Today is brought to you by the homie Todd Robinson on a podcast. Listen to that here.
So Todd was the editor of Thuglit. I read it a lot. I linked to the issue I was in cause I am V. Proud of that story. But I don’t want to talk craft right now.
Instead I want to talk about being welcomed with big open arms into a genre where, I did not see my ideas reflected and decided to actually dive in. Technically I think my first noir/crime story was actually published in the Flash Fiction Offensive (BIG CW for racialized violence).
I think (SHIT I can’t remember) but I was a lurker in the noir/crime area of short lit for a long time. Y’all know, I do love me some grimy fiction and the FFO piece was a very early example of where I’d want to go with it.
Of all of the areas of the lit world I have been in, this part has been the most open and welcoming. A genre of mainly white men, who have given me space to be Black and queer as fuck. Even when the stories weren’t queer necessarily. And when the stories were queer as fuck, not one concern was expressed.
What’s interesting to me is that, of all of my work over the last 20 years, these stories (more will be linked below) generated the least blowback from other people writing in the genre as well as fans.
When I did this flash piece that was accepted at Shotgun Honey I did prepare myself to hear the usual kinds of shit. I was ready to deal with people “just asking” why the character is Black AND gay. WHY is there a Beyonce reference? I expected to be grilled about it being unrealistic and zero of that happened.
Y’all…it was ZERO. Matter of fact, I remember very well getting a note on twitter from a rando white dude and he told me he was excited to find a Black author in crime stuff. Mind blown.
The reason I was so blown away by that reception is that, in other areas of my work this is not usually what happens. Outside of my ride or die readers, often the responses are a mixed bag of shit. People mad about something and honestly, it can be really exhausting.
Another great experience was when I was asked to contribute to a special issue of The Big click. Country noir. Honestly, this is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever done. It was edited by the lovely Court Merrigan and like working with Big Daddy Thug Todd, it was a really good experience.
Being given the freedom to be Black and Queer and write a story like the Queen of Orla was really precious to me. There were a couple of references Court had to ask me about, but the important thing is he asked me and accepted what I had to say. In none of these instances have I been asked to tone it down.
Folks that read the Orla piece recognized that it was a tribute to the movie Bound. I say it in the story and some of the responses were so good.
There have been times in my literary career where, my Blackness and Queerness has been a problem. Not always in the context of the actual work I’ve done but in being who I am. There was the job I rage quit because the editor had googled me and was uncertain I could write not Black and not Queer in spite of him the day before having told me my sample was amazing.
There have been thousands of hate messages.
These men, really gave me an opportunity to do the shit I love to do and play. I’ve been treated with respect, I’ve been treated with care and my work has been respected and enjoyed. I can’t say that for a lot of the literary world.
ALSO I’ve been able to read and talk to some other fantastic folks. Two of my faves below.
Joe Cliffordof whom I VERY fond of. He’s a stand up person and his work is fuckin solid man.
And Gabino Iglesias. Read this review, I have a review of his book Coyote Songs forthcoming. TL:DR while reading both times, I spent a lot of time going goddamn this mother fucker and wanting to either hug him or punch him. So, like it is really fucking good.
The moral of the story is this. Sometimes, we get to work with and meet people who defy all of our expectations about how we’ll be treated. The dudes I’m talking about here, (along with some others we’ll talk about later because reasons) really have a special place in my heart. Go read their work.