What is the State of Black Sci-Fi 2012: Why is it Important to Show Race in Sci-Fi?

What if we lived in a society where authors were banned from writing about the lives of African-Americans? What would you do if black folks were forbidden from publishing at all? How would you feel if, in this future world, existing works of literature by and featuring minorities were burned?

Does it sound like a modern day version of Fahrenheit 451? I can’t imagine those firemen trampling through Barnes & Noble in their black boots and turnout gear to torch the Af-Am lit section. I can’t imagine them storming into home libraries while the startled occupants stood helplessly by to watch the mass incineration of beloved novels by Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ann Petry, Ralph Ellison, Ntozake Shange, Octavia Butler, Paule Marshall, Nella Larsen, Richard Wright and other authors, or by white writers such as Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty who have written vibrant and sympathetic black characters. I can’t imagine a world where aspiring authors have to whitewash their stories. I can’t imagine a society where would-be writers of color have to throw away their pens and laptops, forever walled off from the Publishing Industrial Complex.

Well, maybe I can imagine that last part.

How would I survive in this dystopian world – a black author who derives great pleasure from writing about race? Would I scribble stories by moonlight and hide them beneath the floorboards, a wooden grave that would pulse and throb with the bodies of my characters? Would I attend secret meetings with fellow disenfranchised novelists and assemble chapbooks to have a voice, to preserve our culture, to condemn this write supremacy? Would I don a wig and lighten my skin to infiltrate the industry as a white writer, much like Percival Everett’s erudite protagonist Thelonious Ellison, who tried to pass as a hood scribe in Erasure? Would it be worth it to risk my freedom, and even my life, to weave provocative portraits of black folks in such a hostile climate? Would the firemen learn of my deception and kick in my door, hoses blazing?

I wonder who would fight back in this new world? I wonder how many people would justify the burnings, the extinguishing of culture from the shelves. I wonder how many folks would say, “We’re not banned from reading entirely. We still have our great literature. Race doesn’t matter. I just want to read a good story.” I wonder how many books would be adopted for the big screen, colorless celluloid fantasies where white folks love, have dominion, are heroic,  immortal?

Would black authors take their own lives to quell the roiling of words in their blood? Would black women walk around broken, never seeing their reflection in dog-eared pages, never glimpsing that other self – beautiful, wounded and strong? Would black men erect monuments from dust mites, fashion swords from straws – tepid warriors with no kingdoms, no bloodlines, no song? Black teens would never learn of Sula’s rebellion, Lauren Olamina’s new religion, Bigger Thomas’ plight, Miss Celie’s awakening. They would never question their absence from the monochrome landscape of their peers. They would never see themselves as sorcerers and dragon slayers, as hopeless romantics and vagabonds. The smell of burning paper would smother their childhood.

Would black folks secede from this whitewashed society, occupying homesteads and far off lands? Would they ring campfires and tell stories, awakening the sleeping griot of the soul? Would the brave ones devise plans to overthrow the firemen and the Publishing Industrial Complex, reinserting themselves into a narrative built on their silence and surrender? Would they summon the ancestors from their dreamless sleep to rain down fire on their enemies, an inferno of words and pages and ink, then sift through the ashes for an emblem of their existence?

Who will say the magic words?

Scroll to the end of this entry to learn how you can win a signed copy of Escape from Beckyville plus an Amazon gift card!

Check out other participating members of this seven-week blog carnival:

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer — is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all-genre anthology entitled Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him at : http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com.

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.

Thaddeus Howze, Author is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him at: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.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.

Balogun Ojetade, Author— of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within (non-fiction), Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Steampunk) and the feature film, A Single Link. Visit him at: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.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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