WHAT WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH
Last month, I ran a series of blog posts spotlighting Black Speculative Fiction Month. BSFM was designed to acknowledge and spread the word about black authors and artists within the speculative fiction genre.
In and of itself, speculative fiction is mostly represented by whites and thus doesn’t usually have protagonists of color. That said, the readers of speculative fiction are mostly unaware of black authors in the genre.
One of the intentions of BSFM is to not only celebrate the achievements of black authors—which can be easily overlooked by the mainstream audience—but to also inform and educate the readers and potential reader of speculative fiction that diversity does exist and that various racial and cultural groups are being represented.
Many within the black community don’t read speculative fiction because they see it as either silly—too far removed from reality—or dominated by whites who often exclude any characters of color. So, most of the black community isn’t even aware that black speculative fiction authors exist. This is where BSFM comes into play.
The month long celebration informs those within the community and in the mainstream who don’t know, of the existence of black speculative fiction authors. This is an effort to not only inform readers of black authors, but to also bring new readers to the genre of speculative fiction as a whole.
I was confronted by an individual who felt that having BSFM was divisive and separatist. I attempted to explain that his interpretation of the celebration was not at all its intent. I tried to point out the goals I stated earlier, but unfortunately to no avail.
Sure, as you would expect most black speculative fiction writers have a predominately black cast of characters, whereas most white speculative fiction writers have a predominately white cast of characters. We write within our framework of experience and what comes natural and to me there’s nothing wrong with that. I have white characters, Asian characters, etc… in my work(s), as white authors have black characters within their work(s). But how I approach any character I create—regardless of race—is to make them human, first and foremost. I don’t get caught up in trying to make them conform to typical stereotypes in order to assert authenticity. To do this, creates a caricature of an ethnic group and does almost nothing to develop the character as an entity.
I have enjoyed books where the cast of characters were all white, but I never got particularly angry or disgruntled, nor did I urge those creators to include token blacks to make their work more balanced. I write stories with black protagonists and a predominately black cast, not in answer to my white counterparts, but because that’s what comes naturally to me. It’s not divisive or separatist to write what you know.
It wasn’t too long ago that the mainstream public refused to acknowledge, let alone publish or feature black speculative fiction authors. If we as a group wanted to be seen or heard, we had to do it for ourselves. Now, there is a slow movement to integrate black creators into the mainstream however, much more is yet to be done and celebrations like BSFM only help to foster diversity within the world of genre fiction by spreading the word about those outside of the mainstream’s purview.
A lot of people I know within speculative fiction are coming together to explore our differences and learn something new about other people and to me that’s a good thing. It has always been my idea that when I’m reading speculative fiction, I’m looking for a bold new adventure. What could be more different than to step outside of the box you’re accustomed to and explore a more diverse take on genre fiction? I’m not sure how making people aware of diversity, exploring new cultural takes on genre fiction and authors writing within the scope of their experience is such a bad thing.
Much respect and thanks for spotlighting Black Writers who are gifted storytellers. Any who would deem your actions divisive does not fully understand or appreciate the need for that type of support. And truly that is their loss because it only limits their view; educational and entertainment wise. Continued success on your journey as a writer and creator, perhaps your works will inspire the next generation of Black Writers and Creators. Peace & Blessings.
What is divisive and separatist is to write fiction of any kind with only white characters and expect black readers to identify with it whole sale. Writing fiction that speaks to my personal experience as a black author is not divisive, nor separatist, it is me writing about me and those whom I was born from, black people. How is writing fiction with ALL white characters not separatist?? 95% of fiction written by whites is with ALL white characters. So what the heck?? THAT is not separatist and divisive??
For any author, white or black, to make the claim that it is separatist or divisive to write all black characters shows that they are living in a fantasy world and are not only insensitive, but biased. Not to mention confrontational. Everyone on the planet can write about their race except us? When Chinese write Chinese characters, who complains? When Indians write Indian characters, who complains? When whites write only white characters, as it has been for the most part in every conceivable media (TV, Film, Publishing), who complains?
Blacks have tried to get their voice heard in all media and have found that they need to take it upon themselves to create all black casts/characters that speak to their experience, just like all white casts/characters speak to the white experience. Or all Chinese casts speak to the Chinese experience. Who cares if Chinese films don’t have white or black people? Why don’t these folks claiming that blacks are being divisive go off and make the same argument to the Chinese or Indians about their books?
Absent all black characters in most main stream fiction, people of color have decided to write their own books that speak to their experiences, either in the modern world, or a futuristic world of their design, such as sci-fi, with all black characters and, as has been done to us, the gratuitous white character, if we so desire. If we do not desire, then so be it. Because when they don’t desire to add the gratuitous black character in any form of media, they don’t.
I’m sick of people claiming that blacks are divisive in a world that is STILL unequal and filled with racism, prejudice and bias toward us. If folks want the divisiveness to end, then they need to go talk to the whites who started the divisiveness. I am not going to be made to feel bad for taking back my culture because it makes someone else uncomfortable. And I’m not going to play into their pseudo-intellectual arguments. If it is making them uncomfortable, that is proof positive that they are still racist & prejudice and want to continue to control how we express ourselves as black people. If it is a black person saying it, then they are lost and confused and have no clue where the real divisiveness began, nor the fact that to highlight us is not divisive, but celebratory. Since when is it divisive to highlight a positive attribute? Based on that argument, we shouldn’t highlight anyone or anything in the culture. Why have Grammys or Oscars? Why have Pulitzer Prizes in literature? Isn’t it divisive to highlight one human being over another? Doesn’t that make other writers feel substandard? Why have Man or Woman of the Year awards? If we are going to claim that highlighting black fiction of any kind is divisive, then ALL things that highlight ANY one person or group needs to be done away with across the culture.
Remind that person that divisiveness is people refusing to give blacks a voice. THAT is what it means to be divisive. To allow EVERYONE else on the planet a voice to express their culture in their way, except us, is divisive. The mere fact that that person opened his/her mouth shows where the problem lies. We have a right to express ourselves. Period. And if white America can create books, movies, TV shows with ALL white casts/characters, even right now in the 21st Century, AND highlight those characters, then why the hell can’t we??
Thanks for responding Ced! I wish you great success and fulfillment in your creator’s journey as well my brother!
Thanks for responding Zaji! I agree with you and that’s exactly why I did this series. Continued blessings my sister!