Black Fiction with Black Folk: An Introduction, a Life Journey

I’m not going to tell you about how I started reading SciFi and Fantasy books – I was in 5th grade and The Hobbit redrew my world – you’ve heard that story before. Yours may even be similar. I’m also not going to tell you about why I stopped reading genre fiction. That’s actually kind of self-explanatory – I could only read stories about someone else’s imaginary future or past so many times and still not be included in that vision. I found myself arguing way more than I agreed, yelling “What about me!” so many times that my husband stopped noticing. Yeah. Time to move on.

What I am going to tell you about is why I’m back.

For a variety of reasons – mostly to prove to myself I could – I wrote a book. Doing so gave me the credibility required (clearly very little) to land on a panel at the local SciFi/Fantasy convention discussing People of Color in Fandom. As far as I can tell, these panels at fan conventions are either:

1 — An excuse to get all of us in one room, so the organizers can do a head count (“We’re got enough minorities to fill a conference room! Put that on the website!”)

Or,

2 — A chance for White folks in fandom to sit around and ask all the embarrassing questions they can’t ask at the Star Wars fan party or the panels on how to dress your dog as a dragon so he’ll match your new Daenerys cosplay.

Who doesn’t want to do this? My dog. My dog doesn’t want to do this.

Anyway, like so many things, we ethnics got something out of the panel that wasn’t in the program book. We met each other. You’ve probably been there, had that moment when you realize you’re not the only Black Nerd in the time zone. After we all stopped standing around looking at each other, we got to talking and sharing our favorite books by authors like us about people like us. It was a great experience. I left not wanting that conversation to end, wanting to read more books of Speculative Fiction that featured Black people, that grew out of a history of Africa or the diaspora or any other under-voiced group. Books that didn’t think that European mythologies are the only mythologies worth expanding into a world view or that the English Victorian age as the pinnacle of cultural (and fashion) development – I’m looking at your Steampunk. Straight at you. I mean, did we really need this to exist?

http://38.media.tumblr.com/c310a740aec4b38054f4b994bf83dcde/tumblr_mf8z38QNal1rsysqlo1_500.jpg
No, we could have lived our whole lives without that.

This desire has me on a book hunt for books way outside of the approved award-winning book club. Books with digital-only editions and psychedelic covers. Anthologies of Caribbean authors and self-described “post-colonial” authors. I’m making a list, and as I read, I want to share what I find. BNP is the place where that sharing happens. Currently I’m obsessed with Afrofuturism, particularly Steamfunk and Sword and Soul. I’m not exactly sure what those words mean, but I was born in the 1970s, so you put an afro on ANYTHING and I’m down (see the logo for this site for proof of the power of the afro).

The ideas, the inspirations of both styles tickle me so much, both in their obvious campiness and the possibility that they could really bring something interesting into the world, that I’m willing to throw down my $5.99 to find out what’s what.

I want to share my journey into this crazy, Black fiction for Black folks world with people who enjoy the trip. I want to close that circle from the convention – tell you what I’ve read and liked and get your input too. And the next time I go to one of these nerd fests, I’ll have some good, current, innovative fiction to name drop when the self-proclaimed King of the Nerds says: “Well, I read anything that’s good. There just aren’t any Black authors.” (this is usually when I start imagining that my locks are snakes and that I can turn people into stone with my glare).

I do some book reviews here at BNP. Hopefully these books, and a few anthologies, will be great. I’m sure some will be very bad. But that’s just an excuse for me to have another bottle glass of wine, so really that’s not that bad at all. I hope you follow along with us. Solid.

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  • Steven

    Based on Patrick Rothfuss’ review, I picked up_Who_Fears_Death_, by Nnedi Okorafor. It was a really enjoyable story that had nothing to do with Eurocentric Sci-Fi, and I would recommend it to anyone.

    Cheers!

    • L.E.H. Light

      Thank you for the recommendation. I would love for this column to include plenty of reader-suggested works. I’ll add this one to the list!

  • yawriterinthemaking

    I’ll be getting into sword and soul myself soon; I downloaded Once Upon a Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade on Amazon. Meanwhile, I recently finished an urban fantasy book called The Black Parade (Book 1) by Kyoko M. It’s got a kick-ass yet emotionally vulnerable Hispanic-Black female main character who can see ghosts, angels, and demons. It’s great!

    • L.E.H. Light

      I’m holding off on any more Ojetade because I just finished Steamfunk and I want to be sure to spread my reading love around (they are one of the editors and an author in that anthology). I have added The Black Parade to my wish list. A 99cent book with almost 30 5 star reviews? I’ll take it! Thanks for the recommendation and the comment.

  • ridermaddox

    Love this! Ditto to everything, lol. Suscribing now.

  • LN Gibson (@lngibson_)

    I love this blog! There are thousands of black Speculative fiction writers/Illustrators/creatives at blacksciencefictionsociety.com You are not alone. Tananarive Due and Ytasha Wommack are members there.

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