At the start of the new millennium, an increasing number of Black writers, artists and filmmakers began to alter the landscape of speculative fiction (SF) media by creating works that effectively challenged the traditionally, homogenous industry. However, while these Black creators were imagining better futures for Black people within their fictional worlds of SF, the everyday experiences of Black people in the U.S. – e.g., capitalist exploitation, mass incarceration, anti-Black state violence – stood in stark contrast to their speculation. In 2003, independent filmmaker, M. Asli Dukan began to research and document this informal network with the intent on making a project about the history of Black SF creators. As she continued her research and production, though, she realized that the emergence of Black speculation had been historically connected to movements of Black struggle and that what she had been documenting was actually the third cultural shift around Black SF, as it grew into what may be called a Black speculative arts movement. Invisible Universe explores the idea that in a world of neoliberal economic policies with severe racialized consequences, a contemporary and self-aware generation of Black creators, academics and fans of SF, building on the foundation of previous generations, have been using the genres as an artistic tool to imagine better futures towards Black liberation and independence.
This documentary includes interviews with Black writers of SF like Samuel R. Delany, the late Octavia E. Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Brandon Massey and N.K. Jemisin, actors like Nichelle Nichols and Wesley Snipes, cultural organizers like Yumy Odom and Rasheedah Phillips, scholars like Moya Bailey and Ayana Jamieson, academics/artists like John Jennings and Nettrice Gaskins, social justice workers/artists like adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, as well as numerous other filmmakers, artists, academics, archivists, fans – a virtual who’s who in Black speculative fiction. In addition, it also includes documentation of the past twelve years of academic, community and arts events dedicated to the critical analysis of Black SF, as well as to building connections between the creators, thinkers, organizers and fans.