The race within the Space Race

Karin Kross on reports on a conversation at Moogfest on “Women and Afrofuturism” between musician Janelle Monae and screenwriter Allison Schroeder.  The focus of their chat was their upcoming movie Hidden Figures, an account of the African-American women mathematicians and engineers employed by NASA to manually calculate the necessary figures to launch and orbit the spacecraft of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.

One small step for sisters, one giant leap for sisterhood

One small step for sisters, one giant leap for sisterhood

Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, the movie stars Ms. Monae, Taraji Henson, and Octavia Spencer as three of the “computers” (actual job title) who get past barriers to being women in the STEM fields and being African-Americans in the 1950s.  For Ms. Monae, whose work (The Archandroid, Electric Lady) is often sf-influenced, the movie is a chance to “make sure I’m taking care of these voices that are being ignored.”

Ms. Schroeder, describing herself as an optimist, hopes that audiences see not only the difficulties but also “people doing the right thing” and thus encouraging all of us to examine our own attitudes towards acknowledging each other’s real contributions.  “We’re looking back,” she said about the movie, “but I hope we’re looking back in a new way.”  Which is a great prescription for any science fiction work, too.


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