What I’ve Read: Trail of Lightning

Hey there everyone. I thought I’d keep on telling you about the stories I’ve been enjoying by specfic writers of color. This week, let’s talk about Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel Trail of Lightning! I, like so many others, loved her Hugo, Nebula and Campbell Award-winning short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™.” After I finished it, I simply said “Goddamn!” So when she came out with Trail of Lightning, I knew I had to read it.

When writers of color tell the stories of our own worlds, of our own cultures and experiences, readers are treated to something different and new because the well the author is drawing from is deep with unheard stories. The world that Rebecca Roanhorse, who identifies as Black and Pueblo, draws from for her Sixth World series is an Indigenous one filled with Diné mythology, tradition and every day life.

Protagonist Maggie Hoskie is pretty much a loner–or has preferred to be. A no-nonsense monster hunter, she is called upon to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, setting things in motion. Maggie tucks in the ends of her moccasin wraps, puts on her leather jacket, grabs her Boker knife and gets things done. She is not alone, joined by the handsome, smooth-talking, healer-in-training Kai (okay, can we talk about how damn fine Kai is supposed to be??) who, like Maggie, has clan powers that they use to their advantage.

Together, they travel through a Dinétah nation protected from the outside world by a wall constructed with help from the gods. The rest of the U.S. has been devastated by an apocalyptic flood. Who is creating the monstrosities that are running rampant? What the hell is the trickster Coyote/Ma’ii up to now? Where is Neizghání, with whom Maggie had shared so much? What is going on? There are gods and monsters, and she has to deal with them both as they figure it out.

The second book in her Sixth World series, Storm of Locusts, is coming out this April and is now available for pre-order. If you haven’t gotten into them yet, get on it!

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, 2018. Simon & Schuster.
Find out how to get your copy HERE.

***Getting that To Be Read List down one book at a time!***

What I’ve Read: A Ruin of Shadows

What do I know about doing reviews? Nada, as this is my first one, but I can tell you about specfic books and short stories I’ve read lately–especially ones by writers of color like me. My colleagues are putting out some great stuff that you should know about if you don’t already, so I thought I’d start something new for the new year on my blog.

Let’s get this party started with L.D. Lewis’ novella A Ruin of Shadows, which gives new meaning to the lament “I’m too old for this shit.”

Gen. Daynja Édo has been whooping ass and taking names left and right for a long time, doing what has to be done and doing it very well. She has a magical mask that adds to her fame as well as the Shadows, her team of assassins that she personally trained. With folks eyeing her position and questioning if she’s still capable, she is given an official order. Gen. Édo rejects it like “Nope!” and the hunt is on, with the Shadows and a whole army at her heels.

I love that Gen. Édo is an older protagonist. Her bones pop and creak. She runs a hand through gray hair. But the most important thing is that she knows exactly who she is, what she can do, and has the wisdom to see through BS. No wondering and angst. We don’t often get a chance to see older women being as badass as possible in specfic and she definitely is. That whole chase and ending was like “Goddamn!” and had me cheering. Pick it up for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

Hey L., when/if you come out with its sequel…I. Am. So. THERE.

A Ruin of Shadows by L.D. Lewis, 2018. Dancing Star Press.
Find it on
Amazon, B&N, or an independent bookseller near you.

***Getting that To Be Read List down one book at a time***

So Nice It’s Out There Twice…

To start, Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to the Thunderdome…I mean, 2019!

News on my end is that my story “With These Hands: An Account of Uncommon Labour” has been reprinted in the January 2019 issue of Apex Magazine! You’ll be able to read it online on January 24, but you can get a copy of the issue at any time. You know you wanna. I mean, look at this beautiful cover by artist Tangmo Cecchini…

You can also find stories by Beth Dawkins, Lavie Tidhar, Marian Coman, Aja McCullough and an essay by Daniel M. Bensen. Check them out!

Capclave 2018

I enjoy going to Capclave, hosted by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA), as it tends to be more literary-inclined and about writers and readers. I was busy all day as I was on four panels. *gasp* What?! No, really…I had a blast.

My first panel was about “How We Imagine the Future and What It Says About Us” about scifi’s visionaries since its inception (such as Verne and Wells) and others such as Gernsback, Heinlein and Asimov. I take a historian’s long view on things, such as their writing being a reflection of the concerns, morals and challenges of their times. We talked about technology and governments, dystopic futures and utopias. It was a great panel. My next was about “Overcoming Assumptions” and how we as writers deal with challenges related to gender, LGBTQ identity, disability and race.

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Kenesha Williams and Sherin Nicole of Geek Girl Riot joined the DWASF crew for “Afrofuturism and Black Speculative Fiction.” We were kind of goofing off in this photo. I was doing my poses like Jet magazine*…

CAPCLAVE Afrofuturism
We then had a DWASF Meet and Greet. Lots of fun and good conversations. We showed Chad’s films and had book giveaways. I had to dip out for a moment to go to my last panel of the day about “Writing for Anthologies.” We had a nice discussion with the audience with tips for submitting to and writing for anthologies. Afterwards, I ran back for the rest of our meet and greet. I really enjoy talking to the public. I mean, scifi and speculative fiction…what’s not to like?

Oh and if, you didn’t get my Jet magazine reference, look no further than this clip from Eddie Murphy’s “Boomerang” around 0:42.

BlerdCon 2018

I had a really nice time at BlerdCon again this year. I spoke on the “The Future of Afrofuturism” panel with my DWASF colleague Chad Eric Smith, author V.R. McCoy and moderator William Jones of the Afrofuturism Network.

Our room was full and the audience asked great questions about the genre, movement, and the writing/publishing process. I was at Blerdcon’s first one last year. Seeing the turnout and feeling the excitement was fantastic. It is a personal, inclusive-feeling con and I encourage you all to come to next year’s. I’m already looking forward to it!

Post-Panel Thoughts: Balticon 2018

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Ooo, I just love going to cons. It’s always nice being surrounded by folks who love scifi, fantasy and horror as much as I do, so when our Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF) group was invited to participate, I was more than happy to go. Some of our members (B. Sharise Moore, K. Ceres Wright and Chad Eric Smith) were on an “Afrofuturism 101” panel (along with Stephanie Burke and Nicky Drayden) that was standing room only!2018-05-26 12.11.26We also had a readings event where DWASF members John Edward Lawson, Stafford Battle, Chad, K. Ceres & I read selections from our works. I read an excerpt of “With These Hands,” that was published in FIYAH Magazine.

2018-05-26 13.56.08We love telling others about our group and had a really fun meet and greet event. We’re talking food, trivia, giveaways and fun. I know I had a great time chatting with attendees about how to submit and where to find markets and about representation in specfic.

Lisa Adler-Golden, who is head of programming for Balticon, stopped through. She shared with us how important to her it was to have these events going forward. “It is not just about straight, white males,” she said. “Our membership is graying and the future of our organization depends upon recognizing the diversity and concerns of our younger members.”  Hearing that so many attendees were happy to know our group existed was fantastic!2018-05-26 17.35.16Thank you for having us Balticon! I know that I had a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to returning next year!

Post-Panel Thoughts: AwesomeCon 2018

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I am a member of the DC Metro area-based creatives group Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF). We are authors, poets, artists, filmmakers, and publishers. That’s us (Diane Williams, K. Ceres Wright, Stafford Battle, Chad Eric Smith, and me; not pictured: John Edward Lawson and Lisa Wood) above at AwesomeCon in DC last weekend. We presented a panel on Black*(Panther+Indie Comics+Characters) and this is what it looked like from my view:

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I loved the hypeness, positivity and energy of the audience. We have done panels together at BlerdCon and Capclave, but this was the first time we’ve done one so large. You walk up on that dais, take a seat, look out into that large room, and wow! It was almost full and no one wanted to leave afterwards! Why? Because the topic that we were discussing–representation–was so meaningful to those there.

When we talk about the phenomenon that is Black Panther, we have to talk about the bigger concepts contributing to it: the profundity of seeing oneself positively, the envisioning of a people and place, and the convergence and timing of an entire movement of futurist and forward-thinking thought. It was like having a conversation with friends with an audience listening and chiming in, and it was great.

I always love to tell audiences about this fantastic quote by Walidah Imarisha (from the book Octavia’s Brood). It gets a collective gasp every time:

“And for those of us from communities with historic collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking around on two legs. Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us.”

Essentially, our very existence–how we live, our accomplishments, even being free–would have been considered science fiction to our ancestors who could not have possibly imagined our lives today. It is incredibly important that we see ourselves in literature, music, art, and on film as part of a future that we are helping to create and not invisible in favor of the “default.”

It’s like ripples in a pond that keep going and going and going.

For me, as a historian who writes speculative fiction, it is interesting because I see us drawing upon our pasts in the present to inform our representations in the future. You can not disconnect one from the other, and that’s OK.

Many thanks to the attendees out there for helping to make it a great panel! It was a joy.

I’m a Scary Sister

Hey there…Just wanted to let y’all know how excited I am about my short story “Here, Kitty” being included in the Black Magic Women: Terrifying Tales by Scary Sisters anthology edited by Sumiko Saulson (Mocha Memoirs Press). IMG_20180129_015451For years, Sumiko has been keeping track of us scary sisters out there writing horror and supernatural suspense stories (because we do) with her “Black Women in Horror” series. Black Magic Women is a selection of stories by authors profiled in her guide (me included!)

I support her project and love of the genre and I am proud to be a part of this. You can support Black women horror writers too. Get yourself a copy of this e-book ASAP!

Until next time!

~L.

An Exercise in Lyrics

Hey there…I am so hyped to be a part of FIYAH Literary Magazine’s Winter 2018 Issue #5: “Ahistorical Blackness” along with Monique L. Desir, Irette Y. Patterson, Shari Paul, Phenderson Djèlí Clark and cover art by Trevor Fraley!
IMG_20171201_142345In addition to fantastic stories, essays and interviews every month, FIYAH releases a Spotify playlist in conjunction with the issue. The FIYAH team asked us to contribute three songs that complement our stories. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sat there for a moment like “Whoa…” as I hadn’t thought about it before. And I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed every minute of trying to decide.

I thought about my story’s themes and decided upon the main ones: freedom, dreaming, beginnings, creating. The lyrics of the songs themselves were also very important. Without telling you much more (you’ve gotta read “With These Hands” for yourself!) I went with Nina Simone‘s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”: “I wish I could live/Like I’m longin’ to live/I wish I could do/All the things that I can do/Though I’m way overdue/I’d be starting anew.”

The third song I chose, “Golden” by Jill Scott, has always felt like a celebration of self to me: “I’m taking my freedom/ Pulling it off the shelf/ Putting it on my chain/ Wear it around my neck…”

But the first one, “Fantasy” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, is a true love for me. It is one of the first songs that I ever knew in my life. I sang a part of it (“It’s your day/ shining day/ all your dreams come true”) to my baby when he was born. Its beautiful, hopeful lyrics have always spoken to me of dreaming, freedom and faraway places: “Come see victory, in the land called fantasy/ Loving life, a new decree/
Bring your mind to everlasting liberty.”

Enjoy the playlist and issue and support the hard work of the team at FIYAH by getting a subscription already!

See y’all next time…
~L.