Some Formal Remarks Toward a Theory of Afrofuturism: Designing Liberation Technologies in Black Speculative Fiction Open Access

Fluker, Clinton R. (2017)

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Focusing on the contributions of Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, and Sun Ra, this study introduces a comprehensive theory of Afrofuturism and its relationship to science fiction studies and contemporary design theory. I also argue that by continuing to discuss Afrofuturism primarily in terms of literature and music, a considerable amount of Afrofuturism's intellectual capital is overlooked. In addition to design theory, I discuss film and comic book culture with a vigor not yet realized in scholarship on Afrofuturism. In providing a robust theoretical framework for Afrofuturism this study helps ensure that the term is no longer merely a nebulous catchphrase for black speculative fiction, but rather a philosophy unto itself that can serve as a foundation too be further developed by others. Furthermore, the theory proposed by this study offers valuable flexibility and extensibility. In highlighting how Afrofuturism appropriates language from both science fiction and design fields, I establish a model potentially applicable to the study of subcultures within Afrofuturism beyond the scope of this project.

Table of Contents

Introduction: On Defining Afrofuturism 1
Afrofuturism: An Overview 3
Afrofuturism Dissected: Issues of Scholarship 12
Afrofuturism, Race, and Technology 18
Race in Afrofuturism 23
Afrofuturism and World-Building 24
Chapter Outlines 28

Designing Black Space: Samuel R. Delany, Design Theory, and AF Reading Protocols 35
The Shape of Things to Come 36
Building Impossible Machines 39
Mapping the Imagination 41
SF Reading Protocols 45
The Corrective Image Process 46
Subjunctive Categories 49
Trivalent Structure 52
AF Reading Protocols 56
Object--Traveling in Black Universes 57
Subject--Forging Black Tools 61
The Given World--Bringing Black Tools to Life 65
Designing Black Space 69

Mining the Modular Calculus: Searching for Liberation Models in Samuel R. Delany's Nowhere 71
Given World: The Political Process Model 72
The Given World: Third Eye Model 77
Subject: The Modular Calculus 81
Locating Samuel R. Delany's Nowhere 90
The Object: Tales of Nevèrÿon 92
Entering Samuel R. Delany's Nowhere 98

Planting Earthseed: Octavia Butler, The Apocalypse, and Theorizing Black Feminist Epistemology
The Given World: Lubiano, Springer, and Weheliye 102
Black Women Did More Than We Know 105
Knowledge that Changes the World 109
New Epistemologies 113
Object: Perils of the Pox 114
Walls--Order 116
The Road--Chaos 119
Subject: Planting Earthseed 121

Playing the Space Chord: Sun Ra, Myth, and Forging Black Secret Technologies 133
Given World: Sun Ra Off Stage 134
David Walker's Appeal 136
Sun Ra's Intellectual Pursuits 141
Object: Space is the Place 146
Subject: Playing the Space Chord 152
Theorizing Sun Ra's Space-Time 156

Wielding Afrofuturistic Chronotopes: The Black Kirby Hero Complex 163
AF Reading Protocols: Delany's Trivalent Discourse Revisited 164
On Chronotopes 167
Given World: The Jack Kirby Universe (Celestials) 170
Object: The Black Kirby Universe 173
Kid Code: Channel Zero #1 177
Subject: The Quantum Space-time Quilt, The World Tree, The Needle Drop 179
The World Tree 180
The Needle Drop 183
The Quantum Space-Time Quilt 185
Conclusion 187

Works Cited 193
Texts 193
Films 200

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