20 legendary Black science-fiction authors you need to know

9 of 21

Carl Hancock Rux

There’s a certain appeal to the end of the world. It’s a real clean slate sort of situation, one that feels darkly engaging when the current state of things looks more and more muddled. Do you try to help fix things one agonizingly slow step at a time, or would you rather let things burn, then build something entirely new?

This is all fictional, of course. That makes it easier to destroy things, too, and also to explore the ramifications of a brand new world for people of color. Carl Hancock Rux, a multi-talented writer, performer, and playwright, used that situation to great effect in his 2004 novel, Asphalt.

Asphalt starts with Racine, a DJ who has been traveling abroad, returning from Paris to a dystopian, war-torn New York City. He takes up residence in a decaying mansion, taking up with a disparate group of performers, artists, and others in an impoverished Brooklyn.

The other characters in this near future vision of New York include a cast of emotionally scarred people, from the dancer Couchette (still dealing with the suicide of her musician father), the radical and drug dealer Manny, and the spiritualist elder, Lucinda.

Asphalt is hardly light-hearted stuff. Though it was written just before the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, it contains many of the nightmare visions of terrorism and societal decay that felt especially forward in the early 2000s. Yet, for all of the despair in the story, Racine and the other characters may also have a chance to transcend their situation.