imagination, hope, and the expectation for transformative change is a through line that undergirds most Afrofuturistic art, literature, music, and criticism. It is the collective weighted belief that anchors the a Overall, a solid introduction to the history of Afrofuturism, the themes that often appear in Afrofuturistic texts, and its future. Womack argues that Afrofuturism uses hope to counter the hopelessness that experiences of systematic racism can bring forth in future generations. Imagination, hope, and the expectation for transformative change is a through line that undergirds most Afrofuturistic art, literature, music, and criticism. It is the collective weighted belief that anchors the aesthetic. It is the prism through which some create their way of life. It’s a view of the world. Where there is no vision, the people perish. Some things that I liked about this framing: ➽The idea of science fiction being, in some cases, less traumatic than the actual past of black people ➽The idea of technology and aliens as a good rather than an evil ➽The questioning of why we actually think of aliens as “bad” ➽Janelle Monae having an entire section of her own (as she deserves) ➽The emphasis on how this has always existed, and the history of people such as Sun Ra afrofuturism 2019: book one *Fair warning: at least twelve of the books I read in the next few months are going to be for my Afrofuturism class. So far, we've read Binti and Skin Folk. I'm so excited for more. Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | Youtube | About |

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I wanted to love this book, I truly did, but I couldn't help but find it disappointing. I first heard about Afrofuturism a few years ago when I discovered Octavia Butler, and then again few months ago while browsing Tumblr, and as an ardent fan of science fiction/fantasy culture I was immediately intrigued. Its a fascinating concept, no doubt but I felt the ideas were not fully fleshed out, as the movement is still growing and developing, there wasn't really any concrete answers on what Afrofutur I wanted to love this book, I truly did, but I couldn't help but find it disappointing. I first heard about Afrofuturism a few years ago when I discovered Octavia Butler, and then again few months ago while browsing Tumblr, and as an ardent fan of science fiction/fantasy culture I was immediately intrigued. Its a fascinating concept, no doubt but I felt the ideas were not fully fleshed out, as the movement is still growing and developing, there wasn't really any concrete answers on what Afrofuturism/afrosurrealism actually is. It left me wanting more. I feel like this book is very surface level and more of a primer, something to give you a small taste but you have to delve a bit deeper to truly "get it." I had my highlighter out the entire time while reading this. Highlighting all of the albums, artists, films, and books I want to check out after reading. There's so much to explore, and this book definitely gave me a great starting point. For that reason alone I recommend it. *listens to Sun Ra's Space Is The Place, while ordering the rest of Octavia Butler's books from Amazon*

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    OMG I've only just read the introduction and the first couple paragraphs of the first chapter but I'm already in lurv! ******************* This was a great book. I'd been a fan of Nnedi Okorafor, Octavia Butler, George Clinton/Parliament, and Sun Ra for some time now, and have been meaning to check out a few other authors in the Afrofuturism and Afrosurrealism vein, but I never really made a connection insofar as a movement or genre. Ytasha Womack is engaging and balances well her personal experie OMG I've only just read the introduction and the first couple paragraphs of the first chapter but I'm already in lurv! ******************* This was a great book. I'd been a fan of Nnedi Okorafor, Octavia Butler, George Clinton/Parliament, and Sun Ra for some time now, and have been meaning to check out a few other authors in the Afrofuturism and Afrosurrealism vein, but I never really made a connection insofar as a movement or genre. Ytasha Womack is engaging and balances well her personal experiences with an expository look into the movers and shakers of the AF scene. I now have a laundry list of artists, films, and filmmakers to check out. I especially loved the final chapters where Womack connects AF to community outreach, which is something I would LOVE to get involved in. The only drawbacks to this book: (1) (echoing another reviewer here) This book would have done well to include a recommended bibliography/discography, etc. As it stands now, just be prepared to take notes! You're going to want to explore. (2) There were just a couple cringe-worthy incorrect historical notes (one I couldn't get over was that Napoleon had destroyed the library in Alexandria--I believe part of it caught fire with Julius Caesar's Civil War and was later subject to continued destruction by regional bigwigs). (3) I tired a little with some of the digressions that were along the lines of "so these people aren't exactly AFs, but they did this one thing that could be included in the genre." This wasn't bad by any means, and it generally just illustrated Womack's point that African Americans have a rightful stake in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Surrealist communities, but it did strike me as a little bit of a stretch. Regardless of these minor setbacks, this is such a terrific primer. I hope lots of people read it and are inspired to look more into the AF genre. I know I'll be thinking and talking about it for a long time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Mae Jemison, the first African-American to go into space, was inspired to become an astronaut by seeing Lt. Nyota Uhura, one of the first Black, Sci-Fi characters, kick ass in Star Trek. Possibly the best Non-Fiction work I have ever read. I discovered so many new things from amazing music, to films and books that I definitely need to watch/ read in the near future. Afrofuturism is difficult to explain or define. It aims to imagine a future where Black people are central figures in society. It' Mae Jemison, the first African-American to go into space, was inspired to become an astronaut by seeing Lt. Nyota Uhura, one of the first Black, Sci-Fi characters, kick ass in Star Trek. Possibly the best Non-Fiction work I have ever read. I discovered so many new things from amazing music, to films and books that I definitely need to watch/ read in the near future. Afrofuturism is difficult to explain or define. It aims to imagine a future where Black people are central figures in society. It's a relatively new term, but if you analyse works of the past, you find that it's definitely not a new concept. Representation matters. And it cultivates social change.

  5. 4 out of 5

    KLC

    This is an interesting subject matter, but I didn't love the book. It's a decent resource, but I was hoping for something more in-depth. This is a slightly more thoughtful version of Wikipedia. However, that's not a bad thing if you're just looking for an introduction into some influential Afrofuturist artists. Even though I didn't like the book, I would encourage people to read it. Womack's whole intention was to let black Americans know that there is a place for them to be smart and creative. S This is an interesting subject matter, but I didn't love the book. It's a decent resource, but I was hoping for something more in-depth. This is a slightly more thoughtful version of Wikipedia. However, that's not a bad thing if you're just looking for an introduction into some influential Afrofuturist artists. Even though I didn't like the book, I would encourage people to read it. Womack's whole intention was to let black Americans know that there is a place for them to be smart and creative. She quotes someone early in the book. I didn't write it down and I can't remember who it was. But they said they were frustrated with writing about black people because there was really no way to write a story in the past without it being about a tragedy. They said it better than I did, but it's a powerful sentiment. It's the whole reason Afrofuturism exists. If writers want to tell a story about African Americans without the characters being reduced to their race, they have to create a fictional, futuristic world. There were several things I liked. But one glaring flaw is that I came away not understanding what the author thinks Afrofuturism really is. Is it a genre? A philosophy? A cultural movement? I think it's all three, but the book doesn't put it in clear terms. If the book is titled "Afrofuturism," it should give a clear, concise definition of what it is. I also found some passages way too hyperbolic and even problematic. I wrote down several examples, but I'll just share a small one. In the chapter on Egyptian influences - chapter five, I believe - she says that some people believe aliens built the pyramids because no one thinks people of color could do anything like that. First of all, no one with any kind of critical thinking ability believes it was aliens. But those who do, think so because they underestimate how advanced ancient societies were. It has nothing to do with color. They feel the same way about ancient European societies as well. She throws that statement out there and moves on, as though it's common knowledge. That's what I find problematic. A lot of people will just accept that she's right, especially younger people. I could go on and on and on about what I don't like, but it's at least worth skimming for the artists mentioned.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sachi Argabright

    [ 4.5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫] AFROFUTURISM: THE WORLD OF BLACK SCI-FI AND FANTASY CULTURE by Ytasha L. Womack defines and celebrates the many facets of Afrofuturism. By refocusing the lens on black people and the black experience, Afrofuturism can reimagine black history as well as the vast possibilities in black future. This book explores various formats of Afrofuturistic media (mainly movies, music, literature), and the creators and artists behind them. When I first heard this was technically a textbook, I [ 4.5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫] AFROFUTURISM: THE WORLD OF BLACK SCI-FI AND FANTASY CULTURE by Ytasha L. Womack defines and celebrates the many facets of Afrofuturism. By refocusing the lens on black people and the black experience, Afrofuturism can reimagine black history as well as the vast possibilities in black future. This book explores various formats of Afrofuturistic media (mainly movies, music, literature), and the creators and artists behind them. When I first heard this was technically a textbook, I was worried it might be too “academic” for me (especially since I didn’t know much about afrofuturism before I read this book). But that wasn’t the case at all! This book is very approachable, and has a good balance of research and interviews. It’s short and concise (around 200 pages), but rich in detail. It also features many references to Afrofuturistic works and media, and there is no shortage of content. Your list of additional things to watch, read, and listen will grow very long very fast. I really enjoyed learning from this book, and I feel like it’s a great introduction to the genre. My only *small* complaint is that I felt like I needed more detailed information to truly understand the differences between things like Afrofuturism vs. Afrosurrealism vs. black fantasy, but that also could be because the content is very new to me. I know there are many articles and resources I can pick up for further reading, and plan to take advantage of those to learn more. Highly recommend for those who want to learn more about Afrofuturism, or would like to build a long list of Afrofuturistic content to dive into!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Interesting and wide ranging, but scattered, overview of African-derived futurist and science fiction works in film, music, literature, visual arts, and comics. Very thoughtful but would have benefited from some greater theoretical structure and a careful editor!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was absolutely amazing, honestly everyone should read this book. It combines history, art, music, literature, everything to dissect one of the most important art movements of our time. More people need to know about afrofuturism!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Regina Leslie

    This was a super accessible & imaginative look into Afrofuturist themes, folks, & works. This was a super accessible & imaginative look into Afrofuturist themes, folks, & works.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paolo

    A terrific look into and introductory text for Afrofuturism, or speculative and science fiction as created in all of its forms by African-Americans, and one that is sorely needed in a genre and culture so heavily entrenched in its straight-white-maleness. On a personal note, the section discussing afrofuturistic music basically had me shaking in excitement and agreement, making me feel that all those hours studying ethnomusicology were not in vain.

  11. 4 out of 5

    erika

    Great overview, but I wish it had gone a bit more in-depth, plus some parts felt repetitive and maybe in need of an editor. That said, I now have a ton more music and books to dive into, so...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This book rocked my world. I wrote all over my copy in a fevered frenzy to capture every morsel. It's safe to say that Afrofuturism is my aesthetic.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    3.5 stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture is an anthology of a dozen personal essays written by Ytasha L. Womack. It is a collection of essays about defining the term: Afrofuturism. For the most part, I really like most – if not all of these contributions. Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture contain a dozen personal essays, which are written and researched exceptionally well. Womack explains that Afrofuturistic work is not confined within certain genres, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture is an anthology of a dozen personal essays written by Ytasha L. Womack. It is a collection of essays about defining the term: Afrofuturism. For the most part, I really like most – if not all of these contributions. Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture contain a dozen personal essays, which are written and researched exceptionally well. Womack explains that Afrofuturistic work is not confined within certain genres, such as science or speculative fiction, but rather an aesthetic which is marked by a desire to be free and unconstrained in any forms of media and genre. Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future and liberation and combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western beliefs. Like most anthologies, there are weaker contributions, and Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture is not an exception. There are a couple of essays that seems like an outlier, which wasn't as constructed or conveyed rather well – comparatively speaking. All in all, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture is a wonderful collection of essays that celebrates and defines Afrofuturism.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fee Scott-Bolden

    I absolutely enjoyed this book and it peaked my interest in the subject. The author provides a wealth of resources and artists/activists/ scholars who are actively working in the genre. Afrofuturism is a great tool for wielding the imagination for personal change and societal growth. Empowering people to see themselves and their ideas in the future gives rise to innovators and free thinkers, all of whom can pull from the best of the past while navigating the sea of possibilities to create communit I absolutely enjoyed this book and it peaked my interest in the subject. The author provides a wealth of resources and artists/activists/ scholars who are actively working in the genre. Afrofuturism is a great tool for wielding the imagination for personal change and societal growth. Empowering people to see themselves and their ideas in the future gives rise to innovators and free thinkers, all of whom can pull from the best of the past while navigating the sea of possibilities to create communities, culture, and a new, balanced world. The imagination is the key to progress, and it's the imagination that is all too often smothered in the name of conformity and community standards.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I think my own expectations of what this book were set me up to not enjoy it as much. This is an interesting topic, but the way it was presented could be a little confusing. It felt unorganized at times, with people discussed before they were explained and quotes from people just plopped into the chapter even if they weren't the most relevant. You definitely need some base information about Afrofuturism before going into this book to get the most out of it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    An introduction to Afrofuturism - a movement which is still being shaped, but can be a way for black people in particular to envision another future, or tap into some supernatural stuff from the past. Womack talks about touchstone artists (Sun Ra, George Clinton, Octavia Butler, etc), but also people studying the intersection between technology and people of color. A quick and informative read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Celine

    This was really, really good. I learned a lot about Afrofuturism and its origins and it gave me so many pointers for more stuff to read. I wish I had the time asdfghjk

  19. 5 out of 5

    Reginas..Haunted..Library

    This is a good introduction to an exciting art movement. It definitely made me want to explore more.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    All kinds of interesting tidbits of history and ideas woven together in this easy to read cultural/sociological sci/fi & African American collection that gives a massive overview of what we can understand is Afrofuturism. All kinds of interesting tidbits of history and ideas woven together in this easy to read cultural/sociological sci/fi & African American collection that gives a massive overview of what we can understand is Afrofuturism.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Haider

    A good introduction to the history of Afrofuturism in everything from music to art to movies and literature. We hear mention of George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Janelle Monae, Octavia Butler, Nnedi Okorafor, Sun Ra and more. The book mentioned many books, movies and musical artists that I want to follow-up with.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    The best primer for thinking and writing about Afrofuturism, full of inspiring quotations and great material from a wide variety of media.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary Brickthrower

    A fantastic overview of Afrofuturism in all media.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ayoola

    This is an excellent survey of afrofuturist thought, history, philosophies, and manifestations. As someone whose understanding of afrofuturism isn't so deep yet, this was a solid introduction that gave me ideas of resources to look into next.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dan Plonsey

    This is a terrible book -- for me, at least, because it's about a subject which is very dear to me. Without the life and music of Sun Ra, I don't know where I would have gone off to. This book, however, has nothing to give but useless gushing, generalizations, and descriptions which seem curiously second-hand. For instance, about Sun Ra: "he was a total original." "He explored with healing tones, new sounds, and pushed jazz beyond its bebop dimensions." That is, it reads like an extended essay b This is a terrible book -- for me, at least, because it's about a subject which is very dear to me. Without the life and music of Sun Ra, I don't know where I would have gone off to. This book, however, has nothing to give but useless gushing, generalizations, and descriptions which seem curiously second-hand. For instance, about Sun Ra: "he was a total original." "He explored with healing tones, new sounds, and pushed jazz beyond its bebop dimensions." That is, it reads like an extended essay by a high school student. Womack provides no original analysis, nor does she even find significant ideas in secondary sources. The only creativity manifest is the frequent misuse of words, possibly intended poetically, or perhaps merely the result of lack of editing. The fascinating creators of whom Womack writes are poorly served --damned by uncomprehending praise -- by this shallow and misleading work.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Inda

    I've had this book on my shelf for about a year and finally got around to reading it. This is not only a great primer on afrofuturism but also affirming for anyone who had trouble putting a name on their afrofuturist leanings. I love that it gets in that space between academia, or rather scholarship, and personal experience that academia tries to stay away from much to its detriment. We learn about the music, the books and the philosophies as well as real-life applications of scifi for Black peo I've had this book on my shelf for about a year and finally got around to reading it. This is not only a great primer on afrofuturism but also affirming for anyone who had trouble putting a name on their afrofuturist leanings. I love that it gets in that space between academia, or rather scholarship, and personal experience that academia tries to stay away from much to its detriment. We learn about the music, the books and the philosophies as well as real-life applications of scifi for Black people. One thing everyone should take away from this is that imagination is a powerful thing and a powerful tool we can use to ensuring our survival. Highly recommend.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nick Carraway LLC

    1) "Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation. 'I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,' says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator and Afrofuturist. LaFleur presented for the independently organized TEDx Fort Greene Salon in Brooklyn, New York. 'I see Afrofuturism as a way to encourage experimentation, reimagine identities, and activate liberation,' she said. Whether through literature, visual art 1) "Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation. 'I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,' says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator and Afrofuturist. LaFleur presented for the independently organized TEDx Fort Greene Salon in Brooklyn, New York. 'I see Afrofuturism as a way to encourage experimentation, reimagine identities, and activate liberation,' she said. Whether through literature, visual arts, music, or grassroots organizing, Afrofuturists redefine culture and notions of blackness for today and the future. Both an artistic aesthetic and a framework for critical theory, Afrofuturism combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western beliefs. In some cases, it's a total reenvisioning of the past and speculation about the future rife with cultural critiques." 2) "The roots of the aesthetic began decades before, but with the emergence of Afrofuturism as a philosophical study, suddenly artists like avant-garde jazz legend Sun Ra, funk pioneer George Clinton, and sci-fi author Octavia Butler were rediscovered and reframed by Afrofuturists as social change agents. The role of science and technology in the black experience overall was unearthed and viewed from new perspectives. Black musical innovators were being studied for their use and creation of progressive technologies. Inventors like Joseph Hunter Dickinson, who made innovations to the player piano and record player, were viewed as champions in black musical production. Jimi Hendrix's use of reverb on his guitar was reframed as a part of a black musical and scientific legacy. Others explored the historical social impact of technological advances on people of African descent and how they were wielded to affirm racial divisions or to overcome them." 3) "Not surprisingly, the Internet and today's technology are actually pushing the ideas in Afrofuturism forward. Gamers, app creators, start-up tech companies, inventors, animators, graphic artists, and filmmakers have faster and cheaper tools at their disposal to use and build and share with the world. The ideas that generate these creations are shared instantly on social media. 'I think the movement has evolved,' says Stacey Robinson, artist and Afrofuturist, who uses principles of sacred geometry to guide his work. He says, 'The technology was the catalyst. I would say it's ironic that technology would forward Afrofuturism. We've talked and theorized about it, but now we can talk to people who feel the way we do. We can examine the past and theorize the future. Back in the day it would have been Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois dominating the conversation on race. But now, someone on the Internet whose name you don't know with an online alias can contribute. I think that's Afrofuturism, that you can recreate a persona online and reinvent yourself with more ease and explore yourself. We're learning about black scientists who are doing things that we have theorized about---inventing things that we have explored or theorized about in our childhood.'" 4) "Afrofuturism is a free space for women, door ajar, arms wide open, a literal and figurative space for black women to be themselves. They can dig behind the societal reminders of blackness and womanhood to express a deeper identity and then use this discovery to define blackness, womanhood, or any other identifier in whatever form their imagination allows. Afrofuturists are not the first women to do this. Fine artist Elizabeth Catlett, author Zora Neale Hurston, and anthropologist/choreographer Katherine Dunham, among others, used imagination, art, and technology to redefine black and female expressions. However, Afrofuturism as a movement itself may be the first in which black women creators are credited for the power of their imaginations and are equally represented as the face of the future and the shapers of the future." 5) "Visual media is the medium of choice for widespread propaganda. The Birth of a Nation is recognized for being the first large-scale Hollywood picture, but the story---a propagandist tale of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction---also embedded the stereotypes of blacks in cinema for nearly a century. The relationship between media, the visual arts, and the dangerous stereotypes so many work to unravel is a serious one. I committed to working in media one day during my junior year in high school when I realized that the books, TV shows, films, and art I soaked in were the only windows to the larger world beyond my day-to-day teen life. Although I was a kid steeped in well-rounded black images, history, and a big heap of positive thinking, not everyone else was. [...] When DJ Spooky remixed the footage in The Birth of a Nation, the music-backed multimedia presentation traveled to museums throughout the world. While many were horrified by the film's depictions, DJ Spooky's exhibit underscored that technology is the ultimate power tool for defining and redefining the image. In the hands of a remixer and with a hint of low-cost editiing, the flashing images that had been seared into the nation's lexicon of black stereotypes could be rewound, inverted, chopped, and screwed---or erased. The power of this looming, larger-than-life screen is in the hands of anyone who wants to change it."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    Definitely more of an academic primer than what I was expecting, but gave me a ton of guidance for art, music and literature to look for.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    My interest in Afrofuturism began with the discovery of it as a sub-genre of sci-fi, but my explorations into it revealed so much more. Womack's book examines Afrofuturism as a cultural movement, of which the sci-fi subgenre is a major part, but explores it origins, the breadth and depth of the movement, it's impact on culture as a whole and its hopes for the future. A caveat, it was written during the peak of the Obama administration and the impact of the first African-American president in the My interest in Afrofuturism began with the discovery of it as a sub-genre of sci-fi, but my explorations into it revealed so much more. Womack's book examines Afrofuturism as a cultural movement, of which the sci-fi subgenre is a major part, but explores it origins, the breadth and depth of the movement, it's impact on culture as a whole and its hopes for the future. A caveat, it was written during the peak of the Obama administration and the impact of the first African-American president in the White House and what that might mean for the future of African-Americans and the African Diaspora, as well as the message of hope that was part and parcel of the administrations campaigns permeate and pervade the viewpoints of this book. Some of the hopes for the future seem a bit optimistic and can skew a tad naive in hindsight. The book is divided into 12 chapters... -Evolution of a Space Cadet-looks at some of the proto-Afrofuturistic elements that formed the foundation of the movement including Sun Ra, George Clinton, Octavia Butler, Black Nerd Culture etc. -A Human Fairy Tale Named Black-looks at the fiction which laid the groundwork for Afrofuturism in all media -Project Imagination-looks the birth of Afrofuturism in the listserv culture of the 90s, early influential voice in the movement and influences of those founders -Mothership in the Key of Mars-looks at the importance of music in the Arofuturist movement -The African Cosmos for Modern Mermaids (Mermen) looks at the influence of African folklore and religious traditions (like Dogon culture, the Sirius mystery cults, etc.) on science fiction and Afrofuturism -The Divine Feminine in Space-looks at the contributions of women in particular to the Afrofuturist movement and the crosspolination between soem feminist movements and Afrofuturism -Pen My Future-a look at black science fiction writers from Samuel Delaney and Octavia Butler to contemporary writers liek N.K. Jemisin (the current writer of the Green Lantern book Far Sector for DC Comics) -Moonwalkers in Paint and Pixels-a look at the art and imagery of the Afrofuturism movement -A Clock for Time Travelers-examines the aspects of time travel in black science fiction and Afrofuturism -The Surreal Life-examination of Afrosurrealism, a sister/brother movement to Afrofuturism that share a lot of common traits and voices. -Agent Change-examines the relationship between science fiction and activism, including things like the casting of Nichelle Nichols as Uhura on Star Trek and the first on-screen interacial kiss between Uhura and Kirk, as well as ways science fiction and social activism cross-pollinate ideas and share voices. -Future World-a look at where Afrofuturism and possibly the world is headed. All in all a fascinating and through-provoking read, and one that opened up so many new avenues for exploration for me. If you want to understand the roots of Afrofuturism, look at the trinity at its foundation-George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, Sun Ra, and Octavia Butler. None of them were Afrofuturists per se, but their ideas and influence were the breeding ground of Afrofuturism. Futuristic sci-fi trappings, attire and settings, addressing feelings of otherness, alieness and other such effects associated with being an outsider to the larger mass culture, i.e. the idea of being "other," philosophical and (sometimes) mystical explorations of past, present and future, a hope for change and working towards a better tomorrow in a sense. Womack's book is a good introduction, very informative and well written. The cover art and the art on the chapter headings is wonderful, however, my one quibble is that a book of this type would have been well served with illustrations to highlight the material it was discussing. It may have been a rights/cost issue, but photos of Sun Ra and Parliament in their full on sci-fi costuming, or samples of the art discussed (such as an image of Kerry James Marshall's Keeping the Culture when she was discussing it), cover images of books discussed, etc. would all have added to the attractiveness and accessibility of the book. I read the book digitally via Hoopla because it was the quickest way I could get access to the book (and I don't like buying digital copies of stuff preferring physical copies). I am on the fence about going out and getting a physical copy for my library. If it had a stronger visual component to serve as a reference to go along with the text, it would have been a no-brainer addition, but the text heavy design and lack of supporting visuals leaves me undecided about shelling out for a physical copy. If I run into one in the wild, I would probably grab it, but I am not going run out to order a copy immediately. Still, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone who wants to get a good overview and introduction to Afrofutrism (just be prepared to do a few google searches to support visually what you are encountering in the book).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Colin Cox

    Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture is a lively and approachable primer. Womack defines Afrofuturism as "an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation...Afrofuturists redefine culture and notions of blackness for today and the future...In some cases, it's a total re-envisioning of the past and speculation about the future rife with cultural critiques" (9). According to Womack, Afrofuturism allows black writers, artists, musicians, and performers t Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture is a lively and approachable primer. Womack defines Afrofuturism as "an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation...Afrofuturists redefine culture and notions of blackness for today and the future...In some cases, it's a total re-envisioning of the past and speculation about the future rife with cultural critiques" (9). According to Womack, Afrofuturism allows black writers, artists, musicians, and performers the ability to control how dominant cultures understand and perceive them. While Afrofuturism wants to influence cultural narratives about black people better, it also wants to redefine the black imagination. Afrofuturism destabilizes established notions of blackness; therefore, it is a play of past and present. By developing these counter-narratives, Afrofuturists combat oppression, afford opportunities for healing, and "provide a prism for evolution" (38). Another appealing aspect of Afrofuturism is how it engages with time. Womack writes, "There's something about African American culture in particular that dictates all cultural hallmarks and personal evolutions are recast in a historical lineage. Whether it's the concept of prophecy and speaking into the future or tropes of the past shadowing the present, whether by need or by narrative, many speak as if the future, past, and present are one" (153). All of that is to say, "Afrofuturists are constantly re-contextualizing the past in a way that changes the present and the future" (158). This is another way Afrofuturism functions as an aesthetic preoccupied with healing. The past is malleable, which explains why so many Afrofuturists use time-travel in their work, and by recasting the past, Afrofuturists recast what is possible by destabilizes what was. Womack does not explicitly address psychoanalysis in Afrofuturism, but so much of what she describes in Afrofuturism reads like it has distinct psychoanalytic undercurrents. For example, when Womack writes, "Afrofuturism is the subconscious's way of knocking at the door of present awareness," is she not thinking both about the unconscious and repression (96)? She makes another reference to repression when she writes, "the land feels familiar, a reality that is soothing for some and unsettling for others. It's as if the artists want you to remember something" (105). These references may be nothing more than an expression of certain psychoanalytic principles that have wandered into our everyday lexicon. However, I wonder what might happen if we push these ideas further. What might psychoanalysis say about Afrofuturism? What might Afrofuturism say about psychoanalysis? Perhaps these are questions Afrofuturists have explored, but if that is true, Womack fails to address it. Once again, Ytasha L. Womack's Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture is a fun and engaging introduction to Afrofuturism. As Womack demonstrates, this eclectic community of writers, artists, and musicians is thinking about the past, present, and future in smart and creative ways.

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