Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Gérard Sioen/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

More Black writers and artists are turning to science fiction — and an artistic movement known as Afrofuturism — to tackle issues around race and inequality and give fans an escape from the harsh realities on Earth.

The big picture: Afrofuturism was long an underground movement. Its roots date back to W.E.B. Du Bois, though its name wasn't coined til the 1990s. But it has been gaining a bigger mainstream profile in recent years with the blockbuster movie "Black Panther" and the HBO series "Lovecraft Country" and a national racial reckoning.  

Where it stands: Black writers, including Sheree Renée Thomas and Nikki Giovanni, next month will release a new anthology called "Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda" -- a collection of stories inspired by the first mainstream superhero of African descent.

  • HBO content boss Casey Bloys has expressed interest in a second season of "Lovecraft Country," a series set in midcentury, segregated America that blends racism, horror, and monsters.
  • Colson Whitehead's Afrofuturist novel "The Underground Railroad" — a story about a literal underground train system during slavery — won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Thomas said the art has gone from being enjoyed by a small number of "blerds" — Black nerds — to wide acceptance because of the questions it's posing about racism in the future.

The details: Afrofuturism describes an alternative place for Black people in space or a fantasy setting, or in relation to technology that allows one to escape slavery and discrimination.

  • Maurice Broaddus, the author of the "Knights of Breton Court" novel trilogy, said Afrofuturism can take an optimistic tone where outer space offers a racial utopia.
  • Or it can envision a dystopian future where racism can't be shaken, as seen in the 1995 film, "Welcome II the Terrordome."
  • "It's my community giving itself room and permission to dream about possibilities. We're moving from a space of surviving the day-to-day to imagining the futures we want to see, and then crafting maps and guides and taking steps to create that future...starting now," Broaddus told Axios.

Writer Victor LaValle attracted attention for his debut 1999 gritting, realistic short story collection, "Slapboxing with Jesus."

What they're saying: "Afrofuturism offers not only entertainment, but old stories in new ways, or new stories in old ways that we have never quite experienced before," said Thomas, editor of "Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora."

Yes, but: There is also fear among some writers that Afrofuturism could be co-opted like all other forms of Black art.

  • "You can't just make a TV show and throw Black people on a rocket and call it Afrofuturism. You have to pose questions," LaValle said.

Flashback: "No one was going to stop me from writing and no one had to really guide me towards science fiction. It was natural, really, that I would take that interest," writer Octavia E. Butler once said.

  • Butler, an African American woman born in Pasadena, Calif., was the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.
  • Her groundbreaking Patternist series covered a secret history from Ancient Egyptian to the far future that involves telepathic mind control.
  • Jazz musicians Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, and Miles Davis also explored Afrofuturism through music.
  • Ra starred in the 1974 film, "Space Is the Place," where he tries to recruit young African Americans in Oakland to join him on another planet.

Don't forget: Superheroes like Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Spider-Man were created by Jewish writers who saw themselves in their creations, and as a way to fight discrimination,

  • Latino artists have since embraced Superman and playfully call him the first "illegal alien" who lives among Americans undetected and in the shadows.

What's next: Black writers are set to announce this year Afrofuturist projects around gaming and virtual reality.

Go deeper

New York prepares for staff shortages from health vaccine mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during a news conference Tuesday in New York City.. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Saturday she would declare a state of emergency if there were health worker shortages due to New York's upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: Hochul moved to reassure concerns of staffing shortages in the health care sector in a statement that also outlined plans to call in medically trained National Guard members, workers from outside New York and retirees if necessary when the mandate takes effect Monday.

California to remove word "alien" from state laws

Gov. Gavin Newsom during a September news conference in Oakland, California. Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

California is removing the word "alien" from its state laws and replacing it with words such as "noncitizen" and "immigrant," Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced.

Why it matters: The word "alien" began to be used in the 1990s "as a political dog whistle to express bigotry and hatred without using traditionally racist language," per a statement from Newsom's office.

7 hours ago - Health

Axios AM Deep Dive: Covid forever

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was 563 days ago that the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by healthcare reporter Caitlin Owens, looks at our Covid future.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!