Building The Mothership with Black Science Fiction

Local author Keith Owens talks about diversity in lands far, far away.

20th Century Fox

The genre of science fiction has always included subversive storylines alluding to race, ethnicity, oppression and inequality. That’s according to local sci-fi author Keith Owens. 

“[Sci-fi] fits very well with the Black American narrative,” says Owens. He adds the African American experience was documented in sci-fi stories well before Black characters and actors were well represented in books, movies and TV shows. Owens cites Star Trek as a program with writing and plot lines that mirrored the struggle of marginalized populations.

“There’s no question Gene Roddenberry was talking about race in those episodes,” says Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson.

Owens agrees. He says robot novels and green-painted humanoid aliens served as early races or classes of people in sci-fi stories. He says they often represented an oppressed group of people seeking freedom, equality and acceptance. But Owens says times have changed for sci-fi

“The discussion now is… to what degree is Black sci-fi obligated to take on these issues?” he says. Owens says there are more Black actors and characters in sci-fi than ever before, but stories of strife will always remain popular and resonant. “Everyone likes an underdog… the oppression narrative is a powerful, powerful one.”

Owens is author of the sci-fi novel The Mayonnaise Murders.  He will also take part in a panel discussion about Black Sci Fi at Pages Bookshop in Detroit on Saturday, April 18, from 3-4 pm.

Click on the audio link above to hear the full conversation.