I spoke recently with Frank Creed and Cecil Washington. . As you will see from our interview, both men are on the edges of Science Fiction. They write for audiences that are not considered mainstream science fiction audiences.
Cecil, you are editor and Publisher of Creative Brother , a magazine that publishes and explores speculative fiction written by black men.
CW: This is not correct. It is about people who live with or around what we call Black Culture. I do not only publish black men. I'm still waiting for a futuristic story about an Eminem type of character, other than the one I wrote called "Street Mind". I have not received one yet. Does that mean that there will be no Eminems in the future? I thought that only black people and other non-white people were in danger of disappearing.
I understand what you mean by disappearing. So often when one watches science fiction –especially the old movies-- one wonders what happened to the non-whites. But that has begun to change, I think. On Amazon, for instance, there are many multicultural speculative fiction books. There are also many Christian speculative fiction books . Not as many as one would like, however. So, in the future I’ll remember that Creative Brother also publishes Creative sisters.
CW: Creative Brother's Sci-Fi magazine is about black people, black culture.
Frank, you are part of the Lost Genre Guild, a group that specializes in Christian speculative fiction and you also blog at A Frank Review a review blog of Biblical Speculative Fiction. Some people consider those to be marginalized speculative fiction? By marginalized I mean, "not in the mainstream."
Tell me, why have you chosen to write in such marginalized areas?
CW: People fill up the Internet with complaints about the lack of blacks in speculative fiction. I decided to be someone who would stop complaining and start acting. I read Octavia Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, Delaney and John Faucette. I need to get on the ball and read more of Brandon Massey . I also decided to return to writing my own stories once I stopped actively writing Hip Hop.
FC: After years of fruitless searching, I stopped looking for Biblical speculative fiction in Christian bookstores or on religious shelves. I’ve been writing since very young and eventually started to write in the genre I enjoyed reading—but with the twist of writing in a manner that is respectful of Christian values. I’ve since found that there are many fans of spec-fiction who have a difficult time finding enough novels to feed their reading habit—connecting with them is the challenge I face.
Why not simply write stories that deal with what we have in common instead of what separates us?
CW: If you honestly tell your own story, can rip apart those barriers and dig out the raw expression, the common concerns and fears all humans have will be exposed. A good story is a good story. I like reading about other cultures, why can't others read about me?
FC: I think that history has proven the melting-pot to be a false idea. Our culture is a woven tapestry—what we have in common is our hearts. I didn’t deliberately set out to include characters of other cultures—I develop the characters as I see them in my mind.
Do you write for only those who are like you? And why?
CW: I write for whoever will read it because I want to be read and make money writing and publishing.
FC: My intended audience is anyone who was raised in church, and likes a page turner—no matter where they are in life now. I have been told by non-Christians, for instance, that the characters in, and story of Flashpoint have inspired them—perhaps not enough to convert to Christianity, but at least to search for something more in their lives.
Do you think that people who are not like you, not black or not Christian, would enjoy or understand your work?
FC: Yes, I have had reviewers indicate just that. The problem I face is that my work is labeled “Christian fiction” and that label alone may prevent someone from picking up the book and so there is a whole community of readers out there who will never get the opportunity to read my work. Part of the reason is that Christian fiction has had a reputation for slightly inferior quality. People remember the books they checked out from the church library or that they received as gifts when they were young.
True. Christian Fiction does have something of a bad reputation. But, accepting that you are indeed writing Christian Fiction and good Christian Fiction, wouldn't non-Christians think you're trying to preach at them? Cecil, would white readers think you're trying to preach to them or even to malign them? Frank, the same question.
CW: Some will, some won't, based on their own issues. One white reader told me I should have put more drug use in my first book because it reminded him of a dystopian story he read years ago where people got high all of the time. People are going to read into things what they want to read into them. All I want to do is tell a good story.
FC: A fiction author’s first job is to entertain. Nobody reads fiction for a sermon. If it's not about character and setting, people will stop reading. If a reader cannot identify with judgmental characters, yeah, they will feel maligned. Communicating Christ's love, reaching people where they're at in life, is all about the Golden Rule . . . do unto others.
Folks can be very uncomfortable with stories that deal with religion and race.
CW: That's probably why those are the good stories. Cannibalism and murder also disturb people. And let's not forget about sex. Shall we stop writing about things that humans are prone to do? If we do, we'll bore our readers.
FC: I'm hoping my novels will cross-over to seekers, but the Underground series is doomed to sit on religious fiction shelves, away from the eyes of a sci-fi readers. I pray the end-times sci-fi concept captures interest and catches-on. At book signings with other authors, I will take any opportunity to cruise the sci-fi shelves and talk to readers about Christian spec-fiction—most are very surprised that it exists and many immediately want to know more about it.
Do you consider your enterprises successful? Relatively speaking, that is. Do you have many readers?
CW: I have few readers. I want more. I'd like to be able to make a fortune from my enterprise. But, despite the few readers I go on because I know there is at least one magazine, mine, that is about black people in sci-fi/horror/fantasy settings.
FC: I founded the Lost Genre Guild to promote Biblical speculative fiction (most people don’t know what that is, so please check Wikipedia--a guild member wrote the definition), and I cannot believe the number of lives that have been touched. If the Boss strikes me down tomorrow, I've already lived dream one.
I just checked out the Wikipedia article . That’s a very good historical recap of Biblical Speculative Fiction.
My own short fiction has only been published in two anthologies—I’m nobody. I work in a factory. My first novel Flashpoint: Book One of the Underground , will be released on September 30, by The Writer's Café Press . Most of my readers have been reviewers for Flashpoint’s advanced-review-copy. I leaned on my publisher to make Christian-Pirate novelist ML Tyndall (Legacy of the King’s Pirates series), my front cover blurb. My three favorite novelists are George Orwell, CS Lewis, and ML Tyndall—so having my only living novelist on my front cover is dream two.
On September 30, my third dream will be realized. I was eight years old when I knew I wanted to write storybooks—dream three took 33 years.
Will you be content with a certain kind of niche audience for your works? Or are you aiming for fame in the larger marketplace?
CW: Again, I'd like to be able to make a fortune from my enterprise. I'm sure that people who are classified as black are not the only people who support black products. Do only Chinese people each Chinese Food? Do only white people listen to Mozart? Do only black people listen to James Brown?
FC: I hope sci-fi readers find me, but they don't look for their favorite fiction on religious shelves. I’ll be content with whatever he gives me: Christian science fiction is nonexistent as a subgenre, so if I'm ever able to pay the mortgage with fiction it will be a miracle.
Do you believe you're working from outside the mainstream in order to change the mainstream? Or don't you care about mainstream speculative fiction at all?
CW: I believe I'm working outside of the mainstream because the mainstream is not publishing me. If they published me, I'd stop working outside of the mainstream. You'll have to ask the mainstream why I'm outside of it. If I waited around for the magic blessing of mainstream publishing I'd never write anything.
FC: The big publishing houses have bought out most of the small Christian imprints, so I just hope to make a difference for my subgenre. As a reader through my whole life, I was so tired of only finding the atheist worldview presented in science fiction. According to Writer's Digest, religious fiction in general is predicted to be the big growth market in coming years. Cecil and I are in the right place.
Frank, have you ever read any speculative fiction by Black authors? Cecil, would you read white Christian speculative fiction? Have you read any?
CW: The nuns of St. Mary's Piscataway made sure I found out about C.S. Lewis when I was in elementary school. Barring that, I read whatever I think is good.
FC: *smiling at CW* most of the science fiction I've read was in paperback form, and paperbacks don't usually include author pictures. For all I know, these people were green!
What are your current projects?
CW: I've been writing poetry and just completed recording a rap song in my cousin's studio. I'm also working on a short story and the next issue of Creative Brother.
FC: I am working with role-playing game designer Mike Roop on a RPG based on Flashpoint; at the same time I am writing the sequel to it as well as collaborating with a small group of people who are writing in the Underground setting.
Thank you so much for the interview and good luck with your enterprises.
I got up this morning thinking of Truth. I suppose it popped into my mind because I’ve been trying to live a life of truth.
For me, Truth involves so many aspects of life: how we live, how we speak, what we allow ourselves to listen to, what the facts of life really are, whether or not we believe what others tell us, whether or not we ourselves are believed when we speak, our boldness when we speak what we believe.
Two incidents came to my mind this morning. I remembered them without pain. A good thing because back in the day when these events occurred I was so annoyed I grieved and moaned about the “fact” that black women are not “believed” when we spoke. Perhaps the intervening years have healed my heart.
The first incident involved my hateful mother-in-law. I can say “hateful mother-in-law” because she was hateful and still continues to be so. In this first instance, we were discussing a nephew of hers who had recently visited our east coast home. He had told us all about his studies in the paranormal. When my mother-in-law asked us what was happening in the life of this nephew whom she had not seen, I told her he had been studying the paranormal. My mother-in-law jumped down my throat – okay, not literally, but you know what I mean– and snapped, “No, he’s not studying the paranormal.” I stared at her, surprised and shocked. Of course her nephew had been studying the paranormal. He had spent his entire visit with us talking about how he was learning to encounter and measure the paranormal. But my mother-in-law didn’t like me. And whatever I was going to say was going to be challenged.
This is a bit like the sin of iniquity where we don’t hate a sin because it is a sin but because of who is doing the sin. I, for instance, seem to have no problem with my female friends committing adultery but when their husbands do it, I get seriously steamed. Well, this seems to have been what was going on with my mother-in-law. Her dislikes for blacks was so strong that anything a black person said was not going to be believed…simply because a black person said it. This refusal to accept the truth because someone one hates has spoken it is such a part of human nature that even the Bible talks about it. In order to contradict me, my mother-in-law had made herself omniscient. Obviously she was hovering around in the invisible realm watching the conversation between her nephew and us even while she was in California. Worse yet, she was arrogant to tell me what I “hadn’t heard.” Because in her mind, Black women simply were not to be trusted.
The next incident I’ve already mentioned in this column so forgive me if I refer to it again. This one involved Dr. Cowan, the developmental specialist who –when I said, “As a child I heard my mute son talk and shout for Daddy three times”– simply retorted, “No you didn’t.” Why did he do that? Obviously, he also was omniscient and arrogant enough to declare what I had or had not heard. I’m not sure if this was a race issue, a sex issue, or just an arrogant doctor issue but later when I met my son’s wonderful allergist Dr Joseph Wojcik I realized how much Dr Cowan could have helped me and how many tests he could have ordered for my son if he had decided to believe me about my son and to widen his own horizons a bit.
Yes, part of this notion of truth is about the willingness to widen one’s horizon and to admit that one does not know all there is to know. But the other part is about anger, arrogance, and yes, racism and sexism. About how we love our neighbors, in short. Racism often involves hatred. And sexism often involves power issues. Some people like to think that they can be racist and sexist without being hateful. But that is rarely true. Oftentimes there is so much hate going on in the mind of someone who “loves his race” or who thinks “well, women have their place and men have theirs” that any kind of logical conversation goes out the window. I’ve also encountered that kind of hatefulness with atheists also.
I try to live a life of truth so much so that I try to not exaggerate. I try to say only what needs to be said without going over the top. This is not to say I’m Ms Truthful. I am often wimpy and lacking in boldness when it comes to giving my opinion, speaking up as a believer in the Bible, or hurting anyone’s feelings. While I don’t exactly lie, I am such a master of ambiguity and equivocation. Lately, I do think this is a bit of falseness that should leave my life. I often feel God’s Holy Spirit trying to get me to live a more honest life…even with annoying friends who call me when I truly don’t want to speak to them. I’m pretty careful with people’s feelings though, and I doubt I’ll do what many so-called virtuous people do: use my spiritual resolution as an excuse to hammer people. I’m just not like that. Brutal frankness is just another kind of bullying as far as I’m concerned.
But in most areas I am aiming for truth. This means I will try to listen to the point of view of my son’s ignorant friends. This means that I tend to avoid American news programs because as a writer I cannot deal with the way they use sound bytes, word-games, and “spin” to manipulate the American people. This means I will continue to complain loudly about commercials for over-the-count medicine because those commercials always teach us to cover symptoms and not to get to the root of whatever medical problem the product is supposed to be curing.
When Jesus stood bleeding, flailed and powerless before him, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus didn’t answer. He had already told His disciples that He Himself was truth. We don’t know how Pilate meant his question. Did he ask it sarcastically? Did he ask it from an honest heart? Did he ask it like a philosopher, someone who asks deep questions only as a mental exercise and a game but not as a way of trying to figure out how to live.
Either way, I do think we should ask what truth is. And if we discover some small or great truth, I think we ought to live by it. Love and Truth. Truth and Love. And, frankly, if we Americans truly believed that all men are created equal by their Creator, we would be a lot more respectful toward each other. Obviously, this is a truth we only give “lip service” to. And merely giving “lip service” is an excuse for not giving “heart service.”
In many of the letters recorded in the Bible, St Paul asked those he wrote to to pray that he be bold in living the truth and declaring the good news of Christ. That’s what I want to be: bold and truthful. In all aspects of my life.
Truth, which the world cannot receive. John 14:17
What is Truth? John 18:38
Dear Lord, let me abide in your word and let your word abide in me, that I may know the truth, that the truth can set me free. Amen.
Hi Stephen! Be strong! God loves you and is with you. I know how had it is to have one's life turned into an unplanned journey but trust God. There are miracles great and small awaiting you. And you'll be amazed what you will be able to do if you live a life of hope. Read the Bible, trust the living word of God to work in you. Be real...don't suppress any sorrow or grief you feel for your life. But at the same time be strong and don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed. It's a tough balance but it needs to be done. So you won't feel alone. And so you won't feel silenced.
Your poems will speak to many people, i know.
I'll be praying for you. I believe that with God anything and everything is possible. God is able to make you do great things...wherever you are. Remember that emotions tell us that something positive needs to be done. So if you become angry or feel sad or isolated, remember there is something that needs to be done. Ask God and He will tell you the positive to be done. Your healing may come or it may not come. I trust it can. In the meantime, however, try to live as normal a life as possible. That might means a car made for folks with handicap issues. It might mean going outside in your wheelchair. It might even mean becoming an activist and a spokesman for the handicapped in your community. In the meantime, study the word and believe it....and be careful how you hear. Avoid negative people. Avoid negative people --even if they're trying to comfort you. Let your entire eye be filled with light.
TO MY BLOG READERS:
Please keep Stephen in your prayers.
Stephen Todd Jones is a writer and poet from Virginia Beach, Virginia. While a sophomore at Liberty University, he sustained injuries in a car crash that left him in a wheelchair, and this perspective forms the basis for much of his writing. Through his poetry, he gives us a window into his world and his faith.
Here are some of his poems.
Some of My Dreams
Some of my dreams have had to Alter beyond any doubt As happenings necessitated change Along this daily route.
Dreams of great “success” here in Certain fields is out of The questions, because of limitations Brought on-- I still love
Other fields are beyond my ability, But if one is hurting here, I am most willing and as able, In time of need, to draw near.
How They Are
Things are how they are In shades life gives it; However things prove to be, It's live-- live it
Pretend, if you must do so In order to feign the Happiness foreign for now Until it's reality.
Nobody wants to hear how Life turned sour For, to make it turn out is Beyond their power, ----
And they have their share of Troubles their own To face also unaided daily When they feel alone.
Companion of The Word
Words are constant companions When nobody is around Since various degrees of solace In those here are found.
Sometimes not enough are they, Having no flesh or bone Though, in all honesty, they have A substance all their own.
The letters, once here combined, Compose skeletal formation As of living and thriving humans For our God-willed duration.
Words have a longer duration for They can be recorded that Later generations may share in the Wisdom of one then at.
(cont.) The Word is my Companion even Though others will fade Over the expanse of history years If written or even said.
Frank's Place. Remember that? Now what do we have? The Wayans Brothers? The WAYANS BROTHERS, folks!
Now, I understand that BET is primarily a music channel. And I understand that hip-hop delights in the carnal and the pleasures of money, the flesh, etc. But honestly, folks, they need to balance things out a bit!
Yes, they have BET inspiration in the mornings. Not bad. And I know most black kids aren't offended to see religion in the mornings. After all, they know their parents are religious. But it's such a dichotomy! Religion in the morning and then sexually-charge hip-hop and sexually-charged sitcoms for the rest of the day.
Don't these guys have power to create better progamming? Don't they have "pull" among the black musicians and video artists? Where is their sense of responsibility to the community? Hey, can't they tell hip-hop artists to do videos that don't show all that bling? Or all that sex? Or all that violence? Or women behaving like ho's?
Can't they create shows that don't revolve around fame, sex, money? They even created a reality show that was a knock-off of VH1's real world. Come now, BET! Where is your creativity?
Hey, I liked the idea that these were kids in college. But the thing didn't honor education. It honored sleeping around and booty shakes. There are ways of making education palatable to young kids without making it sexual.
The problem as I -- your lowly media critic-- sees it is that we have all these kids who want to be famous, who want to get laid, who want to have tons of money. Shouldn't we try to make these kids yearn to be educated? Why is fame so important? Why is it the be-all and end-all? Why is getting another notch on one's bed the big thing among college kids in some of our community?
I challenge BET to come up with some good family shows, which are not primarily about sex. Shows which have characters who are normal folks.
Afrosphere Bloggers Association (ABA) is coordinating the Afrosphere Accurate Images campaign against BET and gangsta rap.
Contact Information: The Solutions Blog http://solutionsforourpeople.wordpress.com Bronze Trinity at firstname.lastname@example.org Carole at http://www.darkparables.blogspot.com Adrianne at http://blackwomenineurope.blogspot.com/ Tracy http://blackgivesback.blogspot.com/
If you’ve ever seen The First 48 on A&E, you probably – as I do – have found yourself avoiding dramatic cop-shows such as Law and Order. Praised and time-honored as the Law and Order franchise might be, their storylines are pretty much crock. Their bad guys are over-the-top truly villainous people whose crimes are planned around L&O’s need for ratings and penchant for preachiness.
The First 48 however, is the real thing. Painfully, terribly so. It’s a reality show, of course! But what a reality! The premise for the series is this: the first forty-eight hours after a homicide are the most crucial. Evidence, witnesses, and the bad guy can simply disappear, fade, or be forever lost.
Each episode focuses on two homicide squads, in different cities. On any Thursday night the viewer might find herself involved in the investigation of a murder in Dallas, Kansas City, MO, Las Vegas, Memphis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, or Miami.
Of course, we develop favorites. The Memphis and Miami squads are superb and stand-outs are Sergeant Caroline Mason, Sergeant Doreen Shelton, Sergeant Tony Mullins, Sergeant Mitch Oliver, Sergeant Eunice Cooper, Sergeant Ervins Ford, Detective Kevin Ruggiero, Detective Emiliano Tamayo.
We see these cops in their humanity. We see the adrenalin pumping in the adrenalin junkies who live to get the bad guy. We see the grief when they have to inform a family member that their loved-one has been murdered. We see their grief for both the victims and the victimizers.
That’s probably the strangest thing about The First 48. These cops know something that most TV cops don’t know: that murderers are not particularly evil. They aren’t even smart. The murderers are generally kids who haven’t got a lick of sense, who get involved in something that goes awry, who gave the devil a finger and the devil took the whole hand. The cops are educated, and mature. They understand common sense and they come in all sizes and shades. The murderers, on the other hand, unfortunately are of a darker hue: hispanic and black, they are often involved in gangs, fighting over the little 1% of the American dream the rich have allowed to trickle down.
When Sergeant Caroline Mason of the Memphis PD is on the case, she shows us that being a cop involves being part spiritual counselor, part trickster-manipulator, part maternal voice of the community, and part investigator. Yet, she’s got to be one of the most ultra-feminine cops you’d ever see. The woman has style, but she also has heart. A young criminal is like putty in her hands. At the end of the investigation, he is usually blubbering as much as we are.
He knows he’s wasted his life. He knows he’s not being the good Christian kid his mom wanted him to be. He knows that one moment of stupidity has cost him his future and possibly his life. If it’s a girl who was playing one guy against another, she knows how volatile hormones can be. And, most importantly, the murderer knows that another human died and didn’t deserve to.
Okay, I’m sounding a bit like a bleeding-heart liberal with a Law and Order fixation. But I can’t help it. The show makes even hard hearts weep. I kid you not. I find myself watching the programs and shouting at those young stupid murderers, “My people! My people! What are you doing to yourselves! And for what? The little cash a drug deal will bring?”
I know many parents don’t feel like sitting their kids down to watch documentaries or straight-up reality shows. But I’m the kind of parent who forced my son to watch Maxed Out, a film about the evils of credit cards; and SuperSize Me, a film about the horrors of fast-food addiction.
So, okay, I’m telling you to plunk your kid down in front of this show. Especially if the kid – like many teenagers in the hood – still doesn’t know how to think before he acts.
Well, this is gonna be hard...cause i really do like rap. And rock and roll. But I'm not liking what it's doing to black youth. So here goes:
I hereby solemnly declare that I will no longer watch or llisten to musicians, videos, movies, or comedians who use the word
"hoe", s***, w**** when discussint women.
I also solemnly declare that I will no longer listen or watch any performer who uses the N-word or who does rap songs encouraging shallow mercenary values and Black-on-Black violence.
I believe that artists and performers are free to speak their own minds. I'm not against free speech. But honestly, I wish there are folks who were a bit more responsible in their speech to kids because most kids are pretty undiscerning.
I am tired of seeing kids kill each other over sneakers, bling, etc.
I'll post a comment about a new Christian novel which I have not read but which sounds pretty good.
It concerns Jamie Boyer who is something of a prodigal and his journey back to God. The High Street of the title refers to the college life to which he was called but which he messed up because of drugs and alcohol.