Thief Hunters of Samarind

Thief Hunters of Samarind

by Kathleen McClure and K. Ceres Wright

Part 1

Samarind, Elas

How had it all gone so wrong?

Jumping through the—thankfully open—window of the pub and away from the cursing, stinking, ale-drenched guards within, Niko scoured his memories of the past hours, seeking any clue as to how a day begun so propitiously had so quickly turned to—

Shattered pottery, a right stack of it, cut into his thoughts as well as his shoulder, adding the sharp tang of blood to the hoppy ale and sweat stink from within.

Still and all, he’d seen far worse in battle so he shook his head, rolled to his feet and noted, with some self-recrimination, the rug merchant’s stall he’d expected to land in was set up the next window over.

Another tick on the day’s ‘gone horribly wrong’ ledger.

“You!” the potter stared at the ruins, then at Niko, “You—”

“Apologies.” Niko replied with a quick smile and a half bow, shedding shards of crockery from a frame both tall and lean.

Since the merchant was both female and inclined to men and Niko—dark of hair and eye with olive skin and an intriguing scar on his chin—was something of a gift to such women, her angry cry died mid-breath and became instead a sigh. “No trouble,” she began but alas, found herself speaking to the charming interloper’s back, as he was already threading his way through the crowded market, reminding himself to have some coins delivered to the merchant as soon as he received his share of the day’s take.

Assuming he was free—and alive—to receive a share of the day’s take. The scent of midarif, mingled with cezaran, caught an updraft from among the spice merchants setting up tents along the midway. Niko inhaled deeply, wondering if it would soon be his last breath of freedom.

#

The potter was still gazing longingly after Niko when a half-dozen Crescent Guards of the Royal Constabulary came piling out the pub’s door with a woman, as comely as the man who’d fled, held between two of that unfortunate number.

The first who’d strode out, a burly fellow dripping head to toe with ale, glared over the frenetic movement that was the market. “Which way did he go?”

“Follow the stricken gazes.” Captain Idrissa Rynin stepped around the hoppy guard and her dark eyes fell upon the potter who was still looking, yes, quite dazed. She then glanced at the blonde being held by two other guards, both sporting several contusions, courtesy of the missing Niko. “How does he do it?”

“It’s called charm,” the blonde said dryly. She gave the captain’s company a scathing once over. “I’m not surprised you don’t recognize it.”

Idrissa managed a small smile as her men glowered. “Take her to the market square.”

“You think to find him there?” the sergeant, he of the dripping beard, asked.

Idrissa’s smile became something much less friendly. “I think to get his attention there.”

#

Niko, for his part, had taken shelter atop the traveling players’ caravan (Kah bless market days) and, hunkered amidst the props and crates of costumes, he listened for any progress of the Guards’ search. Not an easy task, as the players’ stage was not only close to the busy hub of the market place, it was set before the blacksmith and the horse auction, forcing everyone in the vicinity to compete with the rhythmic clang of the blacksmith’s hammer, the whinnying of horses up for auction, and a pitchy rendition of Jora’s Lament, currently being performed on the stage below him.

Far from the perfect hideaway, but at least it allowed him to take stock of the situation without accidentally leaping into a firecat cage or tripping over a spice merchant’s porash bin, both unfortunate experiences already having been added to the ledger of horribly wrong since his earlier defenestration.

So while he continued to bleed from the pottery and firecat incidents, respectively, and his nose itched to sneeze away the lingering spice and his ears rebelled against the notes the soprano on stage was discovering, he ran through the events leading up to his current situation.

He and his partner, Daria, had arrived separately in the coastal city of Samarind. As agreed, they met in the market pub which was, predictably, crammed full of visiting merchants, soldiers from the nearby fort, and locals seeking a respite from the tumult outside.

For a time, all had gone as planned. Niko had begun with the Drunken Trip, followed up with the Tipsy Threat, which would lead to the Overconfident Challenge which, most days, incited the First Punch. From there it was simply a matter of guiding the domino effect of fists into the full-scale brawl, which would keep everyone in the pub distracted from Daria as she removed the purses from a selection of previously identified (which was to say, loaded) marks.

It was a simple scam, made simpler by the crowds of market days, and had worked well for them in Kisk, Trelus, and Oster-by-the-Sea.

But not today. Not in Samarind.

Because today, in Samarind, just as he’d reached the Overconfident Challenge, a good third of the pub’s customers threw off their assorted robes and cloaks to reveal the distinctive leather-embossed armor of the Emperor’s Crescent Guard.

Niko still wasn’t certain the crossbow bolt that had thunked into the pillar at his side had been a warning, an accident, or a near-miss, nor had he been inclined to stick around and find out.

Now here he was, hidden between a trunk of moldering canvas palm trees and a barrel of juggling clubs, wondering how Daria fared, where the guards were, and most of all, how they’d managed to track him to Samarind in the first place.

Then he wondered something else.

He wondered why the pitchy soprano was no longer butchering Jora’s Lament. Nor, now he was noticing, was the auctioneer pressing for a higher bid on the latest nag, and he could no longer hear the repetitive clang, clang of the blacksmith’s hammer.
Which, he supposed, meant—

“Niko Ingarrion!”

— they’d found him.

He closed his eyes, weighing the options. He truly did not want any blood to be shed (especially not his own), but he also had no intention of allowing himself to be taken. Reluctantly, he reached for his sword.

“Ingarrion! We have your partner!”

His hand froze on the hilt. Daria? Had they harmed her?

“Niko!” he heard her call. “Don’t listen to them—”

Even at a distance, he knew the sound of a fist striking flesh. By the time her short cry followed, Niko was on his feet. From his position atop the caravan, he could see the square, emptied but for three people.

There was Daria, her head bowed, golden hair covering her face, in the hands of the bearded brute who’d taken the first ale-bomb back in the pub. Next to them was a slim, terracotta-skinned woman he took to be their captain. She wore shoulder-length black hair without adornment or head gear. Odd for a captain of the Guard, he thought, then he also noted not a one of the three were looking up.

Did that mean they hadn’t seen him? And if they hadn’t seen him, could he make it out of this?

Possibly, but only if he were willing to leave Daria…

“You’ll let her go,” he said aloud and, even as the trio turned his way, he could see no less than four Guardsmen rising from the rooftops surrounding the square, their crossbows aimed his way.

Niko didn’t know if he felt better or worse, knowing there really hadn’t been a way out.

“I won’t fight,” he said, holding his hands out to his sides, “but you must release her.”

“Come down and we’ll talk about that,” the captain said.

The bearded brute twisted Daria’s arm and she let out a cry of distress.

“I’m coming,” Niko said quickly. He looked at the nearest bowman. “I’d be obliged if no one shot me.”

The captain gave a slight gesture and the guards removed fingers from triggers.

Not quite the Concordia Delian, but he’d have to take it.

With both hands held carefully to his side, he leapt down to the stage, taking the shock of the landing with the ease of long habit. He kept his arms carefully open as he strode down to the dusty pavement of the square and until he was facing the captain who, for her part, simply looked expectant.

Niko swore softly and drew his sword, reversed it and handed it, hilt first, to the waiting officer, who took it with a cordial half-bow, though she never took her eyes off of him. Not even when another guard appeared to place Niko in irons.

“Let her go,” he said. He didn’t resist when the shackles were clamped around his wrists. He was focused on Daria, whose head was still bowed. Knowing his fellow thief as he did, he could only imagine what sort of damage she must have suffered before these armored bastards captured her.

The captain gestured a third time and the brute released Niko’s partner in crime — and handed her a purse.

What? “Daria, what is this?”

“Oh, Niko.” She raised her head to show not a trace of abuse. “Do I really have to explain?”

“Yes,” he said, holding up wrists sporting the latest in metal-wear, “I rather think you do.”

“We made your friend an offer,” the captain told him. She stepped in to face him as a second guard joined the first to flank Niko. “One she found difficult to refuse.”

Niko looked at Daria, who shrugged.

“But,” he shook his head, still somehow in denial, “we’re partners!”

“Temporary collaborators, at best,” Daria said. She tucked the purse, which Niko had to confess was quite sizable, into her cloak.

Still… “What about honor among thieves?”

“Niko, Niko, Niko.” She shook her head sadly. “This is honor among thieves. Something you’d understand if you truly were a thief.”

And here he winced, but none of the Guard seemed to take note of the comment.

“If it helps,” Daria said, “I kept you much longer than most of my part—collaborators,” she corrected herself.

“Oddly, no, that doesn’t help.”

At that, she laughed. “Oh, but I will miss you, handsome Niko with the dark, dark eyes.”

She started toward him, but the captain cleared her throat in clear warning, so the thief shrugged again and settled for blowing him a kiss. “When you curse me, and you will,” Daria said with a knowing smile, “be creative.”

Then she turned and walked away.

At which point, he did indeed begin to curse her. But because she’d asked, and he a gentleman, he did so with profound and multilingual creativity.

Diversity, Fantasy, Fiction, Sword and Sorcery, Sword and Soul

Get Ready, CyberFunkateers!

TheCityCover

I’ve been a fan of cyberpunk since I first discovered it in 2003. Yeah, I was 20 years behind the times, but I didn’t care. I felt a new generation needed to know all about it, so I wrote a cyberpunk book, Cog. But I prefer the short story medium, and searched for a place that would welcome a cyberpunk story with Black characters.

Knowledge Lateef

Over the course of several years on Facebook, I’ve gathered 1,000+ friends, one of whom was Milton Davis. From the ATL. He was self-publishing African-themed books and anthologies on sword and soul and steampunk. Then one day, an idea came to him about a city where no one could leave. He posted his idea on Facebook in the State of Black Science Fiction, and a bunch of writers ran with it, posting snippets of stories in the thread, and linking characters, generating ideas. Then someone said we needed to publish an anthology of all the stories. Balogun Ojetade wrote the manifesto. An artist came along by the name of Natiq Jalil, and said he would illustrate it. A music aficionado named Otis Galloway volunteered to write sound tracks. And a multimedia, multisensory book of stories was born. The City. Cyberfunk.

NEON GHOST RADIO: Sentient Rhythms by Djo2is Aka Mr. Thoughtcrime on Mixcloud

What is The City?

The City began as a sentient organism living inside a large asteroid. For thousands of years, the organism used the asteroid’s gravity to intercept ships from various planets and galaxies, assimilating the crew and wiping their memories, and giving them new jobs, families, and experiences. No one knows why. It just does. The organism used the assimilated information to build The City and its environment. The first beings to be captured were crew on a Nigerian space vessel. Nigeria was the first to achieve intergalactic travel during the Great Race by the major countries of the planet Earth to be the first to venture outside of the Milky Way.

CityInteriorArt

And if you want to know more about Knowledge Lateef, Street Preacher; the Ooze; and the Tell, you’re going to have to read the book. It’s available on Amazon: http://ow.ly/SDUXc

CityInteriorArt2

We are the writers, and we call ourselves the Cityzens:

Jeff Carroll
Gerald Coleman
Milton Davis
Ray Dean
Malon Edwards
Ashtyn Foster
Otis Galloway
Keith Gaston
Chanel Harry
Natiq Jalil
Valjeanne Jeffers
Alan Jones
Brandee Laird
Kai Leakes
Edison Moody
B. Sharise Moore
Howard Night
Balogun Ojetade
Ced Pharoah
And Yours Truly, K. Ceres Wright

Afrofuturism, Cyberfunk, Cyberpunk, Diversity, Ebooks, Fiction, Music, Publishing, Reading, Science Fiction, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cog is a Film Star!

29DaysLater

My book, Cog, and I appeared (for about 3 seconds) in a film made for the 29 Days Later Project. The film will screen on Friday, September 11, at 7:30 in Baltimore at the Creative Alliance: http://29dayslater.com/

Fiction, Film

TOC of Anthology: The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom

Here is the TOC for the anthology I’ll have a story in:

The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom

11 May 2015

Edited by Joanne Merriam, The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom is an anthology of science fiction featuring blunt force trauma, explosions, adventure, derring-do, tigers, Martians, zombies, fanged monsters, dinosaurs (alien and domestic), ray guns, rocket ships, and anthropomorphized marshmallows.
ISBN 978-1-937794-47-7 (print) is forthcoming in spring 2016.
ISBN 978-1-937794-58-3 (mobi) is forthcoming in spring 2016.
ISBN 978-1-937794-59-0 (epub) is forthcoming in spring 2016.

Table of Contents:

Khadija Anderson, “Observational Couplets upon returning to Los Angeles from Outer Space”
Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, “Photograph of a Secret”
Kristin Bock, “I Wish I Could Write a Poem about Pole-Vaulting Robots”
Alicia Cole, “Asteroid Orphan”
Jim Comer, “Soldier’s Coat”
James Dorr, “Bubba Claus Conquers the Martians”
Aidan Doyle, “Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost”
Tom Doyle, “Crossing Borders”
Estíbaliz Espinosa, “Dissidence” (translated by Neil Anderson)
Kendra Fortmeyer, “Squaline”
Miriam Bird Greenberg, “Brazilian Telephone”
Benjamin Grossberg, “The Space Traveler and Runaway Stars”
Julie Bloss Kelsey, two scifaiku
Nick Kocz, “The Last American Tiger”
David Kopaska-Merkel, “Captain Marshmallow”
Ken Liu, “Nova Verba, Mundus Novus”
Kelly Luce, “Ideal Head of a Woman”
Tim Major, “Read/Write Head”
Katie Manning, “Baba Yaga’s Answer”
Laurent McAllister, “Kapuzine and the Wolf: A Hortatory Tale”
Martha McCollough, “valley of the talking dolls” and “adventures of cartoon bee”
Marc McKee, “A Moment in Fill-In-The-Blank City”
Sequoia Nagamatsu, “Headwater LLC”
Jerry Oltion, “A Star Is Born”
Richard King Perkins II, “The Sleeper’s Requiem”
Ursula Pflug, “Airport Shoes”
Leonard Richardson, “Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs”
Erica L. Satifka, “Thirty-Six Questions Propounded by the Human-Powered Plasma Bomb in the Moments Before Her Imminent Detonation”
G. A. Semones, “Never Forget Some Things”
Matthew Sanborn Smith, “The Empire State Building Strikes Back!”
Christina Sng, “Medusa in LA”
J. J. Steinfeld, “The Loudest Sound Imaginable”
Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, “The Wanderers”
Lucy Sussex, “A Sentimental, Sordid Education”
Sonya Taaffe, “And Black Unfathomable Lakes”
Mary Turzillo, “Pride”
Deborah Walker, “Sea Monkey Mermaid”
Nick Wood, “The Girl Who Called the World”
K. Ceres Wright, “The Haunting of M117”
Ali Znaidi, “A Dolphin Scene” and “Australian Horoscope”

Uncategorized

Baltimore Book Festival

BBFBanner

I’ll be appearing at the Baltimore Book Festival on two panels:

Future: Charming? Baltimore City as a template for futurism
DATE: September 26, 2015
TIME: 4PM-5PM
LOCATION:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

What does Baltimore look like in the future? SFWA Guest of Honor Tobias Buckell and a panel of writers, futurists and social designers discuss Charm City’s future through the lens of the engineer, the writer, and the activist. Panel led by Jason Harris (“Redlines: Baltimore 2028”).

Panelists: Anatoly Belilovsky, Tobias S. Buckell, Jason Harris, Nia Johnson, K Ceres Wright

Earl Grey, Hot: Future Food, Fantastical Food
DATE: September 26, 2015
TIME: 5PM-6PM
LOCATION:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

From food pills to food printers to the latest in Elven lembas bread, our experts will whet your appetite for fictional food.

Panelists: Diana Peterfreund, Cat Rambo, Lawrence M. Schoen, Bud Sparhawk, Fran Wilde, K Ceres Wright Signing Table: Cinda Williams Chima

Conventions, Diversity, Futurism, Science Fiction, Uncategorized

Confluence SF Convention

I attended Confluence in Pittsburgh/Cranberry, PA, last month. Here’s a pic from a panel I was on, “Not Just Anglos,” and a picture with Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson of Dog Star Books/Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Confluence

Confluence2

Conventions, Diversity, Science Fiction, Writing ,

StarShipSofa Interview

Link to interview:

http://www.starshipsofa.com/blog/2013/09/11/starshipsofa-no-304-m-bennardo/

Cyberpunk, Diversity, Fiction, Futurism, Publishing, Reading, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Guest Blog Post by Liz Coley: Just a Thriller—No Mere Mortal Can Resist

    Liz Coley has a new YA thriller out titled, “Unleashed.” She asked me if she could guest blog. Heck yeah! So here is her exciting post about why she writes thrillers.

I’m just back from the Southern Kentucky Book Fest, where as an author, I sat on two “thriller” panels, where we debated, “Why do people like thrillers so much?”

One of the offered answers was that we chase an adrenalin rush of fear—people love to feel scared. As the other panelists talked about their love of horror movies and novels, I realized that wasn’t the case for me. If The Shining comes on the TV, I have to leave the room.

Another potential answer was that thrillers are a “worst case scenario survival handbook” for our minds, a vicarious way of planning for awful things that will never happen to us. Thriller writers are worriers with active imaginations, maybe even phobias, that they play out on the page like a therapeutic exercise. I have yet to write a runaway car scene, or a trapped in a sinking car scene, but those are recurring nightmares/worries for me. Still—I haven’t taken them to the page, maybe because they are too close for comfort.

Another suggested answer was almost the opposite—that thrillers are a great escape from day to day realities, a way of taking our minds on an adventure and leaving our bodies safely at home. In my writing, I suspect I’m the third kind of person. My heroes and heroines face odds and have adventures that I’m not up to in the flesh, but I can ride their story while I am writing it. For me, that is thrilling.

I think there’s a morsel of truth in each explanation, depending on the reader, depending on the writer.

My new heroine Tor Maddox is much taller, cooler, mouthier, and braver than I am. Here’s a sneak peek excerpt from her first book, Unleashed.

TorMaddox

    The black car lurked at the curb again, right in front of my house. Surveilling.

    Two Men in Black got out. No, I’m not kidding—they were really men in black. Black suits. Impenetrable black glasses. Big black bulges under their black jackets. They walked to the front door and rang the bell. Surprising. I had expected them to kick it down. I froze behind the door, peering through the peephole. They rang again. One of them dragged his hands through his thinning hair. The other one gave a visible sigh. He leaned his face right up to the peephole so that it became huge and distorted. He backed off and pointed at the hole. Spit. He knew I was watching. He reached into his coat, and I closed my eyes tight. I braced myself. I took a final breath. This was the perfect end to a miserable day. I prepared myself to die.

    Yet I still had so many unanswered questions. Was there an afterlife? Would I meet God? What would my parents think? How would bullets feel drilling into me after they used up their energy penetrating a door. Would it be over quickly? What was taking so long?

    What was taking so damned long?

    I exhaled, opened my eyes, and peered out again. One of the men was holding up an embossed gold badge to the peephole, too distorted to read. The other one knocked twice.

    Fine. I opened the door. “You can’t come in,” I said firmly. “My parents aren’t home.”

    The guy with the badge folded it away into his coat and extended his hand. “Ms. Maddox? I’m Agent Turner. This is my partner.”

    “I’m Solly,” his partner said.

    “Seriously? You’re sorry? I’m sorry I ever got up this morning. What do you want?”

    The agent muttered back “I didn’t say I was sorry.”

    “Well, you ought to be,” I said. “Scaring the spit out of a teenage girl. Harassing and following me. Breaking into my house.”

    “We’re not in your house,” Agent Turner pointed out.

    “Right,” I said. “And stay out.” I slammed the door, barely missing the hand he was still holding out to me. I put my eye to the peephole.

    Solly ran his hands through his hair again. If he did that all the time, no wonder it was thinning. Turner rang the bell.

    I opened the door four inches. “What?”

    A well-shined shoe slid into the opening. “Ms. Maddox,” Turner said through the gap. “We really don’t mean to alarm you. You’re not in trouble. We just need to ask you a couple of questions.”

    Great. I’d given him a literal foot in the door. If I slammed it now, I’d be assaulting a Federal Agent. Most likely.

    I opened to slightly more than a B-width shoe to size them up. “Are you guys Federal Agents?” I asked, just to be clear on my risk here.

    “Yes, ma’am,” Solly said.

    “What’s the penalty for assaulting you?”

    A slow smile spread across Turner’s face.

    That made me mad. Totally mad. So mad I flung open the door, reached down deep, and found my dormant rough, tough, screaming, kicking chick and woke her up. “Heeeeey yaaaah!” I yelled as I dropped into a back stance, ready to let loose with a powerful side kick.

    Solly stepped forward, in front of Turner. “Now sweetheart, don’t be—”

    “Sweetheart? I’m not your sweetheart, you balding male chauvinist swine!” My foot flew up as if it had a mind of its own, planted one dirty sneaker in the middle of Solly’s chest, and sent him sprawling across the sidewalk. He rolled and came up in a crouch, a menacing black gun pointed straight at me. I lunged forward, ready to deliver a breaking kick to his gun hand and felt myself pulled back abruptly. Turner had my arms twisted behind me in a full Nelson, and I couldn’t get a leg into position to break his knees.

    “Calm down, Ms. Maddox,” he said with a soft, silky voice in my right ear while I struggled helplessly. His breath smelled like peppermint. “In answer to your prior question, right now, you’re looking at under a year. But if you do serious harm to my partner there, we’re talking ten to thirty.”

    I glared at Solly. He stood and holstered his gun. He smoothed down his coat and raised his hands to his head. I just couldn’t help myself. “Stop it,” I yelled. “You’re pulling all your hair out with that stupid habit.”

    Turner shrugged. “She’s right, you know. Now, young lady. Let’s take this off the street and inside where we can have a quiet, civilized chat.” He relaxed his grip and set me loose.

    “I know how you guys do this. I have your number. I watch TV. Are you supposed to be the good cop? You know the good cop doesn’t wrench the victim’s shoulders out of their sockets.” I rubbed my shoulders for good measure.

    “I’m sorry,” Turner said.

    “I thought he was Solly,” I said, recovering my wittitude. “Okay. You can come in and wait. But I’m not saying anything till my parents get home. I’m a minor.”

    “You may be a minor, but you’re a major pain,” Solly grumped.

    “Ha, ha. Wait till your boss finds out you pulled a gun on a fifteen-year-old girl.”

    “Aw, crap. Fifteen? Really?” Solly rubbed the sore spot on his chest.

    Turner chuckled quietly, a nice laugh. He let me go and patted me on the shoulder. “Hey. Sorry about your shoulders. I didn’t want you leaping down the barrel of Solly’s gun. It might have gone off, and then where would we be?”

    Where indeed? I’d be lying in a pool of my own blood and Turner would be trying to revive me and then my parents would come home. Dad would see this stranger with his face all over me and then he’d go all Rambo on him. Awful. Time to step it down a notch.

    “Fine. Apology sort of accepted,” I said. “But the door stays open.”

    So these two Federal Agents followed me into the kitchen and sat down at our table. Where I eat breakfast. Where I do my homework. Where I watch CNN. It was a bit surreal.

    We stared at each other. I broke first. “You guys want coffee?”

Ebooks, Fiction, Thriller, Uncategorized, Writing

Blog Hop: The Liebster Award OR Ten Questions on my Work in Progress (WIP)

Michael Mehalek of Writing is Tricky tagged me in a ten-question blog hop called the Liebster award. So here goes…

1. Where did the idea for your current Work-in-Progress (WIP) come from?

I had seen several news stories about China investing in Africa and did some further research. I discovered that the Guangzhou area of China was known as Chocolate City because of all the African businessmen that had come there for import/export opportunities. Many had married Chinese women to help them in their business, and I wondered what China would be like when these couples’ children grew up.

2. Quote a favorite line from one of your favorite books.

“Really bad media can exorcise your semiotic ghosts. If it keeps the saucer people off my back, it can keep these Art Deco futuroids off yours.” ~ William Gibson, The Gernsback Continuum (short story)

3. Now quote your favorite lines from your current WIP

The scent of stale Tsingtao and rancid urine forced Bo to crank open an eye in half-hearted reconnaissance. Iron-framed lanterns hanging overhead told him he had fallen asleep on the living room couch, confirmed by the twinge in his back caused by the second-hand temperfoam. Memories flitted across his mental landscape—a big project with a big percentage, hence the big party. Data display in his periphery blinked a 63.5 percent chance of getting back together with Mei, based upon last night’s conversations and pheromone output. A higher than usual chance, he thought. He winked off the display, anything beyond offstream proving to be information overload.

A hangover nagged at the edge of his consciousness, a feeling quite familiar. He rolled off the couch and onto his knees, letting the vague pain take center stage before clawing his way to vertical.

4. What unique challenges has your current WIP had that your previous ones did not?

Since the story takes place in China, I have to do a lot of research on the country. My last book took place in the Washington, D.C., area, where I’ve lived for the past 30 years. I’m also using more themes, which I have to try to figure out how to tie together.

5. If you saw your main character at a party, how would you react?

I would sit quietly in a corner and observe him, and see what I got right and what I got wrong.

6. Who would play your main protagonist/antagonist if your current WIP were made into a movie?

Bo would be played by Will Demps

will-demps-300x425

Hao would be played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Cary+Hiroyuki+Tagawa

Mei would be played by Amandla Stenberg (in a few years)

amandla-stenberg

7. What are your biggest inspirations for writing?

To inspire Black filmmakers to create visual media to reflect the diversity we see in the world today, which, in turn, will inspire the children of today to bring about a better tomorrow

8. Summarize your WIP as a haiku.

Guangzhou future days
Taiwan nuclear danger
Programmers save world

9. What role does music play in your writing?

Not that much. I can only listen to classical music when I’m writing, which doesn’t exactly evoke visions of the future, and I’m not good at predicting music trends, so I don’t know what popular music will sound like 65 years from now.

10. What’s one thing you’ve learned about the craft that you wish you had learned earlier?

I need deadlines to help me write, to give me a sense of urgency. Oh, and don’t use filtering. Here’s a great article on it: http://www.scribophile.com/academy/an-introduction-to-filtering

Now I get to tag some other writers and get them to answer 10 questions. I tag Milton Davis, Kai Leakes, and Balogun Ojetade.

1. Tell us about your work in progress (WIP)
2. How is your WIP different from your prior work?
3. How has writing changed your life?
4. What inspired you to start writing?
5. Who is your favorite character from all your works?
6. Do you like to write villains?
7. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve learned?
8. How have you grown as a writer?
9. What’s your favorite line from your WIP?
10. Do you like dragons?

Blogs, Character, Cyberpunk, Diversity, Fiction, Science Fiction, Writing , , , , , ,

Diversity in Fantasy

I attended the World Fantasy Convention during the weekend of November 7–9, 2014, and was honored to serve on the panel, “Everybody was There: Diversity in Fantasy.” I learned much from my esteemed fellow panelists: Sarah Pinsker (moderator), Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kit Reed, and S. M. Stirling. I didn’t get a chance to touch on everything I wanted to say, so I’ll include it in this post.

The issue looming over the convention was the World Fantasy Award and whether the board would decide to keep the caricature bust of H. P. Lovecraft or scrap it. Lovecraft made significant contributions to fantasy, but was also known for his racist views toward African Americans, Asians, Jews, and just about everyone who wasn’t White. But what do we owe Lovecraft and his literary contributions?

I think you have to assess a book by both past and current standards in order to see how societal views have changed over time, and ultimately, why societal views have changed. To me, it’s not owing the past anything or forgiving the past, it’s understanding how historical events have molded world views. It’s good to have a holistic overview of the era in which the book was written, rather than taking views out of context.

I think we acknowledge Lovecraft’s contribution to the fantasy genre, but we also recognize his flaws, as with any writer. It makes them more human in our eyes. However, we, in 2014, are not beholden to Lovecraft. If handing an award with his likeness to people makes them uncomfortable because of his racist views, then I think the award needs to be changed.

Change is the nature of our society. As far as fantasy is concerned, I think we’re starting to see more change in YA fantasy, because I think younger people are more willing to entertain change. They’re growing up in a more diverse culture and open to seeing that diversity reflected in their media. However, I think a major problem is that children are not usually taught history from the person of color’s point of view. I was grown before I knew about Alessandro de’Medici, the Duke of Florence; Saint Maurice of Switzerland; or Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. By the time kids are grown, they believe they know exactly what shaped Western culture, and when they find out that yes, Blacks and Asians and women and others besides white males also played prominent roles in history, it upsets their world view. And people are loathe to change. They don’t like it.

I think that diverse books will allow readers with different abilities, backgrounds, and cultures, to see themselves reflected in the books they read. And diverse authors may encourage them to aspire to become writers of diverse books themselves. I know some writers may be hesitant to write about other cultures for fear of offending someone, but if one intends to become a serious writer, one has to learn how to research other cultures and incorporate that knowledge, in some way, into one’s writing. For example, don’t assume that the same standards of beauty cut across all cultures. I have a cousin who’s 6’3” and model thin, and felt she was discriminated against in the Bahamas because she was not overweight. I watched a documentary of an African man who wanted his wife to weigh 200 pounds for their wedding, so she sat in a hut and drank goat’s milk for weeks.

The incorporation of research makes for richer prose. If you’re worried about offending someone of a particular group, get on the Internet and ask someone to read some of your work and offer advice. Read the works of other writers of color, or women, or those who are differently abled to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Also, read “Writing the Other” by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

I know it’s all about money in the world of publishing. But a recent Pew study showed that the most likely reader was a college-educated Black woman. I think there needs to be a paradigm shift across the industry, from the CEO, to the acquisitions editor, to the copy editor, to the book store owner. New audiences may require new marketing methods, but as I said before, change is the nature of our society.

One way to help bring about positive change surrounding diversity in fantasy is for editors of anthologies and magazines to solicit stories from diverse authors to let readers know about the existence of writers from different cultures and backgrounds. I think the traditional publishers aren’t taking risks as they would during flush economic times, so people looking for something different are starting to turn to small, independent, and self-publishers.

And if you want some recommendations, try Abengoni: First Calling, by Charles Saunders, who has been writing diverse fantasy since the seventies. There’s also the Constant Tower by Carole McDonnell, Changa’s Safari by Milton Davis, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective by Valjeanne Jeffers, Taurus Moon: Magic and Mayhem by D. K. Gaston, Ghosts of Koa by Colby R. Rice, Sacrifices by Alan D. Jones, the Scythe by Balogun Ojetade, Sineaters by Kai Leakes, the Seedbearing Prince by Davaun Sanders, and Neon Lights by Zig Zag Claybourne.

If you find a diverse book you like, call or write the publisher and let them know you appreciate their efforts, and tell them you’ll purchase more books like that.

As Barbara Deming once said, “The longer we listen to one another—with real attention—the more commonality we will find in all our lives.”

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