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The Post-Soul Cowboy on the Science Fiction Frontier

The Post-Soul Cowboy on the Science Fiction Frontier

(p.212) 8 The Post-Soul Cowboy on the Science Fiction Frontier
Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos
Michael K. Johnson
University Press of Mississippi

The hybrid genre of the Science Fiction-Western has opened a new space for imagining and performing an African American West. Using settings that are futuristic and/or post-apocalyptic, they free the genre from the (already highly fictionalized) historical setting of the American West. By so doing, film and television westerns with science fiction elements such as Joss Whedon’s Firefly and the Hughes brothers’ post-apocalyptic western film The Book of Eli are able to move beyond the racial mythologies that have long operated within the western. Freed as well from longstanding expectations about African American roles (comic relief, sidekick) in westerns, these narratives experiment with different strategies for performing the role of the black westerner and creatively incorporate elements of African American cultural tradition—slave narratives, trickster tales—into their science fiction frontier adventures. If not quite “after race,” these narratives imagine ways to move beyond earlier ways of conceptualizing African American identity.

Keywords:   Firefly, The Book of Eli, Trickster, Slave Narrative, Frontier

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