Indigenous Science Fiction narratives
February 11, 2015 4:51 AM   Subscribe

This was the official inauguration of indigenous futurism. The movement is in part about speaking back to the SF genre, which has long used indigenous subjects as the foils to stories of white space explorers hungry to conquer new worlds. Given these continuously re-hashed narratives of “the final frontier,” it is no coincidence that western science fiction developed during a time of imperial and capitalist expansion. Science/speculative fiction author Nalo Hopkinson, known for her use of creole languages and Caribbean oral stories in her works, writes that people of color engaging with SF “take the meme of colonizing the natives and, from the experience of the colonizee, critique it, pervert it, fuck with it, with irony, with anger, with humor and also, with love and respect for the genre of science fiction that makes it possible to think about new ways of doing things.”
posted by infini (18 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Great article!

Anyone interested in the issue of indigenous people and science fiction could do worse than listen to Metis in Space. Well, frankly anyone interested in scifi at all could do worse.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:18 AM on February 11, 2015 [9 favorites]

They never explained what NDN was in the article, did they?
posted by dhruva at 5:47 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dhruva, no, I was just coming here to say that. It's shorthand for Native Americans in the United States. I was reading "Indian" in this article, as, you know, Indian. Confusing.

Dhruva, your name autocorrects to "shrugs." That hit my funny bone this morning.
posted by slipthought at 5:58 AM on February 11, 2015

Anyone interested in the issue of indigenous people and science fiction could do worse than listen to Metis in Space.

I couldn't find an RSS link on that site but this is the first Google search result.
posted by XMLicious at 6:16 AM on February 11, 2015

Just because the Diné have not lived on Mars since time immemorial, it does not mean our plants and teachings cannot take root there.

Yes, this is a great article, and it gave me what looks like a really exciting list of authors who are entirely new to me. I will be enjoying reading these this year.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:22 AM on February 11, 2015

It's shorthand for Native Americans in the United States.

I've only ever seen "NDN" used by Native Americans; I've never seen it used by outsiders but I'm not any expert and it might actually be something more people use, at least regionally.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:27 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

To some degree at least, NDN is also used in Canada. Younger crowd from what I've seen, and definitely internal to the community.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:38 AM on February 11, 2015

Dhruva, your name autocorrects to "shrugs."

posted by dhruva at 9:40 AM on February 11, 2015

But what about the Indians who can’t go home, or simply want to go away? I sometimes describe myself as a diasporic Diné in order to bring the often disparate ideas of indigeneity and movement into closer proximity. Those we consider diasporic are often violently robbed of their indigeneity and those we consider indigenous are often on the move. The space NDN looks into the void and knows still who they are.

I had to google NDN to figure it out and came very close to putting something in the title when I allowed myself time to have a rethink and realized that its not the fault of the Native American community that a random sailor didn't know where he was going nor what he had found. It can be jarring to a passport Indian to see this, and I've come to call a friend "Columbus Indian" which she took as a compliment and made into her online handle. Still this isn't about names, though that's as much an aspect of colonizer and colonizee.

These words I've shared spoke to me, as did much of what the article had to say about the merger of the so called Rational world with the practices and beliefs of the indigenous world, and how well that plays out in the context of Sci-Fi. Like Dip Flash said above, I'll enjoy trying to find these books (I'm in the Arctic) and read them.

As Metafilter educates and sensitizes me to the nuances of intersectionality, I've come to appreciate such tidbits as the Nigerian Ambassador in jscalzi's The Human Division. There was only one traditional mainstream male character and he was green ;p

If we can envision such worlds, we can reach for them, hoping that if we cannot reach the stars, then at least we can stand on the moon. Or so says my inner DD Harriman.

I am reminded of Octavia Butler’s words, “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” Instead of imaging a future in bleak cities made from steel and glass teeming with alienated white masses shuffling under an inescapable electronic glow, indigenous futurists think of earthen space crafts helmed by black and brown women with advanced knowledge of land, plants, and language.

This essay on technologists rejecting technology might be an interesting counterpoint to the OP.
posted by infini at 9:41 AM on February 11, 2015

I look forward to reading this - read Hopkinson's Skin Folk last year and it was blisteringly good.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:16 PM on February 11, 2015

Philip Deloria argues in Indians in Unexpected Places . . . when indigeneity and high-tech modernity are put in dialogue, as demonstrated in the . . . 1904 photograph of Geronimo in a Cadillac. . . . If colonial society cannot accept Geronimo in a Cadillac, it can hardly conceive of him in a space ship.

The song Geronimo's Cadillac was released in 1972 and reached #37 on the Billboard Hot 100. Michael Murphey was inspired by a 1905 photograph of Geronimo wearing European clothes and sitting at the wheel of an automobile.
"the two images together -- Geronimo and a Cadillac -- just struck me as a song title. It was every irony I could ever think of about our culture in two words. Their attempt to make of him what we would define as a civilized person. That was the reason they put him in a Cadillac in the first place. He was actually in jail at the time."
The photograph was taken in 1905 near Ponca City, Oklahoma during an event attended by thousands of newspaper reporters. Geronimo is at the wheel wearing a top hat. At the time the photo was taken, Geronimo was imprisoned at Fort Sill. He was brought to pose at the show under guard.

The car is in fact not a Cadillac, but a Locomobile.

In The 6th World, a short film by Diné director Nanobah Becker . . . humanity’s future is made possible through ancestral corn crops on Mars.

When they shot his picture in one of their cars
They din't expect to see Geronimo's face on Mars
He's been growing corn in that Unexpected Place
Don't be surprised when you see him there in outer space

Governor, Governor, now ain't it strange
Y'never seen no NDN on the missile range
Editor, Editor, listen to me
Be brave and set Geronimo free

Octavia tells me, and I believe it's true
The NDN belong in outer space too
You took a whole planet, but now we don't give a rip
We're goin' to Mars in Geronimo's rocketship

Oh, boys, aint' it a trip
I wanna ride in Geronimo's rocketship
Oh, boys, what a trip
We're gonna ride in Geronimo's rocketship
posted by Herodios at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh man, a couple years back I read a really fantastic story that was about an old woman who refused to abandon a corporate colony that was ceded and was discovered by previously unknown aliens. It was a really great inversion of a lot of colonialist tropes and a pretty good read overall, even if it got a little heavy with ham-handed neologisms at points. Most of it was about translating language and culture, and it was a lot of fun. More of this, please.
posted by klangklangston at 1:40 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hope it's OK to self-link this (I shared it in Projects earlier today, by coincidence). I'm putting out an anthology next month called How to Live on Other Planets: A Handbook of Aspiring Aliens, which contains a lot of stories I think Nalo Hopkinson would like. More than half of the authors are writers of color, and many are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:57 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

"He eventually comes in contact with the outside world after the arrival of castaways who get shipwrecked and stranded on the island, and later take him back to the civilized world with them. The plot gradually develops into a coming-of-age story and then incorporates science fiction elements when it reaches its climax with a catastrophic doomsday apocalypse."
posted by clavdivs at 6:10 PM on February 11, 2015

Remnant Population! That's the name of the book I remembered.
posted by klangklangston at 7:43 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

These guys apparently haven't read enough diverse Sci Fi

Scientists fear ‘first contact’ with aliens because indigenous people usually lose

*beams stupid headline into a wormhole with one way out into a black hole*
posted by infini at 8:00 AM on February 14, 2015

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