Black British Futures

By Ellis Walker

How do we begin to define blackness in British contexts?

Published date

13 June 2023

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I put out a call for submissions but nobody responded. I had to sit back and figure out why. Was there not enough info? I thought I gave everything that was necessary to put something together.

In February I gave a presentation talking about what I was defining as black British futurism in literature using Tade Thompson's Rosewater / The Wormwood Trilogy.

Tade Thompson is the author of THE WORMWOOD TRILOGY winner of the 2019 Arthur C. Clarke (ROSEWATER) and Nommo Awards, nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award (ROSEWATER REDEMPTION) and British Science Fiction Association Award (ROSEWATER INSURRECTION).

Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American writer of science fiction and fantasy for both children and adults. She is best known for her Binti Series and her novels Who Fears Death, Zahrah the Windseeker, Akata Witch, Akata Warrior, Lagoon and Remote Control. She has also written for comics and film. Her writing is Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism, which is heavily influenced by her dual Nigerian and American heritage. She is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Eisner Award and World Fantasy Award. She is considered to be among the third generation of Nigerian writers.

Black British futurism sits under the umbrella of Africanfuturism, which is a concept coined by Naijamerican (Nigerian American) author Nnedi Okorafor.

At its core

Africanfuturism is a subcategory of science fiction

Africanfuturism is rooted in African culture, history, mythology.

It does not privilege or center the West.

It’s less concerned with “what could have been” and more concerned with “what is and can/will be”.

So what is Afrofuturism?

There is a very long winded explanation for how to understand what Afrofuturism is. But to put it briefly:

The TL;DR is Afrofuturism relates to an African American understanding of blackness (even though it was coined by a white scholar!) and can’t be applied to UK understandings of either blackness or futurism.

Afrofuturism — It places African people, culture and tradition at its center. It began in the twentieth century with artists like Sun Ra drawing on African cosmology and sci-fi. Now, Black Panther has brought it into the mainstream.

What is blackness?

How do we begin to define blackness in British contexts?

So what is your point?

My point is that in order to understand these concepts we need to understand blackness but we are still in the process of figuring out how. I want to talk more about these futuristic concepts but if people don’t have a grasp on the identity they can’t grasp the concepts and more importantly for me, can’t grasp black British futurism.

So what does blackness in the British context mean to you?

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Ellis Walker

Research

 Ellis Walker is an early career researcher specialising in black British literature. Her main interests centre around black authored speculative fiction, the British publishing industry and the intersections of race and space in black British literature. Her PhD entitled ‘The Reception and Representation of Black British Authors in Contemporary Britain’ from the University of Sheffield was completed in September 2023. 

Contact
ewalker10@sheffield.ac.uk 

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