Black women heroes and Greek robots: books read

WOMEN OF BLAXPLOITATION: How the Black American Film Heroine Changed Popular Culture by Yvonne Sims argues that while not great art movies such as Coffy, Cleopatra Jones and the TV series Get Christy Love were ground-breakers in their way, giving black women a role other than stock stereotypes (tragic mulatto, sexy seductress, mammy). Sims discusses the pros and cons of different films and their stars and wonders why Pam Grier and other actors got so much more flak than the studios that made the movies. I liked all that but Sims is on shakier ground when she argues the films paved the way for later tough female leads such as Ripley in the Alien films or Geena Davis in Cutthroat Island. Given they weren’t unprecedented — there’s Emma Peel in The Avengers, Honey West and Linda Stirling in movie serials — I’d need a strong argument Grier and her fellow actors were the game-changers. We don’t get one.

BLACK AF: America’s Sweetheart by Kwanza Osajyevo and Jennifer Johnson is a sequel to Black, set in a world where black people and only blacks possess metahuman abilities, which is why whites have tried so hard to oppress them. The protagonist, Eli, attempts to prove metahumans are trustworthy by becoming a superhero, Good Girl, only to discover her powers are no match for the media: when she saves a black community from a flood, for instane, Fox paints her as a reverse racist who only cares about her own people. Very good.

As I greatly enjoyed Adrienne Mayor’s First Fossil Hunters I was optimistic for her GODS AND ROBOTS: Myths, Machines and Ancient Dreams of Technology. Her account of Greek legends about automatons (Talos, the legendary bronze giant, wasn’t magic but a machine, albeit one designed with a divine level of craft) and some occasional real creations is fascinating but Mayor insists on blending this with a discussion of contemporary SF which didn’t feel relevant no matter what the parallels. The Greeks debating whether automatons could reproduce is interesting, for instance, but comparing it with the Blade Runner 2045 plotline involving a Replicant baby is not.

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