I’m still riding the wave of having seen Black Panther last week. This movie has swooped in a set the new standard for superhero movies. This week I have been thinking about fiction and science fiction specifically. I’m thinking about what fiction can do. The fictional city of Wakanda from Black Panther, for example, allows us to think through difficult questions without implicating a non-fictional place. Wakanda could draw upon many African traditions and aesthetics. In some ways it may be more African than any individual region.
I am drafting a script for a science fiction short video, and I’m thinking a lot about the characters. I’m struggling to put together anything cohesive and I think it is because I don’t have a space for them to exist yet. Sure, the Black Panther is an important part of the film but he wouldn’t mean as much without the context that Wakanda provides. My guiding star as far as writing goes, Ursula K. Le Guin, died this year. I turn to her now more than ever and I found this excerpt from an interview that I find helpful when considering world-building:
“The ‘hard’-science fiction writers dismiss everything except, well, physics, astronomy, and maybe chemistry. Biology, sociology, anthropology—that’s not science to them, that’s soft stuff. They’re not that interested in what human beings do, really. But I am. I draw on the social sciences a great deal. I get a lot of ideas from them, particularly from anthropology. Shen I create another planet, another world, with a society on it, I try to hint at the complexity of the society that I’m creating, instead of just referring to an empire or something like that.”
So I’m thinking about character and space. I’m thinking about how space shapes a character and how a character shapes a space. Knowing, for example, how a character would enter a home—what rituals do they embrace or forsake? What rituals even happen in an entryway in this fictional space? These are the questions that I need to answer while I’m working on this script. Or maybe I’ll just go see Black Panther again.