Verb Noire Announcement (Call for Submissions)

So, as some of you may have noticed I haven’t been around overly much lately. It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s just that I’m in the middle of starting a small press with a friend. Verb Noire is intended to be a platform for all those stories that have been hidden for so long because the protagonist didn’t fit the mainstream mold. What does that mean?

Submission Guidelines Ahead!!

It means we are looking for original works of genre fiction (science fiction/fantasy/mystery/romance) that feature a person of color and/or LGBT as the central character. Book-length manuscripts must be at least 250 pages, and short stories cannot be over 100 pages. All manuscripts must be double-spaced, in 12-point font (Times New Roman, Courier, etc) in black text, and must be a Word/Open Office compatible document. We ask that you insert a header with your name and the first two words of the title at the top of each page. Please do not send them as read-only files as that will make any editing more difficult.

We are also accepting poems in traditional and experimental styles with a maximum of 10 pages. The same formatting rules will apply.

Personal and critical essays are also welcome as long as they are within the aforementioned themes. Poetry, essays, and short stories may be subject to inclusion in anthologies depending upon the number of submissions fitting a specific theme.

There will be (approximately) a 6-8 week turnaround time in which submissions will be reviewed and a decision will be made as to whether or not we will be publishing your manuscript. Payment will be dependent upon sales, as each published author will received a percentage of the sales price.

There is no need to submit a query letter, nor do we require you to have an agent, but we do want a brief synopsis of the plot for longer manuscripts. We will accept works from white authors as long as the the central characters are of color and/or LGBT. Please send all submissions to verb.noire@gmail.com.

We’ve been raising money to defray start up costs and the response has been fabulous. Feel free to come check out us out on LJ as well.

Inspired

Last year on the anniversary of 9/11 I was listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and their coverage of the memorial stuff going on at the WTC site.  I was struck by the structure of the ceremony — there wasn’t just the reading of the names, but also a bell rung at the moments when the planes struck and the buildings collapsed and some other moments marked.  It occurred to me that the mourners and officials were trying to, in essence, recreate that day, which seemed really painful and non-productive to me.  But I’m also aware that grief, particularly public grief, takes on many forms and no one can say “this is the wrong way.”  There are no right or wrong ways.

Still, that feeling stuck with me and started to take shape as a story.  Now a little over a year later, that story has been published.  If you’re interested, you can read it at Strange Horizons.

Dealing with bigotry: an SF response

So apropos of one of my earlier posts, we’ve had another Incident in the SF community.

In a nutshell, the editor of a prominent fiction magazine sent a rejection letter to a hopeful writer which contained some blatantly bigoted statements against Muslims. The letter got out, a shitstorm erupted; the editor acted even more unprofessional, and a very un-fun time was had by all.

This isn’t the first time that members of the SF community have shown their ass, and it won’t be the last. However, it was the first time that I’ve seen a large group of writers — including myself — make an organized collective response. The full story is here at our new site, Transcriptase. This makes me very happy.

 

(I often get asked why I bother with science fiction and fantasy. Aren’t there other, better ways in which I can use my writing talent to improve the world? Aren’t there more important battlegrounds for the fight against oppression? As my mother once told me, “Why don’t you write something black?”

What it all boils down to is this: we have a future too. [Hell, we own the future.] We have a past that’s worth exploring. Our dreams and lore are just as potent, and just as worthy of sharing, as everyone else’s. When I write science fiction and fantasy, I am writing “something black.”

So this is why.)

Just for fun

The ABW in me and the SF fan in me are both applauding.

For those of you who don’t know, that text is from the Sandman graphic novels.

“I’ve grown to love complexity”

It’s a common misconception that writers create characters or situations that have a direct parallel to their lives or the people they know. It’s not always that straightforward, and many times happens on a deep, unconscious level. For Black History Month, I’ve invited a few writers to explore how history — whether personal or family or country or world — affects their fiction.

Today’s Guest Essay is by David Anthony Durham

David Anthony DurhamThe first story I wrote as a “serious” undergraduate writer was called “Hannibal, on an Elephant”. It was about an elementary-aged black kid growing up in a conservative, white neighborhood in the 1980’s. This kid – Marcus, I think his name was – was the only person of color in his class, and he felt it like a glowing stamp on his forehead each and every minute of the school day.

The story begins as a catalogue of small, racially influenced events. Marcus overhears two kids making a racist joke in the lunch line. One of them sees him, gets awkward, says, “We don’t mean you. You’re not like them.” During a dispute over a pencil trade, a kid calls Marcus a nigger. The teacher notices the altercation, calls the boys up and asks what happened. Marcus admits that the boy called him a name, but doesn’t want to say it. The teacher – with the entire class watching – makes him say the word. Nigger. The weight of it, the pain of having heard it, of having to say it, of naming himself in front of the entire class… is too much. Marcus breaks down in tears, which only makes it all worse. There are a few other similar incidents.

As children will do, Marcus internalizes all of this, places the blame on himself, and wishes he was different. If only he wasn’t black than all these uncomfortable situations wouldn’t happen!

Okay, let’s get to the turning point. Another day Marcus is out in a store when he bumps into an African-American friend of his parents. The man asks him about school, what he’s studying, etc. When Marcus mentions that he learned about Hannibal and Rome the man asks him if he knew that Hannibal was black? Marcus is stumped. What? Dumbfounded. What? No, he certainly had not! Days later, the man sends him a calendar with “Heroes of the African World” in vivid illustrations. One of them, sure enough, is Hannibal.

That night, Marcus stares up at his ceiling, watching images of an army mounted on elephants marching over the snow-covered Alps, dark-skinned men in armor, with weapons, figures from history with a skin not that different than his own. It is, for him, a great awakening. Suddenly the world is bigger than he knew, much larger than his suburban neighborhood. History is longer, more complex, much more multi-hued.

That was my first real story. You know what they say, of course. Early stories are likely to be autobiographical. That one was. I was Marcus. I experienced all those moments, and in some variation had that cultural awakening, spurred by images of Hannibal. My awareness may not have happened in the tight time frame of the story, but the motion of it is accurate as far as I can remember. It marked the connection with history – and with the history of people of African heritage – that became fundamental to my life ever since.

I’m a novelist now, and my first two novels, Gabriel’s Story and Walk Through Darkness, dealt with African-American history. My third, Pride of Carthage, is about Hannibal’s ancient war against Rome. When people ask me how I came to the subject, I can’t help but remember the boy I was and how important that revelation was to me.

My Hannibal novel is by no means a black and white conflict. It’s not about our contemporary racial hang-ups. I’ve grown to love complexity, and Hannibal’s war with Rome is that in everyway: multi-ethnic, international, polyglot, all about allegiances across tribal and regional lines, featuring convoluted disputes on which no side has complete claim to virtue. That’s the kind of story that I love and that has become the focus of my professional life. I trace its birth to that afternoon in my boyhood when some friend of my parents (I don’t actually remember who any more) so casually – and profoundly – rocked my world by introducing me to African history. I’m sure that man, long lost to me now, doesn’t know the effect he had on me, but his influence on my life will forever be part of my history.

David Anthony Durham was born in New York City in 1969. The child of parents of Caribbean ancestry, he grew up in Maryland. He began writing seriously while an undergraduate on a Creative Arts Scholarship at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

In 1999, while living in France, David embarked on an historical novel set in the American West, featuring black homesteaders and cowboys. This novel, Gabriel’s Story, was a New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Best of 2001 pick, and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. David followed Gabriel’s Story with Walk Through Darkness, a novel of a runaway slave and the Scottish immigrant hired to track him. His third novel, Pride of Carthage, is a fictional exploration of the Second Punic War between Carthage and the early Roman Republic. Pride of Carthage was a Book Sense 76 pick and a finalist for the Legacy Award for Fiction.

David’s fourth book, Acacia, is a speculative novel set in an alternative world.

I did an interview with David for Fantasy magazine, which many ABW readers will find very interesting. In it we talk about creating multicultural worlds within fantasy structures. It’s awesome, though I say so myself.

“I’m a die-hard multiculturalist as a result of my very existence”

It’s a common misconception that writers create characters or situations that have a direct parallel to their lives or the people they know. It’s not always that straightforward, and many times happens on a deep, unconscious level. For Black History Month, I’ve invited a few writers to explore how history — whether personal or family or country or world — affects their fiction.

Today’s Guest Essay is by Tobias S. Buckell

Tobias BuckellI grew up in Grenada: a white-looking mixed race boy with an English mother and a Grenadian father. Unlike a lot of the ex-pats in those areas, we didn’t have a lot of money, so even though I attended private schools I was usually the minority, both in terms of being mixed and looking white. I lived in various parts of the English-speaking Caribbean until I was 15, so it’s still the bulk of my life. Until next year, when I turn 30, in which case I’ll be hitting the tipping point of having lived in the US as long as I’d been in the islands. My identity is pretty complex, but it’s basically Caribbean.

Growing up I was raised by my mother alone. In order to get me out of her hair she encouraged reading–reading big, fat books. Because one didn’t have cable TV on a boat, which was what I grew up on. I started reading Science Fiction and Fantasy at a young age, and fell in love with the genre.

So when I started writing it in high school, it was not surprising that I started drawing launch galleries on Caribbean islands. I named starships after Caribbean politicians and heroes. Continue reading

“How can we conjure the wondrous world we believe in?”

It’s a common misconception that writers create characters or situations that have a direct parallel to their lives or the people they know. It’s not always that straightforward, and many times happens on a deep, unconscious level. For Black History Month, I’ve invited a few writers to explore how history — whether personal or family or country or world — affects their fiction.

Today’s Guest Essay is by Andrea Hairston

Andrea HairstonFor many years I have taught various courses in 20th century Black Theatre, focusing on how 19th century blackface minstrelsy and its 20th century progeny served as a catalyst for many black theatre and film artists. In our discussions of black performers who donned the minstrel masks, many students couldn’t understand why any self-respecting African American would act in a coon show or why Native Americans acted in Wild West Shows. Despite our (obvious) complicity in any number of contemporary atrocities, students insisted they would never have done minstrelsy or “stood around watching horrible things going down on stage and off.”

Although I persuade them of the complex choices facing 19th and early 20th century performers, I realized that to a degree, I secretly shared my students’ smug, superior attitude. Shocked by my own self-righteous judgment, I determined to write about characters who we, given the luxury of historical distance, might dismiss or hold in contempt. On sabbatical, I researched blackface, hoodoo, vaudeville, and early film for a novel and a course I now teach on minstrelsy from Daddy Rice to Big Momma’s House.
Continue reading

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