Andrea Hairston’s Mindscape

“We still yearn for a Metatheory, a God who never lies, whose simple, absolute truth will guide us from nothing to everything without once falling down. Unfortunately truths are false and lies are true. Anything we are absolutely certain of doesn’t matter and everything that truly matters is uncertain.”
~~Vera Xa Lalafia


Finished. Really, really liked it. And since I am still stuck in the Lull and am apparently incapable of constructing a coherent paragraph much less a review essay, here are the bullet points. (Never fear–no spoilers ahead). Mindscape:

  • Confirms for me that the best hard sci-fi is the kind that openly lusts for magical realism and leaps of fantasy.
  • Confirms that science fiction looks very different when it takes takes seriously 1) that a hero can be female and still sexy, violent, flawed, vulnerable and triumphant 2) a female hero of color can be all of these without being junglefied or mammied 3) people of color can play roles that aren’t just witty, “ethnic throwback” sidekicks or helplessly tormented victims.
  • POC humanity can be fundamental parts of the plot without the story collapsing into racial polemics, masochistic Afrocentricity, ambiguous mestizaje, or a melting pot of Latinidad. Translation? The history, culture, politics, and, hell, the people-dom of people of African, Latina/o and Native American descent should not only be a part of the story that is told but that people-dom should be critiqued and created with the same rigor as majority (Anglo or European) societies. That means asking what is it that poc nickname God? Was it the color of their skin only? Was the rhythm of the drums/beat/scratch? Was it the distribution of political and social power between men and women, elders and age-grades? Was it the lyric and spiritual? The curve of clay forms? Was it a kind of prayer or a way of speaking? And where do you then place histories of slavery and genocide, how do your characters feel that as spectre even as they walk in worlds three, four or five thousand years ahead of today?
  • You don’t have to say your characters are any color for them to be that color. (Proof again that putting the humanity of people of color into sci-fi is more than just taking a brown crayon to your cookie-cutter hero or heroine)
  • Just because you don’t give your characters a color doesn’t make them “everyman” or “everywoman” (Proof again….)
  • Gender is as much a myth as race and should be interrogated and respected just as is explained above. Sexuality is the same deal. And the absolute best sci-fi out right now is flipping both of those way on their head and them thrusting them into another dimension before bringing them back and commiting them to paper.
  • Ooooooh on the way that really, really good sci-fi can take things that are absolutely normal today, magnify them, and make them absolutely otherworldly and yet frighteningly prescient. (I can’t say more without spoiling…but ooooohhhhhh!)
  • Ooooooh on the way that afrofuturism deplores the happy ending. After all: “Anything we are absolutely certain of doesn’t matter and everything that truly matters is uncertain.”

That is all, at least until I am a real writer again. If you have free time, read the book. If I had free time I would start a TechnoAfroCats Book Collective or distro (yay, I just learned what that is!) or something.

Hmm. Actually, interesting thought. I might have to consider that….

Kismet is a writer, teacher, dreamer, scholar, insurgent, artist & in love with history. This is where I live.  She co-authors the blog Waiting 2 Speak.

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