Science fiction began when white people discovered Parliament Funkadelic.February was Black History Month. But you probably knew that, given that 99% of Something Awful readers are black, unless I'm reading this pie chart backwards. It's a month celebrating history's most heroic and influential black men and women (henceforth referred to as "Will Smith et al"). It's also white supremacists' least favorite month, mainly because they have yet to sloganeer a good rallying cry against it since 1999's mildly successful "Black people are history? We wish!"
February was also the month of Baltimore's Farpoint Science Fiction Convention, which - and, again, unless I'm reading this chart backwards - probably none of you have heard of. Basically, like all sci-fi conventions, it's Black History Month for white people, except it's crammed into a single building, and the history is set mostly in the future, or in some alternate past where slavery either never existed or was obscured by giant gears and steam clouds.
I grew up listening to Boyz II Men singles and therefore consider myself 100% black. I'd consider myself even more black than that if the white people who invented percentages would let me. That said, I've recently developed a taste for white culture. Maybe it's a post-colonial reaction to Boyz II Men's hegemony over my Pandora station. Or maybe it's because I'm technically, genetically speaking, very, very white. Either way, I decided to indulge my newfound fascination with white heritage by attending Farpoint this year.
However, I couldn't forget my black roots. At nerd conventions they generally encourage costumes, so I decided to dress as my favorite black science-fiction character, Morpheus from The Matrix. Morpheus, like Will Smith et al, has always inspired me for struggling to free his people from evil white aristocrats. Also, unlike other Matrix characters, he's relatively easy to cosplay, providing you have a bald cap, sunglasses and (optionally) blackface makeup. I figured that my costume would serve as a makeshift wormhole between my black heritage and the alien strangeness of a race that finds gangsta rap offensive, yet deems it perfectly acceptable to adorn one's chest with a dreadlocked vagina.
Steampunk fans display their antebellum attire (not pictured: black slaves playing steam banjos).I was a little nervous arriving at the con. Sci-fi gatherings, in theory, are about exploring new worlds and identities, so you wouldn't think Otherness would be something they'd frown upon. Yet black people have been notoriously shunned at such conventions, often segregated to their own rooms and buffet tables, and completely barred from the "Mark Hamill Q&A/Reach into Your Pocket Without Getting Shot by Security" luncheon. And since I'm (technically) white, my Morpheus costume represented an even worse taboo: interracial cosplay. As I checked in at the hotel lobby, I couldn't help thinking of grainy, probably imagined newsreels of KKK members in stormtrooper garb throwing black Han Solos and white Lando Calrissians into the Sarlacc Pit in the parking lot.
When I get anxious, I start wanting drugs. It might be because general anxiety so closely resembles drug withdrawal. Or maybe I just really like drugs. Upon entering the convention hall, I immediately scanned the crowd for anyone who looked like they might have narcotics. In a room full of people dressed as aliens, anime characters and Victorian-era prostitutes, drug users are hard to spot. Unless, of course, they're cosplaying as fellow Matrix characters. Drug enthusiasts have always identified with the Matrix films, just as the gay community has always identified with The Wizard of Oz and, to a lesser extent, the TV show Oz.
When I saw a girl dressed as the Matrix character Trinity, I knew she must have drugs of some sort, so I walked over to her and struck up a conversation. She asked me why I was wearing blackface and if I was a racist. I told her I was no more racist than the people fighting to keep the word 'nigger' in classic literature, so yes, I was actually somewhat racist, but I couldn't help being prejudiced against white culture since it was so scary and foreign to me. I then told her I was a friend of Neo, the understood code Matrix fans use to solicit drugs. She smiled and motioned for me to follow her behind a partition displaying steampunk top hats and cogs.
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You may have thought that a long dead author who was basically terrified of black people would be bad at the dozens. And you'd be right.
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