The State of Black SF 2012: Why Race Matters

Why is race, why is diversity, important in science fiction? Why is it important — why should it matter — what race one’s characters are?

As a child I devoured YA fiction, filled with ghosts and goblins. My TV interests were the same: I gravitated toward the weird, the fantastic; so much so I often had to look under my bed to make sure Dracula (for example) hadn’t found his new resting place there.

But there were, with few exceptions, no characters who looked like me. There were no characters from neighborhoods like mine. What was far worst was that many of the characters who later came (and are still around today) didn’t act like me or anyone else I knew.

I wonder, would my life have been more enriched if there’d been a brownskinned girl or boy who starred in the fiction I so greedily devoured? If he or she had walked across the science fiction TV screen of my youth? Of this I’m sure.

Diversity is important because we, peoples of color, need heroines and heroes to people the landscape of our imagination. . . to point the way, to help us dream, to help us see something better in our tomorrows. We need characters to help make us proud of who were are and where we came from.

In short, we need characters to identify with. Characters who’re coming from the same space. We need role models, most especially ones who don’t die in the first fifteen minutes of the story; ones who aren’t caricatures and stereotypes.

Now don’t get me wrong. I continue to enjoy literature and films created by white authors. But I still need, I’d venture to say, we still need stories that emerge from the Black experience. And we aren’t the only ones who need this. Diversity in SF/fantasy is important for folks of all races.

If you want to know what’s going on my neighborhood — if you want to know what moves me politically, socially if you want to know what I dream, who better to ask than me? In other words SF/fantasy written not just by Black folks, but by Native Americans, peoples of Latin descent, written by the full racial spectrum, goes a long way toward making folks more intelligent, more tolerant. . . to moving our world a little bit closer to global humanity and understanding.

Racial inclusiveness, diversity, is just as important in SF/fantasy as it is in every other aspect of our lives. And in 2012 it is becoming an everpresent reality. We, authors of color, are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Check out what my fellow bloggers have to say on this subject (click the links on my blogroll to visit them).

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/

L.M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website http://www.shiftersnovelseries.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: http://www.mvmediaatl.com and http://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.

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: https://valjeanne.wordpress.com http://wwwsistermoon.blogspot.com http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.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

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/

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: http://www.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

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11 Replies to “The State of Black SF 2012: Why Race Matters”

  1. I quite agree with you! It seems a very odd omission from sci-fi.
    My book, which fingers crossed is coming out soon (‘The Artemis Effect’) has two Black characters. I sincerely hope that they are not, as you say ‘caricatures and stereotypes’, and the certainly don’t die in the first fifteen minutes!
    When it does come out, I would be very happy to hear your thoughts on them.
    Thanks for a great post.

  2. Hi Katkasia, thanks!! My novels are multiracial as well; and I’d like to think I do a decent job of depicting my characters. They’re are white authors, and those of other races who also do an excellent job of portraying peoples of color. Two of my favorites are: Tad Williams, and a close friend of mine, Joe Bonadonna (Mad Shadows). Sadly, this isn’t always the case; especially with films. With books, I’ve found that it just harder for us to get published; as well as a host of other unpleasant dynamics.
    It’s wonderful that this stuff is changing though :)! I’d love to check out The Artemis Effect, and fully intend to. Perhaps you’ll take a peek at Immortal or one of my other novels too, and tell me what you think :).

    1. Thanks for the kudos, Sister Val! (Sounds like I’m back in grade school, addressing a nun, lol!) I have always tried to expand my writing and make my fantasy worlds richer with a diversity of ethnic and racial cultures. After 30-some years, our good friend Charles Saunders still remembered my race of Adzians! I just try to write my characters as true to life as possible, try to create characters that are real. When I was a kid, I could never understand why there were so few people of color, so few minorities on television (and in films, too, though they were a little more ahead in the game), and why so many were portrayed as charicatures, comedic relief. I know it may not be politically correct to say this, and I say it with all respect and admiration, but I grew up with Amos and Andy, and still think it was very brave of the network to have a show like that on TV in those days — no matter how the characters are perceived in this day and age; we never laughed AT these characters, we laughed WITH them. They were just ordinary folks to me, no different than The Honeymooners, say. I never looked down upon them, nor was I brought up to think that way. Perhaps I was too young to see beyond the excellent performances and the laughs the characters drew out of me, but I can understand why there was a backlash against this show, and why it’s not in the cycle of reruns on TV these days—and more’s the pity, I believe. That show has many lessons that can be learned from it—from how TV was back then, to how far we’ve come (with still farther to go) since those days. I also grew up with Nat King Cole and Cab Calloway, who were huge with my parents — and I believe that Nat was the first black artist to have his own show. We watched it all the time. I find that the shows of the 1970s — Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, and the last few seasons of Good Times, got off track, and viewing them today, this white man finds them to be quite offensive on many levels. Norman Lear may be considered a television pioneer—but his shows do not hold up for me, and he contributed to a long list of stereotypes and charicatures, as far as I’m concerned—and this is no reflection on the fine actors and actresses in these shows. I blame it on the writing. (I did learn, a few years ago, that the late, lovely and talented Roxie Rokker from The Jeffersons was Lenny Kravitz’s mother.) I will step down from my pulpit now and bid you all a pleasant evening. I will leave you with one thought, one belief system to keep in mind when writing a story. It’s a Vulcan philosopy from Star Trek. IDIC — Infinite Diversity (in) Infinite Combinations. Thank you!

      — Joe Bonadonna

  3. Valjeanne, this is priceless and true!

    “We still need stories that emerge from the Black experience. And we aren’t the only ones who need this. Diversity in SF/fantasy is important for folks of all races.”

    You see me nodding in agreement. Powerful words. Our world needs more stories from all people of color. We need that added lens and worldview. You’ve got me excited about our blog hop. We need reminders, occassionally, as to what our mission is and where we need to be headed. Thanks so much for posting.

    1. Thanks Alicia!! I really tried to explore why I felt racial diversity is important for SF/fantasy — this lets me know I got it right. I’m very excited too about our blog hop. It seems we’re creating something of a buzz. Thanks for organizing this. It’s was a brilliant idea 🙂

  4. Dracula under your bed? Now, if that was Blacula, he would let you know and ask for a pillow. After
    all he is a proper gentleman and very noble. He might even give you a taste of his thunderous
    and elegant voice before the bite comes…

  5. Brother Winston, LOL! Now that’s funny 🙂 !Yes, Blacula was a very elegant, dignified vampire. He definitely brought a touch of class to the children of the night scene. BTW, Blacula still remains one of my favorite horror films. . . I’m not too crazy about Scream Blacula Scream though. They really made Pam Grier whiny in that flick — which is definitely not her style 🙂

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