Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chicanonautica: Waiting for the Godzilla/Bruce Lee/Spaghetti Western Breakthrough

Once again, there’s a whole lotta chatter about diversity in science fiction/speculative fiction/whatever your favorite subsector of the nonmainstream happens to be. Once again, it’s giving me déjà vu -- echoes of things I said once upon a time in the Twentieth Century. Feels like I’ve been stuck in this echo chamber forever -- a breakout is in order. 

Or maybe some of my jangled thoughts on the subject will do.

There’s been a lot of talk about labels -- what to call whom, and what we’re doing. I’ve found that the labels don’t really matter. What you’re called is usually decided by somebody else, after the fact, and it’s often misleading. I get called a cyberpunk even though I was never really involved in that movement -- so what? A least they’re talking about me.

Or, as to quote Frank Zappa:

What will you do when the label comes off,
And the plastic’s all melted,
And the chromes is too soft?

And those labels all peel off, often before you’re ready.

I’m also hearing a lot about being careful about offending people and political correctness. I remember back when political correctness first came on the scene -- I though it was a bad idea. It reminded me of the folks who were skittish about publishing me because I might offend minorities. Once you step out of this planet’s Anglophone/caucasian safe zone, it's hard to tell who’s a minority and who’s a majority. And sometimes I’m actually trying to be offensive -- I consider it part of the job, to slap people out of their selves.

I’ve succeeded on occasion.

Besides the déjà vu, the frustrating thing about all this chatter is that it is chatter, talk, yak, yak, yak . . . There’s been some action, books published and discussed, but as far as seeing a bright future for post-Afrofuturist/postcolonial, diverse speculative fiction and fantasy, we aren’t there yet.

We could see a fad for cultural appropriation, like the ethnic versions of popular superheroes in comic books, and makeovers of the same old space opera and heroic fantasy, the way Star Wars is old fashioned kiddie-matinee melodrama in nouvelle sci-fi drag. I hope not, but it could happen.

We will have truly made it when writers of a wide variety of ethinic groups are writing spec fic about all kinds of people, based on all kinds of cultures . . . and making money. 

I know, it’s hard enough to just get published. It’s the story of my life, but I’m a dreamer, and I can see flashes of a better world . . .

Sir Run Run Shaw, the media tycoon who brought the martial arts movies to a global audience died recently. He was 106. We should look to him as an example of what to shoot for.

Godzilla brought Japanese movies to audiences that weren’t into reading subtitles. Bruce Lee showed the world that the hero didn’t have to be white. Note the similarity between the martial arts and Blaxploitation genres. Spaghetti westerns (remember that A Fistful of Dollars was a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, which in turn was inspired by Dashiell Hammet’s Red Harvest) are often more radical than serious, political films -- my favorite, A Bullet for the General comes to mind.

We can -- and should -- be writing stuff that will rock the world!

Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble is crumbling, and publishing is metamorphosizing. Empires falling. Opportunities rising.

Ernest Hogan has books and stories to finish, and is keeping one foot in the underground, just to make sure he has a place to stand.

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