👽A science-fiction reading at Jinxed West Philly location featuring @metropolarity co-founders Alex Smith and M Eighteen Téllez, as well as Sarah Sawyers-Lovett and Moose Lane!

👽A science-fiction reading at Jinxed West Philly location featuring @metropolarity co-founders Alex Smith and M Eighteen Téllez, as well as Sarah Sawyers-Lovett and Moose Lane!

They built an ark for us, they said, ushered us in as a swelling mass of bodies, our flesh rent and curdled amongst others of our flesh, our brown flowing with blood and feces and made liquid. They said, an ark— for those of you who could make it across the habitat of dangerous amphibians, you’ll see mermaid husks, dried out impaled on the ruins of Atlantis, you’ll see a bright sustained, red sun peaking over the horizon, waves licked with foam; an ark that will carry you to lush, green new worlds, that will float across the sea.

Such were arks built for us.

It’s 8am and they are still raging. The clatter of the promise of the new world beating a strange arpeggio in rhythm to a riot. A grocery store cart on fire, lit by a stack of Alpha Flight comic books and worn mattresses; a dance on top of a mail truck, buildings— once towers that housed telemarketers and people eating salad on their lunch break, towers that served as a safe, comforting space— a cocoon— for law makers and bill collectors— rain sheets of glass, the windows sliding off these wonders of architecture in a glorious cascade. And of the bill collectors themselves? Without their vast halls, there is nothing for them. They pirouette vulnerably in the city center, kneeling on the stoops of the monuments they themselves once guarded— at least ideologically— in more prosperous times— times that, at least for them, lacked uncertainty. Now, they are led by their ties like chattel, by masked women carrying shotguns and cattle prods, some adorned with the swaddled, breast-wrapped body of a baby. Someone’s made a tank out of rusting Whole Food’s dumpsters, affixed a pneumatic pump-triggered launcher and armed it with Molotov cocktails made from discarded Belgian import beer bottles.

Someone’s made a throne out of a bunch of milkcrates and cardboard boxes. Sitting on the throne is a woman who, a week ago, was begging for change in front of the Comcast building. Her sign reads “Will write think piece for food”. Her skin is black. She is wearing crystal and spiked Christian Louboutin heels. They worship her; she may not be a goddess but at least, for now, she is the king.

A vinyl sign floats by in the quickly whipping wind. “JUSTICE!” it reads, though I can’t make out who for; surely, it was any one of the unarmed men killed a few months ago by police. I squint to make it out, but the horizon takes it, and all I can think about is how much that sign had to cost with FedEx/Kinko’s rising printing rates, and it’s at least 10 feet long and two colors and there’s pictures. This isn’t a riot, though, this is the promise of the ark; this is the new wonderland that they gave us, made real. The wonderland we dreamed up when we ate sugar sandwiches and flicked roaches off the kitchen table; the wonderland that danced in our subconscious when we bent coat hangers into antennae and patched up our couches with duct tape. Or at least, this is the beginning, the dawn, the spark.

“Look, we didn’t ask for it,” I told him. A round of shots burst outside of our window. I peak out. A pay telephone is finding itself launched into a Korean corner store. “We did everything right. We walked down the streets, en masse, with our hands up. We held our bus passes aloft, wore gray clothing, tied our shoes, pulled our pants up. We were totally complicit. We tried it.”

He sits on the edge of the bed in our crumbling room in our crumbling row home. He is hunched over and crying and afraid. I walk away from the window over to him and touch his skin, gingerly, rub my brown fingers into his mealy, white hands as I have done hundreds of times before. He looks back at me with those soft eyes. I can’t help but stare into them. They are deep wells. I’m reminded when we first met, on some queer dating app, probably BearHunter or Masc4Masc, when everyone had smart phones and the world was navigable by finger touch, when autonomy seemed to float down like consciousness on a stream— the ark.

The seeds were planted then, we just couldn’t see it. We slowly let a few politicians step out of darkness and into the glorious light of an MSNBC news van. We gave them the spotlight with our reblogs and our “LOLs” and so those politicians joined up with their best buds, the corporations, and the real world— planet earth, burgeoning apiary wrought with oak and diamonds in ravenous salty lake, a sphere suspended in space in real life— became the stage where real live human beings, black ones, became the bargaining chips for electoral campaign residue. Mayors, state senators, presidents, comptrollers. The zealots slipped into the seams of the system, soon outnumbering the even tempered and mild mannered, the would-be people’s politicians, still careerists all, who sat back eating grapes and getting their feet washed while the world turned to ash, who never spoke up or got angry for fear of losing an election, for fear of losing their already spine-wilted constituency.

I tear myself away from his gaze; I must be strong, can’t handle his crying, and I go into a stack of papers. I read with a rasp choking on barbed saliva; trembling: “And thereby granting executive power to any law enforcement agency under any circumstances in instances of perceived criminality wherein the property or personhood of other persons, including incorporated entities, are threatened. Unless the assailant is showing extreme complicity, all executive actions undertaken by law enforcement on behalf of said property or persons, including incorporated entities, will be upheld and protected by writ of federal law.” And it’s too much for him. He falls into a ball on the floor, crying, tearing at the paper. I go to lift him up. I remember how we all made our way then; we didn’t rebel, we just walked with our eyes lowered and our hands constantly up, we stopped carrying devices that looked like guns— cell phones, pencils, packs of incense. We stopped laughing in public theaters, stopped trying to apply for jobs we knew we were qualified for— lawyer, stenographer, nursing floor manager, comic book writer— and we shuffled, thinned out the timbre of our voices and cut the auxiliary cords on the stereos in the faded brown Fords we drove to and from work. A mass of black skin in gray suits, heaving, respectable, settling into our seats, entering buildings with our backpacks already opened, spread eagle and waiting patiently while all others feasted. And yeah, there were so-called allies, white men and women who marched through the city with their hands up too. They coasted, hands up and bright orange rubber messenger bags swinging in the neon kissed afternoon, all in solidarity they said, on their way to their 9 to 5s, on their commutes to the hipster coffee shop/bean bag emporium. Some even wore our pale gray suits; post-modern Patty Hearsts clip-clopping down hallways on their way to turn off our lights. Eventually, we faded out of fashion from over-saturation; gray suits lined the racks at Urban Outfitters sharing shelf-space with hot pink keffiyeh scarves and Che Guevara t-shirts.

But one of us, then another of us, and another, were killed; perhaps we took too long to get our train tickets ready for the conductor? Perhaps after a long shift at the diner we gave a little sass to an overly aggressive customer? Perhaps we jaywalked ahead of the yellow light, jogging across the street as cars rolled to a stop, a momentary pause in genuflecting, suspended in traffic like a moth in amber. In that very moment, before our death, we are in control, fully free. (and of the ark?)

BANG.

Now, the streets are alive with fire. Everything is burning. The night before, I lay swept in his thick heavy arms, cradled by him, asleep in his wonderful weight. We lit a candle and let our awkward playlist simmer: Godspeed You Black Emperor, Daft Punk, FKA Twigs, Moor Mother Goddess, Barry Manilow, Art Ensemble of Chicago; those old songs, before everything was digitized, approved, and kept behind gates, music from the time when album covers had artwork, when albums had covers, when albums… We talked in hushed tones about what all these killings meant. I was blunt with him. It wasn’t enough that the love we shared was the most forbidden kind. We had to work towards something. He let out a sigh. He usually let me do the talking and that night was no different. He just sighed and squeezed me harder, as if he were trying to get inside of my skin to get to my heart. He kissed my forehead and fell asleep.

I lift him up, my knees wobbling, the roar of footsteps outside of our door, the smash and clatter of a falling dynasty in our hallway. Some body thrusts against our door maniacally. The rage of centuries on the ark, centuries on the slave block, centuries traipsing through the social assistance lines is tearing at the fabric of our reality and the only thing that is stopping it from ripping is the shoddy masonry I’d sent a polite letter to our landlord about, two hinges that have been WD-40’d into a new shade of rust.

The door crashes into shards.

At least twenty men stand before us. I thought their eyes would be aflame, skin caked in blood. They are not. They are haggard, yes, a dark conglomerate of beings barely shifting in the dust strewn light. They have machetes and guns and vacuum hoses and X-Box controllers wrapped up as nunchaku. Some are carrying Ziplock bags of blond hair, others have necklaces of white thumbs, some are wearing Burberry scarves and Tom Ford ascots like equal symbols of warrior-hood. They look at my partner and snarl. They lunge forward, grabbing at our limbs. A loud bang, sharp and deliberate. Am I hit? Is he? I sink to my knees, slipping out of his hands and the sea of men parts before us. A woman appears. She is short, squatty, cherubic and carrying a bop gun made of springs, hydraulic pumps and canola oil, firing nails and bobby pins; her satchel tucked at her breast filled with sage ash. Her hair is a tangled mesh of dreads, her ears pierced with a wooden ankh. A burst of dusty street lamp light refracts wildly off of her crystal Louboutin heels. The men slowly pile out of the room, then tear back out into the streets, ahowl.

The night is fresh and suddenly clear. The short woman with the dreads smells sweetly of ozone. She lowers her weapon, inspects the room and leaves. I watch from the window as she ambles up the street. Occasionally she fires her weapon, controlled bursts in the air, disappearing down the avenue, covered under a swirl of trash, lost amidst the wails, guiding flaming motorcycles into the pharmacy, pulling Asian children out of the rubble, safe guarding the rest of the world from the death throes of revenge. I don’t know her, but at that moment I’m sure that’s all she’s ever done, on the ark, in the swamps by the master’s house, at funerals for drug dealers, on the internet, and in the streets, begging for change on the steps of the place where she once wrote elegiac think-pieces every time one of us died. I rub my fingers through my boyfriend’s shaggy brown hair, down across his chubby cheeks and think, yes, she still does this guarding now, in the promised and pristine garden of the wonderland.

AND IN OUR FOURTH YEAR WE PRODUCED A BOOK

“…an unprecedentedly rich source for…current and relevant” science fiction

METROPOLARITY is a DIY sci-fi collective based, bred, and tested in the colliding future-present of Philadelphia. This Style of Attack Report contains select work from Metropolarity’s four founding members, who contribute theory, practice, and experience of home grown speculative visioning for both historical documentation as well as personal and collective survival. The collection serves as a model and a record of how Black, brown, queer, low-resource, working, ill and in-recovery people can project themselves into the future, conjuring resources, technology, and magic that aid us in the present.

Also this sci-fi is FIRE cuz the crew don’t play.

120 pages
4.25″ x 7″

METROPOLARITY: The manifestation of contrasting principles, tendencies, or lifestyles in an urban system and any reactions resulting from encounters between these forces.

$13 USD IRL
$15 USD, free shipping in US, int’l +$

AVAILABLE ONLINE HERE & HERE

Request a copy at your local library.
Add it to your Goodreads here.
Ask a favorite book store to get it in stock.
For wholesale & bulk order inquiries, email metropolarity @ gmail.com

overhead view of front and back cover of METROPOLARITY'S Style of Attack Report paperback sitting on a tablecloth with abstracted QR code pattern

back cover of METROPOLARITY'S Style of Attack Report resting on top of dirty white bag in a trolley car

iew of METROPOLARITY'S Style of Attack Report from side so that spine text saying the same is visible

animated gif of STYLE OF ATTACK REPORT showing inside contents

COME GET YOUR SPECULATIVE VISION STRONG WITH ALEX & EIGHTEEN, READING AT THE LAUNCH JAWN 4 YOU~

Tomorrow Never Happens Semester Launch Party
Friday, September 16, 7pm
Samek Gallery, 3rd Floor Elaine Langone Center

This exhibition explores queer futurity and the aesthetics of utopia.

From marriage equality, to “bathroom bills,” to the massacre in Orlando, queerness is central to current social and political life. Current events can mire us in an unrelenting present that makes it hard to imagine a path beyond.

A rising chorus of artists is asking where do we go from here? How do queer communities imagine and work toward a better world? And how do queer theories, artistic practices, and lived experiences influence broader cultural thinking about the future?

The artworks in this exhibition represent a diverse range of sexes and sexualities, gender identities and expressions, national origins, and aesthetic sensibilities. Each work speaks with its own voice and they point down many possible paths to queer futurity. In some works, sexuality and sexual imagery are exposed as politics. Some works invoke collective strength and a sense of shared destiny. And others code utopian messages into history, mythology, and culture. Together, they suggest that our best hope may be to queer the future.

Join us to celebrate Tomorrow Never Happens and the beginning of a new semester. Featuring  hip hop, drag, and  spoken word performances from
Abdu Ali, Lil Miss Hot Mess, as well as Maggie Eighteen and Alex Smith of Metropolarity
.

Black Quantum Futurism/ The AfroFuturist Affair celebrate the opening of our new space COMMUNITY FUTURES LAB!

Over the next year, Black Quantum Futurism will be building and enacting a quantum time capsule, exploring oral histories/futures, preservation, displacement, and alternative temporalities within the North Philadelphia community known as Sharswood/Blumberg. “Community Futurisms” will document the redevelopment of Sharswood/Blumberg, through a multidisciplinary community art project that explores the intersections of futurism, literature, visual remixing, sound, and activism as art.

Join us on June 18, 2016 as we open the COMMUNITY FUTURES LAB, which will function as a resource library, community studio and gallery, workshop space, story recording booth, thinktank, experimental space and more.

ALL AGES
Light refreshments
Soundscapes + Projections by BQF
konja sound by Sirius JuJu
reading by Moor Mother
fly life sounds by Alexoteric

Black Quantum Futurism/ The AfroFuturist Affair celebrate the opening of our new space COMMUNITY FUTURES LAB!

Over the next year, Black Quantum Futurism will be building and enacting a quantum time capsule, exploring oral histories/futures, preservation, displacement, and alternative temporalities within the North Philadelphia community known as Sharswood/Blumberg. “Community Futurisms” will document the redevelopment of Sharswood/Blumberg, through a multidisciplinary community art project that explores the intersections of futurism, literature, visual remixing, sound, and activism as art.

Join us on June 18, 2016 as we open the COMMUNITY FUTURES LAB, which will function as a resource library, community studio and gallery, workshop space, story recording booth, thinktank, experimental space and more.

ALL AGES
Light refreshments
Soundscapes + Projections by BQF
konja sound by Sirius JuJu
reading by Moor Mother
fly life sounds by Alexoteric

When: June 18, 2016
Time: 5-7pm
Where: CFL, 2204 Ridge Ave, Phila PA 19121
Ages: All

If you can’t make it out to the reception, please contact us at communityfutureslab@gmail.com to find out other ways to support or get involved and be sure to follow us on Facebook for updates!! We are also seeking to gather stories from current and former residents of Sharswood and surrounding community, so please spread the word!

Community Futurisms supported in part by A Blade of Grass
http://www.abladeofgrass.org/fellow/black-quantum-futurism/

We have the tea
We have the lemonade
We shall serve
(soon we will bring it to the *real* Paris and watch IT burn)

Sofistifunk meets Chrome City! FLY LIFE!

AURA! JOHN MORRISON! ALEX! DUIJI 13! ICON EBONY FIERCE! We here ya’ll!!

**this is an lgbtq function. no misogyny or homophobia tolerated, queer love and expression celebrated**

We have the tea
We have the lemonade
We shall serve
(soon we will bring it to the *real* Paris and watch IT burn)

Sofistifunk meets Chrome City! FLY LIFE!

AURA! JOHN MORRISON! ALEX! DUIJI 13! ICON EBONY FIERCE! We here ya’ll!!

**this is an lgbtq function. no misogyny or homophobia tolerated, queer love and expression celebrated**

“SCI-FI AS MEMOIR IN THE REALITY OF APOCALYPSE”

(1) #SOFTTARGETS WAS A DAY OF WRITING CRITIQUES + WORKSHOPS + PERFORMANCES ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON AT THE PHILADELPHIA FREE LIBRARY CENTRAL BRANCH.

This was an day-long event held in preparation for the submission deadline to APIARY Magazine’s 8th issue and collaboration with our collective, themed SOFT TARGETS. APIARY is a volunteer-run, freely distributed literary magazine based in and featuring Philadelphia writers. Before METROPOLARITY got started, Ras was one of the fiction editors for the mag. APIARY’s staff has always supported us, and we’ve been meaning to do some sort of collaborative effort ever since. So the SOFT TARGETS issue is a sci-fi one collaboratively edited by us at METROPOLARITY, along with the standing editors at APIARY.

THE DAY CONCLUDED WITH METROPOLARITY SQUAD READING IN THE MAIN BRANCH’S FAMOUS AUDITORIUM. IF YOU MISSED IT, THANK THE COSMOS FOR A LIVESTREAM, M I RITE???? AUDIO IS PROVIDED BY NYFOLT & MOOR MOTHER GODDESS/BLACK QUANTUM FUTURISM CREW

Eighteen says: It was sooooooooooo nice to be at the central branch of the library for this event, and super starry to perform in the famed auditorium. Like a lot of Philadelphians out there, I spent a looot of time in the library growing up (Olney & East Oak Lane branches whut up). Really grateful to APIARY staff and Adam from the Library for making things possible, and very appreciative of everyone who came out to the writing critique session and workshop, and all those who stayed for the performances.

(2) THE LASER LIFE QUEER SCI-FI READING SERIES MARCH EDITION WAS FIRE

ALEX SMITH READS AT LASER LIFE

THE LASER LIFE AT LAVA ZONE
HASHTAG QUEER SCI-FI HASHTAG FUCK GOD HASHTAG FUCK LANDOWNERS HASHTAG UP THE HERETICS
#METROPOLARITY

THANKS TO ALL WHO CAME. THANKS TO JOYCE HATTON FOR THE MOST EXCELLENT DEBUT, MOOR MOTHER GODDESS FOR THE STORM, CHASKA FOR THE PERFECT AUDIO/VISUAL ATMOSPHERE & EVERYONE WHO CAME OUT <3 <3 <3 <3 IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN READING/PERFORMING AT THE NEXT LASER LIFE, CONTACT THEYAREBIRDS AT GEEEEEMAIL.

What nobody seems to have pics of is the powerful trailer for M. Asli Dukan‘s INVISIBLE UNIVERSE documentary on black speculative fiction… but check this out:

INVISIBLE UNIVERSE DOCUMENTARY (FUNDRAISING DEMO) from MIZAN MEDIA PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.

In 2003, independent filmmaker, M. Asli Dukan, set out to make a documentary about the 150 year history of Black creators in speculative fiction (SF) books and movies. What she didn’t realize at the time was that she was about to document a major movement in the history of speculative fiction. A movement where a growing number of Black creators were becoming an effective force, creating works that had increasing influence on the traditionally, straight, white, cis-male dominated SF industry. However, while these Black creators imagined better futures for Black people within their fictional works of SF, in reality, the everyday, lived experiences of Black people in the United States – e.g., the rise of massive inequality, the prison industrial complex, and police brutality – stood in stark contrast. She began to wonder if these phenomena were related.

Told through the ever-present lens and off-screen narrator voice of the filmmaker, Invisible Universe will explore this question by examining the work of Black creators of SF through the ideology of the emerging Black Lives Matter movement, which addresses the systematic oppression of Black lives. Since she began the documentary, the filmmaker has compiled an extensive interviewee list of Black writers, artists and filmmakers of SF who have been creating works where Black people not only exist in the future, but are powerful shapers of their own realities, whether in magical lands, dystopian settings, or on distant worlds. In addition, she has documented an ever-increasing number of academic, community and arts events dedicated to the work and critical analysis of Black SF, as well as building connections between the creators, thinkers, organizers and fans. In the past decade, the filmmaker has documented the cultural shift around Black SF and its explicit connections to Black liberation. This documentary explores the idea that in a world of capitalist exploitation, anti-Black oppression and state violence, Black creators are speculating about better worlds as a means of resistance and survival.

The documentary will also consider how “Black Speculation” is rooted in the history of “Black Struggle” in the United States by exploring two previous eras of Black creators speculating about Black lives through the genres of SF. The first era occurred during the nadir of African American history in late 19th and early 20th centuries, when slavery, war, lynchings, race riots, disfranchisement and segregation inspired Black writers to pen narratives about international slave rebellions, secret, Black governments and powerful, long lost, African kingdoms. The second era occurred during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, when the work of Black writers of SF seemed to extrapolate on the possible futures that would occur as a result of the successes or failures of the Civil Rights or Black Power struggles. This documentary will explore how this current moment, which the filmmaker considers the third era of Black Speculation, compares and contrasts with the earlier two eras.

This timely documentary includes interviews with Black writers of SF like Samuel R. Delany, the late Octavia E. Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor, actors like Nichelle Nichols and Wesley Snipes, cultural organizers like Rasheedah Phillips and her AfroFuturist Affair, academics/artists like John Jennings and Nettrice Gaskins, social justice workers/artists like adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, as well as numerous other filmmakers, artists, academics, archivists, and fans. This one-of-a-kind project is essentially an archive of a “Who’s Who” of Black speculative fiction.

Mark C. Jerng really went in with their review of Stories for Chip, a tribute anthology to Samuel R. Delany, featuring a story by our own Alex Smith. Jerng’s review does what feels rare to us as “marginalized” sf writers and that’s go to the trouble of talking about the influence of Delany’s work (and the work within the anthology itself) outside of binary categories of capitalist empire. Our neighbors were saying this is one hell of a good review. Delany fans, dig in.

a sampling of the printed works of Alex Smith (thus far) sitting on his coffee table

#selfcare is remembering that you are a part of a #continuum that stretches beyond yourself, that #ancestors have decreed you a part of the #myth , that you are not just changing the world, not just envisioning the world made better, you are that change, that vision. you’ve done it, but you’re not done. #rise #scifiart #scifi #afrofuturism #storiesforchip #blackquantumfuturism #zines #metropolarity – Alex on Instagram

Ask your local library to carry Stories for Chip or buy a copy here.

The artist Sondra Perry hit us up one day with a collab idea: We write/record a critical writing component to go along with her project, #MyTwilightZoneThing, taking place at Recess Art in New York. A couple weeks later…

We had the great fortune to commission the critical writing for #MyTwilightZoneThing to METROPOLARITY, a collective of speculative fiction writers/artists/activists based/raised in Philadelphia. Their contribution “YOU HAVE 4 MESSAGES” includes 4 texts [and 3 audio pieces] written by RAS MASHRAMANI (@anti_gyal), Alex Smith (@theyarebirds), M. EIGHTEEN (@cyborgmemoirs), and Rasheedah Phillips (@afrofuturistaffair).
It’s incredible.

My Twilight Zone Thing builds upon the artist’s belief that the original show dismantles whiteness through the lens of science fiction. Although each episode of The Twilight Zone opens with the narrator (series creator Rod Serling) describing the mostly male, primarily white characters, these individuals go on to enter an alternate plane—a move that complicates the viewer’s ingrained ways of seeing and coding the characters’ physical realities.

Perry posits that the way in which the show scrambles assumptions around the characters’ bodies gives rise to multiple new possibilities for seeing and understanding their personhood. Perry will work with the collaborators to experiment with this dissolution of identity as they insert themselves into these narrated scenes. With only the original script remaining as a point of reference to the source material, the actors will have the opportunity to assume, mimic, or defy the externally prescribed characteristics, thereby taking advantage of the rift between representative structures and real bodies.

Download your copy at the link below!
http://www.recessart.org/metropolarity-you-have-4-messages/ (at Recess)

Or visit map to Recess Gallery in New York to grab a limited USB drive loaded with the goods + other tasty media morsels

–>TODDLERS ON TOUCHSCREENS CAUSE THEIR FINGERS WAS BORN WITH IT — DRONE SURVEILLANCE OVER ALL YR BODEGAS — SUPERBACTERIA TALKIN BOUT FUCK YR PENICILLIN — SCI FI IS NO LONGER ONLY FOR THE FUTURE — SCI FI IS HERE ON YOUR FRONT PORCH — WE WANT YOUR FUTURE PRESENT — YOUR SCI FI REALITIES — THE FUTURE IS NOW <--

link to download METROPOLARITY FUTURE NOW ZINE SINGLE PAGE SCREEN FORMAT link to download METROPOLARITY FUTURE NOW ZINE DOUBLE SIDED PRINT FORMAT

COLLAB ZINE W/ WORK FROM::::::::::
+ IT IS OKAY by Laura Pollard
+ SPONSORED MESSAGES from grey nebraska
+ comments from Azeem Hill, Fred Pinguel, n Carolyn Lazard
+ BATTLEFIELD REPLICA SYMMETRY RETROSPECTA by Moor Mother Goddess
+ THE 40TH ST. CON by Skribbly LaCroix
+ CONSTANTEMIEDOCONSTANTE by Natis
+ DISTRICTS by Aja Beech
+ FLYBOYS by Billie Blazer
+ G.P.S. by Althea Baird

+ LIFE ONLINE WORKSHEET by Eighteen & Ras
+ PORTRAIT OF THE ACTIVIST AS A YOUNG SUPER-HERO by Alex Smith
+ BLACK QUANTUM FUTURISM by Rasheedah Phillips
+ A YOUNG THUG CONFRONTS HIS OWN FUTURE by Ras Mashramani

Released in October of 2014 with work from Philly-based and Philly-born residents.
The print format of this zine is an 11″ x 17″ dimension printed on 8.5″ x 11″ size paper and trimmed by 0.5″ on the edges.
Print for your own pleasure but we request that anyone looking to distribute this zine contact us to ask & discuss first. Email metropolarity @ gmail dot com.

Book searching while black can be a traumatic experience. Throw in gay and it can make your casual trip to Barnes N Noble an experience so dire, you feel like you’re a starving black orphan tucked into the back of a young adult dystopian novel, scrounging for crumbs at the bazaar while these Harrison Ford clones saunter through the stacks picking out spec-fic and fantasy with abandon. No, for QPOC interested in reading compelling, otherworldly, righteous sci-fi and spec-fic written by one of our own, featuring us as lead characters, this little adventure (choosing a book) can be nothing short of a nightmare. Thankfully, a lot of thoughtful and intriguing fiction is coming out this year from writer’s in the African diaspora that I’m anticipating giddily: T. Geronimo Johnson’s “Welcome to Braggsville”, Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout” and James Hannaham’s “Delicious Foods” for starters. But while those stories will fill a certain desire for me to read weirdish, darkly comic, transcendent black penned spec-fic that doesn’t support a monolithic view of black life quite well, none of them are specifically science fiction. Enter Jennifer Marie Brissett’s impossible-to-put-down debut novel, “Elysium”.

The slender, beautiful, Philip K. Dick award nominated “Elysium” from Aqueduct Press is a neatly packaged, whirlwind of a tale, awash in dreamy, nuanced emotion and bristling with imagination. Told in twisting, anti-synchronous swaths of poetic prose, the story revolves around humanity’s interaction with a violent race of roach-like aliens who’ve bio-nuked earth with a strange dust. The story dives through the shared memory of many characters, the core of whom share names, personalities, and lineages. The ultimate twist of this story is hard to discuss without revealing it, so I won’t. But Brissett doesn’t shy away from introducing a world where LGBTQ characters are given dynamic, rangy voices, where gender is melted away, remolded, and shaped again.

The story starts off introducing Adrienne, a woman struggling in her relationship with her husband, Antoine. While Antoine seems aloof, perhaps busy but ultimately frustrated with married life, Adrienne seems lost and incapable of escaping some kind of palpable dread. She’s having visions, lapses of memory and bursts of images of other memories pop into her head, memories she’s not sure she’s supposed to have. As I read these pages, my heart sank, not for fear that alas, poor Adrienne is unloved by her dear husband, but because perhaps I’d stumbled into a paltry romance instead of a science fiction thriller. Yet, suddenly the narrative is interrupted by a staticky computer program rendered in retro-futurist cyber text, breaking up the monotony of the everyday-ness of Adrienne’s previous life, and transporting her, and us, the reader, into the body of…someone else? A doppelganger? A possible future-past? It’s entirely unclear at this point, although things start to coagulate fairly quickly. And just as they do, as the reader realizes they’re experiencing a folding of the multiverse, we’re transported into the lives of young women abused by a dark cult.

The “whoa, she went there!” weirdness that Brissett wields in this novel is a breath of ozone laced, dusty air. It’s harsh in moments, but completely lucid and elegiac in others. Brissett’s skill as a writer is in her ability to mine sci-fi tropes for what lies at their diamond-like core. She’s not overtly concerned with bogging down the narrative in newspeak or having us trudge through page after page of diplomacy and bureaucracy with characters verbally expositing about the ins and outs of their inhabited universe. No, Brissett gets to the point, but still finds the space to build a world so tremendously intricate that it can be seen as nothing short of monumental. When she isn’t filling the pages with wayward graffiti artists locked in a subterranean existence, aliens that flicker in-between fourth dimensional space, or sci-fi weaponry rent from underground ’90s comics, she’s telling us a story about our deep connections to each other. “Elysium” spiritually connecting in ways “Cloud Atlas” or “Life of Pi” perhaps tried to be, but without actually telling us so, by trusting the reader and allowing the characters to discover that connected kind of humanity, echoing the mythic work of Samuel Delany in the process, ultimately helping us, the reader, find that same feeling.

Furthering the essentiality of this work is Brissett’s use of African-American protagonists. There are black women and men, gay and straight and transgender, doing impossible things here, saving the day, struggling and working towards a better, livable world. While the book doesn’t stray away from a racial identity, that very same identity doesn’t overshadow the story. And after things spiral away from us, then back again, we’re left with an ending that is not only satisfying, but absolutely thrilling in every single way. If you’re a fan of any kind of science fiction— hard sci-fi, fantasy, mythic, superhero, supernatural, historical fiction, time travel, Orwellian/dystopian– read “Elysium” and like a beckoning to it’s namesake Greek concept of the afterlife, release and be transported there.

Did you know? Alex has written most of our event descriptions, and perhaps famously, our HERALD. We like his reviews too.

And suddenly, my Facebook wall is inundated with the strange, twisted images of super-hero mego toys pouring hot cooking oil on top of each other, bare-assed pissing on the sides of buildings and sneaking obvious peeks at each others junk, or, innocuously enough, doing their fucking laundry. And by inundated I mean like, 3 people, but still that’s a lot, especially in this day and age when every tag is a reminder that something dumb, regretful, or over-analyzed is happening, and it’s all unfolding on your precious, precious wall. But it’s not just the irksome practice of the, “oh, let me tag everyone I think might be kinda down with this” (it’s not that irksome and kind of sweet, actually… aw, you’re thinking of me! Thanks, assorted boos!) as much as it is the sort of sad reality that folks not into your particular niche of nerdom just fucking don’t get it, maaaaan!

In this particular case, the gangs all here: Spider-Man, Thor, Batman. It’s a veritable who’s who of mainstream superdom, all of them blistering with sinewy plastic model toy muscles and precisely carved renditions of their respective actor’s chiseled, handsome faces. It’s just that in “Superheroes in Real Life” by Edy Hardjo (or whatever it’s called), the point of parody seems to be uncomfortably off the mark.

Let me explain. I don’t think super-heroes are beyond reproach. In fact, the idea of the super-hero, and the universes they inhabit, with peril at every turn and with it’s strange and fantastical burst of science fiction whimsy, is in and of itself, a parody. It’s a playful rendering of the idea of stoic leadership in the face of inscrutable demands of every day life. Many writers have played within the seams of this concept– hyperreality married with nuke weilding, dragonlaced, alien mutant imbued fantasy. I mean, the first superhero ever, Superman, was an avatar that deftly embodied everything we, the struggling masses, seemed to ceaselessly endure: poverty, abuse, restriction and corruption by power. And through the lens of the super-hero– a fantastic, satirical take on modernity and it’s flawed relationship with our humanity– generations have been able to eke out a vision of the world they’d rather see. So, to me, blatant, unnuanced mockeries of super-heroes miss the mark, painfully.

Is the attempt at satire in Hardjo’s work about the juxtapositioning? Is it an homage to the wonders of play, of the pre-pubescent mind discovering itself? Does it work as an attempt at uncovering mainstream comic movies lack of gender and sexual orientation equality while perpetuating a staid stereotype of uber-masculinity? It’s unclear. I can concede an interest in the work can be made more prescient if the attempt is to satirize the mostly unfun movie universes; those are mainly fascist junk, the modern day take on Rambo and Diehard, and they clearly deserve to be skewered. But since there’s so much ingrained and intrinsic to the characters from the source material– the comics themselves– it becomes dangerously close to pedantic nihilism, cutting and mean spirited for the sake of it’s own self. In short, the comic books are already parodying themselves, playfully and with genuine fervor. In DAREDEVIL, the main character has “come out of the closet” as a superhero, and his everyday life has flipped in many bizarre ways because of it. MULTIVERSITY, penned by legendary meta-fiction writer Grant Morisson, is tackling the exact things I think Hardjo is trying to make light of. It’s a series featuring multiple universes, where sometimes Batman is an infant robot, where talking Tigers leap from the page (quite literally), and each universe exist in the other universes, but only in the form of a comic book! In SHE-HULK, the titular heroine’s adventures come mostly from her desperately clinging to an unusual law firm she’s started as a result of not wanting to carry on as a corporate stooge– imagine a 7 foot tall green superhero showing up in court to defend Dr. Doom’s son; yes, dearlings, hijinks ensue. And this is to say nothing of the constant fourth wall demolishing in DEADPOOL, or the sublimely hysterical, yet still heartfelt and genuine character study taking place in SINISTER SIX, where b-list villains are center stage as they navigate their way through the wonders of the Marvel Universe.

“The Secret Life of Super-heroes” (or whatever it’s fucking called!) is interesting visually. It’s definitely fun to see Spider-Man and his amazing friends taking a selfie while the Hulk tries to peel a xenomorph off of his face. But I think this exhibit is more “Meet the Feebles” than it is “Galaxyquest”. Where the former is an unnecessary, vicious send-up by an outsider trying to shock, essentially parodying a parody (the Muppets), the latter is a sweet, endearing piece of satire that stands on it’s own, with a burgeoning narrative and a willingness to admit that there is power and the ability to dream, dare, and do within the source material (Star Trek). Frankly, if one were to read an actual super hero comic– any one of them– they’d see that the everyday lives of superheros (where Batgirl is constantly losing and checking her phone, riding the subway to school and hanging out with her weird as fuck friends) aren’t so secret after all.

Thanks Alex. You can see more photos from the series in question here on HiConsumption.com. Our cover image is directly pulled from the same place.