K. Ceres Wright

Balticon 53

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May 23, 2019

I’ll be appearing on a few panels, conducting an interview, and helping to host a meet-and-greet for the writers support group, Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction at Balticon 53. Here’s my schedule:

Black Femininity in Afrofuturism: Saturday, May 25, 11:00 a.m.

African American women have been early adopters of national and international initiatives, such as abolitionism, civil rights, women’s rights, space travel, and hip hop—from Maria W. Stewart’s anti-slavery and women’s rights speeches in the 1830s, to Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement in the 2000s. This panel will discuss the contributions of Black women to the progression of the underpinnings of Afrofuturism.

Representation vs. Tokenism: Saturday, May 25, Noon

There is a long tradition of including diversity for diversity’s sake without making it part of the story. What is the difference between shallow and real inclusion? Does it have to be integral to feel like it’s not tokenism? How does this play out in the far future, in the past, or in original worlds?

Cyberpunk Remastered: Saturday, May 25, 2:00 p.m.

With Netflix’s adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Pat Cadigan’s adaptation of the manga-turned-Hollywood-movie Alita: Battle Angel, cyberpunk is alive and well after having first been declared dead in the 90s. Elements of cyberpunk have been subsumed into pop culture and can be found everywhere now—movies, music videos, video games, and more. How have the older tropes evolved in the last few years and how do we expect to see them incorporated in future works?

Muse on This Podcast with Sue Baiman: Saturday, May 25, 4:00 p.m.

Muse On This is a podcast focusing on interviews with creative people, and their inspirations and thought processes. Sue Baiman asks the questions to find out what makes the creativity flow. Featuring author K. Ceres Wright.

Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction Meet-and-Greet, Saturday, May 25, 5:00 p.m.

Come out and meet the members of Diverse Writers And Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF). Food, fun, and giveaways! There will also be a free screening of the award-winning short film, Rumination. The writer/director will be on hand to answer questions.

Story Excerpt: Leaving Seadover

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May 23, 2019

London–Paris Archipelago

December 10, 2065

Rayne Lyncott strolled down the walkway overpass that ran the length of the London–Paris Archipelago, just outside of Seadover. A few joggers shared the overpass, who, upon spying the police badge hanging from her waist, moved to the other side and gave her ample leeway. Rayne was waiting on the forensics team to record a crime scene and render the hologram, but given the circumstances surrounding the deceased, she had expected it to take longer than usual.

A cold breeze swept off the English Channel, blowing her dreadlocks into her eyes and carrying the saltwater mist that tended to settle into everything it touched. The air smelled of brine and weighty anticipation. She tapped her sleeve to turn up the temperature on her long johns and called up the time. It blinked 9:35 in her periphery, overlaying the view of a construction crane in the distance.

Newly formed and renovated towns served as islands between the LPA anchor cities. Five Ashes, south of London, was a hotbed for crypto merchants, both legal and illegal. Sigy-en-Bray, northwest of Paris, served as a virtual playground for the tech-heads and databorgs yearning for erotic historical adventures, such as a romp in the hay with Marie Antoinette, or a private session with the Marquis de Sade. Seadover, however, was a different matter. It was a high-rent district catering to the well-heeled who wanted a waterfront view and freshly cloned seafood. The small town stood on the British side of the bridge between Bexhill-on-Sea in England and Dieppe in France, and served as an experimental high-tech answer to climate change and rising seas——an aquaculture community. Its homes and small business district were built on floating platforms with sheathed pilings that allowed it to glide up and down in response to water levels. On a stormy day, the entire town would bob up and down slightly from the choppy waters. It was said that living there made one acquire Seadover legs. And every time Rayne heard that joke, she groaned in her soul.

Rayne’s holocaster chimed and she tapped her temple to answer. A transparent image of her boss, Detective Superintendent Kay Winslow, appeared before her. Winslow was seated behind her desk in an office littered with boxes of paper files she hadn’t yet digitized, sipping on a mug of something. Rayne guessed it was a hot toddy, compliments of the whiskey bottle she kept in her desk. Her alcoholism was an open secret; silence was rewarded with a Christmas bonus.

“Superintendent,” Rayne said.

“How’s it going so far?”

“I finished the initial walk-through. Detective Sergeant Jones was already here as responding officer. He had called Bexhill and by the time I arrived, he had sent in the drone and was securing the area.” In fact, Jones’ voice had sounded strained on the caster when he called Bexhill, as if he’d been rattled by what he saw, and Rayne had wondered what could cause a regular purveyor of crime scenes to have such a reaction.

“What’s the status?”

“I’m waiting on forensics. Someone cut off the deceased’s leg. A right bloody mess,” Rayne said.

The superintendent frowned, which was a bad sign. It meant extra work. “It’s Seadover, so we need this solved. And quick. Let’s just say if you pull this off, it’ll go a long way toward your promotion to Chief.”

“Of course…Ma’am. Sorry, I have to go. Forensics.”

Rayne swiped left and rang off. Winslow was a third-generation legacy officer. Hence, someone to be obeyed, but also someone who didn’t know hard work from a bite in the ass. Rayne had begun to wonder if it was all worth it.

She paused to lean over the rail and watch the lights of Calais. Undulating peaks of the Strait caught the gleam of the evenly spaced street lights that lined the bridge. Neon-trimmed buildings loomed, stacked like a toddler’s blocks against the cityscape backdrop. She wondered how many people were being murdered there, among the twinkling lights, that night.

The sight stirred memories of the Orisha stories her grandmother used to tell her of Yemoja——the Yoruban goddess of rivers and streams——and how she protected the oceans, lakes, and other bodies of water. Rayne thought Yemoja would be deeply disappointed in humanity’s stewardship of the planet’s waterways and wondered why she hadn’t already withdrawn the seas into the Earth’s crust until the land’s ungrateful inhabitants died of drought. She was already absorbing the extra heat from climate change, sparing the land dwellers from the worst of it. But perhaps she was lurking, just underneath the surface, hatching a plan for retribution.

“Wouldn’t blame you if you did,” Rayne whispered.

Rayne had just wrapped up a murder investigation in Bexhill that involved a crypto billionaire and a disinherited son, who had taken offense to his new stepmother and her lavish lifestyle. The father was discovered dead in a crashed yacht. Turned out being rich was a risk factor for early death.

“Surprise, surprise,” she muttered to herself. Rayne slid a hand inside her leather jacket and pulled out an eCig. Tapped it on the handrail and the orange ring lit up, brightening to max within seconds. Took a pull. The taste and smell of black coffee filled her mouth and nose, ferrying caffeine to her central nervous system. It was a Thursday, and she hadn’t slept since the early hours of Tuesday. She still had to return to the office and finish writing the report. But it would have to wait until she could get some sleep. She was beginning to hear voices and see shadows where there were none.

 “Inspector? Forensics is wrapping up the crime scene. It should be available on your node.”

Rayne turned toward the voice. It belonged to Detective Constable Phillip Davies, a fresh-faced 23 year-old who had just transferred from Horsham. “Thank you, constable,” Rayne said. She tapped the eCig and the orange light dimmed.

“You’re welcome, sir…uh, I mean ma’am.” Davies’ face flushed red.

“Sir, ma’am, I don’t care which one you use. Long as shit gets done. Just pick one and stick with it.”

“Y-yes, sir.” He stood still, eyes cast downward, flicking back and forth, as if looking on the ground for another reply.

“Relax, Davies.” Rayne sighed. “Tell me, why’d you join the force?”

He paused for a long while. Rayne noted his fists balling up at his sides. “I wanted to help people,” he said.

“Help people. Why do you want to help people?”

“Everyone needs help,” he said, his voice low, eyes still trained on the ground. “Sometimes.”

“Did your mother need help?” she said.

He looked up sharply at her, eyes wide, inquiring.

“I’ve been an officer for 10 years, five as a detective. I know the signs, either you or someone close to you,” she said. “Your dad beat your mom?”

Davies looked away, but said nothing.

“Where’s he now?”

“Vet home for the disabled.”

“PTSD?”

“That’s what they said.”

“And your ma?”

“Home. Pissed. As usual.”

Rayne nodded; Davies’ eyes glistened. She began walking toward the apartment block and reached out to squeeze his arm.

Story Excerpt: A Tryst That Cuts Both Ways

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May 23, 2019

by K. Ceres Wright

Kalinda ran her fingers down the frayed cover of the Wayfarer prayer book. The black leather was dry and cracked, curling tan at the edges. The book contained just eight pages, the rest having been lost long ago to the ravages of time, war, and relocation. She could only read a few paragraphs. The Wayfare language hadn’t thrived among the descendants of the One Million after settlement on distant planets, and she had forgotten most of what she had been taught as a child. She opened to the first page and read.

“Father of the heavens, stars, and galaxies, watch over our journey and deliver us to solid ground. Let our daily bread be sufficient, our fuel abundant, and water overflowing. Guide us by Thy hand among the beacons of the eternal night, until Your light leads us to our future.”

Her reading was interrupted by Mobé, her butler, whose voice sounded overhead, through the speakers.

“Oba Jakande, your cousin, Mr. Okeke, is on the line.”

“Thank you, Mobé. Please put him through.”

After a moment, Kalinda said, “Zuberi, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Cut the shit, Kal. I heard you’ve been making a deal with the Kur Dak behind my back. Is that true? I thought we signed a truce.”

“The terms of our agreement are, and I quote, ‘Neither party will engage in business transactions or mergers that infringe upon the core business of the other party.’ But this deal doesn’t have to do with investment banking, stocks, or commodities. It’s for a …different type of product,” Kalinda said.

“Oh, yeah? What is it? Weapons? Winter wheat? Woolly mammoths?”

“How’d you guess?” she said drily.

“I swear, if you’ve violated our agreement, I’ll file suit, and once your new client gets wind of that news, I wonder how long they’ll stick around.”

“Your desperation is showing, cousin. And I must say, it’s quite unbecoming,” Kalinda said.

“Damnit, Kal, is it true or not?”

She paused, considering what to tell him. “Remember, oh, about six months ago, you lent money to the Global Bank of The Tennance and wouldn’t tell me what it was for?”

An audible sigh sounded overhead. “Fine. It was for repairs to the Nyekundu Gate.”

“Ah…don’t tell me…the Perimeter Worlds want to keep it hush-hush that they’re being attacked by the Green Federation.”

“Bad for business,” Zuberi said. “They officially said the gate was down for maintenance. But there are rumors to the contrary, which I’m actively trying to suppress. So…what’s your story?”

“The Kur Dak want to dip their toe into Cassad investments, but are ignorant of the ways of humans. I’m just a teacher of human customs…and investment strategy.”

Zuberi let out a long, low whistle. “Mbutu said they were getting money from somewhere and were looking for somewhere to put it. I was wondering when they’d come sniffing around. I don’t know about you, Kal, but I’m starting to think these events are not unrelated. Kur Dak new-found money, gate sabotage by the Federation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brythons were behind it.”

“You always suspect the Brythons. Of everything. It’s getting tiresome.”

“There’ve been rumors, Kent and his father, Percival, are up to something more than usual Brython ambition. I think it has to do with what we’re talking about, especially the attacks on the gates.”

Kalinda paused. She didn’t pay much attention to gate shutdowns since she rarely traveled to other planets. Most of them were backwater wilderness on which families had carved out some small oasis of civilization. And the Clusters were noisy with the constant din of construction.

“For once in your life, you may have a valid opinion,” she said.

Writing Characters of Color

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May 23, 2019

by K. Ceres Wright

Introduction

As our world becomes more diverse, so must the pop culture and media that reflect it. But many writers who are not persons of color may ask how they can reflect diversity in their work without sounding as if they’re pandering to ethnic or minority audiences, or without using stereotypes.

First, writers must ask themselves whether they should add minority characters to their work. What’s your motivation? Just because? To make more money? Or are you truly committed to putting in the research and the work to make your diverse characters as rich and nuanced as the others. You want to create complex characters, no matter their background, who will draw you in, force you to accept their strengths and flaws, and still make you pull for them to win in the end—however winning looks—whether it’s realizing their own inner strength, or defeating the evil boss. Underneath, people are people, and their motivations should drive their actions more than their color.

As writers, we’re told to “show,” not “tell” … to let the reader “see” the characters more than be told the particulars. Let the reader use context clues to figure out that Christine is the daughter of a Japanese mother and African-American father, or that Trevor’s heritage is deeply embedded in the Caribbean. You want to give characters of color the same depth and humanity you give others. Don’t leverage cheap stereotypes and their prepackaged content. It’s lazy writing. Writing the other is harder, and it deserves particular attention as a result. Don’t do it unless you are willing to invest in a whole lot of time and commitment and get into some heavy conversation about what it is like to live our lives, deal with racism and micro-aggressions and fear and hate.

Reasons for Diversity

  • Kids need to see themselves represented in books, media, and pop culture in order to develop healthy self-images and feel comfortable with who they are. Teens, in particular, may struggle with accepting themselves. They may not see other folks like them in their hometown, and if they don’t see themselves in the media they consume, it may make them feel even more isolated. High suicide rates and internalized racial/gender oppression are real.
  • There are real-world implications of viewing people of color as less than, such as disparities in employment and pay rates, adverse perceptions by law enforcement, higher rates of harassment and profiling, and greater likelihood of being victim of mass shooter. Recent killer said, “Whites don’t kill whites.”
  • Some voices aren’t being heard, and that may make those voices feel invisible. Having nondiverse books reinforces feelings of being marginalized.
  • Diverse writing creates opportunities for others in the field…the demand for agents and editors who are familiar with themes in diverse books, and actors and actresses to play diverse roles.

Considerations

  • Default character: Readers not given a description or context of diversity will usually assume a character is a white cisgender heterosexual.
  • Research is key: Consult with writers and readers of color, websites, how-to books, and other resources.
  • Relationship to power: Include scenes that describe the challenges of not having the privilege or power of members of the dominant group. Example: A person of color may have additional hurdles to jump to get a bank loan.
  • Dialects and speech patterns: Not all members of a minority group will speak the same, whether it’s related to slang, speech patterns, or accent.
  • Skin Tone: It’s advised to not compare skin tone with food, as it is fetishizing and has links to colonialism. (What is the best way to show dominance? By eating someone – like in the animal kingdom.)
  • Stereotypes: As mentioned before, inserting a character of color that incorporates stereotypical elements is lazy writing.

Links

General blog with specific categories:

Arranging for a sensitivity reader:

Describing skin tones:

Learning about White privilege:

Using appropriate terminology for people with disabilities:

Using dialect:

Writing about slavery:

Story Excerpt: The Baker Troupe

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May 23, 2019

by K. Ceres Wright

Henry angled up the steps, opened the corrugated neon-green metal door, and stepped inside. Music wafted out of the lean-to juke joint, a zydeco-country fusion remix escaping the sweaty desperation of the place. A bank of multicolored lights ran the length of the building, throwing disks of red, purple, and green on the gyrating patrons.

Jose sat in his usual corner, reading his heads-up display and smoking his pipe. Henry thought the scene anachronistic. He pushed past a group of drunken bridesmaidsevidenced by their tiarasand took a seat at the bar. He gave the bartender, Leslie, the sign for his regular drink. She nodded in reply. Being deaf was an advantage for a bartender in this joint, he thought. An upswell of noise filled the space behind him and he twisted in his seat. The woman wearing the BRIDE tiara had climbed onto the stage and began dancing with Kyle, who was playing backup guitar to Rita’s country singing and fiddle playing. Octavius rounded out the trio on the old world accordion. The bride ground her pelvis into Kyle’s backside. Rita scowled and motioned for security. A bot flew down from the ceiling and delivered 25,000 volts to the bride. She yowled in pain, which elicited laughter from the crowd. She tore herself away from Kyle and slunk back to her merry band of maids, who cheered her return with a dousing of bottle-sprayed champagne.

“Where’re they from?” Henry said. He had to shout over the music.

Leslie shrugged. “I heard one of them mention New Rho.”

Figures, Henry thought. There were five domed settlements on Mars, all interconnected by underground tunnels and rail. New Rhode Island was the smallest settlement. New Rhoers always came to Camp X and the larger settlements to party, some of which devolved into fist fights. New Rho contained the elite of the colonists—engineers, physicists, rich investors. Camp X had a hodgepodge of people—actors, musicians, dancers, social workers, reporters. The other three—Chronitis, Seer Park, and Nouveau—were specialty settlements, where the geologists, botanists, archaeologists, metallurgists, and others lived.

Henry was the only magician, at least as far as he knew, which was fine by him The New Rhos were always throwing company parties and inviting him and his troupe to perform.

A man slid into the stool next to Henry and tapped him on the arm. “Hey, man. I thought you’d gone to Seer Camp.”

Henry twisted in his seat as he downed his beer. He slammed the mug on the counter and grinned. “Derrick! Just got back. The hell are you doing here, slumming?”

Derrick bellowed a guffaw. “I’m a rebel, Henry. They only keep me around cuz they don’t feel like finding another theoretical physicist before the contract runs out. I figure I got about 8 months before I’m out on my ass. But lucky for me, I already got the next job lined up. Amethyst Industries needs a team lead for their asteroid mining project.”

“Mining? Since when do you go in for corporate interests?”

“Since they’re willing to pay me enough to retire on. I can whore myself out one last time and then start working on what I want to…teaching needy children about science and tech.”

“You should’ve become a teacher,” said Henry.

“On that salary? You do know I like the finer things in life…food, running water, heat…”

The pair sat silent as three men dressed as an asteroid miner, policeman, and scientist led the bridal party to the back rooms.

“At least somebody’s getting some action.” Derrick jutted his chin at Henry. “What about you? What’re your plans for the future?”

Henry shrugged. “I left Earth for something new and exciting, but compared to most cities, the Mars settlements are small. I’ve gotten bored already. Thinking about going back to Earth. Got a friend in Vegas who can get the troupe a gig.”

“Where you can be one of a hundred acts? I know you, man. You’ll be bored quicker there than here.”

Henry paused to consider the veracity of Derrick’s words. He leaned back on his stool and examined the tattoos on his forearms in contemplative silence. He had received most of them from a Mentawai shaman on Siberut Island. It was just after he’d lost his father and the world was pressing in on him with questions and expectations—Will you finally get a real job? Come work for me as my assistant. Let me invest your money for you. Is that really where you live? He had escaped it all by closing his eyes and pointing to a spot on a map. Actually, his finger landed in the middle of the Indian Ocean, so he chose the nearest land mass.

The kids on the island had loved his magic tricks. One of the older shamans, however, acted as if he thought Henry was there to steal his job. To ease his mind, Henry had taught him a few of his tricks after eliciting a pledge never to reveal them, on pain of death. The shaman, Po’ku, had been cool after that, even giving Henry a replica of the tattoos on his arms. In fact, he told Henry that the tattoos would always connect them, and he could watch over Henry, ready to kick his ass even from miles away. Henry had dismissed the notion, until one night he’d been driving, alone, exhausted, and had nodded off. Po’ku’s voice sounded in his head and he jerked awake in time to avoid crashing into the side of a tungsten refinery. At the time, he’d chalked it up to coincidence, but a few more incidents had convinced him. In fact, he could imagine Po’ku now, bald, dressed in saffron robes as he went about his duties at the temple.

“Hello?” Derrick waved his hand in Henry’s face, snapping his fingers. “Mars to Henry.”

Henry shook himself out of the reverie. “Sorry, just…thinking.”

Derrick guffawed. “Rare activity nowadays. So?”

“So what?” Henry suddenly grew irritable.

“What are your future plans?”

“I don’t know, why? You got any brilliant ideas?”

Derrick shifted on his stool, facing outward, watching Rita and Kyle flirt on the stage as they sang, “One More Night.”

“As a matter of fact, I do. But not here. My place.” Derrick slid off the stool and cogged both their drinks. The settlement’s AI, Cognition, kept track of every purchase, schedule, meeting, and all other occurrences on the planet. It debited and credited the proper accounts, managed itineraries, arranged travel, and made dinner plans. Among other things, Henry had heard that if you knew the correct password, you could access drugs, indulge fetishes, and even order up some harassment of your enemies.

“I don’t feel like riding all the way back to Camp X tonight. Can I charge at your place?”

“Yeah, sure. C’mon.” Derrick headed for the door.

Henry got Leslie’s attention and signed that he was leaving with Derrick. She nodded and slid a quick look toward the stage to indicate she’d tell the troupe.

Henry was the troupe’s de facto leader, meaning he was the most responsible, which wasn’t saying much. He’d spent the past weekend nursing a hangover from the Friday before. And at 33, he was feeling the pressure to settle down and have kids. That crushing fear of conformity led him to Mars, where he fell in with a group of itinerant actors, dancers, and musicians. As a magician, he wasn’t seen as a rival, and they would come to him to confess their sins and receive absolution and whatever advice Henry could dredge up from his 30-plus years of experience.

He climbed into Derrick’s car and they sped off toward Chroniton. It was about a 40-minute drive at 200 m.p.h. They made small talk about VR games and sports until they arrived. The car pulled off the underground highway and snaked past several individual garages before pulling into Derrick’s. The two alighted and rode an elevator straight into Dererick’s apartment. An android greeted them in the large foyer and took their jackets. They headed left, toward the kitchen.

“Drink?” Derrick stood in front of the fridge display.

“Beer.”

“Coming up.”

Henry wandered toward the entertainment room, which housed a holographic staging area, VR display, mini-bar, and a couch/loveseat set. He took up residence on the loveseat. Derrick handed him a beer and sat on the couch.

“So what’s the deal?” Henry took a sip of his beer.

“We’ve found a planet comparable to Earth. All the data we’ve recovered from probes indicate it could be a fuckin’ paradise.”

“Huh, I haven’t heard anything.”

“Beause GSEC didn’t discover it. Avent Technologies did. And they want to send a scout team, under the radar.”

“How the hell do you launch a scout team under the radar?”

Derrick shrugged as if everyone knew. “Disguised as a satellite launch. No optics, just a line in an article.”

“And you think that’ll work?”

“It’s worked before.” Derrick held out a bag of crisps. “Chips?”

“No, thank you. And when before?” Henry threw up his hands. “You know what? Never mind. I don’t wanna know. But why all the hush-hush? What’s the point?”

Derrick chugged his beer and slammed the bottle onto the coffee table. “Another one?”

“No, thanks. Pacing myself. Answer the question.”

Derrick hung his head as if Henry had just scolded him for breaking curfew. “They want it for the rich. To send them off for an exorbitant fee to get away from the poor wretches on Earth. The appeal of toiling underground on Mars is wearing thin.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah.” Derrick got up and crossed over to the kitchen. “And I got a feeling something else is going on.”

“Like what?”

“I think they’re doing genetic experiments.”

Henry paused mid-draught, then swallowed. “You’re shitting me.”

Derrick shook his head. “No, unfortunately. Like out of fuckin’ Brave New World, making the brown people class D or whatever the fuck. Sterile, of course, so they can’t reproduce. Just make more by combining chemical X with protein Y and shoving it into an artificial womb.” He sat, staring at the blank holostage.

Henry’s mouth fell open and he sank into the back of the chair, slack-jawed. “Jesus.”

Derrick’s gaze panned to Henry. “That’s why I want you to go. To be my eyes and ears.”

I’ll be at Capclave, Sept. 28-30, 2018

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Sep 28, 2018
I’ll be joining the Diverse Writers & Artists of Speculative Fiction – DWASF team at Capclave 2018 in Rockville, MD, on September 28-30, 2018. We will be participating on several panels to discuss AFROfuturism, movies, books, genetic engineering, politics, and much more. Also, there will be a DWASF meet-and-greet on Saturday at 4:30 PM. Discussions will be far-flung, thought-provoking, and entertaining with a healthy dose of fun. There will also be food, drink, and giveaways!

Come find out what AFROFuturism is. How does it affect us as human beings not limited by perceived notions of race, religion, or culture. How do “creators” from many different backgrounds make use of AFROFuturism in their works? Is this merely a flashy promotion for more Black Panther movies or a solid foundation for many new things to come?

Website: https://www.capclave.org/capclave/capclave18/

Hope to see you there!

Get Ready, CyberFunkateers!

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Sep 25, 2015

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.

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

Diversity in Fantasy

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Jan 28, 2015

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.”

A Tangled Web, Part 4

by , on
Oct 9, 2014

“The People’s Liberation Army?”

“That’s the client. Take it or leave it, as you Americans say, although I doubt you’ll find anyone else willing to accede to your terms,” Wu said.

The ‘garden’ was an underground conference room in a hotel owned by Wu’s brother. Flowered wallpaper decorated the walls, hence the term. She faced Wu from across a small table, outfitted with a holo-emitter that played Brahms in the background.

He was right. No other client would have 25 million at its disposal in so short a timeframe. She was lucky to get this opportunity.

“All right,” she said. There would be no papers to sign, just an understanding that she would be hunted down and shot if she reneged.

Wu tapped the table twice with his middle finger. “I just sent you contact instructions for your liaison. Your first meeting is tonight at 8 o’clock. Don’t be late.”

“I won’t. Thank you, Wu.”

“I have touted your skills as being of the highest caliber. My reputation is on the line. Don’t disappoint me,” he warned.

*********************************************

The abandoned warehouse reeked of days-old fish and seawater, just as she expected. She thought skulking around in dark buildings close to the harbor was just for bad noir, but her client seemingly disagreed. Thia wore a levitan shield, designed to repel lason blasts, since she was walking into an unknown situation. She had learned her lesson after getting killed by Nicholle Ryder and being uploaded to a new body. It was not an experience she wanted to repeat. She checked the time in her periphery: seven-thirty. She wanted to get to the place early, to size up the client.

“Hello, Ms. Wayan.”

Apparently the client thought the same thing. Her night vision dialed up, she turned to face a man wearing a black leather jacket and black pants. He reached into his jacket pocket and she palmed her lason, unsure of his intent. His hand came away holding a pack of cigarettes.

Read more…

A Tangled Web, Part 3

by , on
Oct 9, 2014

Chimes sounded in Thia’s head while purple blinked in her periphery. A cog from Dran. At 4:30 in the morning? She winked, answering the cog.

“I’ve got your damned analysis,” he said.

Even through her grogginess, Thia grinned. “Pay back for my disrespect. All right, Dran. Send it on.”

Dran made an exaggerated show of tapping his finger on his desk. Thia opened the file and waded as best she could through the technospeak. As far as she could gather, the object induced increased theta waves in the brain, which were “associated with relaxation, meditative states and reduced anxiety. Including (if to be believed,) Extrasensory Perception. The amount of cosmic radiation is not harmful for short (<24 hours) periods of exposure at distances greater than 1 foot.” She sighed in relief. If all it did was induce a meditative state, she should be fine. As if on cue, she yawned and noted the time in her periphery. Turned over and went back to sleep. ******************************** Thia sat at breakfast at the dining table in her suite, reading the news. Gubernatorial elections for Guangdong were underway, with five candidates running for the office. She noted that two of the candidates were Triad members, and either would most likely win, having greased the palms of the right political figures. Same old politics. The time, 9:00 a.m., blinked in her periphery, just as the outer edges of her vision staccatoed orange, signaling an incoming cog. Her avatar answered, an image of herself in a black pant suit sporting a bob and dark shades. Jing’s face appeared in her display, grinning. Read more…