What is the State of Black Science Fiction 2012?

January is one of my favorite months. Not only because this time of year signifies transformation and new beginnings, but we also celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and renew our commitment to issues of social justice. It’s like a preamble to blackness, the forerunner for events showcasing the contributions of African-Americans that are sure to follow in February for Black History Month.

In the spirit of celebrating blackness, I’m super excited (dare I say geeked?) about the opportunity to participate in a blog carnival with fellow writers of science fiction and fantasy. For the next seven weeks, we’ll be discussing the state of black sci-fi and speculative fiction on our respective blogs.

There will be giveaways!

Click the links below for more information about each author and learn how to win copies of his or her work. On my blog, two lucky winners will receive a signed copy of Escape from Beckyville and a $10 Amazon gift card. Contest rules are listed at the end of this entry. Winners will be selected on February 6, 2012.

Dysfunctional Diva Disclaimer: I’m no one’s expert on sci-fi. I’m like that eccentric aunt who does a Zumba workout at the mall one day, shoots a .44 Magnum at the firing range the next day and takes crocheting lessons the following week, experimenting with various modes of expression to discover her true voice. I’m still trying to locate mine, but for now, I’ve found a home in spec fiction.

What is speculative fiction? I’m glad you asked, Faithful Reader. To me, this genre poses questions about future worlds and alternate universes: What if we lived in a society where women of color are policed for having a temper? What would a futuristic world look like where black women are hunted for their hair?

I stumbled upon spec fiction in grad school a few years ago. A wise Latina mentor introduced me to works of magical realism such as Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna and Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter, noting that such stories gave voice to the oppressed and critiqued issues of patriarchy and imperialism (among other isms) in transgressive ways without being preachy. Speculative fiction is the kissing cousin of magical realism. Each subsequent story that I wrote in grad school had a mystical and social justice slant, filtered through a womanist lens. During this time, I began searching for black woman writers of sci-fi and speculative fiction. I’ll admit, when I first picked up Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower about a decade ago, it didn’t resonate with me. But when I began to view sci-fi as a vehicle of black empowerment and agency, I grew ravenous for her novels and short stories and developed an appreciation for the works of Tananarive Due, L.A. Banks and N.K. Jemison.

Black sci-fi is a fight against erasure – the erasure of our stories, our histories and our future. In a literary landscape where writers and characters of color are relegated to the margins, these authors create narratives of hypervisibility – black superheroes and sword-wielders with soul, shape-shifters of color and POC time travelers. Particularly for sisters, it’s a way of reinscribing black womanhood — not as sassy, mammified or gold-digging — but as supernatural and salvific. Sometimes nerdy and dysfunctional. Our world, our rules. It’s a side-eye in ink to a canon which privileges realism (preferably told from a white male perspective).

My love for black sci-fi and fantasy didn’t end at the book store. I went on a quest for community and kinship. Last February, I joined the Black Science Fiction Society (BSFS), where I met the awesome and talented writers Milton Davis, Valjeanne Jeffers and Jarvis Sheffield. BSFS, owned and operated by Sheffield, is an online forum where writers of color can connect and share their works as well as stay abreast of the latest happenings in urban fantasy. In August of last year, I traveled to Atlanta for Onyx Con, a convention celebrating science fiction, fantasy and comic book writers of the diaspora. Kids age six and up were milling about the author tables with their grandparents. It was such a joy to see a boy of  about eight pick up a comic book with a caped hero on the cover, turn to his grandfather in wonder and exclaim “He’s black!” At Onyx Con I met Alicia McCalla, one of the organizers of the State of Black Science Fiction 2012 blog hop and author of the soon-to-be released novel Breaking Free. A few months later, I attended the AfroFuturistic Affair in Philly, a charity and costume ball featuring black poets, musicians and writers of science fiction. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the organizers Rasheedah Phillips, author of the forthcoming spec fiction novel Recurrence Plot, and Renpet author Djadja N Medjay.

Based on the growing body of artists I’ve met (and been reintroduced to), I’m very optimistic about the future of black sci-fi/spec fiction. As I heard someone say at Onyx Con: “We are the superheroes we’ve been waiting for.” I especially have love for indie authors who are warring for their dreams, who are fighting to keep alive intergalactic visions that mainstream publishing houses dismiss as “alternative” or lacking an audience. I hope you’ll peruse the works of my fellow writers at the links below and share your thoughts on this needed discussion.

Check out other members of this Online Black History Month Event:

L. M. Davis, Author — began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Milton Davis, Author — Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him at: www.mvmediaatl.com/Wagadu and www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author — lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry is available from Amazon.com Her book, Relocated, will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author — is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com.

Alicia McCalla, Author — writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on iTunes and Amazon. Visit her at: http://www.aliciamccalla.com.

Carole McDonnell, Author — writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com.

Rasheedah Phillips, Author is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author — is an author and screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her at: http://nicolesconiers.com and http://www.nicolesconiers.com/blog.

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. — is owner and operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com and BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him at: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd.

Escape from Beckyville contest rules:

No purchase necessary. Winners are selected based on a point system.

  • Each person (human, not spam bot) who comments on a black sci-fi themed post on my blog between January 16, 2012 and February 5, 2012 will receive three (3) points.
  • Each person who comments on the Escape from Beckyville fan page on a black sci-fi themed discussion will receive two (2) points.
  • Each person who tweets the hashtag #blackscifi2012 to my Twitter handle @NicoleSconiers will receive two (2) points. For example: @NicoleSconiers Fab article about #blackscifi2012 Looking forward to next discussion!

Participants with the most accumulated points will win! Two (2) winners will receive a signed copy of Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage and a $10 Amazon gift card. So that’s one book and one $10 gift card per winner. Winners will be announced on the blog on February 6, 2012.

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