HyperiCon 10: The Design of a Decade

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Recently HyperiCon celebrated its 10th year and I was honored to be invited back as one of the guests for such a major milestone.

For the past few years, Stephania Grimm, Brian Cooksey, Melissa Gay, Mandi Lynch, and the rest of the HyperiCon crew have made me feel welcomed and always deliver a fun-filled and memorable weekend.

This year was no different.

We took time to honor one of our own. Fred Grimm, one of the co-founders, passed away earlier this year.

I was both humbled and honored to  sit on some panels with some literary legends and talk shop about the intricacies of being a storyteller.

The Literary Underworld was present and accounted for as were the usual suspects.

More than that, I got to meet some awesome new peeps including Johnathan French, Robert Midgett and Peter Welmerink.

But since a pic is worth a thousand words, here’s a few of HyperiCon kicking off summer with the party of the summer.

Special thanks to the staff and the crew for having me and making the weeknd a memorable milestone.

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#ICapeForBlackWomen: West of Sunset, My Love Letter To Black Women

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

(Originally published on Black Girl Nerds)

When my debut novel, Hollowstone, was released a few years back, I had no idea how far the rabbit hole would go. What began as me publishing a YA novel that I completed during my inaugural NaNoWriMo challenge has resulted in endless opportunities (such as writing for Black Girl Nerds). It’s also sparked some most excellent discussions on diversity: race, LGBTQ, and gender.

I couldn’t be more humbled and honored.

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Looking back, there was one thing I found to be a bit unsettling. Whenever white feminists commented on the female players of Hollowstone, they discussed (and praised) Neely at length. Understandable, given that she was a universal fan-favorite. While Abigail, and Brianna were examined, I noticed Cassidy and Ruby were ignored. This bothered me. Brianna was only in the first half of the novel as opposed to Cass and Ruby who were main players that appear throughout the entire novel.

The difference is that both Cassidy and Ruby are Black women.

On the flipside when women of color reviewed the novel, they had thoughtful insights to share on all of the ladies and the rest of the cast.

While unsettled, I wasn’t surprised. You see too often when the discussion of feminism arises, white is unconsciously (and often consciously) considered the default ethnicity. Just as white is considered the default on the LGBTQ front.

This is why many women of color identify as womanists and why many Black queers identify as same gender loving and we’ve established our own initiatives.  It’s for the same reason why #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen are still very relevant hashtags.

Enter my sophomore novel, West of Sunset:

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For Brecken Everett, there’s never a dull moment. When he’s not dealing with a demanding course load and honing his magic as top student at Lightmage University, hes working as a private investigator and using his skills to protect the innocent from the darkest forces. In two action-packed adventures, Breck demonstrates that outnumbered and outgunned is when hes at his best. In Keepers, Brecken is enlisted to aid twins Jacob and Joshua Phoenix; the last Pyrians, the last of an ancient race. The Brothers Phoenix are on a quest to uncover clues to their past. When they find a lost relic, a pair of demons arrive to claim it. With Breckens aid, the twins are determined to not only stop the threat, but have some fun in the process. 

The second half, eponymously titled West of Sunset takes place a year after Keepers. Brecken  simply wants to get out of Atlanta. Heading to Los Angeles with his best friend Owen, they plan a vacation of surf, sun, partying and relaxation. That is until the boys stumble upon a museum heist connected to a biker gang of vampires with plans to raise a most dark power. Matters get even more complicated with the involvement of a mysterious and powerful witch. Witches, museum heists, arising malevolent force, and a vampire biker gangeven Breckens vacations are another day at the office.

For my second book, I had a few objectives I wanted to achieve. Among them, the novel would revolve around a gay action hero in Everett and the female leads would be Black women.

Too often in speculative fiction and media in general I’ve witnessed extraordinary characters of color be sidelined, shortchanged, and diminished for mediocre white protagonists. Tara Thornton, Monica Dawson, Storm, Bonnie Bennett and Dr. Martha Jones, have all been victims of this.

Not only did I want West of Sunset to be an opportunity to avenge those slighted heroines, but to also celebrate Black excellence through Everett, the angelic soldier Nemesis, and the witches/demon huntresses, Shayna and Violet. In my universe, characters are welcome as illustrated here.

These amazing heroines are not only a tribute to incredible Black women who have been a part of my journey shaping me into the man I am today but it’s also a tribute to Storm, Kendra, Cyndi Mayweather, and a few of the diamonds showcased here.

Here’s hoping I did these legends justice. Here’s hoping I added a few legends to the list as well.

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Man of Steel: A Retrospective

(Originally published on The Nerds of Color)

Alanis Morissette’s hit track, “All I Really Want,” features one of my all-time favorite lyrics:

And I am fascinated by the spiritual man. I am humbled by his humble nature.

So this weekend I rewatched Man of Steel which still remains one of the most polarizing comic book films to date. The film is essentially a reboot of Superman’s origins much in the spirit of Batman Begins. As Kal-El learns of his origins and his purpose, he soon becomes tasked with protecting the planet from Zod and his invading army.

The verdict?

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The Unlikely Muse

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Originally published on Latin Negro:

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet,
then you must write it.” ―Toni Morrison

They say necessity is the mother of all invention and by extension, creativity. As a storyteller I’ve certainly found that to be true for the narratives I penned.

As a queer geek of color, I’ve learned early on that geek culture is for white people for a number of reasons, and to be a PoC or an LGBTQ means to be treated like a pariah.

More than that, countless marginalized characters are endlessly undercut and buried due to the rampant bigotry that pervades the media. Extraordinary characters such as Storm (the First Lady of Marvel), Renee Montoya, Regina Mills, Freedom Ring, Midnighter, Cassandra Cain and countless others who have been lightning rods for racism, misogyny, and/or homophobia by fandom and the industry alike.

But as any artist will tell you, inspiration can often come in the unlikeliest of forms.

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By Dennis R. Upkins