I Made a Mistake.

I’ve got a story in the works that is as I said on facebooks:

A thing i’m working on is a little post apocalypse, a little sf (very soft) with a little sauce of horror. I feel like it is spec fic. Perhaps even a bit Afrofuturist ish. A thing that I’m almost done with and after that will likely have ZERO idea where to submit because I’ve never read anything quite like it AND it has cis people upsetting things like gender fluidity as the norm and as indicated with spelling and punctuation, disabled people and no portal to or from Whiteness.

Now this is a departure from stuff I normally write but I had this wild ass idea I wanted to play with. I started with the question, what would some working class brown queers do in a post (unspecified) apocalypse where capitalism had resettled itself? I wanted to present a world where there are monsters and things are dark but not one where humanity has been regressed to clubs and grunts and learning to poop in the woods.

I also wanted to play with this idea of a sort of future tinker. But tinker not in a disparaging way, more in the holy shit you are amazing way.

There’s some other stuff but that is the gist.

NOW.

Y’all……….

I fucked up. I did something I have not done in a long time. I joined a small loose crit group and sent over the WIP in the post your WIP conversation.

Shit went fucking sideways.

The cis hets were pretending like it is impossible to understand gender fluidity being signaled by language and punctuation.

The white people (most of them in the group) couldn’t understand that these are Black people because I didn’t put neon signs and AAVE in it.

None of the crits I got were based on weird punctuation I was using, nor was it based on me signalling my main characters using ASL and me denoting it with special punctuation, none of it was based on my hella soft sf and non disclosure of what the monsters are exactly.

It was entirely gender and race.

*Insert the longest sigh here.*

None of them commented on my use of language, or remarked on me asking about the use of X punctuation vs Italics or something.

…………….crickets on literary shit.

Lots of opinions on why my scenerio is impossible that don’t involve shit like zombie references.

THIS is why the fuck I stopped joining such groups. I left a note for the mods and left.

I am close to done with the piece and would like to see it pubbed somewhere good. For to steal a Deadpool phrase, dick kicking revenge.

I dunno. Shit is exhausting y’all.

However-

I am reminded that there are reasons things like VONA exist even if I can’t participate.

Want a bite of the thing?

Here ya go:

“Let’s retire and have some babies. Bae, really? You want to make babies with me?” They hadn’t really discussed the idea, people in their position in life generally didn’t. Babies were a time sink and not really something people who grew up in the Dirty districts of the cities thought about. Sure, they happened sometimes but it was never something to be planned, never something to be cherished. Khalid/a smiled, feeling Viola rumble and yammer her pleasure. Their head turned slightly, one slim brown hand gesturing. “Sweetie, I can’t hear you.” 

PS

My move is still full of fuck and terrible so, posting shall remain erratic until life is less bullshit.

#BlackSpecFic Feelings.

First, please go check out the work Fireside Fiction put in on this. 

Ahem.

For our purposes here today I’m gonna use this definition of spec fic from wikipedia:

Speculativefiction is a broad umbrella category of narrative fiction referring to any fiction story that includes elements, settings and characters whose features are created out of human imagination and speculation rather than based on attested reality and everyday life. That encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism.

If you’ve read me for a while, you know this is an area I love to live and play in. Also, please read this. 

My own experiences mirror a lot of those N.K. Jemison talks about. When I was a wee baby writer, I did not allow my Blackness in my work in a lot of ways. From the writing perspective my earliest lessons both overt and not were like so:

  • Anything involving Black characters would likely not be “believable” if they weren’t hood caricatures or portraits of racial uplift. That cut across all the genres I like to work in.
  • Blackness regardless of subject matter, genre, etc is often treated as a wee tiny box where ALL the Black stories must go.

I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t find all the links. There is a problem when as a writer, you do your due diligence and study the places you are submitting. For me personally if I go back more than 5 or so issues and see no POC or if the masthead headshots are all White men, if the stories are all in one vein under the guise of aesthetics and “goodness” those are not places I’m going to feel welcome.

A problem I (and I’ll venture to guess a lot of POC and especially Black authors) run into every now and then is when White editors are very obviously uncomfortable with Blackness or anything not White centric. Often this isn’t anything blatant, it can be felt in email exchanges where an editor doesn’t understand a phrase that isn’t “proper English”, or suggestions to do certain things (in my case it was an Orisha) more “mainstream”. The suggestion was to change the goddess/Orisha in this story to Aphrodite or, you know, a White one. Being questioned about not italicizing my Spanish. Being questioned about how “unlikely” (in a firmly spec fic story) it would be to have the protagonist be a little Black girl.

The first story I referenced, was published at Expanded Horizons and was my first publication in a spec fic magazine. That story (I just went a looked) was rejected 15 times. There was one nibble of interest, but the editor backed off when I said I would not rewrite to make it a Euro/White story.

The next story isn’t really spec fic (though my inspiration was) but the tiniest bit of unitalicized Spanish made it “difficult for most readers”.  (I can’t get to youtube but go there and search Daniel Jose Older and Italicized Spanish, it’s worth it)

The last story (it was Pushcart nominated) was rejected 16 times. The first nibble of interest, I spent about two weeks going back and forth with an editor who couldn’t see or understand how a little Black girl who is a shapeshifter would ever exist in a world where there are shapeshifters. This person also mentioned how my names for my creatures, Children of Apep, Daughter of Sekhmet etc would be too “esoteric” for “most” readers. I actually went back to read the exchange. Yes, references to Egyptian gods/esses as the names of shapeshifters is too “esoteric”. My references to Hyena and Crow were “not really relatable”.

For a lot of years, this is what I had to wade through when submitting so as I’ve mentioned before I just stopped.

This isn’t exclusive to spec-fic. The problem of overwhelming whiteness is one of literature in general. For me, the constancy of the racism in lit has just been exhausting. When I decided to start writing genre fiction again, I again found myself being unable to bear interacting with the community, reading fan stuff etc because shit always gets real racist real quick.

These are many of the reasons why I started self pubbbing my genre fiction. These are many of the reasons I stopped reading genre fiction too.

For the cheap seats. As a White person in a position of power in the lit world, you can’t just say you’re all for inclusion and diversity if you can’t demonstrate it. Words in this matter are useless. You have to act. As I’ve said many times before, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that using Whiteness as the measure for what is “good” is a problem. Even if you don’t mean it.

Understand that there will be things and elements of work that don’t resonate with you and that is okay.

You have to do the work or you’re part of the problem here.

There are SO many easy ways to find authors of color to approach to feature their work, editors you can talk to. It’s not that fucking hard. It is 20 mother fucking 16. You probably have a computer in your pocket.

Listen to what POC have to say.

Read work by POC.

If you are totally into inclusion, be that shit. Don’t just say it. Do it. Do the work.

We exist.

If you’re a reader. Find the stories and books. Buy them, read them, check them out at the library, talk about them.

As a creator of things, I’d also like to say this.

Stop pretending that the statistics are shocking. Stop it. We all know racism is a real thing and permeates everything. Including literature. Including speculative fiction. Including SF and horror and everything else. Stop. White folks, you are not helpless here. There are tons and tons of articles, stories, etc. written by and about POC so maybe start reading them.

Do the work.

That’s all for now.

My first Spec Fic publication.

I am so excited.

The little story that could, Calling Oshun is up at Expanded horizons now. Read it here.

I am extraordinarily pleased and excited about this particular publication for several reasons.

I wrote Calling Oshun a few years ago and workshopped it in a fairly casual manner.

The only real criticisms of the story weren’t really of the story or the structure, it was the use of an “esoteric” (read not White) deity.

Several writers and editors have at one point or another recommended I change it to a more known (Green or Roman) goddess to make the story “accessible”.

That was one of the first instances where I was told that in order to get a story published I would have to basically Whitewash it.

I was so frustrated and upset and hurt.

So I put the story away for a while.

I did do a version with a Greek Goddess and the story was ruined. I went back to the original and submitted it about 8 times before it got accepted. Some editors who sent personal rejections thought it was beautiful but not something their readers would “get”.

That is what I’m talking about when I talk about some of the frustrations of being a writer of color who writes about people of color.

This story was one of the first times I was angry enough to work to get it published without the Whitewashing and I must say I am very proud of myself. The editors over there got my point exactly and I was honestly almost in tears when I talked about it with one of the editors.

It is the first time I have felt that kind of deep gratification of my first instincts.  Being welcomed by other people of color and having that feeling of acceptance and understanding that is so rare in the literary world.

Once upon a time someone I really admire gave me the best writing advice I have ever gotten. He told me that my strength and success would be in writing the stories only I can tell in ways that only I can tell them.

So here is a tidbit.

“He is beautiful as fine polished ebony, his eyes closed his wide mouth stretched and magnificent, his voice transcends all. In his voice is the rumble of thunder from my long ago homeland:”

Head here to read the whole thing.

In other news I updated my website a bit. I still have to pull some out of print links off of it. I’ll probably reprint those stories here for free. I’ll be back next week to talk about some of the really good shit I’ve been reading lately, my erotic chapbook project and some other stuff.