About three months ago I started this website with a little more than a couple dollars and a dream. I promised to use this site to highlight forms of Black Excellence, rant and rave about stuff going on in the world, and to promote myself. I think I’ve made pretty good on the first two promises, but not so much on the last one. When it comes to promoting myself I created this site to develop a fanbase; to get my name out in the world so that when my book series became publically available more people than my family and close friends would know about/buy it. My goal to write a book series has been a dream of mine; a life goal that started when I was just a kid obsessed with video games and cartoons with no idea what I wanted to do with my life, or so I thought…
Like I say in the “About Me” section I was a super nerd growing up. The kind that played so much “Legend of Dragoon” that I made my own additions and borrowed my Dad’s cane to act out them out with my best friend. I played A LOT of video games and watched a lot of cartoons, but I also read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually I found a special connection with books set in fantasy worlds, especially ones that featured people with extraordinary powers using their abilities for good. Most people call them superheroes.
I fell in love with everything dealing with superheroes from Animorphs to X-Men. Reading so much at a young age (I was like 7 when I first started reading Animorphs) really helped to develop my reading comprehension, teach me some vocab and eventually build my writing skills. I wrote almost as much as I read; I remember sitting in the kitchen with my Mom writing down the recipes she used to cook (that’s probably why I’m pretty decent at cooking today now that I think about it). Before long I got tired of writing recipes and set my sights to writing something a little more advanced. I wanted to create my own fantasy world like the books I read and shows I watched. I wanted to be an author.
I started writing a fantasy series called Girlchase about a group of teenaged heroes with powers over various elements like fire, ice, and magic who used their abilities to defeat the evil sorceress Dena and her sister Deana. Since I was only eight when I started writing it Girlchase was pretty low budget; I (poorly) drew pictures of my characters and wrote the fairly simple stories on notebook paper, binding each book with colorful construction paper. It took a year for another brilliant idea came to my mind: if other writers could sell their books why couldn’t I? I decided to take my books to school and sell them to my classmates; 50 cents a copy. I sold decently, and I even had one super fan that talked to me almost constantly about the series. I asked him one day what he liked so much about it, and among other things he said that he liked how the characters were a bunch of colors. Some characters were colored with a peach crayon (characters who were supposed to be white), some were blue (the heroes had a “Big Good” who I colored blue), and a lot of them were brown (Black).
If you read my last post you would know that a certain level of Black pride was instilled in me from a young age. I can remember my Dad asking me almost all the time why I was watching these shows/reading these books with no Black people in them whenever he saw me with my face plastered in a book or TV screen. I don’t think either of us realized then how much a simple little running joke resonated with me. His question made me wonder why was I all over these characters who looked nothing like me. I know that I loved the idea of worlds not bound by Earth’s rules, but where were the characters that looked like me in these worlds? Sure, there was Storm and Black Panther and eventually I would get awesome moments like this but for the most part the books, cartoons and games that I loved so much were devoid of Black faces. To this day I think that little me subconsciously wrote Girlchase with its brown people to combat that. I couldn’t make a video game or draw well enough for cartoons, so I did what I could and placed people like me in the book genre I loved.
Life happened after fifth grade and I put selling Girlchase on hiatus. Writing fantasy became a secret passion; a dream I wanted to achieve but was too scared to work towards openly. I was told directly and indirectly that writing wasn’t something Black people did, but it was the only thing I was good at. So to try and make things work I set my sights to journalism as a career. Writing creatively remained something I never told people about for fear they would judge me, so eventually I stopped writing creatively all together. I entered undergrad at Alcorn with Print Journalism on my mind.
Eventually I was convinced to switch my major from Journalism to English, and soon after I took a class where I got to write my own short story. My teacher had a classmate show us one of his stories (hey Kenny!) to give us an idea of what to do, and for the first time in years I was motivated to write again. Here were a number of Black people good at creative writing, and a teacher that asked us to combine it with school work. For the first time in years I had the creative writing bug again, so much that I applied to do it in graduate school. It took me much longer to realize that I could write realistic fiction all day long, but fantasy was still where my passion was.
Thanks to a couple of classes in my Masters program and meeting a professor (Hey Jo!) with some academic interest in comic books, I saw examples of speculative fiction being used in the classroom. Now here was a way for me legitimize the type of writing I loved to do. Reading books like “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” showed me how the superheroes I loved so much when I was younger could be used to talk about real world issues, making them both important socially and cool to read. I had almost combined my passion and my career path, but there was still one problem. There were hardly any Black writers (or characters) even in the wide world of speculative fiction. I saw a possible path but I still wasn’t sure it was for me.
Fast forward to a few months ago. After some soul searching I realized that what I had known what I wanted to do for over 15 years, I just didn’t know it then. Speculative fiction was my passion; it had crept up in my love of stories by Randall Kenan and Rashid Darden that fell under the speculative fiction umbrella. It appeared in my attraction to fantastical worlds that featured Black people, so I began to search out more people who loved the same things, and I did. With research I found sites like the Dark Fantastic where I saw concrete proof that yes, speculative writers that look like me do exist and yes, their works are important. By using Black characters these writers are able to address real world issues in unique ways. I saw history reimagined, the future predicted, and the entire world changed to put Black people in a state of power just like I did with Girlchase. I was fascinated. I was intrigued. I was home.
I decided then that I wanted to join these writers. When I rediscovered my love of writing I spent many years developing Girlchase into a new series, and now I knew that it was time to move forward with it. I joined the Black Science Fiction Writers Society and shifted my academic focus from the “Other South” (my thesis topic) to look at how Black representation in literature, particularly in speculative works and comics, affects those youth who grow up with them. I remember when times were rough my shows and books gave me an escape. I was able to disappear into characters like Static and the Green Lantern, who even though they had problems too had the power to overcome them. Reading about superheroes overcoming problems that related directly to my issues empowered me, and I felt comradery with the ones who looked like me that I didn’t have in the real world. My conversations with people online and at conferences showed me that I was not the only one who feels that these works can influence the world. After all, if Superman punching out Hitler helped to empower little Jewish kids and changed how non-Jewish kids viewed Nazis and anti-Semitism; surely a few more good Black superheroes could make some changes as well.
And that brings me back to the present. Many of my academic interests have changed over the years but two have always remained constant: my love of my people and my love of fantastic worlds. I promised to use this site to highlight myself because soon and very soon I will fully combine these interests and join the ranks of Black speculative fiction writers. I believe this site will be a great place to helping me build the fanbase to get there. I will keep you guys posted as this happens, but for now let’s just toast to three months down and three hundred more to go. I hope that this post has helped you guys to understand me and my world a little bit more; and that you appreciate the world of this Super Black kid.
How do you feel about the idea of Black speculative fiction? Did you have any interests in fantasy or sci-fi when you were younger? Leave your comments, questions, or concerns below and be sure to like, share, and of course subscribe!