Here’s my entry for SFF Saturday! This is the opening chapter from another cyberpunk story I’m writing. Bo, a Chinese-born man with American parents works as a freelance IT guru. But the Chinese government is about to take interest in his work:
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 mental landscape—a big project with a big percentage…big celebration.
Data display in his periphery blinked a 43.5 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. He hovered over a pile of empty kuji pacz, then found his center of balance. Shambled toward the kitchen, led by the slivered rows of light from the blinds stenciling the floor.
Black Age of Comics Convention
An artist, entrepreneur, author, art therapist, educator, and publisher, Turtel Onli founded the Black Arts Guild (BAG) in 1970, which was based in Chicago. The BAG sponsored art exhibitions and published works by its members. Onli is also known as the father of the Black Age of Comics, a movement that formed from the development and promotion of comic books and graphic novels depicting Black characters, themes, and concepts. Even though Onli didn’t develop the Black Age of Comics until 1993, he says, “So BAG morphed into a movement that I’ve called The Black Age of Comics, and we now have four Black Age conventions—One in Detroit, one in Philadelphia, one in Atlanta, and the one I give in Chicago is the oldest. And so that’s focusing a lot of these same concepts, on the comic book, graphic novels.”
The Black Age of Comics is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Visit their website: http://www.blackageofcomics.com/default.html
East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention
Borne out of the Black Age of Comics movement, the ECBACC was founded in 2002 by Yumy Odom, an educator and scientist affiliated with Temple University. The event takes place on a May weekend in Philadelphia, PA. It offers the ECBACC Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award and the Glyph Comics Award.
Says Akinseye Brown, VP and Event Coordinator, “The foundation was about community building, networking among writers and artists interested in creating comic books. But also, the founding mission is youth literacy.”
This year’s con featured the second annual Africozplay contest and a screening of the documentary film, White Scripts and Black Supermen.
Visit their website: http://www.ecbacc.com
Onyxcon promotes, showcases, educates, and entertains all fans of media related to the sequential arts with a focus on African diaspora cultural concepts. It holds its main event every August, usually at the Southwest Arts Center. Onyxcon also hosts a February event in honor of Black History Month and Black Comic Book Day, when feasible.
Joseph Wheeler, III, artist and founder of Onyxcon, says, “I focus on being evolutionary. I focus on work that grows outside of the spectrum, and it’s all about adding something new to what already is.”
The 2103 convention featured guests such as Damion Poiter, actor; Tananarive Due, author; Steven Barnes, author; Sheree Renee Thomas, author; and Chris Miller, illustrator.
Visit their website: http://www.onyxcon.com/
Sponsored by the Atlanta-based State of Black Science Fiction collective and the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, Alien Encounters is an annual conference for Black speculative and imaginative fiction, and offers informational and interactive discussions, film screenings, book signings, and much more that are all free and open to the public. This is the fourth year for the conference, which began in 2010.
Sharon E. Robinson, the original event organizer, explains the origins of Alien Encounters:
“About four years ago, I went to the Decatur Book Festival, and found authors of color who wrote in these genres [science fiction, fantasy, horror]. We got together, talked, had several meetings, and finally came up with the idea of putting together this program… There are a lot of writers, in the Atlanta area and across the country, who write in these genres, and we hope to increase readers’ knowledge base about them and their works,” she explains. “Our ultimate goal is to broaden visitors’ literary knowledge and understanding about these particular genres.”
The 2013 October conference will feature workshops on the historical foundation of fantastic fiction, horror fiction from a Black perspective, the Black conscious community of Black comics and graphic novels, and a steamfunk/dieselfunk/rococoa masquerade party.
Visit their website: http://chroniclesofharriet.com/tag/alien-encounters/
I wrote a post on women science fiction writers for Fictionvale in July (http://fictionvale.com/genre-spotlight-women-science-fiction-writers-by-k-ceres-wright/). This post is the next in a series of posts about women science fiction writers and features Mary Shelley, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nancy Kress.
Mary Shelley is widely considered to have written the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. She began the story while travelling near Lake Geneva in Switzerland with her future husband, Percy Shelley; Lord Byron; and John Polidori, who is considered the creator of the vampire genre with his story, The Vampyre (1819), written 78 years before Dracula. To help while away the time during their rainy stay, the group decided to hold a contest to see who could write the best ghost story. After weeks of consideration, Shelley had a dream about a scientist who reanimated dead body parts. It was from this dream that she wrote her famous book.
The subject of reanimating dead bodies through the use of electricity was not a new one. Italian scientist Luigi Galvani had discovered, through his experiments with animal dissection in the late 1700s, that electricity could animate a frog’s legs. And Giovanni Aldini, Galvani’s nephew, conducted a series of public experimentations of the electrostimulation of deceased body parts throughout London in the early 1800s.
Shelley also wrote The Last Man, an apocalyptic science fiction novel, in 1826. The book portrays the effects of a plague that decimates the world’s population. At the end of the book, one man is left alive, in the year 2100.
Visit Shelley’s website at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Shelley
Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber, The Salt Roads, and The New Moon’s Arms are just a few of the published works of Nalo Hopkinson. Born in Jamaica, Nalo often incorporates Caribbean history and language into her stories. Unfortunately, she has encountered criticism for her use of vernacular. Said Hopkinson, “In the West, it’s still considered largely bad English or a sign that your characters are uneducated or morally bankrupt.” She also notes, however, that those in the science fiction community viewed her voice as authentic.
A recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Hopkinson has gone onto receive numerous other awards, such as the Locus Award for Best New Writer, the World Fantasy Award for Skin Folk, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for The Salt Roads, and the Prix Aurora Award and Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic for The New Moon’s Arms. An alumni of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, Hopkinson is a founding member of the Carl Brandon Society and currently teaches creative writing at the University of California Riverside.
Hopkinson has been reading science fiction and fantasy (SFF) since she was a child and views SFF as catalysts for change. “We need to see change. We need to be able to imagine a change before we can start making it and that’s part of what science fiction and fantasy do. Science fiction and fantasy says, ‘But there’s more. What else can we imagine?’”
SFF stories often incorporate the concept of alienation, which carries with it contexts of powerlessness and social isolation. Hopkinson says that while growing up, she challenged the norms of getting married, having children, and keeping a neat house. “There is always very much that sense of being part of but not quite fitting in. And I think that’s the root story in a whole lot of science fiction,” Hopkinson says.
I couldn’t agree more.
Visit Hopkinson’s website at http://nalohopkinson.com/
Not esteeming herself as a quilter or embroiderer, Nancy Kress fell into writing to keep herself occupied while raising her small children in a country area. She wrote her first story while pregnant with her son, Brian. The story, “The Earth Dwellers,” was published by GALAXY in 1976. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to her, the magazine was going out of business and she had to hound the publisher in order to get her first royalty check. While raising her children, she wrote fiction intermittently and earned two master’s degrees in education and English. She made the leap in 1990 to a full-time science fiction writer, and wrote the novella version of Beggars in Spain, which went onto win both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
Kress described her writing process and how she became a science fiction writer at The Utopiales, The Nantes International Science Fiction Festival in France, last year. Said Kress, “I know writers who seem to have a firm control of their creative process. … I can’t do that. I always feel lucky to have one idea and it kind of shapes itself in my mind and I don’t feel that I have the level of control, so when those early stories came up science fiction, and they always have, science fiction is what I wrote.”
A teacher, Kress has taught Clarion writing workshops and at The Writers Center in Maryland. Her works have garnered four Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. And her fiction has been translated into Swedish, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish, Croatian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Japanese, and Russian, and Klingon. She has also written nonfiction on the craft of writing.
I had the honor of attending one of Ms. Kress’ workshops at Seton Hill University, where she taught on world building. The piece of advice that I remember most was, “Follow the money,” which meant that writers should always define the economic structure of their worlds. As a double major in finance and economics in college, I felt an instant kinship.
Visit Kress’ website at http://www.sff.net/people/nankress/
Calandra de’Medici, demon hunter, leads her first banishing, which goes awry:
The stench of excrement hung in the air, filling the narrow alley that ended at the side of a large Victorian house. Graffiti tattooed the brick walls, marking the turf of the Migo Nation. Tendrils of mist curled around the fetid odor, and rats and roaches crawled from their recesses and covered the walls and trash bins that lined the alley. The rodents moved in long, sinuous trails as they marched along, their destination the source of recent troubles.
Calandra de’ Medici and Gina Boveri paused and watched the parade, transfixed for a moment, before Calandra broke the silence.
“It’s here,” she whispered. Static charged the hair on her arms and back of her neck, forcing it on end.
“I’ll call the others,” Gina said.
Cal pulled the lavender-scented bandana up to her nose.
“Tell them to hurry, and download the blueprints to this house.”
I cohost, with Jim Matthews, a flash fiction-related page on Facebook. We declared a few winners a few months back, and they will be featured on this site. The entry by the second winner, Dean Willis, is below:
Rule Number One: No Paper.
If they see you on the street with a wad of dead tree, they know it’s worth something. Even the illiterate know a big word when they see it. And everyone knows big words are big money. May as well wear it strapped to your chest with a flashing LED bulls-eye. And I hate fighting for pages, somebody tries to snatch it’s all panic and paper cuts.
Different with bits though – some sim squad tries it on, my crack jitsu breaks fingers and skulls AND cooks synapses. Fried brains and broke fingers no good for bits, chips OR paper, ha!
Next best rule: no transportin’ without cryptin’. Got my own ‘cryption. GOOD ‘cryption. Old school borg like me needs to be damn careful what’s left of the meat side of my brain don’t get converted to ones and zeros too. Always a danger some greedy techhead with Korean upgrades gets a sniff of something multisyllabic they might be tempted to hack in and steal themselves a copy ‘n’ paste or two.
Yeh, human flash drive, that’s me. Vocab security. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. Can’t have too many fancy words loose among the uneducated masses, people get confused, start articulating themselves all over the place. Verbomania. Big mess, hard to undo.
I cohost, with Jim Matthews, a flash fiction-related page on Facebook. We declared a few winners a few months back, and they will be featured on this site. The entry by the first winner, Emily Di Febo Sheffer, is below:
“Duine amháin. Beirt. Triúir. ” She exhaled the words and blinked one emerald eye through a crack in the rocks over Lough Neagh.
“Only three?” he whispered.
“300, Deaglan,” she pulled him back to the forest floor to change the soaked dressing on his wound.
“Ailish, you must go to the Oracle before she fades.”
She parted broken lips to object but he shook his blood-streaked curls.
“Tá grá agam duit,” she whispered. I have love for you.
“Tá tu dom.” The words, his last, nestled into her ear and became the tattoo of her heartbeat in her head. She allowed herself one tear and one final kiss before rising to her feet, buckling his quiver to her back and blurring into the mist.
Blackwater was a fortnight’s ride on a good steed; on foot, she would barely arrive in time for Samhain. She could still smell the 300 horses of the King’s Dragoon. She scanned the blackening woods for the white owl the Oracle was to send for her. With a shrill crack, he swooped past her, leading the way through the damp darkness.
2 months later:
Ailish collapsed into the nameless pub, humid with stale beer. The drunken raucous drowned her weak moans. The owl called the room to attention with a shriek and flutter of wings. A red-faced brute in Norse armor caught her in his sight. “Woman!” he called, more as an accusation than a greeting.
“O-O-Oracle,” she grunted. A frost-haired crone parted the crowd, gliding to the door. Ailish turned her sweating brow to her, “We’ve made it.”
“Yes, now bite down on this…”
“He told me, ‘tá tu dom'” she sighed between clutches of tightening pain.
“Now he will always be with you. Bear down on three! Duine amháin. Beirt. Triúir!”