From our archive: An interview with Saul Williams by Richard Howard

slamSaul Williams is a poet, hip-hop M.C., producer and actor who first came to prominence through his victory at the poetry Grand Slam at the Nuyorican Poets Café in 1996. This event kick-started an acting career for Williams with the lead role in the feature film Slam in 1998, and a music career in which Williams began to blend his poetry with his love of hip-hop. What makes Williams’ work interesting from a science fiction standpoint is the obvious affinity he has with the genre, evident in his lyrics and the soundscapes that he chooses to rhyme over. From the outset, Williams wrote and produced with a speculative bent. In the song ‘Ohm’ from 1998’s Lyricist Lounge compilation, Williams announced ‘I am no Earthling, I drink moonshine on Mars/And mistake meteors for stars ‘cause I can’t hold my liquor/But I can hold my breath and ascend like wind to the black hole/And play galaxaphones on the fire escapes of your soul’. The glimmering production on ‘Ohm’ is no less science fictional, especially as it accelerates at around the three-minute mark.

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Vector #13

I have said enough, and Rico too much, to show that this soft-centred soldier should have been recommended for a psychiatric report rather than promotion, and that from a Freudian point of view, “Starship Troopers” is a shower of hoarse horse laughter. Rico longs to be humiliated, searches for trouble and a substitute father figure, both of which he finds of course in the M.I. – referred to significantly as a “Paternalistic organisation”.

Evidence shows that this was not the portrait of Rico that Heinlein intended. There is no sign of awareness (as for instance there was in that fine and authentically tough film “End As A Man”) that this sort of military establishment breeds bullies and bastards and toadies; nor could there be, for the whole novel – whilst passing itself off as a semi-documentary by eschewing plot – is too far from reality.

Brian Aldiss

Assuming, first of all, that SF is definable .. which is probable, since we all know what we mean by SF and argue only about the ‘fringe’ items .. assuming so much, it follows, also, that SF can be, and should be, about anything and everything, past, present, or future, here, there and everywhere. Just as in science itself, there are extremely few matters which can’t be treated in a scientific manner, to some extent, and I know of a few authoritative purists who would go so far as to say that everything … literally .. can be so treated. Certainly, there are very few matters of concern to every day life which are immune to scientific study.

So .. SF can be, and should be free to include everything and anything. The taboos which exist, and there are some, are solely the result of editorial choice, preference, and some nebulous idea as to what ‘the reader’ wants.

John Phillifent