The last ten months have been really productive despite the seeming acceleration of entropy world wide. I published three essays while simultaneously working on final edits for my novel. Then just today, my agent, Barry Goldblatt, told me we were ready to go on submission in August. I announced my intentions to the world and my friend Shan gave me the biggest virtual hug you ever saw. We've known each other for years. She's old school BSFW. I even got to produce one of her stories on the Keleidocast's first season, way back when.It was "Bilaadi," one of my favorite short stories of all time. Now she's bringing straight fire to the readers of epic fantasy with her Daevabad Trilogy, the final installment of which is coming out Tuesday, The Empire of Gold. (I already got my copy. Read it. Loved it. Will review it).
Needless to say, I'm super proud of her and grateful for her support. Also, happy that I can put down my novel and write something completely different for awhile. I've got a weird western alternate history with a Black conjure woman/ gunslinger burning a hole in my pocket. Well, it won't be completely different. There will be a dragon.
6/11/2020 0 Comments
A friend and ally, Louis Evans, read my Tor.com essays "In search of Afro-Solarpunk Part 1 & Part 2" and passed it on to Lydia Laureson, managing editor of the New Modality, a new publication that delves into experimental and speculative everything with gusto and expertise. Lydia loved it and reached out to me to do a photo essay on Afrofuturism. The concept was grand in scale: an inter-dimensional griot on a meta-fiction journey of our many Black futures through art. Unfortunately that was not to be. The story I wanted to tell and the pictures I wanted to use would have demanded a budget to rival that of a Marvel MCU tent poler. So we returned to the purity of the written word. That gave me an excuse to move this topic to the top of my to-do list.
For a while now, I've taken to seeing religion, at its core, as a kind of performative art. An expression of belief interpreted for endless audiences. It is lived in, sacrificed to, ingested, regurgitated, and coded in ways that escape casual description, easy moral pigeonholing, and demand critique. In other words, religion is pure human. It is an art that is as fundamental as gravity to so many communities. I thought solarpunk would be more beautiful and functional for integrating these perspectives into its many variable visions of the future. This essay was a direct appeal to creatives: consider the spiritual aspects of being in the near future.
I hope you enjoy it.
The essay can be found here: Promised Land: Religious Ideology and Solarpunk Science Fiction. Please, consider subscribing to the New Modality. There is SO much more where this came from.
Going to keep this short, because I have stories to write and a podcast to produce. I just wanted to put this picture in perspective. Blue Marvel was created by Kevin Grevioux (co-creator of and the Black werewolf in Underworld). Though flying brick power sets have a lot of overlap with Superman, Blue Marvel is not his copy. His story is completely different, closer to Reed Richards if one was to make any comparisons. And yet he is his own hero without the privileges that come along with being white and Marvel's first family. He is not based on a character of Black American or African myth. He is a man of science, a soldier, and his heroic pre and post powered life parallels Black American history. He is a symbol of what was lost and what there is to be discovered and re-imagined.
This drawing of Blue Marvel knocking the goddamn cake out of Ultimates Hulk, white rage personified. It took my breath away and not just because of the mind bending art of Kenneth Rocafort. This pic represents so much. The ludicrous aspect of Hulk's power is that he is a rage monster so out of control that the human Banner side of him, the one who knows better, checks out. He literally blackouts. And that's when he's at his most heroic. Somehow this unrestrained, unstoppable monster gets to be the protagonist of his own book. Somehow, the Earth 616 version has miraculously/magically never killed or maimed anybody who didn't deserve it. The collateral damage over the decades is barely an afterthought in the comics and is rationalized by Amadeus Cho (super genius, Hulk super-fan, and now a hulk himself) to be almost non-existent in the World War Hulk storyline. But then, there's the original Ultimates Hulk who actually ate people and is a much more accurate depiction (though still counted as a hero) of white rage on tap. So when I saw this panel in Ultimates 100, my jaw dropped. Here was the Mr. Black Man bending steel under his feet to put down half naked, murderous, White Rage. Seemingly without breaking a sweat or raising his voice. The New Ultimates (2015) team was wonderful for so many reasons (much respect to Al Ewing), and this single panel will stick with me until the dementia takes my marbles and goes home.
And the finale: Part 2 of my essay is live on Tor.com. I've more to say on this. The process of writing. The research. What was left out. Why Trump + the internet can ruin almost anything. And next steps. I am not a leader in either movement, but I know what I want to see written. I know what I want see growing in the imaginary worlds that dictate our real one.
I'll do what I can to help. Not just because I have a daughter. Not just because I'm called to make art. I'll help as much as I can, because to do less seems...inhumane. The planet will live on even if we don't make it to it's final swan song into the sun. The universe will not miss us when we're gone. But wouldn't it be the saddest thing to have left this place and not to have done our very best to find each other? https://www.tor.com/2019/10/30/in-search-of-afro-solarpunk-part-2-social-justice-is-survival-technology/
This is a good week.
Made up for last year's botched Halloween costume debacle for my daughter. Celebrated my wedding anniversary with my wife and good friends at Momofuku Ssama. Last but not least, the first part of my essay on solarpunk + Afrofuturism fusion went live at Tor.com. These will be my first professional sales of non-fiction. Won't be the last. Part 2 comes out tomorrow. Now, back to that damn novel.
I've been an avid Dungeons & Dragons player since the sixth grade. Even wrote my own grimoire in 9th that included age appropriate spells like Great Balls of Fire, which the caster could use to attack their opponent with twin fireballs that homed in on their opponent's...well, never mind. The point is I'm OG. One key world and character building component of D&D was the distinction between clerics who received their power from their deity, and wizards who achieved it through years of study in the mystical arts. In Burkina Faso however, like much of Africa, that's a line so smudged and smeared as to be functionally nonexistent. A whole lot of multi-classing going on. Also, and more to the point, magic on The Continent is not a game.
I've come to Burkina Faso during the rainy season. Torrential storms sucker punch you all summer. Though everybody has smart phones, the weather reports is similar in many respects to a bad joke, like Rush Limbaugh caught in a Florida hurricane flood; either they're laughed at, or ignored. Yet, here we are forty minutes outside the capital-Ade, her father, the Big Monster, and I- and somehow not sitting under a tarp while we wait for Chief Titinga to start the ceremony anointing a new village chieftain.
Burkina Faso politics are a tangle very much worth unraveling. We'll tease apart one such knot to put this ceremony into context. When West Africa was colonized, the Europeans-in this case the French-would often choose indirect rule over direct rule to cut down on the number of rebellions and the cost of occupation. To that end, they would choose (or more accurately, create) "strong men" within majority ethnic groups to determine the workaday fates of the African colony. Post independence, much of the indigenous, consolidated power structure remains intact, though changed by the inevitable post-occupation throne games.
So while there is a democratically elected president of the country, there is also a king of the Mossi people who make up at least 51% of the population. Modern day Burkina Faso doesn't function without dealing with King Mogho Naba Baongo II. The king in turn chooses chiefs, similar to bishops, responsible for administering large swaths of the country. They will often install village-level chiefs. We were there to witness the replacement of the deceased village chieftain of one of the most powerful villages in the area.
"What kind of power?" you might ask.
Theirs was the power to control the weather.
More next week.
On my first day and a night in Burkina Faso, the birth place of my partner Adé, we witnessed a lunar ellipse. I can't speak to the eclipse's meaning elsewhere in the world beyond our goat-haunted neighborhood, but right then, in the heart Ouagadougou, the eclipse heralded joy and drums. Homemade or homefound drums made from tin, plastic, wood, and calloused palms; struck by sticks, rocks, swinging legs, smacking hands, stomping feet, baby rattles, the femur of a goat. Thundering hearts on beating chests.
The kids came out from the dark like little bits torn free from its edges, animated with flashing grins and eyes in the island of yellow light created by the street lamps over the sky-blue door to Ade's family compound. You heard them before you saw them, an army gone hunting for the great cat that eats moons.
They seek to drive it out.
Youūng yonk kiougou, bassa ta loogé!
They dare to drive it off and demand it let her go.
Bassignè ta toudga sooré!
Even when the moon reappears, the children don't stop playing. There's really no telling when or if the hungry cat will come back. It's best to be thorough. Finally, one child-the girl on the right, I think-decides she must be the leader. The others follow her deeper into the night, chasing the cat back through his hole under the fence. From there, who knows where the wild hunt will take them. But we can hear the drums long after our camera has stopped recording. This is Adé's homecoming.
My love hasn't been back in her country for over four years, and then it was only for a week (the last eclipse she witnessed here was almost seventeen years ago). I suspect this trip is hitting her a thousand different ways. Or maybe hit is the wrong word, too violent.
Enveloping. Feeding. Nourishing.
For me, it was also a kind of a homecoming, but in the African-American-returning-to-the-motherland fable kind of way. It was fabulous, fantastic even, but in a way more in line with the speculative uses of those words. A narrative of suspended belief the meanings of which are still distant: about 400 years deep and 4,800 miles wide. Writing this blog is a way to help me process the experience. I'll make it mine by sharing it with you.
I have the pleasure of moderating a panel on Afrofuturism at Readercon with guests Terrence Taylor/@vamptestaments, Romie Stott/ http://romiesays.tumblr.com, Phenderson D. Clark / @pdjeliclark , and Readercon guest of honor Nisi Shawl/ @NisiShawl.
Phenderson and Terrence are old friends, and hopefully Nisi and Romie will become new ones.
In this post, I've attached a very brief background document for those who plan to attend but are a little hazy on exactly what Afrofuturism is all about. The document includes a link to Mark Dery's term-coining essay as well as a quote from Ytasha L. Womack's book on the subject, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. Also included is a reading list of authors currently working in the genre compiled by Milton Davis. Author Troy L. Wiggins (@Troylwiggins) has graciously sent me another reading list. Troy's includes both contemporary fiction as well as nonfiction texts. Finally, there is a Nisi Shawl's book review of Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber.
You have your homework. It is my hope that this will make your experience at the panel more enjoyable and help focus any comments or questions you may have. The panel will be on 7/13/18 at 7:00 p.m. in Salon 6.
You can find me @cprwords on Twitter.
P.S. For those who have more time, I've attached another PDF. Ground breaking essays in the journal Social Text on AfroFuturism
Today, I can proudly proclaim that I am now represented by Barry Goldblatt. This feeling
that I am most definitely feeling can only be expressed by multiple interpretive dance gifs.
Take it away, y'all!