By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, cross-posted from Televisual
From Blacula to Sleep Dealer, filmmakers of color have always been interested in science fiction and fantasy. But these days in Hollywood, sci-fi/fantasy films demand big budgets, and it seems like only Will Smith and Denzel Washington are powerful enough to greenlight a genre film starring an actor of color. The rare project that pushes boundaries can often go unnoticed: stellar alien invasion flick Attack the Block won over critics but couldn’t find an audience here in the States (please see it!).
Of course, on the web, things are different. While most web series are comedies and soaps, a number of creators are bucking conventional wisdom and creating stories for the black, latino and Asian sci-fi fans.
Last month, Al Thompson’s Odessa won big at the New York Television Festival — a development deal with SyFy — and released a well-financed drama, Osiris. Odessa follows the story of a father and daughter with super powers running from the bad guys whose experiments created their abilities; Osiris follows a man who is immortal.
While those two series are among the more sophisticated series to hit the web, I’ve been noticing a string of shows over the past two years looking to break the sci-fi color line. As costs for simple special effects go down, independents can afford to simulate space ships, alien worlds and laser beams. And creators are using low-cost production to diversify the space in numerous ways, adding female leads and blending genres (horror, comedy, thriller, surrealism).
There’s an artistic tradition here. From Samuel Delany to Octavia Butler, sci-fi has long attracted society’s outsiders, who use the imaginative potential of fantasy to create utopian or dystopian worlds and interrogate contemporary culture and politics.
And the audiences are there, enough so that most high profile sci-fi TV shows and films take pains to include at least one character of color. Star Trek (TV and movies) is the classic example, and continues today with shows from Alphas and Falling Skies to Battlestar Galactica and now even Game of Thrones (look out for season two!).
Below I’ve listed what shows I could find in alphabetical order. Please let me know if I’m missing an important or great series out there!