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Milton

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Everything posted by Milton

  1. It's a difference writing an alien as opposed to writing about a known human experience. I actually think that no person can write a good alien, because that alien will contain some characteristic that is human. We cannot write outside of our experience. An alien, more than likely will be just that, alien. It will do and think things that will be totally incomprehensible to us, but make perfect sense to it. At least that's what I think. That's why I don't do aliens. All the cultures and situations created in science fiction and fantasy contain some element that we can relate to, because in the end they are about the human experience. There are so many variations on those themes that we'll tell stories forever. A number of people disagreed with me and I respect that. All I know is that when I read fiction about slavery written by black people the same experience by white authors there is a significant difference. White authors tend to stick to the stereotypical portrayal, while black authors 'go in,' being unafraid to deal with the ugly side of slavery. I believe the same pertains to racism as well.
  2. The real energy is with the independent black sci fi writers. A friend of mine made a list. I'll post it soon.
  3. You're making assumptions again, and it's those kind of assumptions that lead to stagnation. 20 years ago no one could have every imagined a street lit market, now we talk about it like it was always there. Everything has to start somewhere. It's very easy to talk yourself out of making a change. The odds are usually always against you. But that's why not everyone can be an entrepreneur. Cynique is right. Since I have the luxury of a steady career I can take more of a risk and be more patient for the reward. All my experiences over the past four years tell me that myself and other writers will eventually be able to make a living writing black speculative fiction. I'll admit the market we create may not get to the level of street lit, but it doesn't have to. Such general statements that begin with 'black people don't....' just irk me.
  4. Here's the video of our presentation at Dragon Con. It was a packed house and an interesting discussion.
  5. I disagree. I just did a State of Black Science Fiction panel at Dragon Con, one of the largest Fantasy cons in the country. Our room was filled to capacity; they had to turn people away. We ran 30 minutes past our 1 hour time limit and they had to run us out. One sister at the panel said she's attended Dragon Con for 20 years and never had she seen so many black people there in one place. Every speculative fiction event I've taken part in at the local libraries has outperformed the average event the library has held. And our audiences are always majority black. I believe there are two reasons black people don't read more science fiction; 1). They don't know that black people write science fiction, 2). They have not come across science fiction with black characters. Oh yeah, one more, 3). Much of the black science fiction they have read has not been very good. I see independent black speculative fiction in the same place that street lit was 20 years ago. We're just getting started. Every person on our panel, all black writers, are very optimistic on the future. It may not be a profitable move now and it may not get as large as street lit, but black speculative fiction will take its place as a major genre.
  6. I'm not pessimistic about black books and black readers. The market has changed and so have the challenges. Reading among African Americans is up overall; a few years ago it was the only bright spot in the otherwise lackluster publishing industry. I believe street lit/urban lit created their own market. They hit the street and found a demographic that didn't read because there were no books that spoke to them or reflected their reality. The challenge has been the effect this phenomena has had on black literature in general. This effect is not because all black people want to read urban lit. We don't. We are not a monolithic people. However, mainstream publishers think we are, or at least they think that other forms of black literature are not as important since they can make more money from urban lit. So they have switched their focus to what is more profitable. A couple of years ago I went to a presentation by Tina McElroy Ansa (http://www.tinamcelroyansa.com/). Ms. Ansa was among the group of talented black writers that rode the wave of success created by Terry McMillian. She talked about how she received six figure advances for her books at one time. Her most popular book was Baby of the Family. She decided to write a sequel to the book, sure that it would be published. However, her agent could not sell the book to any publisher. Why? The publishers told her, 'Black people are reading street lit now.' Ms. McElroy was forced to start her own publishing company to continue to sell her books. Now of course the publishers' statement was not true. But as far as they were concerned this is the hot market so that's where they wish to go. This is why it is so important that we own our own publishing houses and produce our own work, much like many urban lit writers/publishers do. We have a tendency to be so negative on ourselves that it's surprising that we make progress despite that. Selling science fiction and fantasy to an African American audience has been challenging but it has also been rewarding and successful. If I had listened to white folks AND some black folks I would never had attempted it because 'black people don't read science fiction.' I sell on the average 50 to 60 books a month. It's not enough to make a living, but it's been enough to raise some eyebrows. But I still get folks telling me I would do better if I wrote multicultural books. They ignore that fact that I'm doing well doing just what I planned. So to me there is a challenge being a black writer, but problems have solutions. I believe in my people and I have the privilege to see the effect of what I do in the faces of the men, women and children I sell my books to on a regular basis. I acknowledge the challenges and the negatives then I set them aside and continue to move forward, just as our ancestors have always done. Every argument you all listed are legitimate concerns. We can talk about problems all day. Let's talk about solutions.
  7. Major publishers consider black writers and books a high risk because they don't think we jive with their major demographic. Even after multiple successes it's more difficult for us. That's why I started my own publishing company and will continue to do so no matter who approaches me. I believe by signing on with major publishers we gain financially but lose power. Once you work for someone you must do as they say. By keeping control we keep control of our image. I think that's much more important than 'celebrity.'
  8. Steve has much faith in the mainstream publishing system and he should. He's been successful in it. Not wildly successful, but he's making a comfortable living doing it so that's good enough. He's understands the challenges black writers face in the field and works hard to educate new writers about the business as well as sharing knowledge to increase their chances of being published. Based on our conversation I think he still doesn't grasp the opportunities independent publishing offers. Most mainstream publishers stay away from self publishing because of the stigma of it being 'less.' At the end of the day I think we both left the table with a better understanding of what we do. There's an interesting dynamic developing in black speculative fiction between mainstream publishers and independent writers. Independent writers have the energy, mainstream writers have the 'pedigree.' I hope we learn to work together to grow opportunities for both groups. In the end it will be better for black writers and readers if we do.
  9. What got me was the extremely low profit margin. Looks like a different business model was needed. As Nah'sun stated, Urban lit is contributing greatly to the revenue stream of black book stores. This book stores also should carry mainstream books as well. As a black person I just don't only read black books, especially when it comes to non-fiction. And as you know, me and my colleagues are working on building a black speculative fiction market. Overall, I think black book stores can survive, they just need to develop a new strategy based on the opportunities and challenges of today's fluctuating market.
  10. Looks very interesting. I'll share it. I had a talk with Steve Barnes a couple of days ago, and the difference in how we look at the publishing industry was striking. He's a long time veteran and a rare successful black science fiction writer. And I'm me. :-)
  11. I agree; guns should be more difficult to obtain. I also believe that assault rifles and their like should be unavailable, period. There should also be a beefed up effort to restrict illegal access to guns. If obtaining guns is to be restricted it will have to be a national policy. Southern states have fewer restrictions; at one time it was reported that most of the guns used in crimes in NYC were purchased in Georgia. But coming up with a national policy is difficult due to the interpretation of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, and the concept that Americans have the right to rise up against the government if 'we' feel said government is oppressing 'us.' In order to do so 'we' should have the means to properly arm 'ourselves.' Hence the debate.
  12. Can't answer that question. I wish I could. I've thought about it long and hard and couldn't come up with anything reasonable. It seems as though violence is ingrained in our culture. We respond to violently to almost every situation, from domestic disputes to traffic disagreements. Guns are definitely part of the problem, but it's probably a cultural issue as well. It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between access to firearms and violence. Jamaica and South Africa have very high murder rates; I wonder what is the gun policy in those countries? If a culture is prone to violence, would access to firearms make a difference?
  13. I'd love to have the e-mail of the principal. I'd most surely share my thoughts.
  14. Great book. I enjoyed it very much because it's a reflection of my family's history.
  15. I'm in between novels, trying to decide which to read next. So in the meantime I'm reading Warfare in the Sokoto Caliphate. It's research for a book I'm working on.
  16. LOL! My neighborhood is so peaceful it's scary. You leave your garage door open for a week and the only thing that will happen is you'll find a note saying, 'Please close your garage.' My last neighborhood I left the lawn mower out one day and it was gone the next. Like I said, it's a personal decision. I'm the last person to try to make an argument for gun ownership. Most people who own them have them for the wrong reasons. And you can argue the point that Zimmerman would have never confronted Trayvon if he didn't have a gun. As a matter of fact based on their size difference I know he wouldn't have. Little men don't confront big men unless they have back up one way or another or unless they're crazy like that. So while I don't think guns should be banned, I do think we need a higher level of gun control. We could do like Chris Rock suggested and charge $5000 for one bullet.
  17. I'm on both sides of the issue. I grew up in the South with close ties to the country. I grew up around guns, mainly shotguns. I spent much of my youth hunting and I shot on the rifle team at Fort Valley State. I own a handgun for personal protection at home and I plan to purchase another one. But at the same time I feel uncomfortable when I go to the shooting range and I see all the sniper rifles, semiautomatic shotguns and rifles that can be easily converted into automatics. I'm not an NRA member and I never will be because I'm not fanatic about owning a gun. It's a personal choice for me, not a political statement. I know that most of the situations that would occur that would threaten my life would happen where I don't have access to my gun, but at least I'll have it there for home protection. I know all the arguments pro and con; this is how it fits into my life.
  18. This weekend (August 18, 2012) I'm part of a panel at Happily Natural Day in Atlanta. We're discussing why black children need to read and write science fiction. I know my reason, but how about yours? Do you think black children should read and write science fiction? Why or why not? I'm interested in your feedback.
  19. I'm a big fan of James Baldwin. He's one of the writers I list as a major influence on my writing style.
  20. I'm very interested in your efforts as you know. I think it's time for some meaningful discussion between entities that would support such efforts.
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