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Afrofuturism

Entry updated 23 February 2021. Tagged: Music, Theme.

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A term coined by Mark Dery in "Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose" (1993 South Atlantic Quarterly) for a literary and cultural treatment of the African diaspora in terms of, or incorporating tropes from, the genres of sf, Fantasy and Magic Realism, as seen from a Black cultural viewpoint; not a subgenre of sf but a genre that intersects sf. The sf novels of Octavia Butler and Samuel R Delany are regarded as major contributions to Afrofuturism, while older literary works by George S Schuyler and others have been retroactively adopted into the genre (see Proto SF). In SF Music, the pioneer of Afrofuturism was Sun Ra: groups following his trail include George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic, and more recently Deltron 3030. Genre critics who have written about Afrofuturism include Marleen S Barr and Mark Bould; the latter guest-edited a special Afrofuturism issue of Science Fiction Studies (July 2007). Relevant Anthologies are Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (anth 2000) and its sequel Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (anth 2004), both edited by Sheree R Thomas and both winners of the World Fantasy Awards for best anthology; besides Thomas's editorial introduction, the first volume includes essays by Butler and Delany. The later AfroSF sequence of Original Anthologies beginning with Afrosf: Science Fiction by African Writers (anth 2012) edited by Ivor W Hartmann, has proved increasingly useful.

Nnedi Okorafor has repeatedly expressed her strong preference for the term "Africanfuturism" to describe her own work in particular (see further reading below), arguing that "Afrofuturism" relates to an external, Western experience of Africa, while "Africanfuturism" draws attention to writers actually from Africa. The argument is strong, though the word itself is awkward. [DRL]

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