Thoughts on institutionalized creative writing…

lit mags
Literary Magazines

This post is going to seem a little more informal compared to the others because this wasn’t planned in the least. I happened to come up with this idea for a blog post while researching graduate school options…

So, let’s go back to the academic year 2008-2009. I was 16 years old and simultaneously a junior in high school and (technically) a freshman in college (I was a full-time college student at this point — I took absolutely no high school classes and all my college classes counted doubly for high school and college credit.)

This was when I took my first creative writing class. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but this is when I truly fell in love with the idea of being a writer and an author as a young adult. This was also the beginning of a long period of confusion.

It wasn’t until later that I realized academic English departments aren’t exactly huge fans of genre fiction (in general). They frown on fantasy, science fiction, and horror — the three genres I loved to write and would have loved to study more in school. Unfortunately, other than the one Sci-fi and Fantasy Lit course my university offered, which I also took when I was 16, what we mainly studied was literary fiction.

I can certainly appreciate lit fic. It’s artsy. It’s all about craft. But, after a while, it can get profoundly boring.

I graduated with my BA when I was 20.

I’m 26, and I’m just now starting to realize just how behind I am on fantasy and science fiction. And I began to realize this after watching vlogs and joining writing groups. Fellow writers and readers would talk about their favorite fantasy and science fiction writers, and I would have no idea who they were. I didn’t even hear about Ursula Le Guin until I was 24. I didn’t learn who Brandon Sanderson was until a month ago.

And to be honest, I (largely) blame the academic institutions teaching creative writing.

Wanting to write and submit genre fiction was beaten out of me pretty early on, and pretty much all we studied was literary fiction. I was told that I wouldn’t get accepted into MFA programs, nor would my stories be accepted into literary magazines, unless I wrote literary fiction. So that’s what I wrote. (Of course, I still wrote my genre fiction on the side. I just didn’t know where I could submit it.)

I got the impression that academia doesn’t think genre fiction is smart. It’s not considered to be as clever as literary fiction, which I think is bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret my experiences in undergrad or grad school. I read some pretty great stuff — in both undergrad and grad school — such as Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, Sea Oak by George Saunders, Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov, and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, which have all become some of my favorite works of fiction of all time.

But Oryx and Crake will always hold a special place in my heart because it gave me hope. It’s a work of speculative fiction that had earned a spot in academic studies. It’s good and smart enough to be studied in the classroom. Atwood doesn’t like to call it science fiction, but it totally is. It 100% is. And that was my hope.

I studied this book in grad school for an Atwood independent study with the English department head (who is one of my favorite people on the planet, but who also told me she dislikes things like dragons and magic — that broke my heart), and I got so inspired. If Atwood could simultaneously write genre and literary fiction, then, damn it, so could I!

But how?

Each story I wrote attempting to marry genre and literary fiction turned out to be a Frankenstein’s monster of a mess — definitely nowhere near Atwood’s level of expertise.

Eventually, I gave up on thinking my writing would ever be good enough to enter an MFA program. Well, more like, I psyched myself out and found reasons not to apply to any MFA programs. The problem now was — what to do?

For a while, I continued trying to submit my stories to literary magazines, in vain (though I did manage to  get two of my horror flash fiction pieces published on an award-winning horror website — that was cool). And notable fantasy/sci-fi magazine don’t really accept unsolicited works.

I entertained the idea of using my Japanese language skills to be an interpreter or translator. I danced in ballroom competitions and showcases for two years. But writing was always in the back of my mind, and abandoned and unfinished stories nagged at me.

Then there came a period of two years (2013-2015) where I tried to get my first novel published — first traditionally, then via self-publishing… which is not a topic that was ever touched on throughout my entire schooling. No one ever taught us how to publish! We learned how to write query letters to editors of literary magazines, but no one had ever taught us the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing. No one had ever taught us about agents. No one had ever taught us about hiring professional editors and cover designers. I had to learn all of this myself, mostly through trial and error. And there was a hell of a lot of error.

Anyhow, I published my first book in 2015 and had completely put MFA programs out of my mind forever. Or so I thought.

It wasn’t until within the past year or so that I finally started to see teaching (at the college level) as something I’d be into. As an English major, I was vehemently against the idea of teaching, and my aversion to this idea only grew as people would say stupid shit to me like, “Oh, you’re majoring in English. So you’re going to be a teacher, right?” And I would retort, quite indignantly, “No. I’m going to be a literary editor.

SIGH.

Anyway. It’s 2018, and I’ve been getting that academic itch. I graduated with my MA in English literature three years ago, and ever since I’ve started teaching Comp I at a university (this is my first semester!), I’ve been thinking more and more about how happy I’d be teaching creative writing at a university.

Since I already have a Masters, I figured, why have two Masters degrees under my belt when I could just go for my PhD? (That’s right. A PhD in creative writing.) But then I ran into the same problem. Would my writing be good enough? Submitting to these programs is hella expensive. Would it even be worth it to waste the money? I have such precious little money, living paycheck to paycheck as I am now. I’ve been told I should at least apply to six programs. If I save and tighten my belt a little (and ask for a little help), I could maybe afford to apply to two or three programs. I’m currently leaning more toward getting my MFA, mainly because there are way more of them to choose from, but that doesn’t make any of those problems go away.

I could apply to three MFA programs, and then what? Not only are most of my stories genre fiction, but MFA programs receive hundreds of applications a year. I know Brown University receives upward of a thousand. And yet, these programs only choose maybe three or four fiction writers.

Three or four out of hundreds.

Will I actually be accepted? Or will I have wasted a bunch of money on a dream that could never be?

But I can’t teach creative writing at the college level without at least an MFA under my belt, so I have to at least try… right?

 

GoFundMe, to help me cover the costs to publish my anthology of fantasy and science fiction short stories, Fairy Tales and Space Dreams.

Twitter: @BGBFS

Facebook: Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi

Website

 

On World-Building: Rapunzel, the Night Maiden

First, some background info on this story:

Three years ago, I wrote stories for friends and family as Christmas presents. I wrote them for anyone who asked… I didn’t expect so many to ask. So, December 2015 was truly a month of writing through the burn out.

What helped was that I had no particular aspirations for these stories. I wrote them with no intention to revise, edit, or publish.

And yet, out of the 10 stories I wrote that month, one of them turned out to be a gem — “Rapunzel, the Night Maiden.”

For nearly three years, it sat in my Google drive, collecting metaphorical dust. Revising it for publication never crossed my mind until I wrote my Snow White reboot some weeks ago and decided to collect a group of my short stories in an anthology, Fairy Tales and Space Dreams. And when I re-read “Rapunzel, the Night Maiden,” it was like I was experiencing its magic for the first time. I was looking for short stories I’d abandoned, hoping to give them new life in my anthology, and I was happy to include this Rapunzel retelling.

Little did I know how popular and beloved it would be.

So far, 14 out of 16 beta readers have listed “Rapunzel, the Night Maiden” as one of their favorite (or their absolute favorite) out of the Fantasy portion of the my anthology. (Fairy Tales and Space Dreams will be divided into fantasy stories and sci-fi stories.) Apparently, it is (so far) the most fleshed out, developed Fantasy story in the collection, with the most engaging characters and dialogue. I’ve also been told the world-building was actually… well done.

Was it? Was it?

When I originally wrote the story, I had no idea that world-building was what I was doing (and if I’d known then, I might have tried to turn it into a novel). I’d organically revealed parts of the world, meaning aspects were brought up naturally and when they were relevant — as opposed to explaining everything to the reader in an info dump.

That’s all well and good, but the main critique I’ve been getting is, “More! More! This sounds like the beginning of an adventure!”

What I’ve resolved to do is delete the least-liked and least developed stories in order to make room for expanding the best-written, best-developed stories, most loved stories. (I am, most naturally, a novel writer, so the most common critique I get on my short stories in general is that I need to add more. So many of my short stories sound like the beginnings of novels, and I’m trying so hard to fix that.)

All right, let’s get to the world-building:

So then. I’m going to expand “Rapunzel, the Night Maiden,” but how? How do I continue this flawless world-building (because now I’m definitely going to overthink it), and how do I expand this story without turning it into a novella?

First, I’m going to revisit what I’ve already built.

The original “Rapunzel” is a German fairy tale, so I stuck with that when imagining my setting. It isn’t Germany exactly, but it’s modeled after Germany. Therefore, the knight of the story has a very German name, Richard Ludwig.

I don’t’ want to reveal too many spoilers (because I hope to publish Fairy Tales and Space Dreams relatively soon, and I want you to discover the surprises for yourself), but Rapunzel discovers a race of women who are magic healers called the Idanko, and who have names like Oriyomi. These words, with their Yoruba roots (“idan” means “magic,” and “Oriyomi” is a Yoruba name), hint at West African inspiration, mainly the Yoruba ethnic group residing in Nigeria and Benin.

(Quick digression: I originally named them the Majokko, which means “magical girl” or “witch” in Japanese… Mostly because Japanese is the foreign language I’m most skilled with. But that didn’t seem to make sense when I re-read it. So I changed it to “Idanko.” Although, I kept the Japanese “-ko” suffix, meaning “child,” often referring to girls or young women.)

This means that if I’m going to expand this world, I’m going to have to pinpoint an era (a time when knights would have existed in Germany) and research what Germany was like at that time. Now, I’m not writing a historical fiction — remember, this part of my world isn’t Germany itself. It’s modeled after Germany. But the research would certainly help with consistency.

As far as languages, my characters will speak Something-Close-to-Yoruba and Something-Close-to-German (actually, I might just use real German. I’m a native English speaker, and learning Swedish was fairly easy for me, so how hard could German be?).

Next, what were the Yoruba people doing around this time? What were some of their customs? And, this will be the trickiest, how did the Idanko come in contact with Richard’s people, and how did they come to settle in Richard’s people’s land? Perhaps Richard’s people colonized the Idanko, and some of the Idanko decided it was well within their rights to migrate North to inhabit the homeland of their colonizers. Or maybe they were slaves and won their freedom. It could also be that some of the Idanko were fleeing some sort of badness (war, disease, famine, general socio-political unrest) and took refuge up North.

All of this information doesn’t have to actually be in the story, but having it in my notes will help me shape the story.

I need to flesh out how  the Idanko will differ from Richard’s people, culturally. But perhaps a more interesting question is: how will the Idanko who migrated North differ from the Idanko who stayed back home? This is especially important because I want to paint the Idanko who migrated as people who, after many generations, deviated from their home culture until they became an essentially lost people.

The idea of a “lost people” is near and dear to my heart because I’m African-American, and we are a lost people, far removed from our West African ancestors. Once stolen and sold as slaves, we were stripped of our language and culture. My ancestors were forbidden from speaking their mother tongue. They were brought to this unknown land and made to wear strange clothes, speak a strange language, eat strange foods, and follow a strange religion.

So, what do we get? We don’t get to be African, and we don’t get to be fully American, either. We get to be African-American, and more or less 100 years after slavery (I know, it’s technically 153 years on paper, but if you think some masters didn’t keep slaves even after 1865, I’ve got some reading material for you), we’re still trying to figure out what that means.

(Wow, I teared up a little writing this.)

So how will the idea of Idanko as a “lost people” play as a factor in this story? And what does that mean for Richard, Rapunzel, and her mother? (If you’re dying to know more, you could always beta read for me, or you could help my GoFundMe along to speed up the publishing process. I am still trying to raise money to afford a professional editor and a professional cover designer. 😉 )

If you’re also in the beginning stages of world-building, I hope some of the questions I’ve asked myself have given you something to think about in regards to your own world. ❤

At this point, I still don’t know how I’m going to expand, and eventually end, “Rapunzel, the Night Maiden,” but I do know that I now have a mission and a host of discoveries before me.

I’ve got a world to build.

GoFundMe, to help me cover the costs to publish my anthology of fantasy and science fiction short stories, Fairy Tales and Space Dreams.

Twitter: @BGBFS

Facebook: Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi

Website

3 Things They Don’t Tell You About Self-Publishing (When You’re a Poor Nobody)

If you’ve been keeping up with my journey, then you likely have an idea of how this blog post is going to do down. If you’re new here, then hello and welcome! ❤ Thank you for joining me on my quest to self-publish my science-fiction and fantasy anthology, Fairy Tales and Space Dreams.

So I’m going to talk about the early issues I’ve run into while trying to get this baby published (so this does not include marketing — but trust me, if I ever get this project off the ground, there will definitely be a post on marketing later).

  1. Recruiting Beta Readers

    After a couple rounds of self-edits and revision, your manuscript is ready for the next step, which is seeking out beta readers.

    Now, beta readers are precious unicorns who take time out of their day to volunteer by reading your book and giving you their honest thoughts.

    Some people struggle with finding good beta readers and instead end up with people who provide useless answers such as, “That was good. I liked it.”

    One way to remedy this (and to be nice to your beta readers) is to provide specific follow-up questions, and ask your readers to explain why they feel a certain way.

    But my personal issue pops up before I even get to this point. My problem is getting people to care enough about my project in the first place. Whenever I turn to YouTubers for advice, I am painfully reminded of the fact that they already have hundreds (or thousands) of followers. So even though they may not be famous, they have tons of willing volunteers to choose from and are able to recruit about 20 or 40 beta readers per round (at least).

    I, on the other hand, am a nobody. I don’t mean this to be self-deprecating. I mean that I’m still a newbie in the world of publishing and social media. And since no one knows who I am, it’s nearly impossible to get people to care about my writing projects — let alone get them to care enough to beta read for me.

    So, what I’d like to know from self-published authors who’ve sold a decent amount of books is — how did they get started? No one ever really talks about this. How did they recruit beta readers when they were still relative nobodies?

    I’ve managed to nab 17 volunteers — 10 of them are my friends, and the remaining 7 are complete strangers from Twitter and Facebook that decided to give me a chance.

    The good news is that this is progress.

    When I published my first book, I couldn’t have had more than five beta readers, all of whom were my friends. And I had no system going, so all kinds of friends signed up to beta read and then never actually got back to me.

    This time around, I’ve learned it’s good practice to make your expectations clear, to set up a timeline, and to give specific follow-up questions that you’d like answers to. It’s also good practice to send your manuscript chunks at a time and make sure your readers actually have the time to read it (if you ask someone to beta read and they’re honest about being too busy, thank them for being honest and move on). For those who tell me they can beta read, I do ask that they let me know if, at some point, they can’t meet my timeline for whatever reason (some people get busy and life just gets in the way sometimes) so that we can negotiate an extension or so that I can find a replacement reader.

    And make no mistake — if you plan to publish, the beta reading process is 100% necessary. You might think your book is good, but before you start spending a fortune on revealing it to the world, you need to make sure others think it’s good, too.

    If you don’t really know what beta reading is or you don’t know how to go about facilitating the process, I recommend watching this and this for useful information from one of my favorite YouTubers.

    I’m still in the recruiting process myself, and I’m trying to remain positive. Everyone has to start somewhere.

  2. Hiring a Professional Editor and Cover Designer

    After the first round of beta reading, you make the appropriate revisions and initiate the second round of beta reading. Then you make more revisions and initiate your third. After that, you’re ready to look for an editor!

    Once again, if you plan to publish, professional edits are a must.  When I published my first book, I couldn’t afford an editor, so I skipped this step altogether and brought my book baby into the world unedited and unformatted. Don’t do this to your story. If you love your story, you will have it polished the way it deserves to be.

    If you go through the traditional editing route, this part (both editing and cover design) is taken care of for you (I have my reasons for not going this route, though, and maybe I’ll write about those reasons in a future post). If you go the self-publishing route, then you need to find your own editor(s) and pay for their services yourself.

    Some people pay $800, some pay $4,000, and some pay $7,000. It depends on the length of your manuscript and what sort of edits you’re receiving (and how many rounds of edits you’re paying for). Either way, it’s expensive, especially for someone like me, who literally (not figuratively) is living paycheck to paycheck. (After paying bills last month, I was left with $15… And then I spent $10 putting gas in my car.)

    You hear authors say, “Yes, editors are expensive, so you’d better start saving up.”

    But what about those of us who literally cannot save up?

    I’m not going to lie. This has taken some of the fun out of writing for me, and writing is my oldest and deepest passion. If I don’t write, I feel like I lose a large chunk of my identity, and the fact that money is strictly the only thing stopping me from publishing is unendingly frustrating.

    I feel alone in this, and it sucks. So, if you are currently experiencing this, I hope this serves to let you know that you’re not the only one going through this apparent impossibility.

    This also applies, on a smaller scale, to hiring a cover designer. (My first book has stunning artwork on the cover drawn by a friend for $135, but the title itself was created… by me… and it’s not even aligned correctly. Ugh.)

    I’ve seen $600 to be a typical price for a cover (for a cover meant for both print and ebook), but I’ve found an artist who’s quoted me at $450-500. So that’s nice.

  3. Crowdfunding Sucks Ass

    First of all, I hate asking for money. It makes me feel like a beggar.
    What helped ease my aversion to starting a crowdfunding campaign (at least a little) was reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer some years ago. If you’re any sort of artist (and especially if you’re feeling like a fraud — you aren’t a fraud, by the way), I highly suggest giving it a read.

    That said, crowdfunding is still rough. And I still hate it — not only because it makes me feel like a beggar, but because people have bills to pay, children to care for, and their own dreams and hobbies to fund. There are people who need help finding a place to stay or need help acquiring food, and how dare I ask for help funding my book (again, there’s that feeling of being a beggar and a fraud).

    But it’s my passion and my dream, and I have to at least try.

    My current goal is $1,600 to pay for edits, cover design, and the costs that accompany ISBNs and IngramSpark.

    Posting my GoFundMe campaign on Twitter has yielded zilch results (again, I’m a relative nobody), and I haven’t gotten any results from posting it in my Facebook group, Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi, either. Although complete strangers ignoring me on Twitter isn’t something to be upset about, I thought I was building a brand and an audience and a platform when I created the BGBFS Facebook page. But I’m learning quite quickly that my page is seen by its followers as nothing more than a source for pretty pictures of black women in sci-fi and fantasy settings (never mind my call for beta readers, or my asking them what sort of content they’d like to see in this blog, or my request for donors to fund a book that actually features black girls in fantasy and sci-fi).

    Maybe the page isn’t the platform I thought it was. It’s disappointing, but you live and you learn.

    44050731_413482965848766_4319125567916998656_n
    This is a taste of some of the art I showcase on the FB page. This particular piece is “African Magical Girl” by StarZhelli
    https://www.deviantart.com/starzhelli/art/African-Magical-Girl-651233087

    Alas.

    It’s a huge world after all, and I am but a small voice in it.

    Most days, I’m tempted by the idea of giving up.

    But, other than not letting down the few individuals who’ve already given me their support, the only thing that keeps me going is that before most things, I am a writer, and my need and desire to show my work to the world burns too hotly to let me quit.

    I know there are people out there who need my stories — just as there were stories I’ve read that I’ve needed.

    GoFundMe, to help me cover the costs to publish my anthology of fantasy and science fiction short stories, Fairy Tales and Space Dreams.

    Twitter: @BGBFS

    Facebook: Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi

    Website

Before you say POCs in fantasy is unrealistic…

Okay, full disclosure, I love Orlando Bloom as Legolas as much as the next girl, and Cate Blanchett kills it as Galadriel. And I am forever, forever, awaiting the King Killer Chronicles Day Three.

But the template needs to change, my friends. Tolkien published The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954. Many fantasy writers even today are modeling their own works after Tolkien’s. It’s kind of like what one of my college professors said when I was a whee baby undergrad. “I hate Twiggy! She’s the reason models have to be so skinny nowadays!” Now, I disagree with hating Twiggy. I love Twiggy to death, and I think she’s a sweetheart. But the sentiment is that people are desperately holding on to standards from decades ago. Likewise, while Tolkien’s works deserve all the respect they receive, it’s time to move on and walk on our own two feet as fantasy writers.

And as much as I hold Kvothe’s tales near and dear to my heart, every single woman in the King Killer Chronicles is pale — especially if she’s attractive or meant to be a love interest.

But people are quick to defend the sea of whiteness that pervades the fantasy genre with excuses such as “But I’m basing my world off of Medieval/Renaissance/Victorian Europe. Adding black people would be unrealistic.”

Ah, I forgot. The blacks weren’t invented until the 1980s.

(They use similar excuses to avoid including other POCs, LGBTQA+ individuals, and the disabled, too, but to keep this post from becoming ridiculously long, I’ll focus on one group. Although, just about all of my points can be applied to non-black POCs, LGBTQA+ people, and disabled folks.)

I have a few counter points.

  1. You can write dragons and wizards and fairies, but black people, who actually exist, are unrealistic?
  2. I would also like to debunk the myth that blacks didn’t exist in European history. (Shakespeare literally wrote a play about a black man.) People who use this as an excuse most often haven’t actually done any real research, and I will debunk this myth using Medieval and Renaissance paintings of black women:

    41514545_399321683931561_7373516613011636224_n41506456_399321650598231_1280758560472432640_n41541795_399321747264888_6999961304161058816_n41516691_399321713931558_7961657241113722880_n

  3. In the case of Victorian England (I’m looking at you, Steampunk writers), as if the presence of black people in Europe for hundreds of years wasn’t enough, I invite you to meet Sara Forbes Bonetta, the West African Egbado princess whom Queen Victoria herself adopted as her goddaughter when Sara’s parents were killed in intertribal warfare.

    41019850_396972307499832_5292989611075698688_n
    41306609_396972334166496_7202733874210668544_n

  4. I’ve heard people say that they’ve always lived in white neighborhoods and feel uncomfortable writing black characters, but the thing is, not only is this a lame excuse because things like internet and television and books exist, but also, black people are still human beings. Write them how you would normally write a character. If you’re writing fantasy, you’re creating your own world with its own set of politics and social/cultural norms. In this case, you don’t have to worry about representing the mindset of an African-American dealing with racism, colorism, and disenfranchisement as is pertains to the real world.
  5. Finally, I hear a lot of people say something like “Well maybe I just don’t want to write black (or brown or Asian or gay or queer, etc.) characters and you can’t make me.” You’re absolutely right. I can’t make you, but I would challenge you to really ask yourself why. The world is beautiful and colorful and diverse. What sense does it make to have the power to create a completely other world… but then everyone is the same? Everyone, in the entire world, looks the same.

Using my stories in Fairy Tales and Space Dreams as an example, I have written characters that are black, white (one specifically has roots in Scotland), Asian (specifically, Korean), part-Polynesian (with Maori roots), gay, lesbian, and agender. I’m not saying you need to write the entire United Nations into your story, but you get the idea.

Some people also complain that when they write in one person of color, they’re accused of tokenism…. That’s because it is tokenism. Whether you realize it or not, people tend to hang out with other people who have things in common with them. Although I have friends of all backgrounds, I also have friends who are black, female, straight, or cisgender, like me. Gays tend to hang with other gays. Women tend to hang with other women. It’s a little weird if you have an entire world full of straight, white characters and you add one queer person or one person of color.

The last question I want to ask is, why does so much fantasy take place in Europe or settings modeled after Europe? I’m going to chalk this one up to relying on Tolkien, for the most part, anyway. There are literally six other continents on the planet, and each and every one of them has their own fantasical, mystical stories (well, except Antarctica). They have their own mythologies. There are gods and fantasy creatures aplenty to explore in every region, so why do so many writers confine themselves to Europe?

A wonderful example of breaking away from this is Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.  

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a lover of fantasy. I’ve read it twice and eagerly await the second book’s release in March. ❤

It is a fantasy novel that takes place in a setting modeled after West Africa, and not only is the story riveting, but the culture is so rich, it’s almost tangible. You can tell Adeyemi put a lot of research and love into building this world.

It’s so refreshing, and I didn’t know I was starving for a book like that until I actually read it.

As a nerd, I generally surround myself with other nerds. Many of those are girl nerds. And many of those are black girl nerds. And trust me when I say, we get ridiculously excited when we see ourselves represented in some of our favorite books (like Children of Blood and Bone), TV shows (like Gwen in BBC’s Merlin), anime (like Canary in Hunter x Hunter), movies (like Princess and the Frog, or Brandy in Cinderella), and video games (like Marina in Splatoon 2 …. but not League of Legends… STILL not League of Legends… I will never not be bitter about the profound lack of black female characters in LoL, considering the ridiculously large character roster… but I digress).

The point is, we get pretty hype. Representation matters.

GoFundMe, to help me publish Fairy Tales and Space Dreams

Twitter: @BGBFS

Facebook: Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi

Author website (Newly revamped, so there isn’t much there yet! Stay tuned.)

The Journey Begins

The journey begins indeed.

I spent all day thinking about what to write for my very first blog post in “Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi.” If this is going to be the beginning of a journey, I might as well treat it like one.

It literally all started with these photos of model Theresa Fractale:

40400057_10156087270888853_7628028403513294848_o40413530_10156087270873853_8292935185415012352_n

40432641_10156087270678853_3099796666253836288_o
Beautiful photos from Theresa Theresa
Dress: “Lady of the Lake” in purple: https://armstreet.com/…/linen-medieval-dress-lady-of-the-la… 
Photographer: https://www.facebook.com/K.Mikolajczak.Photography/
Dogs: https://www.facebook.com/ROGU-Wilczy-Duch-FCI-227686810721…/
And their owner https://www.facebook.com/Thinloth/

I can’t remember how I stumbled across them, but as soon as I saw these photos, I was stunned. I fell in love. And I felt represented.

 

Being a nerdy black girl who loved all things fantasy, I was, of course, teased, but that didn’t bother me when I was watching Lord of the Rings or Excalibur or The Dark Crystal, or reading Harry Potter or The Hobbit or Peter Pan.

What did eventually come to bother me was that none of the elves looked like me. None of the beauties or love interests looked like me. They were all fair-skinned, pale as milk, white as a sheet and blushing red.

Just a few weeks ago, I was lamenting on Facebook the distinct absence of black elves. One of my friends hopped in my inbox with pictures of “dark elves” with gray, black, and purple skin, and Eurocentric features.

No. That’s not what I meant. That’s not what I meant at all.

This is what I meant:

42614687_405455669984829_5793957126216876032_n
“Dark Elf” by Shakira Rivers (KiraTheArtist)
https://www.deviantart.com/kiratheartist
42886761_407040643159665_4162823410138742784_n
“Gothic Elf”
Modelling by Theresa Fractale:https://facebook.com/TheresaFractale/                                     Photoart by >>>> Nusinam
Styling by >>>> Damaris Luhn
Photo posted on Nubiamancy
41784463_400890893774640_791571835681505280_n
African Elf Warrior by KiraTheArtist
https://www.deviantart.com/kiratheartist
40980480_396753020855094_2123309776761782272_n
“Beautiful Magic” by RomanticFae (https://www.deviantart.com/romanticfae)

So, I created the Facebook group Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi to tdraw attention to the erasure of black women in sci-fi and fantasy and to celebrate the black female characters in sci-fi and fantasy media that we all know and love (Uhura, Storm, Gwen in BBC’s Merlin, Princess Shuri, Princess Talia, Iridessa, Princess Tiana, etc).

When I did this, my most supportive friend in my writing endeavors — who’s more marketing- and business-savvy than I, and who is working on his own web comic — messaged me saying, “Congratulations on finding your brand!”

I had published before, and I have written all my life, but I’d never really thought about my “brand.” I was the nerdy black girl who wrote fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, and so I played off that. But it wasn’t until this defining moment that I truly realized what a brand is. Even now, I’m learning more and more everyday how important it is for authors to create a brand and sell it.

My page grew almost overnight as I shared it with like-minded individuals, others who want to see more melanin maidens in sci-fi and fantasy.

Not long after, another friend tagged me in this Tumblr post and said, “Please write this.”

42333826_1869850439785604_8708681916519284736_n

Oh, and write this I did. In twelve hours, I outlined and wrote the entire story, and people were lining up to beta read it. This emboldened me to put together a collection of my short stories and try to get it published under the title Fairy Tales and Space Dreams.

It’s a nice distraction from the novel I’m supposed to be writing, the sequel to The Adventures and Shenanigans of Bastien Falco (ugh, I’ll write more about that at a later date), and it’s a project I truly believe in. It embodies my brand. And I can’t wait to see it blossom.

The stories are as follows:

 Fairy Tales 

“Princess Snow White”Lips red as blood, hair white as snow, and skin black as ebony
“The Sea and the Stars” A mermaid bonds with a fallen star
“Save Now?”You are the Baron and you must save your boyfriend, the Duke! Hurry!
“Rapunzel, the Night Maiden”Rapunzel is more than a girl stuck in a tower and her mother knows her true power…
“Wild Woman” — We cannot be tamed. 

 (Fairy) Tales of Horror 

“Mr. Sandman” — He just wants to make sure you have the best sleep of your life…
“Feeding Day” — A haunting twist on “Little Red Riding Hood” 

 Space Dreams 

“Omega Star: Genesis” — Captain Alex Pulsar plays an instrumental role the mass migration from a diseased and dying Earth in their Deep Space Vessel Blazer 
“Captain Alex and the Mystery of the Space Blobs” Captain Alex Pulsar stumbles upon a biological wonder in a previously undiscovered alien race
“The Cosmic Adventures of Sophie Zetyld” — River Seung gazed up at the stars one day to find a comet hurling straight toward his apartment, but this wasn’t just any comet. It wasn’t a comet at all. It was a space unicorn come to enlist him in helping defend Earth from a horde of virus-like aliens 
“Evangelina’s Dream”— If “The Cosmic Adventures of Sophie Zetyld” didn’t blow your mind, this continuation will…

So! I’m currently doing a bit of research, searching for editors and cover designers that not only fit in my budget but will do my book baby justice. In the mean time, I, with $4 to my name, am attempting to use crowdfunding to help alleviate the overwhelming cost of self-publishing.

So here you are, joining me at the very beginning of this wonderful journey.

Thank you. 🙂

GoFundMe

Twitter: @BGBFS

Facebook: Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi

Author website (Newly revamped, so there isn’t much there yet! Stay tuned.)