Sunday, February 19, 2017

Playing With Words

Langston Hughes reportedly wrote out drafts of poems on napkins or whatever spare material he had on hand, often composing right in the thick of things in a club or coffee house. When someone asked him why he didn’t invest in some more permanent writing material, he responded that writing on napkins wasn’t “for real,” and it allowed him to make mistakes and not take it so seriously. And he’s right: try writing a poem or the beginning of a story on a napkin sometime, or the back of a menu, or even on your own hand. There’s a sense of play in the activity, a sense that you’re not really writing, just giving it a shot. It’s probably the best cure for writer’s block known to man or woman: change the medium, and you change the writing. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Racing To The Future: Charting Diversity in Science Fiction

What color is the future? Who inhabits it? What do we call the cultures or races of the 24th century? There’s no easy answer to these questions, though science fiction has always attempted to answer them, even in times when such topics were largely taboo. Most comic book lovers are familiar with EC comics’ story “Judgment Day” (Weird Fantasy #18, 1953) which tackles the subject of 1950’s race head-on. In the story, a representative of Earth lands on the planet Cybrinia, “Planet of Mechanical Life.” The planet is inhabited by two species of robots: the orange robots and the blue robots. Tarlton, ambassador from “Earth Colonization,” is greeted by a contingent of orange robots, who take him on a tour of their city: he is shown their technology, their government, and finally, their means of production. The ambassador is puzzled that he doesn’t see blue robots anywhere in the facility, though is told that they work elsewhere. While impressed with the means of building and educating their new robots (after a brief apprenticeship, they get to choose their own vocation), he insists on seeing where the blue robots are constructed. Nervously, his robot guide answers, “Well…you’ll have to go over to Blue Town…on the South side of the city for that!”