While it’s known by a range of names, Africentric science fiction and fantasy imagines Africans exploring and changing the universe with technology, science, and mystical means in the past, present, and future. Artists employing Africentric science fiction and fantasy, or what I call Afritopianism, work in literature, film, music, comics, fashion, video games, and more.
Recently in the US, two academics, Reynaldo Anderson and John Jennings, convened convention/art shows called the Black Speculative Arts Movement. Their only non-American participant at any early event was my guest today, the African-Canadian visual artist Quentin Babatunde Vercetty.
The Montreal-based VerCetty is an award winning visual storyteller, art educator, and graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design University; his Afritopian work engages immigration, decolonization, and “the lack of what he calls PDAA (Public display of Appreciation for Africa(ns).” His work has thrilled viewers around the world, including in places such as Mexico, Haiti, Peru, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and Germany. He’s the founder of the Canadian chapter of the Black Speculative Arts Movement, and he’s been working to bring BSAM shows across the country.
VerCetty spoke with me by web video on May 7, 2018. We discussed:
We began by discussing his own strong identification with the African continent and its civilisations, and how that identification directly relates to his Afritopianism.
There is an infinite number of ways not to have a successful writing career, but not that many ways to have one. You can write your own original novels and if you’re in the luckiest one percent, you’ll find editors who understand and love what you’re doing, and who work with publicists who know how to promote your work with opinion-leaders who’ll also love your work. Your publisher will work with distributors who’ll get your books into the bookstores where staff hand-sell your work. If you’re less lucky, you’ll end up like 98 percent of writers, whose books get a sliver of shelf-space for three months and die in the discount bin or get pulped.
But there’s another lucky one percent. And when I say lucky, I don’t mean they’re not hard-working, because as you’re about to hear from today’s guest, hard-working in this case could mean writing six books in one year, and one book in eleven days. And by lucky, I also don’t mean devoid of skill and artistry, because today’s guest has won numerous awards proving he has the respect of fans and his peers.
No, by lucky, I mean getting asked to enter the world of writing other people’s characters from movies, comics, or video games in new novels, or existing comics, video games, or table top games. Insiders call it licensed writing; some refer to IPs or intellectual property. For decades fans simply called these works tie-ins. And today’s guest is a master of them.
I met Alex Irvine at San Diego Comic Con 2004 when Del Rey was launching my first novel, The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, and his new book One King, One Soldier had just come out. We hit it off right away. Irvine has worked as a reporter at the Portland Phoenix and as an English professor at the Universities of Denver and Maine.
But he’s written far, far more than I have. If you include trade-paperback collected editions and all his original and tie-in books, he’s released more than thirty. He’s written novels based on Batman, Transformers, Pacific Rim, Supernatural, Tin Tin, Dungeons and Dragons, and Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, and has written comics for Marvel featuring Iron Man, Damien Hellstrom, and Daredevil. He’s written Alternate Reality Games including The Beast and I Love Bees, and the Facebook game Marvel: Avengers Alliance. His original novels include One King, One Soldier, The Narrows, and the Locus and Crawford-winning A Scattering of Jades.
Alex Irvine spoke with me by web video on May 25, 2018 from his home in Maine. We discussed:
One of my favourite new TV series is the re-imagining of Lost in Space. It’s a great family show with rich characters and relationships, exciting adventures, and amazing depictions of future science discoveries. Plus, it’s got a great spaceship and a mysterious hulking robot. I’m hooked!
So imagine my delight when I’m watching the show and there onscreen is a friend from my old days at CJSR FM-88.5 campus-community radio at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It’s Veenu Sandhu!
I’d always thought Sandhu was from Edmonton, but it turns out she’s from Dawson Creek, British Columbia. I also had no idea until recently that she’s a longtime fan-girl herself who knows more about Star Trek: Voyager than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s been on the superhero show Arrow, the science-fantasy series Fringe, the ABC dramas Somewhere Between and The Whispers, and in the movies Cop and a Half: New Recruit with Lou Diamond Phillips, and A Dog’s Way Home.
And now on Netflix’s Lost in Space, she plays astronaut Prisha Dhar, mother of young astronaut Vijay and wife of astronaut leader Victor. Once I saw Sandhu on Lost in Space, I knew I’d have to have her on the show. So on May 2, 2018 she spoke with me from her Vancouver home by internet video. We discussed:
Veenu Sandhu also runs workshops for actors seeking to beat audition anxiety. Her next one is in Vancouver on June 13, 2018. The cost is $50. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.