This is not a pejorative statement. I like science fiction. I write science fiction. But it is a truth that I think is unabstracted from the skin you inhabit, thus sometimes difficult to see unless you've had certain kinds of out of body experiences. Not the type of experience that comes from crystals or chanting, but the kind that comes from trauma, near death, narcotics, or a mind that refuses to shut down after the third day without sleep. Then, you are a satellite collecting data.
The American dream is science fiction because it looks forward to a place carved out of time and space and dense with the illusion of permanence. The American Dream is walled by a blinding white event horizon. But if you somehow make it inside the Dream, you are bound only by the strength of your desires, your own gravity, and you have the power to reshape yourself. Rearrange your being into something upon which histories of the old country bead and roll off into black and white photos and Polaroids of family members whose names you've been told but never committed to memory. This, like most things, is not good or bad, it just is; initially existing beyond judgement in the same way as an asteroid hurtling through space.
If you should be so lucky as to make it into the dream without tearing yourself to bits, you will find that community is certainly an option. It is not something required for survival, but if you've crossed over, social bonds are guided by only two principals: level up to your final form and be as white as possible. White is flexible as the mitten in the snow as all sundry of fauna squeeze in. British, French, Russian, Italian, Catholic, Protestant. You become milk in color, in language, in tastes, in accepted history, in hegemony. I said before that you must have an out of body experience to see my point, that the American Dream is white dependent...unless you're not white. Then it is painfully obvious.
So let's switch gears here. That was a lot of words, some of which were pretty. But my point was rather simple; it is harder for some than others to be American and benefit from it's promise. A simple idea, yet often under-analyzed. I was at panel discussion on Utopian concepts in science fiction this past weekend and one of the panelists held his name card up next to his face and declared, "This is white, I am not white, there is no such thing as race." This argument is an academic parachute and there are fewer of them than there are passengers on the crashing jet.
Whatever your ethnic background, if it comes in a caucasian package, you get to blend in to the mainstreamed American culture that was made with you in mind, and at the same time be more of yourself than you could otherwise. Your stories are the ones told, your language that is legitimized and declared "Good English" (by people who know fuck-all about language), your history that gets first person perspective. There is a very different narrative for those who come in a different package, and really it is all about the narrative, which, for many of them, often crosses genre boundaries, mixing sci-fi, fantasy, and quite a lot of horror.
I try to keep these posts short. To be continued.
If you're still reading, even if you don't agree, that means you're still listening. Feel free to comment, but don't be a dick.
In 2004, I was driving down I-90 from the University of Buffalo's Amherst campus to downtown Buffalo when everything went black. I don't remember it going black. I do remember that the part of my brain that was still aware that I was driving 65 miles per hour in the middle lane between two tractor trailers punched me in the heart with adrenaline. I woke up scared shitless, with a pounding headache, and searing pain in my chest from said adrenaline punch. That's when I realized I might have a problem.
A week later I checked myself into the Buffalo Sleep Medicine Center at 3 Gates Circle in Amherst for an all night sleep study. They placed 21 electrodes on my head, chest, and back then let me sleep for 15 minute intervals the entire night. It was as fun as it sounds. I still have the results.
Normal sleep latency at 7 minutes with normal sleep efficiency of 89.7%. Latency to REM sleep was mildly prolonged at 138 minutes. There were 11.7 arousals (WTF?) per hour, mostly associated with respiratory events (oh, okay). Baseline respiratory rate was 12 - 20 breaths per blah and REM sleep 10 - 18 in NREM sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea was blah blah blah index of 10.3. Events were relatively evenly distributed between REM and NREM sleep. blah, blah, blah between Supine and non blah position.
There's a pretty succinct website that gives the layman a good run-down of the symptoms. One that surprised me was the depression. It comes suddenly and with no explanation, even after particularly good days. Another is a kind of sensory overload. Those started in college (narcolepsy often presents symptoms late). Everything would be too loud and too bright, even my own thoughts. I'd lay on my bed as still as possible with my head beneath my pillow to muffle the world. Haven't had those in awhile.
Another symptom I didn't expect were the hallucinatory effects. I actually like those. I try to ride them like a wave; pen in hand, I wait for the swell. "America is drenched in its own sugary light. You're soaked in it. So, you may not realize we suffer from a kind of cultural diabetes. Which is why I think my tattoo confuses people." More on that later. But you get the point.
Why am I talking about this now? I think I am a writer. I write, therefore I think that "I" should come out from behind secrets. Or, at least make the attempt. Even in failing, the struggle is where the story is. Writers, who are artists, should try to see the world clearly, but through multiple lenses of experience, and be seen doing so. Telling your personal truth makes it easier to write universal truths; flames throwing shadows at the cave wall of beautiful and terrible things.
The Clockwork Phoenix 5 Launch Party will be live streaming here...http://livestream.com/thecommons/events/5083616
Also, I have an Amazon page. http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01DLZVI5G
Buy my stuff!
Just got another outstanding review that singled out my story along with Barbra Krashnoff's, Carlos Hernandez & C.S.E Cooney's, and Benjanun Sriduangkaew's stories from Clockwork Phoenix 5. And if you haven't heard it yet, another version of the story is playing on the Kaleidcoast, read by Jon Hoche.
Hope to see you guys at the New York Review of Science Fiction Clockwork Phoenix 5 launch party on April 5th at the Brooklyn Commons at 7. pm.
This blogging game is harder than I thought, but every once in a while, I get to pull a Stephen Curry. The reviews for Mike Allen's Clockwork Phoenix 5 Anthology, of which I'm a part, received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. So, already epic winning and I don't feel at all dirty for quoting Charlie Sheen.
But wait, there's more. Just so happened that the reviews for individual stories are starting to trickle in too, and guess who got a shout out! The full reviews can be found on Goodreads, Tangent, and the 365 Short Stories blog, but I clipped the ones about my story, Squeeze, and added them below. Reviews like this let me know I'm doing something right. The whole point of taking the time to craft a story is to touch the reader's heart.
On top of all that, I'll be joining Mike Allen and other NYC based contributors to Clockwork Phoenix to do a special reading for Jim Freund's, New York Review of Science Fiction on April 5th. I hope you all can make it. Come for the stories, stay for the hard cider.
I write because I need to. Because I don't have the time to be a painter, sculptor, photographer, and psychologist, so stories made of words will have to do. I write because I'm in love with words, even the ugly ones. I write because I'm black and stories are my heritage, my birthright, and they are what I'll pass on. I write because there are more forgotten poems and stories than there are stars, and I just want a handful. I write because I might be good at it, but I need to be sure. I write because sometimes I'm better on paper than in person. I write because even failure can be beautiful if its caught in just the right words. I write because entire worlds exist in between me and the page, doled out in black ink, and to them I am God. But this blogging game, it's the devil.