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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Now displaying: January, 2016
Jan 25, 2016

Best known as Detective Bunk Moreland on HBO’s The Wire, stage and screen actor Wendell Pierce has appeared in over 30 films and more than 50 television shows. He’s also an outspoken commentator on racism in US life, politics, and entertainment, and a social and economic justice activist for the people of his home town, New Orleans. He was also a top fundraiser for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Way back in 2008, Wendell Pierce came to Edmonton to shoot “Something with Bite,” the werewolf episode of the horror anthology Fear Itself produced by Lion’s Gate, written by Max Landis, who later wrote Chronicle, and directed by Ernest Dickerson, best known for Juice and Never Die Alone.

Pierce and I had a wide-ranging conversation in which he discussed:

  • How he deals with disappointment about his acting performance
  • The craft difference between acting for the screen and acting for the stage
  • What the “domino effect” is in acting and how to use it
  • Representation of Africans in US entertainment, in 2008 comments that are completely relevant to the 2016 US Academy Award nominations
  • His commitment to working on films by independent African artists
  • The responsibility of African celebrities in the US
  • Why the superb film Antwone Fisher failed at the box office
  • His opinion of the brilliant writer Ishmael Reed, who is one of the most outspoken critics of The Wire, and why he frequently considered quitting the series, and
  • His analysis of the so-called War on Drugs, privatisation of education, and the US Prison-Industrial Complex

I recorded today’s never-before-aired interview with Pierce on April 30, 2008. We sat in the lobby of the downtown Sutton Place Hotel while he waited for his ride to take him to set. I began by asking him about his approach to the craft of acting.

 

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Jan 20, 2016

Reginald Hudlin is one of the most successful creators of film and television of the last twenty-five years. He leapt to prominence by writing and directing 1990’s House Party, an intelligent and hilarious film about African American teenage life, following that with, among other films, Boomerang, widely regarded as Eddy Murphy’s finest performance, and the acerbic satire The Great Whyte Hype.

In television, Hudlin created Cosmic Slop, and wrote for and produced Bebe’s Kids, one of the few animated series ever to focus on African characters in the US. He also helped launch Everybody Hates Chris, The Boondocks, and The Bernie Mac Show. He’s directed for many series, including The Office and Modern Family.

During three years as President of Entertainment for the American network Black Entertainment Television or BET, Hudlin, according to his website, “created 17 of the top 20 rated shows in the history of the network including the award-winning KEYSHIA COLE: THE WAY IT IS; AMERICAN GANGSTER; and SUNDAY BEST.”

 

The recipient of awards and widespread critical acclaim, Hudlin also co-authored the satirical and highly lauded graphic novel Birth of a Nation about East St. Louis seceding from the United States.

It’s Hudlin’s love of and work in comics that are the focus of this episode of MF GALAXY. Hudlin reputedly owns more than 50,000 comics, and while he was heading entertainment for all of BET, Hudlin somehow managed to write Black Panther for Marvel Comics.

Black Panther is the story of T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda, a country that throughout history was never conquered and achieved an unparalleled height of technology. Shockingly enough, Black Panther was created back in the early 1960s not by Richard Wright, George Schuyler, Charles Saunders or Octavia Butler, but by two of the giants of modern superhero comics, the Jewish-American creative geniuses Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, ironically just a few years before the birth of the Black Panther Party.

Under Hudlin’s creative control, Black Panther continued to combine martial arts, spy thrills, science fiction and mysticism, but more than ever a critique of American politics, an Africentric perspective, and a magnificent re-imagining of some of Marvel’s few African characters such as Luke Cage and Brother Voodoo.

Reginald Hudlin spoke with me by telephone from his home in Los Angeles on December 30, 2010. We discussed:

  • Why comic characters such as Blade could sustain three movies and hundreds of millions of box office dollars, but never be successful as comic books
  • Which has created better African characters: Hollywood, or American comic books?
  • The pioneering breakthrough of Milestone Comics and its dramatic conclusion
  • Hudlin’s approach to creating the Black Panther animated series and to rebooting Black Panther as a comic book
  • What the Black Panther has in common with George W. Bush
  • The danger of writing comics about comics, and
  • Hudlin’s reaction to attacks from rabid comic fans accusing him of racism for his work on Black Panther.

This episode’s conversation is from the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. Reginald Hudlin spoke with me by telephone from his home in Los Angeles on December 30, 2010. Along the way, Hudlin uses the acronym “IP,” meaning “intellectual property,” such as characters, settings, and stories. At one point in our conversation, I misidentified the Juggernaut as the Rhino, but Hudlin didn’t call me out.

We began by talking about the Black Panther.

 

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Jan 12, 2016

Today’s episode is 100% non-stop spoilers. If you haven’t watched The Force Awakens yet, you obviously don’t care enough about Star Wars to care about these spoilers, or you’re in a coma. Either way, on we go.

Stephen Notley and I have been talking with each other about science fiction and fantasy for more than 25 years. He’s the cartoonist who for more the last two decades has written and drawn the genre-hopping, politically satirical, gonzo fanboy comic strip Bob the Angry Flower about an evil, brilliant, and super-enthusiastic flower named Bob, and the panels of Bob frequently geek over everything S F & F. Notley’s put out numerous Bob the Angry Flower compilation books and appeared at many major conventions including San Diego Comic Con. He has a vast following and counts among his fans no less than Joss Whedon, who also blurbed one of his collections.

Of course I’m the author of the Philip K. Dick-shortlisted The Coyote Kings whose pages are bursting with genre references and even include a criminal gang called the FanBoys.

To talk The Force Awakens, this last Boxing Day, Notley and I sat down at Ninja Sushi on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. They have not paid me to endorse them, but I will say they had great tuna. I also apologise to the couple sitting next to us who had to listen to us talk about Star Wars for 90 minutes. Which isn’t exactly true, because they left after 45.

If you’re listening on radio, strap in for this half-hour edition. If you’re listening via podcast, this is a special 90 minute version. Radio listeners can go to iTunes or mfgalaxy.org to get the Starkiller-size.

Notley and I will debate the following questions:

  • Just how derivative was The Force Awakens?
  • Will it help resurrect the reputation of George Lucas?
  • How much did Lucas’s prequels successfully add to the Star Wars universe without getting any credit?
  • Who’s better in a first movie appearance: Luke, or Rey? And who is more humourless?
  • What’s the role of cuteness in Star Wars?
  • Why isn’t Jaaku simply called Tattooine?
  • When does Star Wars do planets right?
  • How did Starkiller Base actually work?
  • What do The Force Awakens and the original Battlestar Galactica have in common?
  • Why does Han starts talking like Geordi LaForge?
  • Is Poe the new Han Solo?
  • Who’s in love—Rey and Finn, or Rey and Kylo Ren? And how will Disney decide?
  • What’s the love and character arc parallel between The Force Awakens and Avatar: The Last Airbender?
  • What’s the major writing no-no in how the script introduces and develops Kylo Ren, especially with his powers, his mask, and his swordsmanship?
  • Who is Snoke? Why is he called Snoke? And why is he a giant Gollum?
  • What was wrong in the generational values of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot?
  • The Han-Leia relationship and Han’s decline from general back to smuggler and bad father: well-written or a lost opportunity?
  • Why should you read the novel Darth Plagueis?
  • Does Finn possess the Force?
  • Maz Kanata, Lupita Nyong’o. Is the character a Super Duper Magical Negro?
  • And is JJ Abrams’ greatest Star Wars movie… Star Trek 2009?

Along the way, Notley refers to local journalist and our mutual friend Fish Griwkowsky. I began by responding to Notley’s question, How many times have I seen the film?

AngryFlower.com

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Jan 7, 2016

On his website, Milton Davis describes himself professionally as being a “full time chemist and a part time writer.” But I’d say he’s full-time both. Like any chemist, Davis is focused on creation, synthesis, reaction, and results. Theory’s not enough. Experimentation and production are the whole point.

Milton Davis writes Africentric science fiction, and also sword & soul, the Africentric answer to the Eurocentric fantasy subgenre sword & sorcery. He’s best known for his novel Meji, and he’s also a pioneer in the genre called steamfunk, the Africentric response to the unquestioned Eurocentric imperialism of steampunk.

Davis is also an independent publisher and the founder of MVMedia, an Atlanta-based company that publishes his work, novels by Balogun Ojetade, and anthologies that he and legendary novelist Charles R. Saunders edit. Davis went indie because he knew that he couldn’t wait for Euro-American Big Publishing to appreciate his work or even bother to try to sell to his audience.

As many of us have learned through bitter experience, too many editors in Eurocentric Big Publishing believe that Africans in the US, Canada, and elsewhere don’t read. MVMedia is just one example of how very wrong they are.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Davis discusses:

  • The business skills and attitudes he brought to indie publishing and the knowledge he’s gained since starting
  • The indispensability of emulation
  • Why in your sales strategy, you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on genre
  • How you need to behave when you’re at a book table or book show with your books
  • Why you need to organise your own events, and where you should be doing it
  • How a science fiction site from Australia helped launch his career, and
  • How his embrace of Africanity stands in direct contrast to the current rejection of Africanity in the guise of emphasising so-called “Blackness”

Davis spoke with me from his home in Atlanta by Skype on December 11, 2015. At the beginning of our conversation you’ll hear someone coughing; that’s not me or Davis, but his son who was nearby.

I began by asking him what made him pursue indie publishing in the first place.

 

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Jan 1, 2016

In 2014, Ted Bishop did the surprising: he wrote a book about ink, and it became a success. The book fits into a genre sometimes called commodity biographies which investigate how human needs produced a product to solve problems, and the problems and opportunities that product eventually created for its creators and humanity.

That story is the story of writing itself, of course, so it’s no wonder that Bishop, an English professor at the University of Alberta, would take it on. If there’s a stereotype of what an English professor is, Bishop isn’t it. With his facial features, beard, and slight stature, he looks very much like young George Lucas, although his hair is grey.

Bishop’s previous book, Riding with Rilke, was a Best Book choice of the Globe & Mail, CBC, and Playboy about the amazing people he met during his own motorcycle odysseys across North America that ended with a 160 km/h wipe-out and a back broken in two places. He lived, walked again, and wrote The Social Life of Ink.

I sat down with Ted Bishop on February 02, 2015 at the University of Alberta’s Humanities Centre to ask him about the craft of long-form nonfiction. Along the way, we discussed:

  • Why he so values the world-renowned Banff Centre for the Arts, with artist residencies that give writers space, time, meals, and as a beautiful a setting as any place on the planet
  • Why writers need to learn how to write proposals, and condense 30 pages of writing into 3 paragraphs
  • Why long form writing is like hiking in the rain for eight hours before you can get into dry clothes,
  • How to render real people as great characters, without turning them into caricatures, and
  • How to decide what to write and what not to write after you’ve written a hit book.

tedbishop.com

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