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.

What Is Cultural Appropriation?

A few years ago at WisCon (the feminist SF convention) there was a panel about Cultural Appropriation that sparked an online discussion about the topic that is generally referred to as the Great Debate of DOOM. This was partly due to the wide-ranging nature of it (over 20 blogs, I believe) and due to the great abundance of wank, ignorance, and utter fail on the part of some participants.

At every WisCon since, there have been other CA panels that attempted to fix the issues raised by the first. But it was clear to those of us who have these conversations and panels all the time that a 45 minute or 90 minute debate/discussion/whathaveyou was not going to get really deep into the topic. Judging from the stunning amount of ignorance and defensiveness associated with such discussions, obviously a longer, more in-depth treatment of the topic was necessary. Thus, this series of posts on the ABW.

At first I thought that we could contain everything in one post. But this topic has so many facets and aspects that I quickly realized this could never be. That’s fine with me, because it will help us get really deep into the issues in the comments (which are slightly unwieldy due to the lack of threading).

I thought it would be appropriate to first define what we mean when we talk about Cultural Appropriation. What is it? What do you mean when you apply that term? If we can all express that and put up a few loose boundary markers around the subject, that will make discussing its effects and manifestations a little easier.

As a writer of color, I’m used to discussing cultural appropriation in the artistic sphere. Remember, though, that the issue extends beyond art – spirituality, style/fashion, speech, attitudes and more. Let’s bring them all in.

A note on participation:

Everyone is invited to contribute to this discussion. But if this is your first time here, I suggest you read The Rules (linked at the top) before wading in. There are bannable offenses here, and I will not hesitate to bring the hammer down if you bring bullshit to the table.

A note on comments and moderation:

By default, all comments by first-time participants are automatically moderated. This is a measure to keep the drive-by crazies out, not a tool to suppress anyone’s voice. If your comment doesn’t show up by midnight or so, please use the contact form to query about it. It may have ended up as spam. To avoid being put in the first-timer box, please use the same name/email combination every time you post. That way WordPress will recognize you.

We will try our best to keep up with the moderation queue, but remember that we have jobs and lives away from the Internet!

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.)

Clarion West Write-A-Thon (again!)

I’m participating in the Clarion West Write-A-Thon again this year, raising money for the workshop and for the Butler Scholarship. I’m in the process of finding sponsors to help me reach my goal of raising $1000 total.

For those of you who don’t know, a write-a-thon is a lot like a marathon. Instead of sponsoring me per mile, you sponsor me per week. If I reach my writing goal for the week, you pledge to send a certain amount of money. There are six weeks of write-a-thoning to mirror the six weeks of workshopping at Clarion West.

Also for those who don’t know, Clarion West is a writing workshop in Seattle where 17 students have the opportunity to spend a week with 6 or 7 professional writers and editors to improve their craft. This year’s instructors are:

Paul Park
Mary Rosenblum
Cory Doctorow
Connie Willis
Sheree R. Thomas
Chuck Palahniuk

And finally, the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund was set up by the Carl Brandon Society to give financial aid to writers of color attending Clarion and Clarion West. Octavia got her start at Clarion and she gave her support to Clarion West as a teacher, volunteer, and speaker. She was keenly aware of the need for more voices of color in the genre. I can think of no better way to honor her memory than by giving students this opportunity.

When I went to Clarion West a very kind individual donated my full tuition to the workshop anonymously (knowing that I actually did not have the money to go and was planning to take out a loan if it came to that). It was an incredibly generous gift and I’ve always felt that I can never fully repay it — my time at the workshop meant so much. But I try, every year, to do my part in giving that gift to other students.

As I said, I’m hoping to raise $1000 total, which is a high goal but not impossible to reach. It breaks down to about $170/week. If 34 people pledge $5/week, I’ll make my goal. If 17 people pledge $10/week, I’ll make my goal. If 8 people pledge $20/week, I’ll make my goal. You can also do a flat amount. $60 only if I reach all of my six week goals. Or $100. If 10 people pledge $100… you get the idea. You can sponsor me for any amount you feel comfortable with and can afford. Even if it’s a low amount, every bit helps!

I’m looking for 8 – 34 people who can do $5 – $20/week or $30 – $100 overall. Of course, I can’t reach my goal unless I write!

I’m currently writing a novel of 12 interlinked stories, so my goal is to write one chapter/story per week for the six weeks. If you sponsor me for $30/week or more, I will send you the (very, very!) rough drafts each week as I complete them.

If you would like to sponsor me (yay, thank you!), please send an email to this gmail address: SponsorKT :with your name, your pledge amount, and if you’d like to pay (in the end) via PayPal, credit/debit card, or by mailing a check to Clarion West. I don’t handle any of the monetary transactions, by the way. It all goes through CW. Also let me know if you’d like weekly updates.

Several people sponsored me last year and already five people are sponsoring me this year, so I’m inching toward that goal. I only need 13 more at $10/week to do it! Will you be one?

UPDATE: Big news!  As of Friday the 13th, I now have $660 in sponsored money. !! This is super fantastic, and all thanks to the wonderful people who’ve pledged so far.  I only need $340 more, now.  That’s about $57/week.  If 6 more people sponsor me for $10/week, or 12 for $5/week, I’m home free!  I’m so close, everyone.  Put me over the top!

ETA: Just to be clear, I’m the only one participating (that is, ABW not Karynthia or Nora). I think we need to change themes again to make it much clearer which one of us is posting!

Co-opting pain for profit

I’m usually a political blogger in this space, but something has happened that aggravates me to no end and so I feel the need to share my anger with a wider audience. So, this woman writes a memoir about her life as a poor, half white, half NDN foster kid running drugs for the Bloods in South Central. High drama right? Right. Except, she’s a pretendian that grew up in a two parent household and went to private school who made up the story and kept her lies going for 3 years. She got a $100,000 advance with a story that was so full of holes it boggles the mind. The level of mind boggling stupidity just gets higher when you read this ridiculous interview where she actually refers to her friend OG Homie, living with Big Mom and other fun bits of random stereotypes used to bolster her claims of being “real”. I find myself angry beyond all reason to know that even if she (as she claims) was somehow affiliated with an organization devoted to ending gang violence she chose to steal the experiences of others and to co-opt their trauma in order to make a buck rather than actually focus on the work she was ostensibly there to do for the the good of the community.

It gets even worse when you see the picture of her looking “hood” with her daughter and her dog. Not only is she a thief, she’s played off a host of racial stereotypes to make herself successful and she’ll more than likely wind up with another book deal out of this mess. She’s busy making herself out to be someone with good intentions that made a bad decision and there are people busily trying to defend her in comments to the various news stories outing her as a fraud. Somehow the fact that she’s betrayed the very people she claims she wanted to help doesn’t matter as much as being nice to the “poor misguided soul” after she’s been busted. And she’s not the only one to pull this crap and get published. It happens relatively often and generally the consequences are fairly minor.

Meanwhile the legitimate work of POC writers that have survived adversity like Felicia “Snoop” Pearson barely rates a mention from the critics and certainly doesn’t get the author a $100,000 advance and a book tour. Just once I’d like the acclaimed voice of the poor inner city kids to be a poor inner city kid, and not some white person looking to make a buck off the community. Is that so much to ask? Can the fabulous writers that come from our communities be the voices of our communities? Or does White America really need appropriation in order to connect with the reality of life as a POC? We’re here, we can speak for ourselves and if you can’t manage to listen? That’s your problem. Our work might not feed into all those comfortable stereotypes that this book did, but then there’s a reason this book is little more than the fantasies of a privileged white woman looking to for bigger and better ways to stroke her own ego.

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America.” Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

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

Blood Done Sign My Name

Review by transgressingengineer

First off, thanks to ABW for the invite to blog over in her neck of the woods. I am a big fan of her blog and have been looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to her blog with a (hopefully) meaningful post.

About two years ago, I read a book that I consider to be one of the best on race that I have read: Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson (2004). The white author, for his masters project in graduate school, went back to his hometown in the South to investigate the circumstances around the public killing of a Black man, which occurred when he was ten years old. The man who was killed was a twenty-three year old veteran, Henry Marrow, and was “guilty” of talking to a white man’s daughter in the wrong way. This is not a pre-civil rights era story- it happened in Oxford, North Carolina on May 12, 1970. Tyson had heard about the murder from one of the white boys he used to chum around with- in fact it was that boy’s father who killed Henry Marrow. At the time, Tyson’s father was a Methodist minister in the town and was trying to work on racial relations. Tyson remembered this incident as a part of the racial crisis that was happening in the US and throughout his life and used these experiences to build his life’s work around one of understanding why things were as they were.

The book recaptures memories that Tyson had of this event in 1970 and other events that summer and blends it with the interviews and data gathering he did as a graduate student to gain deeper meaning of the racial tension in 1970 and the racial tension that still exists today. Tyson is able to capture the essence of white privilege and racial tension that existed pre-civil rights era and demonstrates how that white privilege and racial tension is still alive and flourishing today.

This book is memorable to me since it talks about lynching and racial fear not as a thing of the past, but as a very real horror that people of colored suffer from in our present day. It is a must read for whites that do not ‘get it’ in terms of white privilege and present day racial issues in the US. But mostly, it is an eloquent read that moved me to anger, joy, and at times, tears. You can bet that this will be a book that I give my boys to read when they get older.

For all those that think that race is something contained in our past, and for those who see how race affects our present… go read Blood Done Sign My Name.

transgressingengineer is an engineering graduate student at a Midwestern Research University where she will earn her PhD in May 2008. Her dissertation looks at what it means to be a white male faculty member in engineering, with the hope that by examining whiteness, she will have a better understanding of why white males are overrepresented in engineering faculty, and therefore why engineers of color are underrepresented. In addition to her work as a graduate student, transgressingengineer is married and the mother of beautiful twin four month old boys and an adorable dog.
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