Black characters and creators in sci-fi, fantasy and horror (1996-2006)

From Flex Alexander and Daryl Bell as the eponymous (and notorious) *Homeboys in Outer Space (*1996) to the late great Xenogenesis writer Octavia Butler who died earlier this year, there has been an increasing number of black creators, actors and characters involved science fiction, from literature to the big screen.

I’m a pretty decent science fiction geek, and I’ve been impressed with the number of blacks (as well as Latina, Asian, Native American, gay, bi and others) popping up in various speculative fiction. It’s a great time to see myself reflected in a genre I’ve always loved. Hey, whatever you think of relative merits of the plot of The Matrix: Rebooted and Revolutions, I’ll never forget the feeling the first time I sat in the theater and realized with an increasing thrill that this was the most black people I’d ever seen on screen in a science fiction movie – ever.

I want to concentrate on blacks in sci-fi, horror and fantasy over the last ten years. We’ve come a loooOOooong way since “Homeboys in Outer Space” and I wanted to see if anyone else noticed. Which black characters and creators do you think deserve notice in this field, for good or bad or worse? Include any medium you can think of, and yes – superhero characters definitely count. How could I possibly omit Halle Berry as Catwoman AND Storm, not to mention an automaton in* Robots*, or the doc in Gothika?

This isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list. We’ll stick to those black creators and characters who’ve been active in the above mentioned genres ONLY in the last 10 years, please.

Captain Marion Alston, commander of the Coast Guard ship Eagle in S.M. Stirling’s Nantucket trilogy. One of the most important characters in the whole series.

I like B5’s Dr Franklin and DS9’s Sisko, Gunn from Angel,Zoe & Book from Firefly and the Operative from Serenity, but i can’t say I’ve gone a long way with identifying with them based on race.

Oh, and the contributions of Will Smith to the genre, no matter what you think of his actual talent, shouldn’t be underestimated. From the MiB franchise, to I, Robot, Will’s made it perfectly OK for a black man to be the lead in an SF film and make it a blockbuster. That’s a great thing.

You’re forgetting Independence Day: “Welcome to Earth. <smack>”. I’m sure more will spring to mind when I’m sober, but right now I’ve got Mickey, Rose’s boyfriend from Series One of the recent Doctor Who: slighted by a jealous Doctor {and wasn’t that a lovely bit of sexual tension?}, but a dab hand at foiling alien invasions with a computer.

Two authors from the Carribean are Nalo Hopkinson, whose most recent book (I think) is the collection Skin Folk and there’s also Tobias Buckell who had his first novel, Crystal Rain out recently. It’s set on a world where many of the characters are descended from people from the Carribean.

There’s also Steven Barnes and his alternate arab-discovered America, but I’m not so keen on him…

The from…to bit would be inclusive of other things like ID

Another great black character - Mos Def’s Ford Prefect in the latest Hitchhiker’s movie. Not written as black in the original, yet completely unremarkeable that he should be black in the movie.

And utterly wasted by the screenwriters, alas: I went from scepticism at casting a rapper du jour as Ford to being totally sold by the pub scene - and then he had nothing to do for the rest of the movie!

I suppose Cat from Red Dwarf is a little late for Askia’s time frame, but Danny John Jules made an excellent vampire ninja in Blade II: which leads, of course, to Wesley Snipes as Blade. Primo arsekicking with a big fuck-off sword.

Then there’s Samuel L. Jackson’s Mister Glass in Unbreakable: a flawed ending, but an excellent character in a great movie, and Samuel L. always seems to lift Bruce Willis’ game.

Hey, Askia - are we counting Jar Jar Binks?

I must be missing something: in most sci-fi I’ve read, the colour of the person isn’t relevant, and in much of it isn’t even mentioned. Quick quiz: without looking it up, was Hari Seldon’s colour mentioned in the first book? How about Menolly? I’ve just read one of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books and the only human skin colouring mentioned is the colouring of a person’s bruises. Heinlein’s Friday’s colour (white with a permatan from Amerindian genes) gets a mention as a ridicule to racists.

Crap. I can’t remember his name-- Grumby?

He was Mantis- a black superhero with a white side kick. The first I know of.

Maybe too early, but IMO too important to ignore.

Static Shock- A comic book adapted to a saturday morning cartoon. The hero of the title is black (though his best friend is white). Most of the villains are also black. Some of the best episodes feature appearances by villians and a hero from Africa. Ananse has the power of illusion (becuase of his namesake releasing the stories from the sky lord) and was so cool.

JLA- The Green Lantern is Jon Stewart, who happens to be brown. In an episode where he meets his childhood heroes (he had the decoder ring and everything), Jon remarks on just how far society has come since then. The Green Guardian, meaning an honest compliment, calls Jon “a credit to your race”.

A couple of emphatically non-stereotype black people:

The protagonist of Spider Robinson’s Telempath, Isham Latimer, is black, the son of a Columbia University professor and his wife. This only comes to light as a result of latent racism by his Indian (i.e., from India) prospective father-in-law.

The lead character of Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is black, but there is absolutely no indication of this until near the end of the book, where he gets into an argument with a military commander-in-chief from a Black Supremacist alternate universe and makes the casual remark that he’s glad he has the same skin color as the CinC because otherwise the degree to which he despises him would be considered racist.

Clarke’s Imperial Earth features a protagonist who is a third-generation clone from the rather small-town-y civilization of Saturn’s moon Titan. He is mentioned to be black in passing at a point where he makes a state visit to Washington DC in behalf of Titan.

Multiracial ancestry is common in many future societies, and pretty much neglected as an issue, merely taken for granted.

Carl Lumbly played the armored superhero M.A.N.T.I.S. in the show of the same name, and also provided the voice of Martian Manhunter in Justice League. Phil LaMarr of MadTV fame was the voice of Green Lantern, by the way.

For more black superheroes on film, what about Blade (with three decent-to-good movies and an upcoming TV show) and Steel (with a horrible movie)?

Finally, on Angel, J. August Richards played the heroic Charles Gunn, who went from vampire-hunting gangsta to two-fisted heroic detective to brilliant supernatural lawyer.

Oh yeah, and Taye Diggs was pretty cool in the dystopian sci-fi movie Equilibrium, even though he is the bad guy. That movie is just awesome in every way.

Thank you. I recognized his voice as J’onn J’onnz right away. But since the Martian Manhunter has green skin, I didn’t think it counted.

I don’t know if it counts for the purposes of this thread, but I was just showing Carl Lumbly some love.

If you’re looking for black writers, there are now several anthologies available that will introduce you to some unfamiliar names.

Dark Matter : A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, by Sheree R. Thomas

This was the first, and still is probably the best or most major anthology of writers. It goes back farther than a decade, obviously, but has much newer material in it as well.

That one lead to Dark Dreams: A Collection of Horror and Suspense by Black Writers, by Brandon Massey and Nalo Hopkinson’s So Long Been Dreaming : Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy, although that includes writers of other colors than black.

You can also check out The African American Science Fiction Character in Literature, Television, and Film
by Ben Davis Jr.

I’d very surprised if you didn’t see black characters in the majority of print science fiction over the last decade, at least at novel-length, and in every last tv show or movie. I don’t see how any producer would dare not to include them.

Does Mace Windu count? Or his colleagues, Stass Alli and Adi Gallia?

Carl Lumbly is a perfect example of black Hollywood talent in the sci-fi and fantasy genre. Of course we’d include his voice work. Not necessarily for my oft-lamented *M.A.N.T.I.S.(*1994) since it’s a touch outside that arbitrary timeline, but for his genre contributions since then, in Justice League as J’onn J’onzz and Static Shock as J’onn and the one-time appearance as Anansi. He was also in Batman Beyond as Stalker and the Superman animated series as Alterus.

Consider too, that Justice League co-contributer Dwayne McDuffie has been heavily involved in animation with the shows JLU, Static Shock and Teen Titans as a writer and producer since 2000. No word yet on what’s next for McDuffie, though.

Other talent in animation includes Phil LaMarr, whom Big Bad Voodoo Lou already cited, as not only Green Lantern/John Stewart, but as the adult Static/Virgil Hawkins in the JLU episode Once and Future Thing, part 2. LaMarr was also Black Vulcan on Harvey Birdman, Hermes Conrad on Futurama, Rockett Crockett on Buzz Lightyear, and my favorite bit of color-blind casting, the lead in Samurai Jack.

Just making the cut for its inclusion (it ran from 1994-1996) is the cast of Gargoyles, with **Salli Richardson ** giving memorable turns as officer Elisa Maza, along with genre legend Keith David as the maginificent Goliath. Appearing in guest spots were Michael Dorn as Coldstone, CCH Pounder as Coldfire/Desdemona and several others notable black actors. Gargoyles is also fun for fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as there’s lots of crossover talent between the two series.

MrDibble. From* Firefly*, we of course had Gina Torres ** as Zoe and Ron Glass ** as Shepherd Book and Richard Brooks as the one-time, series finale appearance as the memorable Boba Fett-esque bounty hunter Jubal Early… does that seem right to you? :smiley: I’m just now getting hip to the whole Whedonverse of Firefly; I’m going to finish watching the movie Serenity and hope to see more of Chiwetel Ejiofor as “The Operative.” I watched first fifteen minutes or so last night and that is one bad mofo.

Gina Torres is, of course, married to **Laurence “Morpheus” Fishburne. **

A bit early, but fondly remembered. It was preceded by the duo partnership of Cloak and Dagger from Marvel Comics, which debuted in the 80s. Hot on the heels of* M.A.N.T.I.S. * came the comic book *Quantum and Woody * by **Christopher Priest ** and MD Bright for Acclaim comics.

THANK you for including these!