Black People Don’t Like Steampunk, Fantasy and Science Fiction!
At this year’s Dragon*Con, an author and Steampunk scholar I know posed the question: “How come black people don’t like the fantasy / sci fi genre? I mean, there are no sci fi / fantasy films directed, produced, or starring African Americans, so why aren’t they getting behind you and supporting Rite of Passage, a film written by, directed by, produced by and starring Black people?”
First, let me say that while a few people from all ethnic backgrounds have supported the making of Rite of Passage with in-kind donations or donations, the majority of that few has been of African descent. As far as why more Black people have not supported us, or why the majority of us don’t support independent, Black-created science fiction and fantasy films in general – because we do, indeed, support big-budget Hollywood science fiction films with our hard-earned dollars – I believe there are several factors at work.
In discussing this issue with co-creator of the Rite of Passage world, author, publisher and Executive Producer of Rite of Passage, Milton Davis, his opinion is that “Most Black people want reality. Many of us struggle to make ends meet; we’re living check to check; we’re facing getting our light turned off, so we don’t have time to delve into make believe.”
In regard to those Black people to whom Milton is referring, I believe a good dose of quality Science Fiction and Fantasy is exactly what they need. Science fiction and fantasy peek into the realm of possibility and an escape from the harshness and cruelty of the “real world”. Science Fiction and Fantasy stories deal with our real-world issues, but cover them in a veneer of the improbable and maybe even the impossible, thus making the bitter pill of life easier to swallow.
In traditional African cultures, it is through the telling of stories of heroism, bravery, the overcoming of overwhelming odds, magic, fearsome creatures, powerful artifacts and amazing technology that we instill good character in youth and encourage good character in everyone. My research tells me that the same is true of all cultures. Every culture on earth has its myths, fairytales and folklore and in most societies, djeli – bards, or griots who tell stories about a culture’s heroes, villains and history – are held in the highest regard.
We often feel Science Fiction, Science Fantasy and Steamfunk are not “real enough” because most authors and filmmakers within those genres have not made room for an epic telling of a Black Fantasy and Science Fiction tale. We – the creators of Rite of Passage weren’t supposed to do this so, to many, the possibility of a group of Black people making an epic Science Fiction Film that is not only well-done, but is hotter than fish-grease, seems far-fetched.
A third reason – the reason why, surprisingly, most of our support has not come from the many fellow Black creators of science fiction and fantasy who know of Milton Davis’ and my work – is that there is a perception among many people that if a Black person makes a Science Fiction film – particularly Milton and I, who create stories for and about Black people – that story will have more to do with pushing some “Black agenda”, overcoming some great racial injustice, or other political issue than with telling a great story. While Rite of Passage is set in the time of Reconstruction; while it does deal with the issues of sexism and racism; it is first and foremost a great story, told in a dynamic, exciting and entertaining way.
Rite of Passage deals with universal issues that intrigue, encourage and plague us all.
After I gave my answer the Author / Steampunk Scholar had one more question: “Where can I donate to the making of Rite of Passage?”
My response? Go here!
*We accept monetary and in-kind donations.
Here is a list of people who have already donated. We thank them so much!
And we thank you – in advance – for joining their ranks!
Karen Marie Mason