Wednesday, 22 January 2014

John Jennings catches the eye with his cover for "Afrofuturism"

Wrapped in a cracking cover titled 'Io Ashtara" by John Jennings, Afrofuturism: The World Of Black Sci-Fi & Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L Womack is described as a "hip, accessible primer to the music, literature, and art of Afrofuturism."

Comprising elements of the avant-garde, science fiction, cutting-edge hip-hop, black comix, and graphic novels, Afrofuturism spans both underground and mainstream pop culture.
With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and all social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.

Author Ytasha Womack introduces readers to the burgeoning community of artists creating Afrofuturist works, the innovators from the past, and the wide range of subjects they explore.
From the SF literature of Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler and N K Jemisin to the musical cosmos of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and the Black Eyed Peas', to the visual and multimedia artists inspired by African Dogon myths and Egyptian deities, topics range from the "alien" experience of blacks in America to the "wake up" cry that peppers sci-fi literature, sermons, and activism.

Interviews with rappers, composers, musicians, singers, authors, comic illustrators, painters, and DJs, as well as Afrofuturist professors, provide a firsthand look at this fascinating movement.

With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.

Author, filmmaker, dancer and futurist Ytasha L. Womack also wrote the critically acclaimed book Post Black: How a New Generation is Redefining African American Identity and 2212: Book of Rayla. She is also the co-editor of the hip hop anthology Beats, Rhyme & Life: What We Love and Hate About Hip Hop. 
Her films include Love Shorts (as writer/producer) and The Engagement (as director).

Cover artist John Jennings, an educator at the University of Buffalo, centres his life on provocative questions: How can we show the work of underrepresented artists, especially those who do comics? How can we go beyond the racial stereotypes of traditional comic art to show the rich expression of black artists, past and present? And how can we help UB students see that creating art is a possibility for them, to recognize that “art is everywhere” and acquire what Jennings calls “visual literacy?”

• Afrofuturism Site:

• John Jennings Tumblr:

• Read an interview with John Jennings (date unknown):

Friday, 3 January 2014

Lost in Translation: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Ships are disappearing all over the world and it believed to be caused by a sea monster. Professor Pierre Aronnax, author of the book The Mysteries of the Ocean Deep, his companion Conseil and Canadian harpooner Ned Land are hired by the US government to help put and end to this mystery by joining an expedition on the Abraham Lincoln. After months of searching the Abraham Lincoln finds its quarry and in the ensuing collision, Professor Aronnax, Conseil and Ned Land are thrown overboard. In their efforts to survive, the trio find themselves on the surface of the “monster” itself, which turns out to be a submarine. Captain Nemo allows them to remain alive on board his submarine, the Nautilus, as his permanent guests, meaning he will never allow them to leave and reveal his secrets. The Captain uses this meeting with Professor Aronnax, whose book he has read, to begin a new cruise through the oceans and seas of the world, so that he can show Professor Aronnax where his book was lacking in details; meanwhile, Ned Land’s primary interest is in escape...

My enjoyment of science fiction is as much about the words as the pictures that draw my attention to a book on a store shelf or online shop front. For over 120 years, readers of English have known only a poor imitation of Jules Verne's classic French novel Vingt Mille Lieues Sous les Mers - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - and consequently relegated the writer to the category of a "boy's author". Since 1873 the standard English version has been Lewis Mercier's mangled "translation," a work that's filled with errors, mistranslations, and bogus additions, and missing nearly a quarter of Verne's original text.

Thanks to the life-long efforts of two Verne scholars, Walter J. Miller Frederick Paul Walter, the English-speaking world gained access to a definitive and highly recommended translation in 1993, the only English version based solely on the level of literary artist and scientific visionary, a category he has always enjoyed in Europe and Russia.

Mercier's act of literary vandalism went unnoticed until 1965, when New York University English professor Walter Miller discovered the missing text and began the restoration of the Verne masterpiece. After nearly thirty years of work, including rigorous examinations of his translation by experts in marine technology and biology, Miller teamed that Frederick Paul Walter in 1992 to create this landmark scientific and literary achievement.

While the cover of this much-praised translation is pretty dull, to be honest, restored to the volume along with the original woodcut illustrations are the entertaining and often prescient drams of Captain Nemo, widely considered the prototypical science-fiction character.

In this novel alone Verne has anticipated submarine diving planes, scuba gear, underwater laboratories, and marine ecological disasters. He also inspired large-scale underwater mining and farming of flora and fauna, and electricity from thermoclines, all currently in development.

Restoration of these visionary ideas and some twenty-three percent of the original text is certain to elevate Verne's standing in scientific and literary circles.

• 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, published by the US Naval Institute, is available from

 • If your perception of 20,000 Leagues is further coloured by the Disney film, then you might also want to check out this 1916 silent version:

North American Jules Verne Society, Inc.

(With thanks to Micheal Neno)
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