Let’s talk about the social commentary of teen dystopian literature. What the heck is it anyway? Dystopian literature takes a social problem and extrapolates that problem to a frightening extreme. I grew up reading Ray Bradbury but today’s craze is all about the Hunger Games. Everybody is talking about it and publishers want to find the next one. Teen dystopian fiction sells big but it’s also good. I love dystopian fiction but let me back up a bit. Let me put this in perspective. People step back from me when I tell them that I’m a Native Detroiter.
What’s worse is many don’t believe that I grew up within the city of Detroit. Nope, I’m not a suburbanite. I’m a hood rat. I’m straight out of Northwest Detroit. I represent Greenfield and Grand River. Where does this fear of Detroit come from?
Some think that it has to do with crime rates, violence, and murder and well, that’s probably part of it. But, I believe that this fear stems from the Pan Africanism, Black Nationalism, and the Black Radicalism that became the signature of Detroit in the 1970s and early 80s when Coleman Young told the White people to get out. Talk about social commentary!
I am a product of Pan African thought. I learned about Marcus Garvey and the UNIA movement in church, school and at home. I cut my teeth on the stories of Angela Davis, Huey Newton, and Malcolm X. In my school assemblies, we sung songs like “To be Young, Gifted, and Black” with our heads held high and our Afros held higher.
It’s no surprise then, that I fell in love with dystopian literature because there’s something about Pan African thought that makes you question society and it’s structure. Are there any dystopian teen novels that deal with the question of race? I pause.
Walter Mosley wrote a dystopian-like novel in 47 where Number 47, a fourteen-year-old slave boy growing up under the watchful eye of a brutal master in 1832, meets the mysterious TallJohn, who introduces him to magical science and also teaches him the meaning of freedom. But honestly, there’s a large hole in dystopian YA where the questions of society, race, and minority culture should be—Pan Africanism and Black Nationalism thought belong in this genre but both are missing.
Dystopian literature is the corner stone of Young Adult fiction. Teens are primed to question, reason, and rethink the structure of society. We must begin to offer that added lens of race to the equation, if we don’t, we certainly do them a disservice. I took my best shot at writing a dystopian scifi story that incorporated race and my Detroit upbringing. I’m hoping Breaking Free represents well. More importantly, though, I believe there’s lots of work that needs to be done in dystopian literature for African-American teens.
In the wake of Hunger Games, I’m hoping that publishers wake up and begin to produce more works that tackle the social problems associated with race or racial issues in a dystopian scifi world. We shall see. In 2012, I believe that we need to begin to pressure traditional publishers to think outside the box and search for these works that represent African-American culture, history, and thought. Yup, the Detroiter just went there. There’s no reason to fear, it’s only empowerment. LOL!
Don’t forget to leave a comment or tweet #blackscifi2012 with my twitter handle @AliciaMcCalla. I’ll be giving away two free copies of Breaking Free on February 6, 2012.
This online Black history month has ended but you can follow the blog hop below:
Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event:
Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer— is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/
L. M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com.
Milton Davis, Author– Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: http://www.mvmediaatl.com/Wagadu/ and www.wagadu.ning.com.
Margaret Fieland, Author— lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is available from Amazon.com Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.
Valjeanne Jeffers, Author — is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/
Thaddeus Howze, Author— is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com
Alicia McCalla, Author—writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: www.aliciamccalla.com
Carole McDonnell, Author–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/
Balogun Ojetade, Author—of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/
Rasheedah Phillips, Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.
Nicole Sconiers, Author–is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html
Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd