Tiny Fictions- Microprose From my Phone

I have been writing microprose on the memo function of my phone. Below find some plucked from my archive.

#1 We never left that golden moment. We knew then, how to be immortal. If only: for a minute.

#2 You’ll know them by the shadows behind their eyes and the blood in their breath. They are the quiet ones.  You’ll know. We all know.

#3 Through the heavy morning. The sun still wants what she wants. She wants I feel her own heat taken in and returned with glory. She wants to kiss my skin like the lover she will never know. She wants to know the sweetness of brown skin and hair that reaches for her too. I tilt my face up. Watch her burn the clouds and smile.

I’m hers. I am always hers.

#4 We see her, all of them. We know them, we Innocents who will not see, we Innocents who must not believe know how her. She walks with q switch in her hips and death in her eyes.

We know. We refuse. It is our right and our demise.

#5 He died.

He’s still dead and I’m still mad. He never saw me confidently reading poetry or heard me drunk and singing dirty blues. His hand still sits on mine sometimes, when I write things that hurt. He’s gone but not.

Occasionally when I write something a little lyrical I hear his shy voice, singing low the way he liked to sing to me on the phone.

But, he died.

~

Short writing lesson babes.

Don’t be afraid to play with microprose. Try a new voice, try a POV you don’t usually use. Try out vocabulary you don’t usually use. Try out, abandoning the traditional Western idea of a story and do something else. Make it like a poem.

Micro/super short flash is a really great way to do this. I also recommend doing it to limber up like stretching before you work out. Sometimes I also use these when I want to write a new story. So remember my loves, don’t throw that shit away.

Your turn, give it a shot.

Oh Uncle Steve..

Before I get going, let me give y’all some background.

I have loved Stephen King since I was 8 years old. The first adult novel I read was ‘Firestarter’. I thought it was verboten so I hid a borrowed copy and read it feverishly whenever I could until I finished it. I have been a lover of horror since.

As an adult I have struggled with my love of King. I wanted to excuse his Magical Negros and constant fallback to racist tropes. I tried.

My love of his oeuvre and the impact on the artist I am not withstanding, I gotta once again realize that Uncle Steve ain’t here for folks like me.

ohnobb
[image description: a tweet by Stephen King that reads: …I wound never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me to do otherwise would be wrong. Dated 4:20 AM Jan 14, 2020
Unky Steve tried to walk it back but look.

This issue is something I’ve spoken about for ages. I’m not gonna rehash. But let’s get a few things 100.

  1. This position assumes all things are equal. They are not.
  2. This position assumes that, things like institutional racism, sexism etc has no bearing in the arts. They do.
  3. It is just a goddamn bad take.

The main problem with people in Kings position making these type proclamations is that, he is in SUCH a position of influence. Like when I wrote about Phil Anselmo from one of my fave bands Pantera doing Nazi-esque shit as “jokes” I have the same issue here. Yeah, he might not have meant it that way but, there is an impact.

Like Phil, I fucking still love the dude. If I knew either of them, I’d probably just be like BRO WHAT THE FUCK IS U DOING….because I care about them. I enjoy their art.

Here’s the thing.

When people in positions of influene, like Mssrs. Anselmo and King, say and do dumb shit like this, there is a large part of their fans/followers and people they influence in their respective arenas who absolutely use things like this to back their own bias and put it into action.

The problem is that, it is #20-dingdang-20 and we HAVE to stop allowing White liberals to say shit like this and pretend like it is fine. It is not fine.

Had Uncle Steve been paying attention to his own industry for I dunno the last 15 years, he’d probably be well aware that in his most famous genre in particular, women, POC, etc have not been exactly welcomed with open arms.

We who are not cis white hetero men, don’t have the luxury of sitting back and resting on the quality of our work. We never have. Here in the year of fuckery of 2020 we still don’t.

As it is, right this minute. There are many white people in influential positions in horror publishing who are publicly neonazis. This is happening now.

How about a storytime? This is post Racefail ’09 and happened to me a few years ago when I decided to maybe start easing my way back into the horror area of lit life, I went to an event where there were HWA people.

It was some bucketlist shit for me. Many moons and out of prints ago, I was super close to making enough pro horror sales to qualify to be a member. That is all I wanted in life. Now, you may or may not know that in meatspace, I can be kinda shy and skittish. I’m a feral cat in a dress and easily startled. BUT when I wanna meet folks, I sweat and get it done.

I met some folks from the org and they were nice white folks. Generally welcoming, I don’t know if they were local to me. BUT, when we started talking authors, neither of them (and they were both older than me) had heard of not one SINGLE Black writer I mentioned. Most of the writers I tried to talk to them about were members in good standing, several of them were quite prolific and included Tananarive Due.

Tananarive Due.

……………

Y’all. It was enlightening to me.

The fact that they had NO IDEA of contempary horror writers who were producing work for big houses at that point, and weirdly they were all not White….

For a bit further sauce, around the same time I had been contacted by a small (no longer around) horror start up mag. They knew of my work from my porny horror I’d had published years earlier, they were nice White folks who said diversity a lot.

They liked a lot of the horror stuff I like. They solicited work from me. I may have the bones of the story somewhere but basically, it was a hood ass haunted house story. Very classic haunting and yes in the hood without the smirk. Hood kids, one of them with a root working Nana,

Their style of editing was quite eh, handsy. They wanted to work in a very collaborative, edit as you go type of way that they framed as “shaping” and “development”. I wasn’t a fan but I really wanted to be in their debut issue with a fat ass Blackity Black Black horror story.

As we worked, most of their inquiries were thinly veiled white folks being amazed that Black things exist. A lot of the story was hooked to 90s r&b and they questioned if their audience would recognize it. See also questions about if their audience would “feel” things like:

  • Mentioning braids or beaded hairstyles
  • Very light AAVE
  • Endless questions about things folks in the story did/knew about. Black biker gangs, passing mention of thins like Rodney King (remember this was very much placed in the 90s),

Etc etc. It became very clear to me that their discomfort was not the story itself but the absolutely unapologetic Blackness. That this story was not centered in the White gaze and thus was not “relatable”. They never questioned the quality of the work. They loved the idea but not the execution in that it was not, centered in the traditionally super whiteness of Horror.

I pulled out. I couldn’t take it. I felt so beat down and defeated. After that, I bounced off of horror for a long time. I didn’t read a lot of it, I didn’t follow the industry. I stuck to tried and true faves until the Anti-Blackness in those (UNCLE STEVE) was too much for me.

So look.

We can’t keep pretending that all things are equal in any sense of the word. Uncle Steve, please stop. This shit is exhausting. Read the link below and follow the links in it. Y’all can we fuckin not.

#StokersSoWhite: 2016-2018, the fall of tokenism at the HWA by Sumiko Saulson. 

Fiction Fun Using Prompts

OH Hi there.

So one of my favorite things in the world is to write mythos, y’all know this. I’ve been feeling a little creatively constipated so I brought out the big guns.

Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side by Michael A. Arnzen.* (evil empire affiliate link srry).

This book came out in 2013 and I’ve literally been using it since the week after it debuted. This is one of my favorite books of prompts and it has been so well worth the money. I love to use prompts to see what happens when I poke my brain meat.

Below find a um, refashioning of a Lovecraft beasty. For reference this is about Shub-Niggurath.

For whatever reason, my brain parsed the prompt as, write a Black as fuck new Lovecrafty thing. SO I present you a fresh out of my brainmeat, recrafting of Shub-Niggurath. An origin tale if you will. With the prompt. ENJOY!

Prompt-1.57  

The title of your piece is “Death by Chocolate.” Go.  

Tarasha Golden had a routine. She woke at 5 AM sharp, did her fifteen-minute yoga practice, made her smoothie bowls and spent time caring for her skin and body. Most mornings, she even managed to use some little part of herself as an offering, she kept bits of herself to offer to her Mother to keep their connection. To exist on the Earth meant she had options, her decisions to transubstantiate revolved around her love of the gibbering lust of weak men and her perverted desires to procreate just to see what could happen.  

This time around she built herself in the image of the ones she loved to look at. The Black girls she liked were thick, goddess bodied women who lived in the liminal shadow of hate and desire. She made herself to be in that place. Prior to committing to the physical, she had looked at women all over the world. The coveted beauties. The lotus footed beauties in the Song Dynasty, the lead poisoned priestesses in Greece, the blessed Hijra, the masculine beauties with wives in the American west, so many to choose from. She loved them in their intricate diversity, she walked in their skins feeling herself as the kids started to say at some point. 

Tarasha had been all of them, she inhabited the flesh and the experience in ways that as she had learned by the modern age, were easy to use as weapons. The twin flames of lust and hate, rather than greed or even religion were the means she liked to use to destroy the weakest amongst men. Upon close examination of her earliest mates and playthings, their desires cut into their most secret hatreds, their petty jealousies and could turn from a lovers touch to an abusers slap, with the speed of the word no crossing her lips.  

Once she happened upon the broken mix of human malaise and the depths of depravity her favorite prey mates could reach, there was no turning back. In modern times, Tarasha watched for a time. It was time for her to mate and cultivate the Gof’nn hupadgh, her most beloved worshippers once more. She was ready to give them suck of her milk and bear her many children.  

Tarasha chose wisely for both her own aesthetic pleasure and to tickle the hateful madness in her prey mates. She made herself tall and deep dark brown, thick as the human children said, fine and yes, yes she could look at her new form in the mirror, naked and gleaming, gloriously fertile and everything, her prey mates hated, she felt resplendent and ready.  

Once, she had to wait for a new moon and a woodland and the call of sacrificial flesh and blood and other nonsense.  Instead, there was one of her Gof’nn hupadgh, her most fervent true believer who, in lieu of a woodland or person to sacrifice, called under a new moon, in a room reeking of her offspring and jittering with the ruckus of her gibbering dark offspring. They made the wood and thus she came. 

The Gof’nn hupadgh, fell to his knees before her. He could not hide his surprise nor his momentary uncontrolled feral hate and lust, it was delicious. She smiled at him, “what’s wrong Gof’nn hupadgh? Do I not please you?” From her voluptuous lips, the voice churned in the human. He felt it pull and the dank heat of it in his bowels, “forgive me mother but you, you’re-” 

She bent forward and the splendid Black body she had created, undulated and flickered to give glimpses of the gleaming wet black maw of her true self. “I am, what?” The Gof’nn hupadgh’s eyes went white all round as the Black body he wanted and hated, exposed the corpse scented tentacled true body of his most beloved Mother and his little mind, his poor mind could not reconcile the two. Hate, lust, want, need, the impostures of his own broken desires begat a new madness. 

Tarasha, so named by her own mind wanted this and when the Gof’nn hupadgh at her feet, let go and raised his hands to her, his eyes settling between her legs, she understood this new game. She understood the new game in this world, to use their latent hate and allow them to fertilize a new generation of her Dark Young. A new tradition. New fun in form and function. 

She took the Gof’nn hupadgh into her womb and felt, his anger and disgust and need and it was good. Upon taking him in, she let the blessed event proceed as it had done for millennia before. He would be her first, and yet not her last. Upon his rebirth, he knelt at her feet mewling for her milk.  

Tarasha stroked the creature tenderly, a smile on her lush carmine lips. “Yes, I know. Now come on, we have things to do, come come come.” 

Tarasha Golden strode out of the makeshift wood, under the New Moon, in her new skin and feeling fine and ready for the realm.  

Horror Musings- Ma and #ownvoices

I saw the movie Ma recently and (spoilers in link) and I have some thots. Buckle up. SPOILERS bro.

On the surface of it, Ma is a pretty okay movie. Good amount of suspense, interesting main antagonist but, by the time they started to “reveal” Ma’s backstory it was really too late. This was obviously not written by a Black person. I checked and sure enough, nope.

From the start, this had potential had someone Black written it. Here we have Sue Anne, one of obviously very few Black folks in this town and we (we as in probably mostly Black folks lezbehonest) know some shit happened. When you are one of few Black folks in any very white place, shit is gonna go down.

Perfect set up for a psychological thriller where you Sue Anne get your revenge by killing the kids of the folks who fucked with you. However, this is where #ownvoices is so important, in spite of how magnificent and menacing Octavia was in this role, the lack of providing us even glimpses via flashback, nightmares, something left the later mentions of stuff having happened empty to me.

In the end, regardless of the performances (I also really loved Juliette Lewis playing a grown person) there is a disconnect in this film. I could tell very quickly this was not a Black story. From wiki, this is the problem:

He read Scotty Landes’ script of the film, which Blumhouse Productions had bought the day before.[5] Although the original draft was written with a white woman in the title role, Taylor immediately thought about Spencer.[4] He went out to the hall, called Spencer, and asked her if she would like to be in a horror film;[5] without reading the script, Spencer boarded the project.[5]

The issue is that, you can’t just plug Blackness into any story. You can’t always just say NO BUT MAKE THEM BLACK and have that make the Blackness in the media you’re creating work. To put a finer point on it, if you’re going to bring in that racism and misogynoir into the story, the men who wrote it have no clue about how those things could make a monster like Sue Anne and for me it fell flat.

This is where I would say the solution is sensitivity readers/writers. I think Blumhouse really missed a great chance to look at a script and say, we need Black folks on this to make this story better. If you want to:

“I want to do something really fucked up.”[5]

Do the damn work.

This is why #ownvoices is so important. This film could have been so much better. Deeper. Richer. A more terrifying experience.

Overall, it was ok. I’ll probably watch it again for Octavia’s work alone but, really if you’re gonna make a Black ass horror story, consult some Black people.

If you’re gonna use a racism trope, use it. Don’t drop it in cause you’ve switched your main antagonist to be a Black person. This is an instance where I want to cheer but I feel like, y’all coulda done more. Blumhouse has the cash. Do the work. Take a chance on doing something great and fucked up.

In terms of horror fiction, this is a great set up. It is rich territory to explore and we need more of it. Just, not done by a team of white folks.

I think that’s all for now. Coming soon, book reviews!!

First up next week, beloved Jen Pastiloff then beloved Gabino Iglesias. WOO!

 

Yeah Write #456- Call Her

 

Call Her

by

Shannon Barber

Outside of Vegas I found the place. I parked and sat in the cold and waited. A coyote sat in the dark watching, waiting with me. From nowhere and everywhere we heard her song in the sand. The Pisces sang from her ancient grave. And we sang along.

### 

 

2019 You Raggedy Motha Fucka.

I am real done with 2019. I made an ever growing playlist I’ve titled 2019 Girl. BYE. Hit shuffle and come climb in my brain.

SO 2020. What is gonna happen?

……….well. Okay I’m so sorry I don’t have a huge special announcement.

I honestly have no clue what is going to happen. For the first time in a while, there is no literary hustle.  None. I have no plans. I have no super secret book plan. I have ideas of course, like we all always got a fuckin idea but, I’m not putting the pressure on to try and write the thing that will bust me into some low level of the mainstream.

Can we have a lil real talk? I had one too many flirtations with said mainstream. One (or fucking a good dozen) too many situations where, my ideas and concepts were SUPER tempting for magazines and publishers but as a person, and the person doing those things was not.

I was let down, defeated and hurt.

That said, all of that and folks straight up plagiarizing me and and and..and my dry pockets took me to a place where I was sad enough to consider just, not doing any of this shit. I needed that. I needed to a.) realize if I wasn’t making any forward progress whatever I decided to do was kind of a moot point and b.) I needed to cry it the fuck out and be mad and get through it.

The way out is through.

NOW.

After a lot of upset and shit going down I realized the most important things:

  1. I am who the fuck I am. A lot of people, A LOT OF PEOPLE hate everything about me. They hate my fiction, they hate my essays, they hate my blog posts, they hate my fuckin face. And that’s fine. I side with Katt Williams on this, they doin they fuckin jobs.
  2. #1 being what it is, why should I break myself down in order to please people who are on a real tip, NEVER going to fucks with me on that level. Even people who know me/are in my community. A lot of people are not checking for me and that’s okay too. It is frustrating because I want to do so much but, it is fine.
  3. MOST IMPORTANT. I’m gonna do what the fuck I want to do.

……………….

So that is the energy I’m taking into 2020.

I will write what the fuck I want. Some of it might be published some not. That’s fine. I’m not going to keep up that lil flame of hope for the mainstream to notice me. I’m tired of that.

Will I write a book? Maybe.

I dunno.

The small plan I have is to get a new smaller computer. I gave the 15″ HP I got last year to my partner for Christmas. I can’t use that machine and yeah.

What else?

I’m doing my loveletters again.

But mostly I am writing like a mother fucker who fears no fucking publishing house.

Basically, I am no longer holding myself to requirements I didn’t make up you know? Honestly, the prescribed path to writer/creative success is not mine. Trying to walk in other folks shoes hurt me so bad. I’m not taking that into 2020.

Dassit babes.

Happy New Year. Please be safe. Use rideshares, don’t drink and drive and let us walk into 2020, like the bad mother fuckers we are.

 

What A Frickin Year bro.

OKAY so let’s do recent news then my annual navel gazing look back at my own fuckery.

First up. My last publication of 2019 is one close to my heart. This essay was solicited, rejected, submitted, rejected a lot. Here is a taste:

Cultures around the world covet Blackness. Our skin tones, our styles, our hair, our features until, those things are attached to an actual Black person. Many of us have lived through harassment, job loss and general public humiliation because our style is too ghetto, our hair is inappropriate. I was raised to conform. Keep my hair straight, not be, act or look too Black. Blackness and my expression of it was constrained by the White gaze.

I was not taught how to love myself or how to be a human being.

III

Nothing about my physical appearance has ever been “right” save for a time during an extended eating disorder relapse when I was thin. Most of my life I have been chunky or fat. I am not able bodied. My teeth are not good. My skin is not clear. My hair is, frequently a mess. What began for me as a shameful secret has become the key to my personal liberation. My morals are, abhorrent to American culture.

Read it here at Queen Mobs Teahouse.

What else? I’ve resumed my newsletter/creatives loveletters. I moved over to Substack so come check em out. The year end big ole chonk one will be out probably soon.

This leads me into a little bit about what I’m doing with my work, what I’m working on and stuff. So I won’t be doing any super deep essays for a while. No new shit about racism, Anti Blackness etc. Y’all I honestly just can’t. I’m burnt out. Uh here’s the thing. I don’t think I will make my writer bones writing that shit. I’m not the one and that’s fine. Yes, I am good at writing those things. Yes, it matters deeply to me but, my language and who I am as a person and how I write just tends to cause problems and I’m tired.

In my continuing quest to figure out how to be more sustainable in my art, this part of my craft is just too much for me right now. The publications that fuck with me, most aren’t able to pay a whole bunch and I’m not mad at them for that, indie media is a struggle. I am very mindful that the payment I can get, often doesn’t counteract the cost of the rest of the bullshit.

This is brought to you by the fact that an entry I wrote here a few years ago, STILL makes white people so angry I get shit about it. I wrote about the experience at the time here. 

Thing is, I’ve long stopped equating the idea of folks seeing my work being totally worth it. Frankly, for me seeing (shit pls do not take this as haterade) that, I can’t be or am rarely considered to be the type of Black writer to get the seat at the table and the cash without a heavy fee (as in, toning it down, blablabla) it just hurts too much.

My body of work is out there. I am free with link sharing but I’m not sure I will do more of that in an intentional manner.

So this is also part of me doing the work of finding my lane. Y’all been here, you know that this is important to me.

Freelancing=not my lane.

Resource creator for my community=not my lane. I’ve failed in that because I don’t think I have the trust of communities I’m in so yeh.

I think that for 2020 I need to focus on just being the little weirdo potato I am. In this long ass process of letting go of one version of being a successful writer, I’m stumbling along and mostly just trying not to be fully lost.

Essentially, I’ll post stuff where/how I feel like in the moment. I’m not going to go real hard about trying to hustle my Medium or Kindle links. I just don’t have the energy to do all that and get pennies in return. It is not only time consuming but also, y’all it just hurts my feelings.

So there tis homies.

I will likely not post again until the new year. So I love you. Thank you for riding with me through the years. We gonna be okay.

Love,

Shannon