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Reclaiming the Fantasy Novel with Marlon James, Michael Bennett

Date(s): Friday, January 17, 2020, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Location: 
Carson Ballroom, Old Main, Arizona State University, 400 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Type(s): 
Conversation, Discussion, Talk
Genre and Form(s): African American Studies, Fantasy, Fiction, Novels, Science Fiction
Cost: Free

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About this Event

As people of colour in the diaspora, we’re particularly interested in stories that go beyond slavery. I’m tired of that being seen as the furthest in the past we can go or that swords and sorcery aren’t available to us.

—Marlon James, from "You have to risk going too far," an interview with Alex Preston at The Guardian, February 17, 2019

How does a global medievalism move into Afrofuturism? How do we transcend the worlds of Tolkein and Martin as writers, as readers? What does it look like to reclaim and reinvent the fantasy novel?

Presented in partnership with the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS), award-winning author Marlon James shares the literary, historical, and cultural influences behind James' latest novel, Black Leopard Red Wolf at Reclaiming the Fantasy Novel: A Dialogue with Marlon James on Friday, January 17, 2020 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Old Main in the Carson Ballroom at Arizona State University Tempe (400 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281).

James will be joined in conversation by Michael Bennett, Associate Research Professor at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. 

In anticipation of James visit, ACMRS will also be hosting a reading group for Black Leopard Red Wolf on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Lattie F. Coor Hall, Room 4401, Arizona State University Tempe (976 S Forest Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281).

While encouraged, RSVPs are purely for the purposes of monitoring attendance, gauging interest, and sending information and reminders ahead of the event. Seating is first-come, first-served. You do not have to register or RSVP to attend. This event is open to the public and free.

About the Book

“Gripping, action-packed….The literary equivalent of a Marvel Comics universe.”

–Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The epic novel, an African Game of Thrones, from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

In the stunning first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child.

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that’s come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both. (Description provided by Penguin Random House)

To learn more about Black Leopard Red Wolf, you can visit Penguin Random House's website or order the book through local independent bookstores like Changing Hands or Palabras Bilingual Bookstore.

About the Author

Photograph of Marlon James

Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for A Brief History of Seven Killings, making him the first Jamai-can author to take home the U.K.’s most prestigious literary award. In the work, James combines masterful storytelling with brilliant skill at characterization and an eye for detail to forge a bold novel of dazzling ambition and scope. He explores Jamaican history through the perspectives of multiple narrators and genres: the political thriller, the oral biography, and the classic whodunit confront the untold history of Jamaica in the 1970’s, with excursions to the assassination attempt on reggae musician Bob Marley, as well as the country’s own clandestine battles during the cold war. James cites influences as diverse as Greek tragedy, William Faulkner, the LA crime novelist James Ellroy, Shakespeare, Batman and the X-Men. Writing for The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani said of A Brief History of Seven Killings, “It’s epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting—a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent.” In addition to the Man Booker Prize, A Brief History of Seven Killings won the American Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. James is in the process of adapting the work into an HBO television series.

Marlon James’ first novel, John Crow’s Devil, tells the story of a biblical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in the 1950s. Though rejected 70 times before being accepted for publica-tion, John Crow’s Devil went on to become a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, as well as a New York Times Editor’s Choice. His second novel, The Book of Night Women, is about a slave women’s revolt on a Jamaican plantation in the early 19th century. The work won the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award n fiction, as well as an NAACP Image Award. James’ short fiction and nonfiction have been anthologized in Bronx Noir, The Book of Men: Eighty Writers on How to Be a Man and else

where, and have appeared in Esquire, Granta, Harper’s, The Caribbean Review of Books and other publications. His widely read essay, “From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself,” appeared in the New York Times Magazine. In early 2016 his viral video Are you racist? ‘No’ isn’t a good enough answer received millions of hits. He is currently working on the Dark Star Trilogy, a fantasy series set in African legend. The first book in the series will be Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Riverhead Books, February 5, 2019). Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1991 with a degree in Language and Literature, and from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania in 2006 with a Masters in creative writing. He lives in Minne-apolis, Minnesota and teaches English and creative writing at Macalester College. In 2018 Marlon James received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. In his presentations, James addresses topics related to writing and the writing process, as well as issues pertaining to the history of the Caribbean, race and gender in the US and UK, and youth subcultures as expressed in literature and music such as hip-hop and reggae.

Photograph of Michael Bennett

Michael G. Bennett is an associate research professor in Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society, the Center for Science and the Imagination, and the Risk Innovation Lab, as well as a lecturer in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. His work concerns innovation -its cultivation, commercialization and societal implications--in art and technoscience. 

He was formerly an associate professor on the faculty of the Northeastern University School of Law and the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Science, Technology and Society at Vassar College. He has also held teaching and research positions at the University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University, Polytechnic University, and the University of Virginia, and has served as advisor to several university offices of technology transfer.

Professor Bennett holds undergraduate degrees in physics and mathematics from Florida A&M University. He also holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and a Ph.D. in Science & Technology Studies from Rensselaer. As a legal consultant, he advises artist-operated organizations and limited resource academic institutions on innovation, fundraising, and risk management.

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