Friday, November 27, 2020


Black Sci-Fi Month: Streetlethal by Steve Barnes.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Steven Barnes should be a familiar name. In addition to his fantasy and sci-fi writing, he has also written television forThe Outer Limits, Stargate SG-1, Andromeda, and Baywatch. With his wife sci-fi/horror writer and educator Tananarive Due and actor Blair Underwood, he wrote the Tennyson Hardwick series. My favorite work of Steven Barnes is 1983’s Streetlethal.

Streetlethal: One of the First Out of the Cyberpunk Gate

This novel is the first in the Aubry Knight trilogy. Or should I say “thrillogy”? Streetlethal takes place in cyberpunk Los Angeles that has its share of horrors humans and otherwise. Aubry Knight is a nullboxer and former champion who navigates this dark, gritty city. Nullboxingis a futuristic form of pit fighting. By “futuristic” I mean it simply takes place in the future.

Men enter to fight for cash, people pay to see them fight, and of course people make money off of nullboxers. The 28-year-old Knight isone of the best but he’s called it quits. There’s a problem with quitting this kind of work in 2020 Los Angeles: everything is tainted with crime and vice. If it makes money the gangs is involved in it up to their elbows.

That’s the base of the setting in Streetlethal. For 1983, it was a fairly innovative setting. Cyberpunk had been around in a couple of forms and this setting is pretty stock for the genre. At this time, we’re talking Blade Runner and Akira as the two ambassadors of the genre. A sci-fi novel with a Black protagonist in a grim, crime-ridden version of the future was new. It was unique without having to reinvent the wheel.

Plus, let’s be real. In novels, comics, and video games—dystopia settings do well. The more human beings mess up the future to the point criminal organizations and corporations call the shots, the more exciting the medium is going to be.

The Action Scenes Are Years Ahead

I’m a big fan of action scenes in anything. When I see exciting fight scenes in novels, they leave a mark. I’m going to remember that scene and all the stuff that builds up to that fight in the book. Without it you’ll get a lot of vagueness from me on a book. Streetlethal didn’t have that problem at all.

Steven Barnes is not only an author but like Balogun Ojetade, he trained in martial arts for years. In the same way that Ojetade’sbackground in martial arts resulted in some dope fight scenes in The Scythe, Barnes delivered the same in the first part of Aubry Knight Saga.

If you enjoy fast-paced sci-fi, Streetlethal fits the bill. While reading it I never felt like “Wow, something needs to happen. We’re still world building here?” Depending on what kind of sci-fi you’re reading, you might get something that has to explain every single thing—because it will be significant later on. Then you have sci-fi that explains a lot of stuff and half of it doesn’t matter because the writer isn’t revisiting it.

Barnes explains what needs to be explained while keeping the story moving. There are elements of crime fiction here with Aubry’s role with one of the gangs but when you put it in a dire sci-fi setting and you’ve got great action scenes? Awesome. You’ve won me over already.

Not all writers are strong at action scenes and knowing that painting an action scene well makes the rest of the journey worth it can result in some writers doing well elsewhere in the story and choking at that moment. It might fall flat.

Steven Barnes had no problem in that regard in Streetlethal.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.


Comments

One Response to “Black Sci-Fi Month: Streetlethal by Steve Barnes.”
  1. Why thank you, sir. Always fun to see my early children appreciated!

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