HELLO! I’M ONE OF THOSE AFRICAN AMERICAN SF/F WRITERS! HEY! OVER HERE! YOO-HOO!

I subscribe to Google Alerts. It’s a great writer’s tool: you give it a certain set of keywords, and it scours the internet, looking for those words. Great way to find out if someone plagiarized your story, or if your name gets mentioned anywhere.

My name popped up on a Barnes and Noble blog, so I took a look. It turned out to be an interview of N.K. Jemisin on her debut novel "the Thousands Kingdoms", which I also did a review about here at the Cafe. It’s your standard talk about your book and its influences article, but then the interviewer asks why aren’t there more African American women writing SF/F.

Her response:

“I’m not really sure how to answer that question, because it starts from what I think might be a false assumption. I know plenty of African American women (and men, and Asian Americans, and Latino/a Americans, and so on) who write SF/F. Offhand I can mention Nisi Shawl, Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, LaShawn Wanak, Alaya Dawn Johnson, K. Tempest Bradford, Helen Oyeyemi, Tananarive Due, L.A. Banks, Ibi Aanu Zoboi, Carole McDonnell, Linda Addison, Sheree R. Thomas, Jewelle Gomez… I’m probably missing quite a few. And those are just the ones who’ve published short stories or novels; I know many more who are on the hoping-to-get-published track. Octavia Butler left behind a lot of children, spiritually speaking."

What especially thrilled me was that I knew many of the names she mentioned, and even met several authors in person. And I felt so honored to be listed among them. I’m a spiritual child of Octavia Butler. WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

So it was especially interesting when the next day, I mean the very next day, this popped up on Asimov’s and caught the SF/F world’s attention. I read most of it—at least the parts that weren’t rambling, but basically, in a nutshell, the guy basically says that there’s no such thing as an African Science Fiction  writer. Which at this very moment is being disputed by many wanting to set this guy straight.

As for me, however, it caused me to think back to N.K’s interview.  The interviewer pretty much expressed the same thing—albeit it far more eloquently and less…um…racefailly (good grief, is that even a word?) than the Asimov column. It does seem to be the opinion that while we are out there—there are many, many people who are unaware that there are people of color SF/F writers. In one of the interview’s comments even asks: "Where are these people?"

So, how do we address this? It just proves to me that we need to not only pimp ourselves as writers in our careers, but other people of color as well. Spread the word. Jump up and down, continue mentioning such groups such as Carl Brandon Society and Verb Noire, and magazines like Daybreak Magazine. Keep putting forward our names. Get more people talking about us.

Wish I can write more but I got to run. But what else can we do? Any ideas? Let’s brainstorm, and then let’s act.

Remembering Mythago Wood (RIP Robert Holdstock 1948-2009)

Over the years, I’ve read many fantasy books. Most of them have pretty much spiraled into the black abyss of my mind known as unmemory. Occasionally they would emerge without warning, especially if I’m reading a book that’s similar in plot (hey, didn’t I read this same thing some time ago? What was the name of that book? Ah, it’s just on the tip of my tongue…I know I read it!)

But there are other books I remember instantly, the entire plot, the author’s name, heck–even some of the passages.  These are books that I return to every ten years or so (which reminds me, it’s been a while since I read The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle.  Better get that on my reading list). Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock is one of those books.

How old was I when I first read it? Had to be my senior year of high school. Maybe even younger than that. By the time I got into college, I had read it so many times, I could see it as a movie in my head. Sean Austin would play Stephen Huxley, I forget who I had as the evil older brother. Most likely Corey Feldman, back when he was still cool. And the fae-like Guiwenneth would be played, of course, by me–so what she was of Celtic origin and had red hair? It wouldn’t be hard to make a few changes. Hollywood does it all the time!

I even had the ending theme music and the subsequent music video with Seal’s "Kiss From a Rose"–because every movie in the 80s and 90s had to have a music video showing the best and/or emotional scenes from the movie. (Hey, I still remember the entire movie music video for the Lost Boys…don’t remember the song’s name, but man, awesome video. That had both Coreys in it–Feldman and Haim. Remember when the Coreys were cool? Stop looking at me like that!)

What I loved about Mythago Wood was the wood itself. I’ve always loved forest stories, especially when they involved unusual beings living in them. Fairies, wood sprites, elves. Part of that stems from my own childhood–our backyard was next to a trainyard, with a thicket of wood separating the two. It didn’t keep the noise out (ah yes, there were days when my room literally shook when the trains rumbled by–when I had friends over and they freak out, I’d look at them and go, "What?" Didn’t faze me at all), but it did hide our view from the train tracks. The best part was that the forest growth extended into our backyard about 10 feet, so it was like having our own tiny forest preserve. My sisters and I played there for hours, playing Robin Hood and King of the Castle.

So you see how a book like Mythago Wood could be so magical to me. I had a copy of the book that I read over and over, then just like that, I lost it. Since then, I barely thought about the book, not until Monday, when I heard that Robert Holdstock died. It saddened me to hear that.

My extent of reading Holdstock’s work was that and a short story collection he did (which had a memorable tale of a science experiment of observing two people age far beyond the normal span of human years. That creepy tale always stuck with me). Then, I just sort of forgot about Holdstock, just like I forgot about his book. Just now, while I was doing research to write this blog, I learned that there were more books after Mythago Wood, including a couple of sequels.

That saddens me even more.

But only for a little bit. I think the best homage I can do for Mr. Holdstock is to go get me another copy of Mythago Wood. Then to actually read the sequels. It would be good to go to the woods again and see what myths sneak up this time around.

R.I.P. Mr. Holdstock. and thanks for stirring up this girl’s imagination.