Fantastic Books I’ve Edited Week II: Once Upon a Time in Afrika

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Purchase Once Upon a Time in Afrika here. Balogun Ojetade on Amazon.

This week I continue my blog series “Fantastic Books I’ve Edited” with a spotlight on Author and Editor Balogun Ojetade and his fantastic novel: Once Upon a Time in Afrika.

What I can I say about Once Upon a Time in Afrika? Read. This. Book. You’ll thank me later. Once Upon a Time in Afrika is a wildly imaginative ride full of rich, vibrant characters, sorcery, African mythology, and mad cool battle scenes. This is one of those novels that I wished (while editing) that I was curled upon a sofa with, instead of sitting in front of my pc. Of course that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. But then, Brother Balogun Ojetade is one of my favorite authors and he never fails to deliver.

So, without further fanfare I present an interview with Balogun Ojetade.

Q&A with Author Balogun Ojetade

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Who is Balogun Ojetade?
He is an author; a father of eight children; a husband; a Steamfunkateer; a filmmaker; a screenwriter; an actor (sometimes); a master instructor of indigenous Afrikan martial arts; a creator of role-playing games and a traditional Afrikan priest. Oh…and he always spells “Afrikan” and “Afrika” with a “k”.

When did you first get into science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction?
When I was two years old – my sisters decided to conduct an experiment and see if they could teach their two year old brother to read by getting him hooked on comic books, starting with Thor, Superman, Beetle Bailey, Archie and the Fantastic Four. Their experiment worked and I have been in love with speculative and imaginative fiction ever since.

Tell us about Once Upon A Time In Afrika
Once Upon A Time in Afrika is my Sword and Soul novel. For a definition of Sword and Soul, I will quote the subgenre’s founder, the incomparable author, friend and Jegna (“mentor”), Charles R. Saunders: “Sword-and-soul is the name I’ve given to the type of fiction I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years. The best definition I can think of for the term is ‘African-inspired heroic fantasy’. Its roots are in sword-and-sorcery, but its scope is likely to expand as time passes.”

Here’s what Once Upon A Time In Afrika is about: Desperate to marry off his beautiful but “tomboyish” daughter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of the powerful empire of Oyo consults the Oracle, which tells him that Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who the greatest warrior is, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament, inviting warriors from all over the continent. Just a few of the warriors chosen are her lover, Akin, who enters the tournament in disguise, a wizard seeking to avenge the death of a loved one and a vicious dwarf with shark-like, iron teeth. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament, a powerful evil is headed their way and they will be forced to decide if they will band together against the evil, flee, or confront the evil as individuals.

Why are Science Fiction and Fantasy important to you?
I learned just how important Science Fiction and Fantasy is after spending several years as an English and Creative Writing teacher in the public and private sectors. In conversing with other English teachers, I often asked them if they taught creative writing in their classes. Most did not. One teacher told me that she tried “that creative writing stuff” with her students, but quickly gave up on it and returned to a more“practical syllabus.” Upon further investigation, I discovered that she believed creative writing – particularly Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy – to be something outside – and, indeed, beneath – the instruction of English.

Most educators of English / Language Arts focus on the mechanics of the subject – how to read and write, rules of grammar, use of verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns and nouns and sentence comprehension – without the context of why and how those mechanics are used by students to express themselves.

Yes, we need to teach the mechanics – how to hold a pen; how to read; how words work – but we should not confuse use of a thing with understanding of it. Training in the mechanics of writing produces writing technicians; however, it does not make you a writer. So, you know how to spell; you can answer questions on grammar; you can repeat someone else’s literary criticism of a text – you are a technician. You can fix my text as a garage mechanic can fix my car. The garage mechanic can’t design a car. They can’t improve a car. They can’t build one from scratch. They can only ever work on someone else’s car. This is why we – and our children – need to read and to write Science Fiction and Fantasy – so that our children do not only work on other people’s texts; they create and build their own. So they are not limited to just reading a story written by someone else and providing a report on it – they are out there in the field, experimenting with new stories and questioning old ones…if only for the reason that they can.

We need to teach our children to go out into the world to add to the pantheon of human creation and endeavor, not to dissect the words of long dead men. Science Fiction and Fantasy are best suited for that.

What type of research goes into bringing one of your stories to life?
Tons of research…on the history; on the setting; on the culture and belief system of the people I write about. If we are going to write Steampunk and our story is set during the Victorian Era (between 1837 and 1901) and we want to avoid the cultural appropriation so prevalent in Steampunk, then it is necessary that we know history; that we understand how the Age of Steam was, so that we can determine how it should have been.

If we cosplay a “Steampunk Squaw,” we should research how First Nation women lived during the Age of Steam; we should study First Nation cultures and choose in which nation we are going to gain historical and sociological expertise; we should research the word “squaw”, understand it is an offensive term to First Nation women and change the name…if you give a damn.

And that is what research is: giving a damn. So I do it…a lot.

Contact Valjeanne Jeffers for editing and cover art at sister24moon@gmail.com

Valjeanne Jeffers is the author of eight science fiction/fantasy novels, and she has been published in numerous anthologies. Purchase her novels at www.vjeffersandqveal.com and Amazon

She is co-owner of http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com with poet and artist Quinton Veal. Contact Valjeanne for editing, and/or cover art at: sister24moon@gmail.com her reasonable prices will shock and amaze you 🙂

Valjeanne Jeffers

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October is Black Speculative Fiction Month…Y’all Ready for This?

Annabelle04Imaro
watch the shadowsadventures of fortune mccall pic
RetrokmOnce Upon a Time

Cover art by Quinton Veal. Copyright 2013 all rights reserved.
Cover art by Quinton Veal. Copyright 2013 all rights reserved.
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Mona Livelong (in progress) art by Quinton Veal Copyright 2013 all rights reserved.
Mona Livelong (in progress) art by Quinton Veal Copyright 2013 all rights reserved.
Short Story. Cover art by Quinton Veal. Copyright 2013 all rights reserved.
Short Story. Cover art by Quinton Veal. Copyright 2013 all rights reserved.
Novel Sneak Peek. Cover Art by Quinton Veal. Copyright 2013 all rights reserved.
Novel Sneak Peek. Cover Art by Quinton Veal. Copyright 2013 all rights reserved.
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Steamfunk Short Story. Cover Art by Quinton Veal.
Steamfunk Short Story. Cover Art by Quinton Veal.

October is Black Speculative Fiction Month. Right on! What, you ask, is Speculative Fiction? Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term for the broad genres of horror, science fiction, pulp fiction, and fantasy (for example, the sub-genre Sword and Sorcery). Black Speculative Fiction is also an umbrella term but with one important difference.

Black Speculative Fiction encompasses stories of horror, fantasy and science fiction which come out of the Black and/or African experience. So now we may add the very young sub-genre of Sword and Soul which was created by Charles Saunders. These are tales told, for the most part, by African American authors— stories of African sheiks, aliens in the hood, of Haitian witches and warlocks (for example, my story, Outcasts) of Native American and Black vampires and werewolves (such as in, for example, my Immortal series).

Once, as my friend and mentor Charles Saunders said, I could barely find a novel written by an author of color. Now, I can’t keep up with those that are emerging each year, each week, each day. We stand on the cusp of an era. An era which, if I may be so bold, may be likened to the Harlem Renaissance. Indeed we have come far, but with miles to go before we sleep. We must continue this journey with you, our readers.

October is BSFM month. How should you celebrate? Here’s an idea: why not hug an author by visiting their sites. Here’s my site: Pick up an ebook (or if you’re old school like me) a print copy of a book by your favorite author.

You don’t have a favorite author? Don’t sweat it honey, have one of mine 🙂 Here’s a list of some of my favorite writers.

Octavia Butler: Wild Seed, Clay’s Ark, Imago, Kindred. Purchase Queen Octavia’s novels here.

Charles Saunders: The Imaro Series, Damballa, The Dossouye Series, Griots: A Sword and Souls Anthology (editor with Milton Davis).

Valjeanne Jeffers: the Immortal series, The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books I and II)

Quinton Veal: Cover artist for Immortal III and The Switch II: Clockwork
(and numerous other covers). Check him out here.

Edward Uzzle: Retro KM: Lord of the Landlords, NETERS. Check him out here.

Howard Night: The Serpent Cult, Race War (The Reckoning). Check him out here.

D.K. Gaston: The Friday House, Pantheon. Check him out here.

DjaDja Medjay: N:Eternity Reclaimed check it out here
Renpet coming soon!

A.J. Jarrell: Detecting Magic With Dick Hunter, The Good King Saga. Check him out here.

TK McEachin: The Elements Series (in press)

Carole McDonnell: Wind Follower, The Constant Tower, Spirit Fruit. Check her out here.

B. Sharise Moore: Taste: An Erotic Fantasy Series. Check her out here.

Derrick Ferguson: Dillion and The Voice of Odin, Four Bullets For Odin,
The Adventure of Fortune McCall. Check him out here.

Ronald Jones: Warriors of the Four Worlds, Subject 82-42. Check him out here.

Milton Davis: the Meji Series, The Changa Safari Series, Steamfunk! (as co-editor). Check him out here.

Balogun Ojatade: The Chronicles of Harriet, Once Upon a Time in Afrika Steamfunk! (as co-editor). Check him here.

Nalo Hopkinson: Midnight Robber, Sister Mine. Check her out here.

Tananarive Due: The Good House, My Soul to Keep. Check her out here.

Steven Barnes: The Lions Blood, Shadow Valley, Zulu Heart. Check her out here.

Alicia McCalla: Breaking Free, Iniko (African Elementals), Possibilities (edited with L.M. Davis). Check her out here.

Melvin Carter: Leopard’s Moon. Check him out here.

John F. Allen The God Killers. Check him out here.

And here are more some super-cool sites:

Authors Valjeanne Jeffers and Quinton Veal

Daathrekh.com

Black Speculative Fiction Reviews

To Lands Far and Afield

The AfroFuturist Affair

Black Lit Magazine

Invisible Universe

Black Science Fiction Society

Mocha Memoirs Press

I’ll be adding links for everyone so be sure to check in with me. This list is not exhaustive. But it should get you started. Now go forth and celebrate! And Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month!

Science Fiction and Fantasy: We All Know the Difference, Right?

From the Great Traveling Round Table of Fantasy Bloggers

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The Difference Between SF and Fantasy by Carole McDonnell

Science Fiction generally falls into two categories: hard or soft. Depending on the reader’s belief in his scientific aptitude or love of hardware technologies, the SF reader can explore technological, biological, physiological sciences that are emerging, yet to come, probably possible and hypothethical.

The Fantasy writer and reader roam larger territories. Sometimes those territories are far afield from modern known science, sometimes they are mental realms, sometimes spiritual arenas, sometimes past historical and cultural lands.

The science fiction reader joins the SF writer in seeing how far the mind of man can go, often learning about and wading deep into some emerging science the author or the reader share. And often the sf reader will have the sf novel in one hand, a scientific tome in the other, and be sitting in front of the computer: facts are checkable.

The fantasy reader may read her fantasy book alongside another book — if that other book deals with some lore of some lost culture. But the fantasy reader is just as happy to venture into the unknown world of the author’s mind. All the reader asks, however, is that the novelist be true to the world he or she has created.

Whether the fantasy novel deals with European vampires, Native America shapeshifters, East Indian demi-gods, European elves, alternate realities, far off planets, Earth analogues, living, dead, non-living, eternal, godly, helpless, miniscule, mammalian, oceanic, elemental, speaking, non-speaking, beings within this galaxy, across galaxies, planetary, geophysical, or plainly and simply human, the fantasy world the author creates must be held up to the collective scrutiny of its readers.

Fantasy is game-playing of a higher order of imagination than Science fiction because the SF author is bound by and exploring the ramification of rules he has found. But the fantasy author is examining larger premise of creativity. This is not to say that science fiction is not creative but while Science fiction aims to discover and seek out rules and aspects of life that is already there, the fantasy writer aims to create whole new worlds or culture, emotion, and spirit.

No wonder, then, that fantasy comes in so many forms with so many varieties. Fantasy is extreme.

Carole McDonnell holds a BA degree in Literature from SUNY Purchase and has spent most of her years surrounded by things literary. Her writings appear in various anthologies including “So Long Been Dreaming: Post-colonialism in science fiction,” edited by Nalo Hopkinson and published by Arsenal Pulp Press; Fantastic Visions III” anthology published by Fantasist Enterprises; “Jigsaw Nation” published by Spyre publications, “Griots: A Sword and Soul anthology,” edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders, “Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: writings by mature women of color,” “Fantastic Stories of the Imagination” edited by Warren Lapine and published by Wilder Publications.

Her novel, Wind Follower was published by Wildside Books. Her other works include My Life as an Onion, Seeds of Bible Study: How NOT to Study the Bible. Her collection of short stories, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction, is available on kindle and also at Lulu.com Her second novel, The Constant Tower, will be published in 2013

SciFi Versus Fantasy? by Theresa Crater

I teach a class in writing speculative fiction and often use Orson Scott Card’s book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. In it he classifies Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series as science fiction rather than fantasy. Why? Because they take place on other planets. I say hooey.

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Why? Because they have all the earmarks of fantasy. Early fantasy reinvented the medieval, mostly European. It brings Celtic, Norse and Germanic mythology to life. Now writers are expanding culturally, which is all to the good, but many fantasies still take place in a predominantly agricultural world whose cities have castles, farmer’s markets and guilds of artisans. Then there are the aristocrats and rulers along with their soldiers or knights. People move about on horseback for the most part. Or sail on ships. Fantasy is pre-industrial revolution.

Many say science fiction began with Frankenstein, although it’s still got a lot of hidden alchemy and magic in it. But the text argues between the old mistaken alchemy and the new correct chemistry. Much of the science in that text looks like dark fantasy to us now, but that was the science of the day. Science fiction is the conscience of science. It looks over the shoulders of men in their laboratories and asks, “What will happen if?” What will be the moral, social and personal price humanity pays for your discovery? It’s the same question Mary Shelley asked.

Urban fantasy has complicated the picture, but the reason it’s fantasy is that it convinces us that the possibilities science tells us are not real are real after all. Faeries exist. Vampires haunt the night. But if you add aliens, then I’ll have to say we’re back to science fiction.

Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her paranormal mysteries. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill.

Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” in Tales in Firelight and Shadow and “White Moon” in Ride the Moon. Writing as Louise Ryder, she publishes women’s fiction. God in a Box returns us to the 1970s world of feminism and Eastern philosophy. Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Visit her at http://theresacrater.com.

Science Fiction and Fantasy: We All Know the Difference, Right? by Warren Rochelle

One of the first questions I ask my students in both my fantasy and science fiction lit classes is just what is the difference between these two closely related genres. After all, as Ursula Le Guin says, “Fantasy is the ancient kingdom of which science fiction is but a modern province.”

Close relations indeed, one the descendant of the other, or rather one evolving from the other, the metaphors and tropes of fantasy of sword, sorcery, the Hero and the Quest, magic, fairy kingdoms, monsters, and the rest, giving way to the metaphors and tropes of technology and the machine, of science, and other worlds and aliens.

The simplest distinction is, of course, magic and science, the impossible and the possible. Or, to cite a definition that appeared on the listserv of the SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association, whose purview is SF and fantasy), “if the story has dragons in it, it’s fantasy, but if the dragons are given an evolutionary history, it’s science fiction.” I would modify that slightly: if the story has dragons in it as one of the native fauna, it’s fantasy, but never mind that.

So, Elves, fairies, witches, wizards, magic—the impossible, fantasy. Spaceships, lasers, warp drive, aliens and mutants—the possible, science fiction.

All right. But just the other day, my individual study student this semester, Evan, turned in a blog post on Dune. First, Evan’s individual study is the writing of a science fiction novel, along with some readings and journals. I suggested Dune. After all, it is one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written. Everybody knows that, right?

Evan begged to differ: “One important thing to note about Dune is that it’s not really a science-fiction story. It’s a fantasy. It’s about a chosen prince having his kingdom stolen, then mastering the magical arts and fighting, as well as befriending the natives of his land and the super-powerful creatures that inhabit it, all to overthrow the evil emperor and reclaim his rightful place. The whole story reeks of fantasy. They have swordfights for one thing.”

Wait a minute. Many of Paul’s abilities as Kwisatz Haderach come from his genetics—he is the product of a ninety-generation breeding program, a long-awaited messiah. His prescience gets “turned on” when he takes the Water of Life, a natural by-product of the life cycle of the giant sandworm. His enhanced mental abilities are, in part, attributed to his training as a mentat, a human computer. Doesn’t that make the novel science fiction?

Not according to Evan. He argues that the novel doesn’t need to be science fiction: “The emperor’s ships could be boats on an ocean just as easily as spaceships … The sandworms are basically dragons or wyverns and Paul’s [Kwisatz Haderach] status is basically that of a wizard or a magical hero. He’s not a sci-fi hero. He doesn’t make machines, tinker, or have any real connection to technology . . .

While the story does contain loose sci-fi elements, aside from a singular instance of a small drone being used and the fact that their economy relies on large spaceships, the story is simply not sci-fi. It is science-fiction flavored fantasy.”

All right. Evan does have a point and I wasn’t able to shake his conviction—not yet anyway. If we were to have this discussion again, here is what I use to counter his argument. I would point out that Paul has and does use atomic weaponry and the spice, another sandworm by-product, is harvested by machines. A force field surrounds the family castle.

I would ask if the SF hero has to make machines or be connected to technology? Not those with psychic powers, which Paul has. But, more importantly, a primary basis of the novel, its controlling metaphor, is ecology, or interconnected biological systems—here, an entire planet. The Fremen, thanks to Liet-Kynes, and his father, are superb field ecologists, and have given over their entire culture to the mission of bringing water to their desert world.

It is here, I think, that Evan’s argument that the novel is fantasy doesn’t quite work. Yes, the relationship between the two genres is clearly discernible in his analysis of Dune, particularly in how science fiction evolved from fantasy through a reimagining of familiar metaphors and symbols and devices. Science fiction is, in many ways, the modern response to the questions and themes of fantasy.

I am not suggesting that ecology can’t be a theme in fantasy; it often is, including the idea that magic itself must be saved, conserved, and renewed, if necessary. But the world-view of Dune, ultimately, is rooted in science, the possible, not the magical, the unseen, the impossible but still the imagined,

And that, I think, might be the difference between science fiction and fantasy.

Warren Rochelle has taught English at the University of Mary Washington since 2000. His short story, “The Golden Boy” (published in The Silver Gryphon) was a Finalist for the 2004 Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Story and his novels include The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010.

He also published a critical work on Le Guin and has academic articles in various journals and essay collections. His short story, “The Boy on McGee Street,” was recently published in Queer Fish 2 (Pink Narcissus Press, 2012). Contact him at: http://warrenrochelle.com

The Difference Between Fantasy and SF is Horses by Andrea Hosth

If your characters get about on horses, you are writing fantasy. If they travel using something mechanised, then you are writing SF. Your SF can have wizards, and spaceships which fly through hand-waving. Your story can lack any form of magic whatsoever, but if the tech level has not advanced beyond the equivalent of a horse-drawn cart, it’s still fantasy.

This is almost not an exaggeration. Reader expectation is a force which can easily overcome author intention. What you write may be fantasy, science fiction or some combination of both, but your setting is what determines whether or not a story is science fiction.

Still, if I am to take a serious stab at the question, I’ll start by considering the definition that “science fiction is what could be, while fantasy is what never could be”. Of course, this is a definition which works best if you take a strict “hard science fiction” approach to SF, since a very large portion of science fiction involves magic-equivalent hand-waving science.

There are many definitions for fantasy, mostly revolving around some variation of “has magic”, but that is a definition which quickly falls down. I prefer to regard fantasy as “any story where the setting/worldbuilding is intended to be different to an accurate depiction of our own world”. Thus a historical novel (intended to be accurate) is not fantasy, but alternate history is fantasy, books with working magic are fantasy, stories set in the future are fantasy (because there is no possible way for them to be truly accurate). Hard or soft, sword and sorcery, magic realism – the crux of the fantasy genre is that something exists in the story which demonstrably cannot be located and pointed out as having existed in (the current agreed understanding of) our world.

Science fiction is thus a subset of fantasy, and the question becomes how it separates itself off from the broader genre. A quick perusal of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness shows that even the completely soft end of science fiction can still be regarded as “unambiguously science fiction” – though in this case it appears that science fiction can be science fiction purely in terms of setting, which brings us back to the horses. The TV Tropes site goes on to base science fiction firmly in the realm of a ‘what if’ story, and makes the crux of the story a ‘technological difference’.

So, science fiction is a story where there is an intentional difference to our world where the crux of the tale depends on a difference in technology/science. Even if the science is not rigorous, and cannot by any means be considered hard science fiction, it is still science fiction if the core of the story is “what if this this technology…”.

Stories which have a scientific setting, but which are not interested in that setting – where the technology is of no import to the tale but is merely a fancy dress which could be exchanged for other fantastic clothing – could perhaps be termed science fantasy. And the flip side – stories with horses and magic where the crux of the story is a technological question?

I recently discussed the question of science fiction vs fantasy in my own novels, pointing out that the magic-rich Champion of the Rose has at its core a technological question – it’s a “genetic manipulation gone wrong” story in a fantasy setting. I suppose this may be termed “fantastic science”, since it’s using a magical means to attain a scientific action.

But, on the whole, my definition is my definition. Like so many other genre questions, it becomes an “I know if when I read it” answer, with every individual’s answer having some slight variance, and most readers interested in specific sub-genres rather than the whole breadth and depth of fantasy or science fiction.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here writing about a mechanical horse.

Vampires or Space Helmets…Fantasy or Science Fiction? by Valjeanne Jeffers

Technology and fantasy: put them together and you have a delicious synergy that’s not quite SF, not quite fantasy. Some of my favorite authors have skirted the divider between fantasy and science fiction. Octavia Butler, for example, while she is almost always described as a science fiction author blended the two quite brilliantly in books like Wild Seed wild seed2

and Clay’s Ark. Nalo Hopkinson also combined them with sheer genius in her novels Brown Girl in The Ring

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and Midnight Robber.

The existence of technology in fantasy often results in the co-existence of “science and sorcery,” as Charles Saunders (creator of Sword and Soul) has described my Immortal series. In my novels you have werewolves and vampirestotally in control of their preternatural abilities and using said abilities to protect their universe; but still such characters are most often found in fantasy or horror genres. Yet the Immortal series also has time travel, aliens… and technology to support its futuristic setting. Such as in the excerpt from Immortal book 1:

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Karla walked across the wooden floor of her living area into a kitchenette. A press of her fingers on the first sphere of a triangular pod started coffee brewing.

She filled a cup with chicory, walked back into the living area and pushed the second button on her remote, activating a blue panel beside the window. Jazz music filled the apartment. Like her bedroom console the unit kept time, transmitted holographic images and played tapes. Using the third button, she opened the curtains.

Thus, the Immortal novels have been described as both fantasy and science fiction novels. Use a little science and one still can be considered a Fantasy writer. Use a bit more and you’ve inched into the science fiction genre. An excerpt from Colony: A Space Opera (my novel in progress) illustrates this point:

She was born 20 years after Planet Earth’s decline. The same year IST began building the probes: lightweight spacecrafts that humans could live in for years, if need be, and that moved fast enough to break the sound barrier—traveling millions of miles within weeks.

In 2065, global warning had accelerated. The final stage in Earth’s destruction had begun. Temperatures of 150 degrees scorched the planet. Tidal waves, monsoons and cyclones tore it apart. Those who could afford it moved underground. Food became the world’s most valued resource. The rest were herded under the domes.

Scientists scurried to genetically reproduce fruits and vegetables—with horrible side effects. Money still ruled the world. But money was gradually becoming worthless. That’s when the government saw the writing on the wall and created IST and the probes: spacecrafts designed for one purpose, to seek out planets capable of sustaining human life.

When a writer uses technology in fantasy, the lines between the genres are even more gloriously buried. What may be described as science fiction by one reader/writer can just as easily be characterized as fantasy by the next. The only real rule here is to make one’s technology believable; credible; plausible. Although it doesn’t yet existin a kind kind of literary sleight of hand.

Pulling this off, just gives me one more reason to absolutely love speculative fiction…even if no will ever be able to figure out whether I’m a science fiction or fantasy writer. I think I prefer it that way.

Valjeanne is the author of the Immortal series, The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books I and II) and several short works of fiction.

Her fiction has appeared in Steamfunk!, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Possibilties, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear (in press). She works as an editor for Mocha Memoirs Press and is also co-owner of Q and V Affordable editing.

Preview or purchase her novels at: http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com

Food and Fantasy

From The Great Round Table of Fantasy Bloggers
Immortal
Let’s talk about food in fantasy. We eat when we’re depressed or lonely. We eat to celebrate holidays and rituals. Eating is a part of life just like seeking shelter and intimacy. And, though we often do it just for the fun of it, it’s definitely listed in the category of things we must do to survive. Quite simply we eat to live.

My favorite authors are the ones who manage to create men and women with the most human characteristics–men and women who enjoy roasting a yam over an open fire or sharing a pot of gumbo with a friend. These are the authors whose work I enjoy and the ones I take notes from to improve my own writing skills.

Food, I’ve realized, is part of the mosaic of a character’s life. Food in fantasy, in all fiction, is an extension of one’s plot–an extension of what is driving the novel.

To illustrate my point here are two excerpts from my first novel, Immortal.

Excerpt 1.
At exactly 8:00 he knocked on her door.

This time, Karla had dressed more casually in jeans and a sleeveless shirt, trimmed to reveal her ebony midriff. She wore hoop earrings, and a silver chain was wrapped about her belly. Joseph was dressed in jean and boots, his hair hanging loose about his shoulders.

The flat was decorated with paintings and glazed pottery, but little furniture. There was a futon, and a coffee table. Just outside the kitchenette, stood another table with two chairs. Colorful rugs decorated the wooden floors. Beyond the living area, he glimpsed a four poster bed.

“Did you have any trouble finding me?” Karla asked.

He shook his head. “Nope.” Especially since I spent last night across the hall.

One of her paintings drew Joseph’s eye: hanging on the wall beside the console, was an oil rendition of a dark woman: her eyes were closed and there was a look of rapture upon her face. An arm was wrapped about the neck of the Copper man standing behind her, his intertwined about her waist, his face bent towards hers.

She’s got good taste.

“You like it?”

“Very much; I can’t wait to read your stories.”

Karla averted her eyes. “The food’s ready.”

The table was loaded with vegetables, protein sautéed in buttered garlic and fresh bread. As Joseph sat down, Karla emerged from the kitchen with a carafe of red wine.

“I don’t drink. I’m sorry, I should have told you.”

“No problem, somebody in the building will drink it.” A tiny smile played about her lips. “I don’t drink either. I haven’t for years.” She put the wine back in the cold box, extracted two glasses of cold tea from her liquids machine, and placed them on the table.

Both could feel the tension mounting between them. They were moving into deep waters. Karla knew she must tell him about her dreams.

Excerpt 2.
There was a knock at the door and she jumped. Get it together girl, that’s the twins.

She walked into the living room, picked up her remote and pointed it at the entrance. It slid open and the eight-year-old twins,Carlos Jr. and Ashley, small and brown like their mother, ran inside. Ashley’s shoulder length braids were tied off with ribbons.

“Good morning Karla,” they sang in unison, hugging her.

“Good morning love bugs. What do you want for breakfast?”

”Waffles,” said Ashley.

Carlos Jr. flapped his hand at his sister. “You always want waffles. Make mine French toast.”

When Karla and the twins’ mother had first become friends, Tatiana and Carlos were both working nights, and she’d offered to make breakfast for their children during the week. That was two years ago. Now Tatiana worked as a beautician, although her mate still worked evening shifts at the metal emporium.

But fixing meals for the twins had become a habit Karla didn’t want to break. She was crazy about them, and Topaz’s food prices were next to nothing.

“Coming right up.” The dark woman took milk and breakfast pellets from her cold box, and slid the nuggets into a diamond shaped oven. In twenty seconds, they expanded with heat.

“Done,” the oven announced. The children sat at the table, just outside the kitchenette.

In these two very different passages food is one of the metaphors used to bring my characters together on a very basic and ultimately human level. And are our characters not human? If we prick them do they not bleed upon the printed page? So why shouldn’t they eat? Why shouldn’t they come together to celebrate life, to work out their problems, to enjoy each other’s company?

Indeed they must for the story to become real. For food, in life, brings us together for so many reasons. And art, real art, imitates life.

Valjeanne is the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the steampunk novels Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books 1 and 2) and the space opera, Colony.

Valjeanne is a knight in the Traveling Round Table of Bloggers. She is also a graduate of Spelman College, NCCU and a member of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. She has been published under both Valjeanne Jeffers and Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson. Her writing has appeared in: The Obamas: Portrait of America’s New First Family, from the Editors of Essence, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Pembroke Magazine, Revelry, Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary, and Liberated Muse: How I Freed My Soul Vol. I. She was also semi-finalist for the 2007 Rita Dove Poetry Award.

Valjeanne’s fiction has appeared in Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine,Possibilities, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, Griots II: Sisters of the Spear (in press), and Steamfunk! (in press). She works as an editor for Mocha Memoirs Press and is also co-owner of Q & V Affordable editing.

Preview or purchase her novels at her personal site.

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

And Sony ereaders and Itunes.

Read more from The Great Traveling Round Table of Bloggers

Fantasy and Horror Synergy: Salty and Sweet


The fantasy genre of fiction is defined as one in which magical or supernatural themes and settings are present, excluding those plots and themes which rely on science. In comparison, horror is defined as a genre based upon terrifying or fighting plots and settings. These elements can be supernatural (e.g. werewolves) or realistic (e.g. serial killer) elements. Actually they can be both as, for example, in the case of the supernatural serial killer, often found in Dean Kootz’s novels.

In reading the above definitions, there is obviously a bit of overlap. Yet many writers take great pleasure in coloring outside the lines. Why? Isn’t it confusing? (“Is it horror? Is it fantasy?”)

I would venture to say that the science fiction/fantasy genre or to use the more cumbersome term, speculative fiction, has such a fluid realm of sub-genres that horror and fantasy often bleed into each other (yes the pun is intentional)…like paint on a canvas.

When an artist is creating a masterpiece, does it worry him or her if the lines are blurred? Doesn’t this after all make a more believable and gorgeous landscape?

In my own Immortal series, I gleefully smudge the lines between genres of erotica, horror and fantasy, as many of my fellow writers have observed. Derrick Ferguson author of the Dillon and Fortune McCall series recently described my work as “imaginatively experimental.”

Other authors whose work I’ve greatly enjoyed mix fantasy and horror–and have done so with a quite bit of success.

Author Tananarive Due, who is dubbed as a horror writer, mixes fantasy quite skillfully in My Soul to Keep. This novel begins with the tale of “Jessica,” a young woman who falls in love, only to discover that the perfect man of her dreams is 400 years old…and the member of an Ethiopian sect of Immortals.

This saga continues through three more novels (The Living Blood, Blood Colony and My Soul To Take) all are built upon a fantasy setting, spiced with bone-chilling horror and suspense.

D.K. Gaston, for example, author of The Friday House, and Lost Hours, while not described as a horror author has elements of it deftly woven within many his plots. Tad Williams does the same, when he inserts a larger than life sociopath in his epic fantasy series, Otherland.

The fantasy framework of these novels is in fact necessary in order to construct “the world right beneath our noses,” that is the mainstay of speculative fiction. When horror is present, it adds a delightful bit of scary suspense to the mix—like popcorn and chocolate. And hey, who doesn’t enjoy a little sweet with their salty from time to time?

This post is brought to you by a knight (me) of the Great Traveling Round Table of Fantasy Bloggers 🙂
To read my fellow knights’ posts, check out Chris Howard’s guest blog.

The State of Black SF 2012: And the winners are…


Well, Sisters and Brothers this is it. The final day of our The State of Black SF 2012 blog. I had an awesome time sharing my thoughts and feelings on how far we’ve come during Black history month; as well as honoring one of dearest writing mentors: Charles Saunders.

And I had a blast sampling the science of my fellow writers. Hopefully, we’ll do this again sometime soon. I hope that y’all enjoyed my posts, and please check out the musings of the other wondrous SF griots (listed at the end of this post and on my blogroll)

The winners of my giveaway are the talented, prose-folk Carole McDonnell and Balogun Ojetade who will both win a copy of Immortal!
And here is my contribution to our SF bracelet: an excerpt from my upcoming novel Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds.

She was walking through the mist, it clothed her — draped about her—the sheerest of garments. Longing suffused her being. She was yearning for the one who had first stepped out of her dreams.
When?
In another life, another time, another world.
His voice drifted through the night fog toward her: “Seek me, I need you.”
Suddenly he was before her, his hands stroking her like a whisper. Gently, tenderly roaming over the body he knew so well.
She came into his arms eagerly, his body was a refuge, and entwined her hands in the black, oily hair that lay about his shoulders. Folding herself into him, molding and merging with his skin—his very soul.
His mouth, his tongue tasted like some dark, luscious fruit and when he pushed inside her, it was as if they’d never parted. . . their moans a medley of mutual surrender and belonging. . .
She loved him.
She would never love another.
And she would find him.

Copyright 2012 Valjeanne Jeffers all rights reserved

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer– is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, havinga career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working forValiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator ofLittle Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genreanthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are availableat Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visithim: 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: AShifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more informationvisit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her websitewww.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Milton Davis, Author– Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an authorhe specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji BookOne, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: http://www.mvmediaatl.com/Wagadu/ andwww.wagadu.ning.com.

Ja Ja (DjaDja) N Medjay , Author—DjaDja Medjay is theauthor of The Renpet Sci-Fi Series. Shiatsu Practitioner. HolisticAfroFuturistic Rising in Excellence. Transmissions from The Future Earth can befound at: http://authordjadja.wordpress.com/ ,www.renpetscifi.com oron Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/RenpetSciFiNovelor on Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/Khonsugo .

Margaret Fieland, Author– lives and writesin the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one ofthe Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is availablefrom Amazon.com Her book, “Relocated,” will be available fromMuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will bepublished by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author– is aneditor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Timeof Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels:Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be releasedthis spring. Visit her at: https://valjeanne.wordpress.com , http://wwwsistermoon.blogspot.com/and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Thaddeus Howze, Author – is a veteran of the IT and Communications industry with over 26 yearsof experience retooling computers to best serve human needs. Unknown tohumanity, our computers have another agenda. Thaddeus recently released hisfirst collection of short stories, Hayward Reach. In a coded format, he hassecretly informed Humanity of the impending computerized apocalypse. You canread parts of the code here: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

Alicia McCalla, Author—writes for both young adults and adults with her brand ofmulticultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free isavailable in print or immediate download on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes,and other booksellers. The Breaking Free theme song created by AsanteMcCalla is available for immediate download on iTunes and Amazon. Visit her at:www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multiculturalstories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appearedin 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 WarriorWithin” (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 todebut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You maycatch 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. Sheholds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and sherecently 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. Visithim: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd