Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Like a zillion other people, I’ve got my “one drop” of Irish blood: my grandfather was Irish-Canadian, and I always wondered why we weren’t Catholic…turns out we’re Scotch-Irish, descended from Scottish families who were used by the British to “settle” northern Ireland. So did my ancestors leave Ireland because of the potato famine, or have I got that wrong, too? My uncle’s registered with ancestry.com so hopefully we’ll have some answers soon. I’m heading downtown soon for my radio interview with Pia Lindstrom; I’m not sure when it will air, but I’ll let you know in case anyone out there is on Sirius FM.
I guess I’ve been spoiled by a lot of good reviews because I sulked for a little while after reading some uncharitable remarks about my book. Both comments were left on blogs, and I responded to one but not the other—after all, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. The first:
She flees into the Garden late one night. But in the Summer, the BBG closes at 6pm. I guess she had to climb over the fences and avoid the patrolling guards. I guess it was Literary License…
Octavia E. Butler (a very nice person I used to know) would have gotten that little detail right.
Wow—you read a brief summary of the plot and come up with that critique? I admit I’m nowhere near Octavia Butler when it comes to storytelling skill, and writing a time-travel novel means my book is inevitably going to be compared to her classic, Kindred. But aside from the time-travel aspect, I don’t see a lot of similarities between the two books. Yet here’s what one commenter wrote:
A Wish After Midnight is not bad, although if you’ve read Kindred you’ve got most of it. It scores tho in being mostly set in the pre-emancipation North which will be a bit of a shock for some readers.
My novel takes place in 1863 New York (where slavery ended in 1827), and Butler’s novel is set in antebellum Maryland, so I guess I get points there for originality. My character’s an Afro-Latina teenager, not a grown (married) black woman; my character’s in love with a Rastafarian immigrant, not a white American man; my character goes back once, and isn’t summoned by a white ancestor…I could go on. Turns out, most black women writers of speculative fiction are compared to Ms. Butler, whether their work is similar to hers or not—Nora Jemison wrote about this recently on the Carl Brandon Society’s listserv, and directed us to this blog interview where the blogger was clearly determined to link The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to Butler’s Parable books:
1. You listed Octavia E. Butler as your “own personal grandmaster.” (I do see similarities between your religion in THTK and her Earthseed religion… very cool!) Why do you think more Afro-American women don’t write SF/fantasy?
You see similarities? Really? Which ones? I can’t think of any offhand — Earthseed as mentioned in PARABLE OF THE SOWER and PARABLE OF THE TALENTS posits a very hands-off, disinterested god, while the gods in the Inheritance Trilogy are anything but. Also, the Inheritance gods could mostly care less where humanity ends up in the future — they’re mostly concerned with the present and past — whereas the Parable books are all about humankind’s ultimate destiny.
As for why more African American women don’t write SF/F — I’m not really sure how to answer that question, because it starts from what I think might be a false assumption. I know plenty of African American women (and men, and Asian Americans, and Latino/a Americans, and so on) who write SF/F. Offhand I can mention Nisi Shawl, Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, Lashawn Wanak, Alaya Dawn Johnson, K. Tempest Bradford, Helen Oyeyemi, Tananarive Due, L. A. Banks, Ibi Aanu Zoboi, Carole McDonnell, Linda Addison, Sheree Thomas, Jewelle Gomez… I’m probably missing quite a few (and misspelling some names) because I’m trying not to Google, just list from memory. And those are just the ones who’ve published short stories or novels; I know many more who are on the hoping-to-get-published track. Octavia Butler left behind a lot of children, spiritually speaking.
You may have heard some other online ridiculousness that claimed Africans don’t write sci-fi/fantasy…here’s a follow-up worth reading, written by Nnedi Okorafor: “Can You Define African Science Fiction?”