Wednesday News: World Fantasy Awards, literary incomprehension, Afrofuturism, and the diasporic art of Maria Qamar
Here Are The Winners Of The 2015 World Fantasy Awards – The World Fantasy Award winners were announced at the recent World Fantasy Convention, and i09 has the entire list of finalists and winners. David Mitchell won Best Novel for The Bone Clocks, Daryl Gregory won Best Novella for We Are All Completely Fine, and Scott Nicolay won Best Short Story for Do You Like to Look at Monsters?. Given the, uh, demography of that lineup, it’s interesting to note that this is the last year that an image of Lovecraft will adorn the statuette:
The statue has come under fire in recent years, with authors such as Nnedi Okorafor and Daniel José Older pointing out that the horror author’s views on race are make him an uncomfortable figure to use. There’s no word on what will replace the statue moving forward. – i09
How Could You Like That Book? – Although I’ve had my quibbles with Tim Parks’s essays (despite the fact that I always respect his thoughtful intelligence), I think everyone who reads, reviews, discusses, and otherwise engages with books should read this one. Parks begins with the admission that he does not share the appreciation for certain writers that others do, runs through his own explanation for disdaining what he perceives to be ‘lazy writing,’ and then goes on to push through his own judgments to focus on the way all readers share precisely the idea that what they love is superior to what they do not. From there, Parks turns to the subject of mutual incomprehension of others’ literary tastes and loves, bringing the entire argument back to himself, but from a different perspective, where one’s “reaction to literature becomes a repeated act of self-discovery:”
Where to go with this uncertainty? Perhaps rather than questioning other readers’ credulity, or worrying about my own presumption, what might really be worth addressing here is the whole issue of incomprehension: mutual and apparently insuperable incomprehension between well-meaning and intelligent people, all brought up in the same cultural tradition, more or less. It’s curious, for example, that the pious rhetoric gusting around literature always promotes the writing and reading habit as a powerful communication tool, an instrument for breaking down barriers, promoting understanding—and yet it is exactly over my reaction to books that I tend to discover how completely out of synch with others I am. . . .
Could this be the function, then, or at least one important function of fiction: to make us aware of our differences? To have our contrasting positions emerge in response to these highly complex cultural artifacts? Not that superficial togetherness in celebration that the publishing industry, the literary festivals, and the interminable literary prizes are forever seeking to generate, the happy conviction that we have found a new literary hero and can all gloat together over his or her achievement. But all the heated debate that actually preceded the prize-giving; the shifting alliances as each book was discussed, the times you just couldn’t believe that the fellow jurist who supported you over book A is now seriously proposing to ditch book B, and so on. – New York Review of Books
How Afrofuturism mixes science fiction and social justice – A brief but rich portrait of Afrofuturist artist Selam Bekele. If you’re not familiar with Afrofuturism, this Ebony article provides a nice introduction, and this i09 piece profiles 8 Afrofuturist artists.
Bekele described Afrofuturism, a growing artistic movement, as a mix of science fiction and social justice. The movement uses elements of fantasy and magical realism to examine narratives from the African diaspora and construct stories of the future. “I’m seeking to break through definition and break through time … to find stories that go beyond that and speak to the human spirit,” she said. – NPR
Desi beats: Giving Indian aunties a pop art twist – A friend sent me this link, and like Afrofuturism, it concerns another type of diasporic art — in this case the Indian diaspora. Pakistani-Canadian artist Maria Qamar started producing images merging the style of Roy Lichtenstein with a satirical take on the stereotypical “auntie” character, a cultural in-joke that has surprised Qamar in how internationally popular her work has become, especially among young women negotiating a similar dual-cultural experience (she initially thought the work would primarily appeal to North Americans, but not Indians). Qamar has a background in advertising, which you can see in her use of bold imagery and exaggerated messaging:
“I moved over from Pakistan to Canada when I was a child and wanted to create something that would merge these two cultures together. I thought I needed some ‘desi-ness’ in my work. I started doing generic henna designs but lots of people were doing that. It was also too abstract. I wanted to create art with a message – something people would get straight away.” . . .
“I was researching lots of artists to see what styles worked. When you see a Lichtenstein piece, you know exactly what you have in front of you. So I tried to emulate that but what I drew looked like an auntie. What he drew looked like a white lady, but mine differed.
“When I saw what I had in front of me on the paper, I started wondering ‘what would my mum say’. That’s how it all started. – BBC
Thanks so much for an especially good collection of links. I really loved Maria Qamar’s art.
I liked this Parks essay, too. I tend to approach his essays in the same spirit in which he describes differing over reading taste: the places where I disagree with him help me to understand and articulate my own point of view better. Even when I do disagree, I find him worth reading.
Interesting article from Parks, which has wider relevance to reviewers and readers but I disliked his distinction between genre fiction and literature, the former being for entertainment only and the latter being for some kind of edification? Blyergh. I am constantly both entertained AND edified by genre fiction.
Yes, I find myself baffled by some super popular movies or books. Lord of the Rings, for example. How could that tedious, sexist and utterly predictable film become so popular. We started off with the Hobbit and in the second installment, even my teenaged son was groaning, not another attack of Orcs — and he generally likes action scenes.
It’s so tempting to dismiss the people who actually liked that as a bit inferior — could they be that willing to accept women being relegated to the role of weeping instead of fighting?