We’re four weeks into The State of Black Sci-Fi 2012 blog carnival, and I want to thank everyone who’s been contributing to such a great discussion. I’d also like to congratulate the winners of my Escape from Beckyville giveaway – Lisa Cheby and Envy McKee. The ladies will receive a signed copy of Escape from Beckyville and a $10 Amazon gift card. There will be a major giveaway on February 27, so keep those comments, tweets and FB “likes” coming!
Someone got the notion that a black woman’s hair contains blood and magic. That’s how it started. At first, I tolerated questions about how often I washed my hair, if it was real and even if I could plant a strand and grow my own knotted forest. Although I grew tired of the questions, I preferred them to what happened later, during the Rebellion.
Before the dark time, when it was still safe for us to go outside without wearing scarves, I had a thick, unruly mop of hair that stretched down to the middle of my back. Black as lust and just as heavy, my hair attracted stares as I walked the streets of L.A. It wasn’t unusual for a lady standing behind me in line at the organic market to ask, “Can I touch your hair?” Then, without waiting for my reply, she would pet the glossy strands as if stroking a dying seal right before the club descends. Looking back, I’d gladly endure those tiny acts of boldness than suffer the outright plunder that occurred in the end.
The above excerpt from my short story “Here Come the Janes” was my first foray into speculative fiction. I wrote this piece several years ago in grad school, and it wound up in my short story collection Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage, which was published last July.
For the past four weeks on the blog hop, my fellow writers of science fiction and I have been discussing the necessity of black sci-fi and the importance of examining race and culture through this lens. You can catch up on the discussion here, here and here. As the blog carnival enters its final three weeks, I’ve been reflecting more on the role of the black writer in society.
I didn’t set out to write about race.
When I began my MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles, I was writing a novel about a black woman living with her white boyfriend who may or may not be a serial killer. Outside of the interracial relationship, the work didn’t broach the subject of injustice, oppression or the myriad ways black women are marginalized in this society. Maybe that’s why I had to toss the novel sixty pages in. The very next story I wrote was “Here Come the Janes,” about black women living in a futuristic Los Angeles who are hunted for their hair. The collection became a way for me to interrogate the hyperscrutiny sisters face, and to explode the tropes of Angry Black Woman, Bitter Black Woman, Lonely Black Woman, Ugly Black Woman that are problematic not only for me, but for countless other black women.
Which brings me back to the role of the black writer in society.
I love writing about black folks, and it disturbs me that such work is viewed as “niche” or only appealing to a certain segment of society because of the subject matter. As Toni Morrison so eloquently noted: “If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water. Behind this question is the suggestion that to write for black people is somehow to diminish the writing. From my perspective there are only black people. When I say ‘people,’ that’s what I mean.”
I’d like to have the luxury of weaving a tale that is race-neutral, but featuring black characters. I tried my hand at this with a short story “Lady in a Cage,” which was recently published in Inglewoodland ezine. In the piece, I had to hold back from critiquing black women’s hair and body image as well as our invisibility in society and just allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. I know many readers get turned off if they think they’re being preached to, or if they feel they are about to be prodded with the privilege-piercing pitchfork. I’m evolving as a writer, and part of my evolution is to broaden my definition of resistance literature and find creative ways to engage the reader.
My upcoming projects include expanding “Rent-a-Cracker,” one of the stories from Escape from Beckyville, into a novel. I’m also working on a web series, which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post. The important thing is to keep writing, keep engaging and keep creating the images that we want to see.
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.