EVX: Race and Resistance in Science Fiction

Policing Blackness: Incarceration, Resistance, and Respectability Politics in Science and Speculative Fictions



Presented by The Museum of Science Fiction

Held on Wednesday, August 26, 7:00 p.m. ET


Tim Russ (Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager), Peter Macon (Bortus from The Orville) and Garrett Wang (Ensign Kim from Star Trek: Voyager)

Tim Russ

Peter Macon

Garrett Wang

Moderated by Aisha Matthews, Managing Editor, Journal of Science Fiction.

In today’s world where the phrase Black Lives Matter has fueled a movement, Escape Velocity Extra examines depictions of race and racism in science fiction. From the original Star Trek’s “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield” through humanity’s treatment of “the Prawn” in District 9, science-fiction pop-culture has delivered a lens to our reality. This program, through experts in present day culture/ Afro-futurism and celebrity actors, will explore where we have been, where we are now and where we are going.

This program featured:

  • andré carrington, Associate Professor of English at the University of California-Riverside, author of Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction
  • Isiah Lavender, Professor of English at the University of Georgia, author of Afrofuturism Rising: The Literary Prehistory of a Movement
  • De Witt Kilgore, Associate Professor of English at Indiana University: Bloomington, author of Astrofuturism: Science, Race, and Visions of Utopia in Space and “This Time for Africa!: Afrofuturism as Alternate (American) History” in Afrofuturism in Time and Space, edited by Lisa Yaszek and Isiah Lavender III (forthcoming from Ohio State University Press).
  • Lisa Yaszek Regents Professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech, author of Literary Afrofuturism in the Twenty-First Century

Works of science fiction referenced during this webcast:


  • The Orville (2017 – )
    • Peter Macon (Bortus) & Penny Johnson Gerald (Dr. Claire Finn)
    • Moclan race and its sexual and sociopolitical laws; patriarchal governance of allegedly all-male society obscures existence of female Moclans; Earth government mediates/interferes in disputes
  • Altered Carbon (2018 – )
    • Anthony Mackie (Takashi Kovach) & Renée Elise Goldsberry (Quellchrist Falconer)
      • Incarceration that transcends bodies; Differences between incarcerating minds and bodies
  • Stargate SG-1 (1997 – 2007)
    • Christopher Judge (Teal’c) 
      • Teal’c is a military figure often on the “opposite side” of his own race
  • Watchmen (2019 – )
    • Tackles white supremacy, the Tulsa Riot, and black superheroes
  • Westworld Season 3 
    • Depicts a future carceral system where persons judged to be antisocial are confined/assigned for rehabilitation
  • Luke Cage (2016 – 2018)
    • Mike Colter
      • Typical urban black stereotype with powers; uses them to avoid police brutality amongst other things; literally bullet-proof
  • Black Mirror
    • Season 4 “Black Museum” episode (2017)
  • Noughts & Crosses (2020–)
    • New BBC1 adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s book series


  • Brown Girl in the Ring (Nalo Hopkinson, 1998)
    • Dystopian police state in Toronto; riots cause cities to become slums where the police won’t go
  • Midnight Robber (Nalo Hopkinson, 2000)
    • New-Half-Way-Tree as the alternate dimension exile for criminals; strict codes of punishment and public executions
  • Kindred (Octavia Butler, 1979)
    • Imprisonment and slavery in the past
  • Xenogensis/Lilith’s Brood (Octavia Butler, 1987-’89)
    • “Benign” imprisonment and slavery by an alien race
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts (Rivers Solomon, 2018)
    • Prison/slave spaceship where race largely determines status; relegated to servitude and harsh behavioral restrictions
  • Riot Baby (Tochi Onyebuchi, 2019) 
    • Directly engages the prison industrial complex as well as police brutality and murder
  • Koontown Killing Kaper (Bill Campbell, 2013) 
  • Long Division (Kiese Laymon, 2013)
  • “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” (James Tiptree, 1973)
  • The Measure of a Man (Sidney Poitier, 2000)
    • De Witt’s reference to Poitier’s experience with the police


  • Minority Report, based on the story by Philip K. Dick– it was also a television series for one season starring Meagan Good
    • Depicted “pre-crime” and its aftermath
  • District 9
    • The “prawns” are a commentary on racism in South Africa that resembles the treatment of African Americans as refugees
  • Brother from Another Planet 
    • Is being pursued by aliens who want to capture and enslave him; looks to whites for help
  • I, Robot (Alex Proyas, 2004) 
  • Men in Black
  • Bright – a discussion of Will Smith’s presence in 1990s-2000s sf might be of interest here. Note also the Men in Black series. We could bring in Tessa Thompson’s role in the latest iteration of the franchise. A discussion of policing and blackness in sf should include consideration of narratives in which black folk are the police. I wonder, how do black folk who take up gun and badge think about their own role in the system? 
  • Attack the Block (2011)
  • Rain (Maya Glick). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_W-PBfO57o
    • This is a 23 minute fan film that has gotten tons of attention in the press. Apparently Glick was super bored by all the white-generated versions of the X-Man Storm’s origins, so she wrote, choreographed, and acted in this. It’s very much a raced (and gendered) liberation narrative, that gestures toward the literal and metaphorical ways marginalized peoples are imprisoned.