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42 Black Science Fiction Works Important to Understanding Its History
by Jennifer D.
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This is often cited as the first African American science fiction novel, though the author lived in England at the time it was published. It’s about a slave revolt, with hints at the Utopia that may follow.
“The Goophered Grapevine” This was the author’s first short story, and the first story by a black writer to appear in the prestigious glossy magazine The Atlantic. Heavily laden with “eye dialect” (stylized and phoneticized depictions of nonstandard speech), it’s one of Chesnutt’s popular “Uncle Julius” tales, which were collected in 1899’s The Conjure Woman. (F)
A rousing adventure along the lines of H. Rider Haggard’s She and King Solomon’s Mines, Hopkins’s serialized lost race narrative takes readers from a sleety Boston campus to a Libyan desert’s “rosary of oases.” Medical student Reuel Briggs discovers he’s the descendant of divine African kings, destined to rule the faithful inhabitants of “Hidden City” with the aid of a priestly hypnotist. (F)
In the post-apocalyptic New York created by the devastating toxic gases a crashing comet unleashes, a black man has a close encounter with the only other survivor, a wealthy white woman. This unabashedly science fictional scenario is deftly handled by, yes, that Du Bois, the influential black thinker best known for his philosophic analyses of U.S. race relations. It was reprinted in Dark Matter 1.
Like his first novel, The Palm Wine Drinkard, this collection of related stories deals with the mythic realm of Yoruba-based cosmologies. Unlike that book, its young protagonist enters this realm unwillingly. The stories appear non-sequentially, emphasizing the disjointed outlook resulting from his strange experiences. (F)
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Combining sci-fi, western, and horror elements, the film is about Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) traversing an Old West-style world in search of the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), as well as the Dark Tower, which might save the world. Nikolaj Arcel is directing and King, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer are producing. A TV series is expected to follow in 2018, showing Sony's commitment to the project.
This sci-fi film, based on Jeff VanderMeer's 2014 novel (the first of his Southern Reach trilogy), is about an expedition to find a missing man in an environmental disaster zone (the less you know, the better). The cast includes Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, and David Gyasi. Alex Garland (Ex Machina) is directing.
Based on R.J. Palacio's 2012 middle-grade novel, the film is about a boy (Jacob Tremblay, best known for Room) born with a facial deformity who begins the fifth grade with the help and support of his mother (Julia Roberts) and father (Owen Wilson). The challenges he faces help others learn to not judge a book by its cover. Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is directing.
Because this adaptation of King's novel about a group of boys terrorized by, among other things, an evil clown has been in development since 2009, fans are understandably wary. Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) was originally attached to direct but dropped out in 2015, reportedly because of budget issues. Now Andrés Muschietti, director of 2013's Mama, is directing, with Bill Skarsgård (Allegiant) playing Pennywise.
Called a combination of Groundhog Day and Heathers, this adaptation of Lauren Oliver's 2011 novel played at Sundance and received a pretty good reception. February 12 is just another day for high schooler Sam (Zoey Deutch), until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her final day, she untangles the mystery of her death.
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The novelist's was adapted into this excellent 64-page book, in which she deftly defends the use of the feminist label and its necessity, arguing that doing away with it would be "a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
This book by the writer behind the popular AwesomelyLuvvie.com blog is both hilarious and incisive about how to behave towards our fellow humans. In a world where it can seem like common decency has gone out the window, Luvvie is here to bring it back. She’s also seriously smart about the shortcomings of feminism, which feels especially urgent right now.
The classic 1951 text by one of the leading political theorists of her era that analyzes how the Nazis rose to power in Germany and how Stalin rose to power in the Soviet Union, tracing their origins to 19th-century political and anti-Semitic movements. Part three focuses on the period from 1930 onwards — which is probably the most relevant.
First published in 1985, Atwood’s book is about a near-future U.S. that has turned into a totalitarian state where women have nearly all their rights stripped from them. If this is sounding a little too close to home, you’re not alone. It has also been turned into a forthcoming (April!) Hulu show starring Elisabeth Moss.
The poet Toi Derricotte is a light-skinned black woman whose book, written in journal form, is a vital treatise on what it’s like not just to “pass” as white, but also the complicated dance of “choosing” your own racial identity. As a New York Times review written around the book’s release in 1997 noted, Derricotte shows how whiteness is “privilege utterly and ruinously unacquainted with itself.”
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In 2000, 21-year old Brit Lucie Blackman traveled to Japan in search of adventure. Three months later she was dead. Parry’s investigation illuminates dark seams of Japanese culture and failings in the investigation, and paints a portrait of a young woman whose life was cut horrifically short. Once the killer is identified, the shocking details of the crime are only the first in a series of brutal revelations.
Val McDermid, one of Britain’s finest crime writers, here turns her attentions to the history of forensics in crime investigations, detailing each new technique or discovery along with the details of the case it was first used in. Part history lesson, part introduction to forensics, it’s wholly entertaining.
Junger grew up in a well-to-do Boston neighbourhood, where the rape and murder of his neighbour led to the arrest of a black man, Roy Smith, who was initially thought to be the Boston Strangler. But the Strangler murders continued and were eventually pinned on Albert DeSalvo, a carpenter with a history of violence.
Malcolm’s book is a damning indictment of crime writer Joe McGinniss, who befriended Jeffery MacDonald, accused and later convicted of the murders of his wife and child. McGinniss used his friendship with MacDonald to get close, promising to write a book that would show his innocence. But when it was released, McGinniss’s book, Fatal Vision, did the opposite, arguing that MacDonald was a psychopath.
Errol Morris turns his attentions to the case of Jeffery MacDonald, the subject of Joe McGinniss ill-advised Fatal Vision, and Janet Malcolm’s damning indictment. Morris presents a case here for MacDonald’s innocence and mistreatment by authorities. Interesting, if not entirely convincing.