All posts by kceres

Call for Articles

Call for Articles

Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF)

DWASF is calling for articles for publication in the first issue of its magazine, Celebrating Craft. The first issue will concern flash fiction, as well as writing basics such as world-building, plotting, and developing characters. Requested topics include, but are not limited to:

• How to write flash fiction
• Where to submit your flash fiction
• Flash fiction contests
• How to world build
• How to plot
• How to develop characters
• How to write the Other
• How to self-edit
• Common grammatical errors
• Diversity in science fiction
• Diversity in fantasy
• Diversity in horror
• How to self-publish
• Afrocentric writing workshops and conventions

The issue will also feature interviews with writers and artists. Please let us know if you would be interested in being interviewed.

Important Dates

Article submission deadline: July 20, 2017
Notification of acceptance of an article: July 30, 2017
Camera-ready article: August 15, 2017
Publication: October 1, 2017

Submission Guidelines

DWASF invites high-quality original articles on the craft of writing. The first issue of the magazine will highlight flash fiction, but articles on other writing topics are welcome. Please submit 500- to 4,000-word articles in 12-point Times New Roman with 1-inch margins to K. Ceres Wright at kcereswright@gmail.com. Authors of accepted articles will receive $15 and a copy of the magazine.

Contact:

If you have any questions regarding the call for articles, please send an email to kcereswright@gmail.com.

DWASF is:

K. Ceres Wright, President
John Edward Lawson, Vice President
Diane Williams, Executive Director
Gina Anderson, Media Outreach Coordinator
Stafford Battle, Web Master
B. Sharise Moore, Events Coordinator

Whitewashing in Hollywood by William Mason Jones

William Mason Jones was kind enough to stop by the DWASF writing workshop to deliver a workshop on Whitewashing in Hollywood. Enjoy!

@DWASF Afrofuturism writing workshop–Whitewashing in Hollywood with William Mason Jones Jr.

Posted by K. Ceres Wright on Saturday, October 22, 2016

Get Out Movie Review by John Edward Lawson

In late 2016, I came across one of those social media oddities that can really make your day: a fake movie trailer for the variety of film you always wish film studios would develop and push nationally. It was a satire of with such deadly accuracy that it zoomed past hilarity to hit somber dread, which in turn heightened the humor. It was stunning. And, as it turned out, what I was seeing wasn’t a spoof.

After experiencing the initial trailer for Get Out, and confirming its veracity with other creative types of diverse ethnic backgrounds like myself, well, I experienced trepidation walking into the theater on opening day. The showing was at 1:45 in the afternoon during a work day, but instead of finding an empty theater there were 50-60 other audience members. Clearly the enthusiasm wasn’t contained to just the arts community.
Despite initially being impressed—or perhaps due to that strong, positive impression—I was unwilling to believe the filmmakers would carry through on the promise delivered via trailers and pre-release hype. Too often films fail to contain more substance or thrills than their cleverly cut commercials offered to begin with.

Especially in this case, right? I mean, if you’ve seen any of the publicity you understand Get Out focuses on the African diaspora attempting to navigate our contemporary “post-racial” United States. They couldn’t really be permitted to fully go there, could they? Even if they did, it couldn’t happen with intelligence or enough restraint to come off as anything more than ham-handed lashing out.

Martin “LilRel” Howery is a scene-stealer with his charisma and delivery, but without the sharp dialogue to make it work he’d have been a flat character at best, or stereotype at worst, of the variety we so often see in “black friend” characters.

Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, playing the love interest’s parents, turn out to be a brilliant pairing. Their background in both drama and comedy brings moments to the film that rival the best they brought to work such as The West Wing, Being John Malkovich, Cabin in the Woods, etc. They have a knack for helping director Jordan Peele find the uncomfortable in otherwise happy moments, and the disarmingly humorous and relatable in alarming situations.

As the protagonist Daniel Kaluuya delivers a performance so understated that you forget he is acting, delivering the full emotional range from grief to love to rage, but shining just as strongly existing in the mundane moments we all share, and making those believable is his most important strength because it is in these “in-between” moments the film builds intensity.

It would be easy to go the route of a typical slasher, torture porn, or supernatural FX blowout. Instead Get Out uses moments of silence to unnerve, and seriously…when all conversation stopped during the party scene the audience was unanimous in our “Nope, y’all are too much!” response. Gratuitous content is avoided, with most violence occurring out of the frame, and an absence of nudity or sex scenes. Instead of hyperkinetic jump cuts to raise our heart rates we have lengthy closeups up weirdoes dragging us through painfully awkward conversations to increase apprehension.

In addition to avoiding common pitfalls of horror, the black characters disappearing in last 20 minutes of major films like Sicario and Jurassic World after being scared into submission were not here…no white savior.

When it comes to what the film is really saying we could get deep. On examining the speculative element we experience the reproblematization of black autonomy/identity, the theories of Marshal McLuhan re: The Media is the Massage/cool media, “the opiate of the masses,” or—perhaps most disturbing of all—the story as a condemnation of us as a society, and blacks in particular, for sitting back and watching as our people are literally killed in the streets with no recourse. But that’s a discussion best left to academic journals. Suffice it to say: this movie is creepy as all get-out, and not in a way that makes you feel like a cheese ball for enjoying it.

When it comes to the dangers racial bigotry poses to our entire society I’m continually chastened—both publicly and privately—not to rush to judgment, be grateful things aren’t worse, and if I don’t like it go make my own. One problem is that when we do “go make our own” there is a backlash against accepting any part of how we express our experience, because observing racism is “racist”—a delegitimizing accusation already levied against Get Out by multiple outlets. The other problem is the rest of Hollywood’s productions stand in even more stark contrast than previously. If high caliber entertainment with desegregated casting can be made…then why isn’t it?

After Mad Max: Fury Road came out I had discussions with women who were in tears. Not because they were saddened or angry, but due to being so overwhelmed by seeing a major motion picture about women with portrayals and story construction that didn’t revolve around Hollywood stereotypes of women. I’m not saying folks left the theater in that state. Get Out was excellent, and while there was exuberance aplenty from the crowd as we filed out there were no tears.

Now if we can just work on ageism and ableism in film. Yes, Fury Road missed a huge opportunity for Hollywood, and society, by casting somebody with two arms as Furiosa, but I digress. The point is we’re moving toward richer entertainment experiences, but have to continue that momentum. A key to that will be the sophistication of the filmmaking itself.

When considering the framing, use of sound design, transitions, and attention to detail—in addition to more obvious elements such as the screenplay and performances—I find it difficult to believe this is Jordan Peele’s feature film directorial debut. Not satisfied which that accomplishment Peele also managed to create something that succeeds as both a horror/thriller and a comedy.

It’s my hope Peele not only continues to deliver, but those in minority groups inspired by him help make inroads in horror, and the other speculative genres as well. Because I’m telling your right now that guy can just take my money.

World Building by Cerece Rennie Murphy

Cerece Rennie Murphy was kind enough to stop by the DWASF Writing Workshop last year and we recorded her world-building session. Enjoy!

Live @ DWASF Afrofuturism Writing Workshop–Worldbuilding with Cerece Rennie Murphy

Posted by K. Ceres Wright on Saturday, October 22, 2016

Who’s That Black Man?

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

The boat with the dinosaurs just landed, and a lone guard makes his way up the gangplank. As the camera moves in, we see the guard is…

Photo courtesy of Jurassic
Park Encyclopedia

Nate Lahey from How to Get Away With Murder!

In actuality, his name is Billy Brown, and he’s been acting in TV shows and films since 1993. He’s been in Cloverfield, Star Trek, Sons of Anarchy, and Dexter, among others. He’s also done voiceovers for the Superman, Matrix, and Terminator 3 video games, and voices the Vampire King in the cartoon, Adventure Time.

So if you’re watching The Wild Thornberrys movie and the rhino sounds familiar, you’ll know who it is.

Who’s That Black Woman?

Cleopatra 2525

A blast door slides open and out climbs a blonde, a man, and another woman with ponytail twists wearing a silver bustier. We look closer and we see that she’s…

Zoë Washburne from Firefly! No, wait, it’s Jessica Pearson from Suits!

In reality, it’s Gina Torres. Although she’s been acting in TV and film since 1992, her breakout role didn’t happen until 2002 when she played Zoë in the Joss Whedon science fiction TV show, Firefly. She’s also been in Buffy, The Matrix Reloaded, 24, Alias, and Hannibal. Voiceovers seem to be popular for Black actors, as she’s also done them for the animated series, Justice League, Transformers Prime, and Star Wars Rebels.

Keep an eye out for her in the Shondaland show, The Catch.

Trivia: A talented mezzo soprano, Gina sang the theme song for Cleopatra 2525.

Common Grammatical Errors

Don’t fret if you have used a few of these phrases incorrectly. Just read on and learn, grasshoppers.

Comprise vs. Compose
The word “comprise” means to include or contain, or to consist of. A proper use of the term would be as follows:
• The United States comprises 50 states.
• The committee comprises 10 members.

Think of the bigger whole comprising the smaller parts. Never use the term, “is comprised of.”

For smaller parts that make up the larger whole, use “compose.”
• The neighborhood was composed of two old buildings, a railway station, and my house.
• An orange and a banana composed the model’s lunch.

Your vs. You’re
The term “your” indicates a possessive. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are.” Do not confuse the two.
• Your book is under the bed.
• She said you’re the one who pranked her.

Should Of vs. Should Have
Never use the phrase “should of.” The proper phrasing is “should have.”
We can use the phrase “should have” to indicate past events that did not happen, or to speculate about events that may or may not have happened.
• I should have stashed a spare key under my car.
• She should have reached the train station by now.

Older Than I vs. Older Than Me
The correct phrasing is “older than I.” You say, “She is older than I am,” NOT “She is older than me am.”

Between You and Me vs. Between You and I
The correct phrasing is “between you and me.” The word “between” is a preposition, making “you and me” the objects of the preposition. You would therefore use the objective form of the pronoun, “me.”

That vs. Which
Use “that” with restrictive clauses and “which” with nonrestrictive clauses. A restrictive clause limits, or restricts, the meaning of the subject. For example, read the following sentence:

• The ring that she wore had belonged to her grandmother.

The phrase “that she wore” restricts the meaning of the sentence. Without those words, you would not know which ring had belonged to the grandmother.

A nonrestrictive clause provides additional information about a subject that is not necessary to understand the meaning of the sentence.

• A rug, which was handmade, covered the hole in the floor.

If you left out “which was handmade,” it would not affect the meaning of the sentence. Also note that a nonrestrictive clause is usually bracketed by commas.

Who vs. That
“Who” refers to people. “That” refers to things.

• Sally is the one who wrote the poem you read yesterday.
• The car in the driveway is the one that I crashed last week.

So, there you have it. Just study these rules and you will already be on your way to becoming a better writer. And all editors will love you for that. You may now leave the temple.

Women in Science Fiction

My name is K. Ceres Wright and I’m a science fiction (SF) writer. I had the pleasure to attend Seton Hill University with Venessa Guinta, and she has asked me to write a blog post on women in SF, which I gratefully agreed to do. Although there are many women SF writers, I will focus on five in this post: Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Connie Willis, and C.J. Cherryh.

Octavia Butler

Ms. Butler was inspired to write SF after viewing a particularly bad movie called “Devil Girl From Mars.” She figured she could write something better than that, and promptly set about doing it. She was 12 at the time. And since then, she has won nine writing awards, one in 1995 for the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the “Genius Grant.”

One of the best known African American SF writers, Ms. Butler cited the women’s movement as having a profound effect on her writing. One of her teachers, Joanna Russ, encouraged women SF writers to stop writing under their initials, male pseudonyms, or androgynous names. Ms. Butler said that women breaking into SF without pretending they were someone else was a new idea.

Ms. Butler’s works include the novels, Wild Seed, Parable of the Sower, and Kindred, as well as a collection of short fiction and essays, Bloodchild and Other Stories. Her work explored the concepts of race, power struggles, gender, religion, and social class.

When asked why she wrote SF, Ms. Butler said, “Because there are no closed doors, no walls. I mean the only rule is, if you use science, you should use it accurately. You can look at, examine, play with, anything. Absolutely anything.”

Sadly, Ms. Butler passed away in 2006. She was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010.

Ursula LeGuin

Ms. LeGuin, like Ms. Butler, began writing SF at an early age. She submitted her first short story at the age of 11 to Astounding Science Fiction. It was rejected. However, she has since written a number of both SF and fantasy books, including The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, and The Lathe of Heaven. Her novels often feature people of color, which she notes as reflecting the non-White majority of human beings. Among Ms. LeGuin’s varied influences are J. R. R. Tolkien, Leo Tolstoy, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, and the Tao Te Ching.

Her book, The Lathe of Heaven, has been twice adapted for film. When asked why the story developed a loyal following, LeGuin said, “It’s kind of like old fairy tales, where somebody is trying to do good and is always defeated by reality, because trying to do good just isn’t enough. You’ve also got to be realistic… Poor Haber in the book is a do-gooder who’s self-defeated. He isn’t defeated by anybody evil. He’s not evil. He means well all the way through the book, but he’s doing it wrong. And I think people are intrigued by that.”

Ms. LeGuin was not an early success. Having raised three children, she often wrote at night. It would be 10 years before she would sell any short stories or novels. She noted that editors often said, “You write very well, but you don’t know what you’re writing about.” Unperturbed, she would continue submitting stories. As a result, she has received numerous writing awards, including several Locus, Nebula, and Hugo wins. In 2000, the Library of Congress made LeGuin a Living Legend in the Writers and Artists category.

Lois McMaster Bujold

Like Ms. LeGuin, Ms. Bujold writes both SF and fantasy and has received numerous awards. Her novella, The Mountains of Mourning, and novel, Paladin of Souls, won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. She had an early interest in SF, which she attributes to her father, an engineer who edited the Nondestructive Testing Handbook.

On her writing process, Ms. Bujold admits that it developed over time. When her children were young, she wrote during small blocks of time at the library in longhand, then would return home to type up her notes. Her system evolved as her children grew and she had larger blocks of time to write. Ms. Bujold would outline the first draft, but has since abandoned the tactic. She now works straight from scene outlines, which she transcribes onto the computer. She notes that with so much structural work completed, she does not have much revising to do.

When asked if she had any secrets to pass onto aspiring writers, she said, “There are no real secrets. It’s the same advice you get all the time. You learn to write by writing. So sit down and write, finish things. That’s how it’s done. Writing is the least regulated profession in the world. They’re not going to stop you. A good blog advice column is by Patricia C. Wrede. She does writing posts twice a week, short and very practical.” (http://pcwrede.com/blog/)

In 2011, Ms. Bujold was given the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, known as the Skylark, which recognizes someone for lifetime contributions to science fiction.

Connie Willis

Ms. Willis is a giant in the field of SF, with her works having garnered 11 Hugo, 7 Nebula, and 4 Locus awards, among others. Several of her books have dealt with time travel, with recurring characters from a future University of Oxford visiting various periods in history (Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog). Her most recent book, Blackout/All Clear (a two-volume work) concerns World War II.

A history buff and meticulous researcher, Ms. Willis admits she is a slow writer, which she partially attributes to the sheer volume of research she conducts. She divides her research time into three categories: General, specific, and “something that will illuminate your book.”

For Blackout/All Clear, Ms. Willis came across a story of a British ambassador and his wife who visited Washington, DC, in hopes of gaining funding for the war. An American had asked the ambassador’s wife, “How is civilian morale in London these days?” To which the wife haughtily replied, “There are no civilians in London these days.” Ms. Willis used this concept as the driving force for her book.

Ms. Willis’ books deal with the impact of technology, coming to terms with grief and loss, gender roles, and human psychology. She was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Science Fiction Writers of America named her its 28th SFWA Grand Master in 2011.

C.J. Cherryh

When asked why she wrote SF, Ms. Cherryh replied, “As a child, I liked adventures, exploration, ‘what-ifs,’ and fairy tales. I liked sea stories and memorized all the parts of a clipper ship before I was eight. And this was in landlocked Oklahoma. Before I was nine, I wanted to see mountains taller than the Wichitas and I wanted to see an ocean. I wanted to see a narwhal. I wanted to ride camels and explore the desert. I halfway believed in lost worlds.”

When she finally became an SF writer, Ms. Carolyn Janice Cherry was encouraged to use her initials as her pen name by her first editor, and to add an extra “h” at the end to keep it from sounding like a romance author. Despite these restraints, Ms. Cherryh has published more than 60 books, some of which have received Hugo and Locus awards.
A student of Greek classics and teacher of Latin and Ancient Greek, Ms. Cherryh has incorporated her love of linguistics, history, archaeology, and psychology into her books. When writing her various universes, she addresses issues such as environment, diet, knowledge sharing, and death rituals in order to fully inform her alien worlds.
Says Ms. Cherryh, “Historians world build. You have to take information from the past and put it together in a way that makes sense. And if you’re a good historian, you try to keep yourself out of it as much as possible and not try to make “back then” an analog for “right now,” because that’s how you end up slanting history. … When I work, I borrow a little from this, a little from that, but I try to make them legitimately connected.”

In 2001, Ms. Cherryh had an asteroid named after her and in 2005, received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Each of these women came from different backgrounds and disciplines, but each is an accomplished writer in the field of SF. I believe this fact reflects the diversity that SF celebrates, whether it be plot, style, or subgenre. And it is diversity that allows SF to incorporate technological and societal changes and craft stories that just may change the future.