So I have started writing this blog a couple of different times and ended up putting those entries aside because they became something else that wasn’t quite what I wanted for this conversation. Perhaps I will post them at a later date. When I first started keeping this blog, I wrote about why I ♥ Fantasy (If you want to know, specifically, why I write about shape-shifters, click here). That blog was both a great trip down memory lane and, if I am honest, something of a justification as to why I have chosen to write in this genre. It is a justification that I, personally, feel is largely unnecessary–but that does not change the fact that it is a question spoken and unspoken that I have run into again and again.
Like I said in the other blog, I grew up reading fantasy. It never occurred to me that my tastes might be unusual or unexpected for a young black woman. And really, no one I knew gave me any grief about it. In fact, many of my friends, lots of folks in my family all read fantasy too (many of whom were also black including practically everyone in my family)–so it never occurred to me to think that reading about vampires, witches, mermaids, and elves (never really got into the faeries) might be strange. It is only since I have become an adult that I have been challenged over my love of fantasy.
The fact is I was weaned on black speculative fiction. One of the earliest books that I can remember reading was Virginia Hamilton’s And the People Could Fly. I remember being fascinated by the colorful and magical cover and the stories of enslaved people escaping bondage and flying back to Africa (a myth that reverberates throughout the literature of Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, and multiple others).* From there, I graduate to Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, with its elements of magical realism and Cassie Logan’s ability to control the weather. It was reading the work of these authors, who were published in the 60s and the 70s, that lead me to Susan Cooper, Madeleine L’engle etc…etc…
Thing is most of the same people that chuckle over or consider my professed love of fantasy as somehow at odds with their perceived notion of “blackness” are probably closet fantasy fans themselves. They are the same ones that are going to see movies like “Avatar”, “Blade”, “Men In Black”, and “Independence Day.” They are the ones that were watching movies like “The Last Dragon,” “The Wiz,” and “Back to the Future,” as kids. So, for 2012, what I hope to see is more black folks coming out of the fantasy closet. I want more black folks to proclaim loud and proud that they are fantasy fans (particularly folks in my generation; I really think that young black people have already embraced this genre). It does not have to be a closely guarded secret–or something that we distance ourselves from–any longer.
I also want people in general to reconnect with the rich and lengthy legacy of black speculative fiction. Hamilton and Taylor are just two of the multitude of black fantasy writers that have laid the groundwork for women like me–who are writing fantasy for a new generation.
**Definitely make sure to check out Hamilton’s entire oeurve, including the Justice trilogy for another take on a dystopian future.
Check out what other bloggers are saying:
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: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.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: www.mvmediaatl.com 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.
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: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.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/
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–She 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: 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 also a 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: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html
Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd
9 thoughts on “State of Black Sci-Fi 2012–Why I love Fantasy…”
Ah- The Last Dragon… whew, that takes me back. It was a good
story and that actor Taimak did a good job. Good Post!
That move is hilarious. lol.
Coming out of the fantasy closet! LOL LOVE it! Blaxellent post!!
lol. I was wondering if I took that a little far. Folks are leery of closets.
In Atlanta, folks are coming out of some closet or other every day, so you DO have to watch your back (no pun intended)…lol
Them closets got some pretty funky imaginations in them… that will have a kid escaping and becoming a great writer or a fantastic artist. So get in them closets and move around them clothes and
you will see what the world of imagination can truly be.
Yes, you just took me on a quick trip down memory lane! I read the Hamilton book as a child too, as well as Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, the Carrie series by the Collier brothers, etc. It occurs to me now, in reading your blog, that many of my other childhood books could easily fit under fantasy and historical fiction in retrospect. It just reaffirms the notion that people of color have always written in this genre, even if we havent always termed it scifi or fantasy, etc. thanks for sharing! i really enjoy your posts and insights.
Hi Rasheedah, thanks! I think that it is a connection that we don’t always make. But when you think about African American folklore and really a type of African diasporic world-view, both of which are characterized by speculative qualities, and how embedded stories from that tradition are in much of the literature produced in the African American tradition, it makes solid sense.
Starting next month, I will be writing a series called the “Black Sci-Fi Primer’ for blacksci-fi.com. I will be going writing about the long tradition of African American speculative fiction writing; so stay tuned.