Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.” (

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.

Afrocentric Science Fiction and Comic Book Conventions

Black Age of Comics Convention

An artist, entrepreneur, author, art therapist, educator, and publisher, Turtel Onli founded the Black Arts Guild (BAG) in 1970, which was based in Chicago. The BAG sponsored art exhibitions and published works by its members. Onli is also known as the father of the Black Age of Comics, a movement that formed from the development and promotion of comic books and graphic novels depicting Black characters, themes, and concepts. Even though Onli didn’t develop the Black Age of Comics until 1993, he says, “So BAG morphed into a movement that I’ve called The Black Age of Comics, and we now have four Black Age conventions—One in Detroit, one in Philadelphia, one in Atlanta, and the one I give in Chicago is the oldest. And so that’s focusing a lot of these same concepts, on the comic book, graphic novels.”

The Black Age of Comics is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Visit their website:

East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

Borne out of the Black Age of Comics movement, the ECBACC was founded in 2002 by Yumy Odom, an educator and scientist affiliated with Temple University. The event takes place on a May weekend in Philadelphia, PA. It offers the ECBACC Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award and the Glyph Comics Award.

Says Akinseye Brown, VP and Event Coordinator, “The foundation was about community building, networking among writers and artists interested in creating comic books. But also, the founding mission is youth literacy.”
This year’s con featured the second annual Africozplay contest and a screening of the documentary film, White Scripts and Black Supermen.

Visit their website:

Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts (MECCACon)

Maia Crown Williams founded MECCACon in 2013 because she thought that the Midwest, and Detroit in particular, needed a venue for the representation of Black art, comics, film, and other media. She noted that women, as well, needed positive representation in the comic world, where they are often over-sexualized or ignored. MECCACon has been going strong for 4 years and counting.

Visit their website:


Onyxcon promotes, showcases, educates, and entertains all fans of media related to the sequential arts with a focus on African diaspora cultural concepts. It holds its main event every August, usually at the Southwest Arts Center. Onyxcon also hosts a February event in honor of Black History Month and Black Comic Book Day, when feasible.
Joseph Wheeler, III, artist and founder of Onyxcon, says, “I focus on being evolutionary. I focus on work that grows outside of the spectrum, and it’s all about adding something new to what already is.”

Prior conventions featured guests such as Damion Poiter, actor; Tananarive Due, author; Steven Barnes, author; Sheree Renee Thomas, author; and Chris Miller, illustrator.

Visit their website:

Alien Encounters

Sponsored by the Atlanta-based State of Black Science Fiction collective and the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, Alien Encounters is an annual conference for Black speculative and imaginative fiction, and offers informational and interactive discussions, film screenings, book signings, and much more that are all free and open to the public. This is the fourth year for the conference, which began in 2010.
Sharon E. Robinson, the original event organizer, explains the origins of Alien Encounters:

“About four years ago, I went to the Decatur Book Festival, and found authors of color who wrote in these genres [science fiction, fantasy, horror]. We got together, talked, had several meetings, and finally came up with the idea of putting together this program… There are a lot of writers, in the Atlanta area and across the country, who write in these genres, and we hope to increase readers’ knowledge base about them and their works,” she explains. “Our ultimate goal is to broaden visitors’ literary knowledge and understanding about these particular genres.”

Visit their website:

Sword and Soul

You may have heard of Sword and Sorcery, but have you heard of Sword and Soul? Sword and Soul is “heroic fiction and epic fantasy based on African traditions, cultures, and history,” as described by Milton Davis, an author in the field.

As the call for diversity in speculative fiction finds authors willing to champion the stories of African myths, legends, and lore, the genre of Sword and Soul will expand, sweeping up the experiences of the diaspora. People of color will be able to see themselves in fantastical stories that reflect their culture, not consigned only to those stories whose landscapes resemble The Lord of the Rings.

I caught up with four Sword and Soul authors (Carole McDonnell, Charles Saunders, Valjeanne Jeffers, and Milton Davis) and asked their opinion on the matter.

What is Sword and Soul to you?

McDonnell: Sword and Soul is about theme and culture. On the one hand, it’s a celebration of African culture. Africa had a glorious history, as mystical and magical a culture as Europe with their Euro-royalty, Euro-faes and monsters, and Euro-wars. So why shouldn’t there be Black shape-shifters, African warriors, Sub-saharan spritualities and culture in fantasy? Sword and Soul such as Charles Saunder’s Imaro, Milton Davis’ Amber, and my own Wind Follower address all that. But for me also, Sword and Soul is not necessarily rooted in Africa, but in an African-American present, in the here and now of my life. It’s a truer, more American alternative to current fantasy and it addresses themes that are important to African-Americans. As a Black American, one can’t help but have story themes such as injustice, prejudice, oppression. African-American writers of Sword and Soul are African-Americans, not Africans. And one cannot help but be affected by the larger culture. So my short stories about contemporary times—although there are often no swords present—do carry the themes of Sword and Soul.

Saunders: Since I don’t have any actual children, I would have to say that Sword and Soul is my “brainchild.”
Jeffers: Sword and Soul is a genre created by the illustrious Charles Saunders, an author who is considered by many (myself included) to be a legend in his own time. His Imaro series is a groundbreaking collection of novels. Sword and Soul sprang from his genius, and is a synergy of African history (real or fictitious) and mythology. For me, the growth of Sword and Soul is part and parcel of the proliferation of Black Science Fiction and Fantasy literature, actually of SF/Fantasy written by folks of color, which has swept across America during the last decade. This is a movement. Indeed, it is a Renaissance.

Davis: Sword and Soul to me is heroic fiction/sword and sorcery/epic fiction based on African culture, traditions, and mythology.

What is your process for developing plots and characters?

McDonnell: I generally don’t develop characters. The characters turn up as they are. I just try to see clearly. I write and depict what I hear them say and what I see them do. I don’t sit at my computer and say, “This character should be like this, should do such and such, should have such traits or such flaws, should fall in love with this person, etc.” The plot is something the characters do and I try to observe them carefully and record what they say. Stories already exist in the cosmic ether, basically, and my purpose is to bring the stories down and onto the page exactly as the universe presented them. I have to hear carefully, so writing a story is all about discovering what already exists.

My only personal choices, as a writer, come after the first drafts. For instance, I often write a scene because I see clearly that this scene happens. But in subsequent drafts, it becomes clear that the scene is in the wrong place, so I move it. Or I see a death scene and I write it for a specific character, only to realize that the same death scene occurs, but with different characters.

The good thing about editing over a long period of time is that one can play plot-clean-up more efficiently.
Other choices come in the proofing sessions. If a character is lame, I have to make sure I don’t have him lame in one leg in one chapter, then lame in the other leg in other chapters. And that he has the same eye color, clothing style, speech habits, or personal tics throughout. If I see inconsistency or if I realize the characters are showing me their own symbolism, then I clean it up and tighten.

Saunders: My watchword is “Let it flow.” I start with a basic idea, and then see where it takes me, and who goes with it. Sometimes the final story is nothing like what I thought it would be when I started.

Jeffers: I’ll use my Sword and Soul stories as examples, since my technique in writing all of my stories and novels (except for research) is essentially the same. A character emerges in my mind and I develop a plot sketch in my mind, which eventually coalesces around the character. In Awakening and The Sickness, this character is Nandi, a young West African woman. Nandi is a Zulu name that means strong-willed; it is also the name of Chaka Zulu’s mother. Nandi’s tribe, the part of the continent where she lives, the food she eats…are all West African. In Sword and Soul, whether your tribe is real or fictitious, it must be authentically African.

Davis: It varies. Most of my plot lines come from things I’ve read in history. Many of them I honestly couldn’t tell you how they developed. As far as characters are concerned, for me, they are usually secondary to the story. The story comes first, then the characters are created to support the story. Sometimes I’ll come across an image of a person that inspires a story, but still it’s all about the story to me.

Where do you hope Sword and Soul will go in the future?

McDonnell: For me, sword and soul is reality. It’s multicultural and has multicultural concerns. There really is no reason why a speculative fiction story written by anyone in the contemporary western world should have only one race. Some Sword and Soul stories look back to Africa or ahead to Afro-futurism. But as an American who lives in a world with other ethnic groups, I hope Sword and Soul will show how pitiful and bereft typical white spec-fic can be. Really, we live in the USA. There is no excuse for having stories like Game of Thrones where black characters are ghettoized. I want Sword and Soul to so reflect the real ethnic make-up of the world that from now on, it would seem utterly strange to have thoughtless homogeneous fantasies. I’m not against homogeneous fantasies. Just bothered by the ones where characters of the non-majority race are placed like tokens in stories.

Saunders: I want it to reach for the sky, and beyond. I want to see more people both writing and reading it. I want to see it go in directions I’ve never dreamed of.

Jeffers: I see Sword and Soul as continuing to grow and gain respect. Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology (edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders) has been very well received. Griots II: Sisters of The Spear (also edited by Charles Saunders and Milton Davis) has been eagerly anticipated and is scheduled for release in December 2013. I’m very honored to have stories published in both: “Awakening” (Griots) and “The Sickness” (Griots II). This is a genre that attracts, and I believe will always attract, a lot of talented, imaginative writers. Some of the Sword and Soul novels I’ve enjoyed include the Imaro series, Meiji (Milton Davis) and Once Upon A Time In Afrika (Balogun Ojatade), which I also had the pleasure of editing.

Davis: I see it growing significantly. Over the past three years, I’ve seen my book sales double every year. I think there is a core audience that has a real affinity to Sword and Soul. That audience includes people of African descent who have been starving for books and stories that show them in a positive light. I think we’re just scratching the surface where that audience is concerned. That core audience is why Sword and Soul will survive. There is also a significant audience beyond the core group that is happy to see Sword and Sorcery from a different cultural perspective. Then there’s the fact that Sword and Soul is just plain old good writing, and good writing transcends all barriers.

To read more about these writers, visit their website. To help ensure Sword and Soul continues to grow, please purchase their works and post a review on Amazon. This holiday season, that’s the best gift you can give a writer.

Carole McDonnell: Website. Her books include The Constant Tower, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction e-book; Spirit Fruit Book, and Wind Follower.

Charles Saunders: Website. His books include Abengoni: First Calling, the Imaro series, Damballa, and Dossouye.

Valjeanne Jeffers: Website. Her books include Immortal (five-novel series; and The Switch II: Clockwork(includes novels I and II.