Category Archives: SciFi

Awesome Moms of Color in Sci-Fi & Comics

Because let’s face it, your mom is a superhero. Here’s some of the company she keeps!

Rocket (Icon)

Rocket from Icon by Dwayne McDuffie

Raquel Ervin had only been a superhero for a short time when she found out that she was pregnant. Still a teenager, she stepped up and decide to have the child and be an awesome mother. She put her heroics on hold for a time in order to raise her son well, but soon returned and kept a beautiful superhero-mom balance. Hardcore. Besides, she named her son Amistad Augustus Ervin.  Awesome.

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Geeky “Loser” Wins The Zombie Apocalypse in Short Film ‘Super Zero’

It’s hard to be original in the “zombie” movie genre these days. The zombie-film lovers among us even have nerd-raging debates about how to categorize zombie films and even the types of zombies. And once you’ve gotten through the sequel of a movie boasting fast-running, treasure-hunting Nazi zombies… you might start to think that’s the end of the line.

But Super Zero is a breath of fresh air… Or, rather, fresh rotting-corpse-smell air, because, as our unlikely hero reminds us, “you never hear about how the apocalypse smells like total ass.”

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This is the zombie movie for the zombie-film lover who rooted for the geeky dude Erlend in Dead Snow to be the one who makes it to the end through sheer nerdery and zombie fandom. This is the zombie apocalypse for the comic book nerd, the science geek, the Cheeto-stained-fingers gamer who’s used to killing his zombies with a joystick and a X button.

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The only thing you could probably fault the film for is an overuse of the word “dickweed,” but can we even call that a fault? I mean… I get it. It’s too fun to say… “dickweed”… “dickweed.” Try it. “Dickweed”… Anyway….

From director Mitch Cohen, Super Zero is a brilliant, sarcastic, nerd-tuned take on the zombie apocalypse, so just watch it.

But here’s the brief in case you need a little more enticement:
Your standard nerd, Josh Hershberg got the shitty end of the gene pool stick. And it’s not just the lack of cleft chin and bulging muscles that screwed him over; he just found out he has terminal brain cancer… He’s ready to give up completely when the apocalypse hits. Suddenly the very thing that was going to kill him might be the only thing that keeps him alive. Well… that and apparently a knack for physics turns out to be just the thing an unlikely hero needs in the zombie apocalypse.

As unlikely hero Josh tells us “you may not be a naturally skilled athlete, brilliantly creative, or just the whole package…” but that doesn’t mean you can’t be “the baddest motherfucker in the world.”

super_zero_poster Big Block

Friday Find: Beautifully Creepy Teaser for Sundance Film AFRONAUTS

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Premiering at the 2014 Sundance Festival, Afronauts is already makings lists as a must-see film.  Starring Diandra Forrest and Yolanda Ross, the film was created by Frances Bodomo, whose previous film Boneshaker featured actress  Quvenzhané Wallis and premiered at the 2013 Sundance Festival. The film is based on a true story about Zambian astronauts.

Synopsis for the film below:

“On 16 July 1969, America prepares to launch Apollo 11. Thousands of miles away, the Zambia Space Academy hopes to beat America to the moon. Inspired by true events.”

Keep up with screenings and updates on the Afronauts Facebook page!

Geeky Week Round-Up: Rue Joins Sleepy Hollow, Luke Cage Gets a TV Show, & Frederick Douglass Gets the Comic Treatment

Last week brought us lots of Geeky Outsidery awesome. So, we decided to consolidate it all into one giant post of awesome to get your geek on and week started off right. Happy Sunday!

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Gotta headline with this week’s best news!  Amandla Stenberg, that dope actress who played Rue in the Hunger Games, will be joining the cast of Sleepy Hollow!  After a less-than-awesome (read, horribly racist) experience after her Hunger Games debut, it puts a huge smile on the geek gods faces to see this great tiny actress join a diverse cast on a fun show with an awesome dynamic Black female lead. Win.

Speaking of winning, Marvel gave us the gift of a new badass superhero. The teenage shapeshifter from Jersey will be debuting in her own title series as the new Ms. Marvel in February 2014!  Real name Kamala Khan, this young new superhero grew up in Jersey but has Pakistani roots and joins the ranks of the few Muslim superheroes in mainstream comics! Written by G. Willow Wilson, Khan made her first appearance in last week’s Captain Marvel #17 (yep. Go get it!).  (via CBR)

Awesome freelance artists (and video game industry professionals!) Audran Guerard and Daniel Roy had the beautiful idea to put together a graphic novel adaptation of the life of Frederick Douglass. Based on his two biographies The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Novel will be published as two 50-page volumes featuring some beautiful watercolor art. Support ’em (and dibs a copy!) on Kickstarter.

Marvel is bringing Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones to the small screen! Specifically, they signed a deal with Netflix for four separate new live-action TV series, one for each of the characters. And here’s the dope – these four shows will lead to a team-up in a miniseries for The Defenders! (via IGN)

And for all the literary geeks out there, we’ve got a Jane Austen video game (we’re totally playing)! And an (ironically) daring theater that’s bringing drag back to Shakespeare! (via kickstarter & WBUR)

via WBUR

Keep it Geeky!

Fantasizing History: Sleepy Hollow, White Redemption, and Literally Empowering Brown Folk

In a recent editorial in The New York Times, A.O. Scott took a few race-centric blockbusters, like The Help and Django Unchained to task, or rather to uncomfortable truths. But not for the reasons one might think.

What Scott pointed out was that these films offer a sense of redemption for white consumers, who attend them out of a sense of duty to acknowledge the very real horrors of slavery and the civil rights era. And in the theater, when the helpful white good guy throws caution to the wind to help their fellow suffering blacks, they can mourn that distant past, identify themselves with this mythic hero, and shame and hate the carcicature-d evil racists, leaving the theater with a relief that such horrors are a thing of a dark and incomprehensible past and that they themselves are morally well-adjusted in an era where race is no longer such a pressing issue.

This pop culture distancing, he argues, is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the conversation about race we’re (not) having in this country.

And he’s right. There are examples everywhere. One recent and hit-you-over-the-head example can be found in the (fun and awesome) TV show Sleepy Hollow.  Created by a bunch of white guys, the show has achieved strides in television history simply in the casting of the show, which features not just a Black female lead (basically unheard of in a supernatural TV series), but a whole host of frequently appearing black and brown faces, and all while actively shutting down racial stereotypes. It’s dope, and it makes one really really like this particular bunch of white guys.

But funny enough the one stereotype that remains is actually smeared all over the show’s side-kick white guy (Seriously. Love. It.) Ichabod Crane, who is basically a progressive white apologist and history revisionist.

Of course, the entire show is a fantastical re-imagining of history as one big shit-show fight-to-the-death with…well, Death and his demon friends. But the particulars of what gets revised is telling.

Ichy getting chummy with his "Mohawk friends"
Ichy getting chummy with his “Mohawk friends” during the war.

Like when Crane gets all “no way!” about the genocide of Native Americans: “What?! The Native Americans were decimated? But they were my friends! We fought alongside them against the evil Brits.” This is true to an extent. Many Native peoples fought alongside the Patriot soldiers, but just as many were siding with the Brits in hopes that a British victory would choke the steady stream of colonists stealing Native lands…

At first, one is inclined to scoff at Crane’s role as adorable white guilt assuager. But actually, in a fantasy television series, alongside historical revisions that place the headless horseman in the Revolutionary War, is the only place such shenanigans belong.

Black Americans have been using fantasy and science fiction to rewrite history and write new Conde’s novel takes Tituba out of obscurity and writes her prominently into history, from her youth in Barbados to meeting Hester Prynne, to her escape from being burned as a witch.  Not only that, but she removes the yoke of victim-hood that stalks Black history and endows Tituba with supernatural powers as well.futures quite some time.  One great example is Maryse Conde’s historical fiction novel I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salemwhich draws on the true story of a Black woman who was the first to be accused of being a witch before the Salem Witch Trials got all epic and bloody.  But beyond the fact that she was accused and managed to escape with her flesh intact, we know little else about her.

But what’s the point of such fantasizing? Well Conde’s novel is certainly a metaphorical reclamation of history and it spreads awareness of the fact that Black people were there too.  It’s also a feel-good book (despite all of it’s sadness) for Black readers, because it puts brown faces in histories that we’ve learned had little to do with us.  We root for the hero hard between the tears. Many non-fictional scholarly books do this for other eras and events.

(At this point, can’t help but give a shout-out to this dope Tumblr Medieval POC that aims to debunk the myth that Black people weren’t around in Medieval Europe).

But it’s in the fantastical revisionings that Kindred‘s Dana Franklin gets to kill the white guy who owned her ancestors, or where Harriet Tubman gets to be a pants-wearing steampunk spy, psychic, and freedom fighter.

This gets at the very definition of fantasy for fans — it’s where we can go to utterly escape reality, that includes white guilt. There Black people can turn to fantasy to empower their history literally by imagining superpowers into the hands of their ancestors or just knock-around the mastuh. And white folk can turn to fantasy to pretend it was evil vampires who were the slave owners or make friendlies between the colonists and Native American communities.

cover of Balogun Ojetade’s “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman”

Now, revisions that cleanse whites of historical wrongs are problematic in movies like The Help, where they masquerade as possible truths, because they further obscure the real historical truths that are already obfuscated by incomplete or non-existent records, the dehumanization of whole groups of people, essentially by the white power structures that write history.  And they deny the role of the marginalized peoples of the world in history as anything other than victims.

However, when such revisions appear in the context of ridiculous story lines like those of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Sleepy Hollow it’s basically an admission that notions of the white power structure forged by our messed up history can be warm-fuzzied away are just as ridiculous as an acrobatic axe-wielding Abe Lincoln Matrix-style dodging a horse thrown at him by an angry racist vampire.

So, I roll my eyes a little at the adorable need for such white guilt cuddlies, but I ain’t mad. It’s happening in exactly the right place, right before some other absurd ridiculosity goes down.

[Insert Pun About Heads Rolling Here]: Sleepy Hollow Premiere Captivatingly Decapitates

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And all  the ridiculous, punny headlines about Fox new Monday night show Sleepy Hollow are almost as absurdly enjoyable as the show itself.

The show premiered on Monday in a bombardment of historical hijinks, supernatural beheadings, witchcraft, and hot and heavy flirtation with threats of the apocalypse. You could hardly catch your breath to keep up with the break-neck pace of the plot, but apparently folk like their tv in a sprint, because more than 10 million viewers tuned in to catch the premiere, and the pilot rated better than any other Monday night show.

But is this just an ADD-nation love-fest or is the show actually good?

Well, oddly enough, there’s actually too much information to tell at this point. In just an hour the show introduced us to our main protagonists — Lt. Abbie Mills (the ridiculously gorgeous Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane himself (Tom Mison) — beheaded 3 key characters, and basically unraveled every single mystery it had introduced in the first half of the show…. If they keep up this kind of narrative pace, it’s hard to imagine what they’ll have left to tell after 3 or 4 episodes.  Then again, there’s a chance the plan is to get all the plot/surprise/mystery stuff out of the way and really delve into the character’s relationships.

This is not a feeble hope either. There’s plenty of room for development there. Abbie and Ichabod made fast friends in this first episode, after a couple quick bumps in the road, such as when Ichabod’s 18th century misogyny is offended by Lt. Mills’ wearing “trousers” or when Abbie has to side-eye Crane when he questions how a Black woman is allowed to be a police officer.

In this more or less unprecedented case of a Black female lead and a White guy lead sharing screen time (equally!) and playing characters out of time and out of place respectively, there could be a lot to work with there. Likely in less profound ways than Octavia Butler’s Kindred, for example, but maybe in the brief reprieves from heads rolling, these two can establish a meaningful rapport… or at least a sarcastically hilarious one as a point of stability in the whacky whirl of supernatural tropes.

I mean, seriously, in spoilery summary: A time-travelling headless horseman abandons his magical axe for an arsenal of automatic weapons in order to fight a Red Coat superspy scholar revived from death by his good witch wife (whose spirit is stuck in a creepy la la dimension battling demons and evil witch covens) who’s supposed to stop headless baddie from getting his head back, waking up the four-horsemen of the apocalypse and getting his world-destruction on.

Jar head = most inconvenient key to the apocalypse ever

Regardless, this geek is tuning into episode two and holding out hope that a sci-fi series led by a Black woman hero will be ridiculously awesome (or at least awesomely ridiculous)… ’cause it’s about time.

Fine, also because I heart Orlando Jones. I mean, how can you not?

Destination: Planet Negro! – A Black Sci-Fi, Time-Traveling, Space Adventure! [Friday Find]

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“The solution for the negro is to leave the planet!” cries one member of a Black counsel convened to discuss “the Negro Problem” in the trailer for Kevin Wilmott‘s Destination: Planet Negro!. This declaration sets this hilarious sci-fi satire in motion.

Riffing off the escapist ideas in history  (like the 19th century “Back-to-Africa movement) and in Afrofuturist works like Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Destination: Planet Negro! tells the story of a league of Black scientists, adventurers, and pioneers who build a rocket ship and a sassy robot in order to venture to Mars “in search of a better life.”

Citing influences such as Twilight Zone and Destination Moon (1950), Wilmott is bringing a blast from the past in Destination: Planet Negro!, complete with the low-budget 1950’s sci-fi look and appearances from the likes of George Washington Carver and W.E.B DuBois. But when our heroes blast off in their rocket, the theme shifts to something that resembles a reality TV show as they find themselves in a future where there’s a Black president.

In a Q&A at the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago last month, Wilmott discussed his motivations for the film “Sci fi was one of the few places where black folk would show up occasionally,” said Wilmott, “I think Black folk as a whole, you can kind of say, our lives in America has always been hoping for a better future.”

And “future” is the key word in anything involving Black folk and time-travel. This film is certainly one-of-a-kind. An almost all-Black cast in a time-traveling, sci-fi, space adventure? It’s about time.

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The film premiered August 23rd at the Black Harvest Film Festival and it’s making the rounds. Keep up with screenings on the Planet Negro Facebook page or bring ’em to you & arrange a screening at the Destination: Planet Negro website.