Oh the horror.

I know I said I was going to review Roxane’s book this post but that needs to wait because there’s a couple of lines I want to share and I left the book in my drawer at work.

Instead I want to talk about writing craft type stuff.

If you haven’t been here before I am a big horror lover. Yes, alongside my literary muckity muck I do love me a good horror story. Horror novels were the first I fell in love with, spent hours in bed under the covers with my flashlight reading ‘Firestarter’ at age 9 and trying to figure out how to awaken my own wee pyro abilities. I remember reading other horror novels, especially those fantastic John Saul ones with the creepy children and being pretty butthurt that I was not so scary.

I still love horror. I keep up with that end of the literary pond, I read horror. I am now a total devotee of the Pseudopod Podcast. I have delusions of someday hearing my own work there.

Most of my early publications were horror or erotic horror.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve developed some problems when I write horror.

I am a major nerd. I geek out about minor things and often find I’ve lost the plot figuratively and literally.

I do this because I want to put more of my Blackness into my horror and tend to get way into reading about various African cultures. At one point while researching a story I found myself in a nerd spiral of doom reading about the culture of Free people in NOLA at various periods of time, Octoroon balls. I developed a pretty literate understanding of the history and lost my story.

I’m thinking of this right now because I’m working on a horror story (that I’ve made copious notes for I’ll get to that in a minute) and I have been very careful about my use of lore and genealogy and hood life.

I think this stems from being so desperate to see my own reflection in horror.

For instance I fucking love vampires. I am an old Goth but really I do. At 8 years old I made a kid (I was really tiny, undersized for my age until puberty) I was afraid of leave me alone by telling him a story (cribbed a little from Salem’s Lot) that I was in fact a vampire and would turn his whole family if he kept bothering me. I had two freckles on my neck that made passable bite marks as proof and voila.

In all these years and all the movies and books every Black vampire was either a parody, badly written or just boring.

I have this deep burning lust to take the myth to Africa and fuck Europe.

I did it. A few years ago I finished Nanowrimo but not the book. It is in my hard drive. I again got lost in history. I rewrote history from the end of the Nubians or so up through present day. With the origins nestled in the mystery of pre-history in the Congo.

Right next door to this desire is of course my knowledge of the industry.

After some of the things I’ve seen and the shit I’ve seen people say, I don’t know if I could do all of that work and put so much of my heart into something and then have to deal with some of the racist ass people in the industry in key positions that would open doors.

The arguments I’ve had.

For instance I was briefly on a fantasy/Arthurian legend type message board. This was years ago but I’ve had similar experiences. Basically thinking, educated white people told me without hesitation that they could suspend their disbelief (as we fiction writers like readers to do) about dragons, magic, talking animals and whatnot but Black characters (historically accurate or not, yanno Moors and stuff) would break the spell.

It has happened to me so many times over the years and it’s exhausting and painful. As a reader it breaks my heart. I accept it because when I’m reading they aren’t my stories.

Being a person of color often means you have to develop a kind of sensitivity filter especially if you are like me and a lover of fantastical things. I have to deal with and try not to take things like this personally:

  1. Magical Negroes.
  2. Badly rendered “Black Speak” whether it be butchered AAVE or the inverse of the Black person who hates all things Black and must only speak “proper” English because they aren’t one of those negroes.
  3. Alt histories where there are just no Black people at all, Black people are injected as servants or (oh HI Anne Rice) miraculously turned White.
  4. Worlds where the noble white people must save the wretched Blacks from themselves.
  5. Slavery portrayed as not all that bad including my literary kryptonite of the Mandingo fantasies or the exotic slave the slave owner never sees as human but somehow kinda loves and rapes er loves her.
  6. Hypersexualized or totally desexualized Black people.

You get my point.

These are things that I have to deal with as a reader.

As a writer my view is fuck all that fucking nonsense.

As brave and steely as I seem to be about it, it still hurts. Understanding and knowing the things people could and would say to me about my Black vampires, sorcerers and their “savage” cultures. Understand what I’ve just said is not hyperbole. These are criticisms I have gotten from “peers” trying to “help”.

Again as I say every few months, double consciousness is a mother fucker.

I think to start um, wetting my feet I’ll get some of my old vampire stories a little shiny and put them up.

And I’m going to make this story I’m working on beautiful.

And I will put on my hardhat if I have to deal with bullshit.

That’s all for now. I’m done with my research for the night.

 

About Shannon Barber

I am a strange little woman who likes pie. View all posts by Shannon Barber

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