When the trailer for the upcoming Star Trek Discovery recently came out, it showed something I never thought I’d see in a popular sci-fi franchise: a Black woman and a Chinese woman front and center. Actress Michelle Yeoh will be playing Captain Philippa Georgiou of the Starship Shenzhou, and Sonequa Martin-Green will be playing First Officer Michael Burnham of the Discovery.
If you’re a sci-fi fan, then this is pretty great news. It comes only a month after it was announced that a Chinese woman would have a prominent role in the upcoming film Star Wars The Last Jedi. Given the less than great track record for women of color in sci-fi films and shows, this is much-needed progress. However, as someone who enjoys fantasy fiction, I can’t help but wish that there were more Black women and other women of color on screen in that genre too.
Since fantasy fiction is a pretty broad genre, I am going to focus on high fantasy and superhero fantasy. Growing up, I read a lot of high fantasy books like the Harry Potter series, the Song of The Lioness quartet, and the Dragonlance Chronicles. In fact, the Harry Potter series is what got me into fantasy fiction and dreaming of worlds of magic and adventure.
As much as I enjoyed these books, I was also unconsciously being taught that magic, swords, and saving the world were for only white men and women. Even though I fantasized about being a witch like Hermione Granger, I never thought it was possible to have magical powers because I barely read any books with Black female leads. The most I read got was the book Keisha The Fairy Snow Queen from The Magic Attic Club series, a book that I eventually forgot as I grew older.
A similar idea was being taught to me as I got exposed to the world of superheroes via films like Sam Rami’s Spider-Man. Until recently, I didn’t care for superheroes because superhero movies made think that all the best, important ones were white men. Never mind that I had watched the animated series Static Shock and got exposed to my first Black superhero. For a while, I forgot about Static because he felt like a small footnote compared to the exposure other heroes got.
Since those days, I’ve gone on to read high fantasy and sword and soul books with Black people and superhero comics with Black people. However, I would love to see more Black women on screen, especially as lead characters. If the shows Luke Cage and the upcoming Black Lightning series are any indications, then people are finally starting to understand that need.
According to an article in Deadline, actresses Nafessa Williams and China Anne Mcclain will be playing Black Lightning’s daughters Jennifer and Anissa as lead characters alongside Cress Williams as the titular role. In the DC Comics, both of Black Lightning’s daughters become superheroes known as Thunder and Lightning. If the trailer for the show is any indication, one of them might be manifest their powers in the upcoming show.
In addition to this, there are African inspired fantasy media that will be getting the movie treatment. One I’ve been excited for is the adaptation of the African RPG video game Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan. The game centers on a royal couple, Enzo and Erine Kori-Odan, as they travel the world to become stronger inside and out to reclaim their thrones. It’s filled with the magic and action I love fantasy books and I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.
Another adaptation that looks promising is that of the West African fantasy novel Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Although I haven’t read the book yet, there is no way I can resist something billed as, “Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Black Lives Matter.” In fact, the book hasn’t even been published yet. For a book to have a movie deal before publication, this is a sign of great #BlackGirlMagic in the making.
Of course, I want even more Black female leads. One of my favorite comic book teams, Justice League Dark, is getting a live-action movie. There is a fancasting I saw on Twitter via @tommyblakes that has Ruth Negga as Zatanna and Riz Ahmed as John Constantine. Although I love Matt Ryan’s portrayal of Constantine, I certainly wouldn’t mind a racebent version of him or Zatanna. Based on the photos shown in the tweet, Ruth Negga and Riz Ahmed would look great as the characters.
As awesome as Black women in space are, I want to see Black women on screen that are magic. Give me more adaptations of fantasy books like N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Jeremy Whitley’s comic Princeless. Give me a Black Zatanna. The Black girl who devoured Harry Potter and Percy Jackson as a kid is hungry for a hero that looks like her.
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Latonya Pennington is a proud blerd who loves having nerdgasms about animated series and films, fantasy fiction, and mythology and folklore. Her passion for these things is only matched by her eclectic love of music.