This is a reprint of the 5th LIL BLACK BOOKS column I wrote for BLACK SCIFI.COM a few years back. I'll be reposting more as I find them in my files. In no particular order.
SHOULD BE A MOVIE
It’s been an interesting couple weeks. I’ve been getting into a lot of discussions aboutblacks in film, blacks in action films and blacks in scifi fantasy films especially. A lot of this came about due to the bizarre casting of Idris Elba in the recent film treatment of THOR from Marvel studios.
I love Elba’s work. I think he’s a fantastically gifted actor who ABSOLUTLEY pulled off the role he was given and I was glad to see he wasn’t treated as a toss off, simply There To Be Black, as I had feared.
However I was and remain one of those who is not a big fan of “diversity casting” just for the sake of increased diversity. It’s fine to make the FANTASTIC FOUR multi-ethnic, for instance, because there’s nothing about them that says they’re anything more than Americans from different social backgrounds. Reed Richards could be black, the Storms could be Asian or Latin and Ben Grimm could be Jewish.
Oh, wait. He is.
Technically Peter Parker, also, could be any ethnicity as well, as long as that ethnicity places him inside the “middle class urban American” social setting. This doesn’t apply to the Norse Gods. I’m sorry, folks. As much as it pains me to line up with the White Supremecists on this one, Heimdall, the guardian of the Rainbow Bridge between Asgard and the Nine Worlds, possible avatar of Yggdrasill the World Tree, is not black. Period.
He’s a Scandian/Germanic deity, created by white people for white people just as Anansi,
Osiris, Eshu and Geb are African deities created by and for Africans. Or Pele is for Polynesians. Or the Monkey King for Asians.
If someone had done a film about the Orisha (Yoruba pantheon) and made even one of them white, black people would have gone into a boycotting, picketing, head-bobbing, finger-waving frenzy of biblical proportion. Not because it’s not a good thing to have more diverse casts even in adaptations of “iconic” material (Dean Cain is Superman too), but because that diversification needs to make SENSE.
Now, at this point in the rant about movies, you’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with books?” You’re looking at the title of the blog and you’re wondering; I get it. Well. Here’s what:
Part of the reason Hollywood feels a nee to create these inclusions (a small part, but bear with me) is because someone at the top recognizes that non-whites have been, largely left out of the heroic mythology of this nation and therefore of this nation’s pop culture.
They have, traditionally, tried to “fix” this by shoving us in as sidekicks, “co-stars” (usually comic relief), and the like. Very, very, very, very, rarely will a feature film be focused on a black (god forbid Latin or Asian) heroic lead. It happens, yes, but it’s off model and, usually, those films occur when all the white guys have passed on a script. Unless you’re Denzel or Will or, once upon a time, Wesley.
My question was always, “Where are our heroes?”
The standard answer used to be, “There just isn’t a lot of source material lying around that can be adapted into the sort of feature that will put asses in the seats and not a lot of black (you can insert any non-white ethnicity at this point) performers who can do likewise. Hollywood is about those asses, after all, and, they claim, little else. Fair enough.
Which brings us back to Little Black Books.
Today I’m introducing a feature, SHOULD BE A MOVIE, which will point a large wagging finger at a scifi novel or short story or comic book that not only could be a film but SHOULD be. Seems the folks at the top need some assistance and I aim to give it to them. You help too.
We begin with THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS by John Ridley. Before HEROES, before NO ORDINARY FAMILY, before THE CAPE (but after George R.R. Martin’s WILDCARDS) there was Mr. Ridley’s story of one tough cop
trying to walk a straight line in a world where people were getting and using super powers like tickets to a Lady Gaga tour.
In fact Ridley’s treatment is fairly realistic, outlining in short order the craziness that ensues when “metanormals” not only exist but begin to act in ways similar to their depictions in the comic books. They fight, the steal, they cause amazing collateral damage and, by the time we join the story, normal humans have had enough.
We don’t care if the <i>meta</i> is “good” or “evil.” All of them are outlawed and there are special police teams, like SWAT or SPECIAL FORCES, whose only job is to find them and bring them in. But, as with any arms race, the more the metas push, the more the normals push back. The more we push back, the bigger their antics become, the more destructive their outbursts.
When we meet our heroine, Soledad “Bullet” O’Ryan, the conflict between normals and metas is close to becoming an out and out war. Soledad is one of those cops who knows how the street really works vs what they tell you at the academy. Consequently, as part of her arsenal of weapons as a member of the Metanormal Tactical Unit, (Mtac), she has personally modified her sidearm and added accompanying specialty bullets guaranteed to put down any meta any time anywhere.
Soledad ain’t playing around.
When she inadvertently kills a benign meta (while she was engaged in the act of saving someone) Soledad inavertantly lights the fuse on the war everyone knew was coming.
The considerably less benign, mentally unstable wildly powerful spouse of the dead meta goes on a killing spree to get revenge for his loss. Escalation, of course. Body count, of course. Intrigue, of course. Sex and violence with a decidedly realistic tone, despite the crazy?
This book was published in 1999. Now, I happen to know, for a fact, that this project has been in development, off and on, since 2003, at least. I also did some looking and found, around that same time it was done (sort of) as an animated web series starring… ugh…. Lil Kim. If you look, you can find it on the web somewhere. Everything is on the web somewhere.
But don’t bother. It’s literally god-awful and in no way speaks to the awesomeness of the source material that, if done by the right folks, could easily be a TV series or a series of films. Easily.
So. There’s our first one. THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS by John Ridley. Should be a film. Isn’t. Should be. And he’s only the first.
Hughes Brothers? Spike Lee? Reggie Hudlin? Anybody? I guarantee there are actresses who would move heaven and Earth to play this apart (and I mean ACTRESSES not, well,Ms. Kim). Why wait for “Hollywood?”
Just get on this and reap the automatic benefits that will come. If you wait too long, I’ll do it myself.