Weekly Photo Challenge: I’d Rather Be…

From Dublin.

I always feel at home in a library.  Nothing so comforting as rows upon rows of books, and the library at Trinity College is particularly beautiful.  Reading is my favorite pastime.

I’d also like to be in Ireland right now, which is a beautiful country with wonderful people.  Plus it’s at least 10 degrees warmer than Ohio right now!  I hope I’ll make it back there someday.

Weekly Photo Challenge: I’d Rather Be…


Weekly Photo Challenge: Story

From Inishmore, Aran Islands.

Seven Churches (Na Seacht Teampaill) is a beautiful historic site with many stories.  (For one thing, it only had two churches, so there must be a story behind the name.)  The churchyard has many graves, some old and some newer, all with their own stories.  These are the oldest graves, in one corner of the cemetery.  The story goes that these were Romans who came to this site on a pilgrimage.  As with most such stories, there is probably at least a little truth in that!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Story

Fan Art Friday: Portrait of a Queen

Welcome back to our Star Wars coloring book club, where Kiri at Star Wars Anonymous and I color the same image every month to compare and contrast.


We meet Amidala as Queen of Naboo in Episode I, and I have always loved her dresses and makeup. So I always enjoy coloring Amidala. I wanted to use the core colors of red, gold, and black from her outfit, which fit the poppies perfectly.

But I also wanted to incorporate other colors. I hit upon using royal blue, mixing blue and purple. Purple has been associated with royalty since Roman times, so I thought it was fitting thematically.

The monarch of Naboo is the head of state for the planet (the governor of Naboo being the head of goverment). It is actually an elected position, and I always thought it was strange that the people of Naboo seemed to frequently elect teenage girls to the position. Amidala was elected at the age of fourteen. In my experience, teenage girls are not always a font of calm and logic, but the queens seem to be the exception to that rule.

Check out Kiri’s version here (and read her thoughts on Amidala’s stoic facade).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Out of This World

From Dublin.

I don’t drink much beer, and I definitely don’t drink much Guinness, but stopping by the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin was still pretty fun.  The highlight for me was the Gravity Bar on the top floor, where you can have a pint and enjoy great views of the city.  But the view from down below is also interesting…it reminds me of a flying saucer!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Out of This World

Black History Month: Afrofuturism and Black Panther

I went to see Black Panther last weekend, and it was every bit as good as everyone said.  One of its most striking aspects is the visual aesthetic and culture of Wakanda, a successful cross of organic and technological, traditional and futuristic.  It is one of the most stunning recent representations of a decades-long movement called “Afrofuturism.”  Although it may not have always been at the forefront of the genre, it has had a deep and lasting impact on science fiction.

Janelle Monáe’s album The ArchAndroid

Afrofuturism has its roots in the mid-20th century works of authors such as W.E.B. DuBois and Ralph Ellison.  The term itself was coined in the ’90s to describe the trend of “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of 20th-century technoculture.”  Hugo- and Nebula-winning author Octavia Butler produced some of the most famous works of the movement.

Afrofuturism seems to be having a bit of a renaissance currently, being represented in the works of authors like Nnedi Okorafor, musicians like Janelle Monáe, and even in the video game Overwatch with the appearance of the fictional utopian city Numbani.  But the Black Panther movie is clearly destined to move Afrofuturism solidly into our collective consciousness and give it a lasting place in popular culture.

Overwatch’s Afrofuturist city Numbani

Wakanda’s Afrofuturistic aspects can be seen in many facets, from the visuals of its architecture and clothing to its transportation and medical care, and especially in its mirage that keeps its true advanced nature hidden from the rest of the world.  In many ways, the African culture blends seamlessly with technology powered by the fictional metal vibranium.  Traditional articles of clothing become advanced armor and shields.  A beaded bracelet is a remote control device for communications, healing, or other infrastructure systems.  Wakanda has metropolitan skyscrapers that are covered in living plants.

But Afrofuturism is more than the sum of its sci-fi tech gadgets. Note for example the difference between Black Panther and Falcon, another black MCU superhero with lots of tech.  While Falcon provides great representation for African-Americans, his MCU incarnation does not have a lot of qualities that speak specifically to that experience.  In general, Anthony Mackie could be replaced with a white actor with little change to the character.

But in the Afrofuturistic world of Black Panther, the dual nature of its African roots and forward-thinking ideas reflects the duality of the black experience.  (Interesting that even the word “African-American” itself showcases a duality.)  For a black perspective on this, I recommend this commentary on the different dichotomies of the movie; I think the Afrofuturistic vibe fits that motif as well.  The movie feels both African and (African-)American, and has a lot to say about black issues using science fiction as a background.

Related image

So what about Afrofuturism has given it such staying power over the years, and such draw now? Because Afrofuturist works are typically made by black creators, and frequently for a black audience, my personal speculations are largely irrelevant.  The one thing that rings true to me is that Wakanda is an empowering, optimistic view of a possible future, where, among other things, young black women can be the head scientists of a nation.

I recently read a quote from author Shomari Wills about why he wrote his book Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires.  He said, “So much today focuses on black folks and lack.”  He went on to say that while poverty and disparity are important issues to discuss, he wanted a more positive message to honor those successful businessmen and women and empower readers.  I think Afrofuturism serves a similar purpose.  By having their own space in speculative fiction to tell unique stories, Afrofuturists can empower us to envision a future where black culture and science are not at odds but blend seamlessly.

Further Reading: