Harvard Man

As many of you may know, in addition to being a published author, an equal rights activist, and a nerd seraph, I’m also a pop culture analyst.

A regular fixture on the Nerds of Color, my work has also been featured on Salon, MTV.com, Mental Health Matters, Geeks OUT, Black Girl Magic Lit Mag and a host of other places.

Whether it’s comic books, video games, blockbuster films, or music albums, it is absolutely paramount that we critique our media if for no other reason than to analyze its influence in molding minds and shaping society.

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Writing to the Non-Existing Audience

Originally published at Thagomizer

Recently I was having a conversation with a couple of friends and acquaintances regarding the release of my novel, Hollowstone. As I explained the premise behind the book, they expressed it was a novel they would be very interested in reading.

They then expressed that they don’t read books. As the conversation continued, they explained it was in large part to their horrors in school. Horror stories I was all too familiar with. The others elaborated that they hated being forced to read classic literature which usually translated works written by old dead white men and ergo deemed as the only type of “literature” worth reading.

Between having to read pretentious egregious tripe that was irrelevant to teens during their adolescence and mandatory reading during their summer vacations, once they graduated, they vowed never to pick up another book again.

The truth is they aren’t alone. The truth is that there are too many people who do not read for very valid reasons.

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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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Are You Sure? (A Guest Post)

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As many of you are aware the beloved Twinjas have been #TeamUpkins since day one. It was these amazing sisters who dubbed yours truly the King of All Geeks. Whether it’s promoting West of Sunset; allowing me to share my experiences as a queer author of color; giving me the opportunity to offer advice on writing to promoting #BlackSpeculativeFictionMonth, their doors have always been open and they’ve never missed a chance to make me feel welcome.

Which is why today I’m both honored and humbled to return the favor. Next month, the Twinjas have a huge diversity event planned on their site. You will definitely want to check it out. Today Guinevere Zoyana Thomas, one half of the dynamic duo, has graced us with a guest post to discuss some major issues when it comes to diversity in books and media in general.

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Provided by iStock

 

Are you sure?

Three words. Ten letters. Tons of power.

You would be surprised what kind of effect those three little words can bring, especially when they’re coming from co-workers, friends, and even family members.

As a reader who has become emotionally exhausted and drained, over the disproportionate amount of books featuring LGBTQIA, people of color, variety in size, socio-economic background, disability or religiously diverse main characters in comparison to our White, Cis and Straight, Abled and Male counterparts, I get asked this all the time.

Im a Black Cis girl of Afro-Cuban descent. Im straight. Im not rich and I dont have any physical, emotional or nuero disabilities. Many of these things you are not able to tell just by looking at me, especially at my evening job. Outside of one other Black girl, and my Indian boss, Im surrounded by white men and women. Many of who, when they see me, can count on the fact that I’ll be reading a book in their presence.

I was reading “Necessary Roughness” a F/F book that featuring an Asian protagonist who falls for her Black and Queer “stepsister.” I never have any issue explaining my book taste when someone asks. In fact, I love to brag, and gleefully admit many of the books I choose are based on a narrative I do not have experience in.

It used to never fail when the room would get awkwardly quiet. It’s calmed down since I first started working there, but I generally knew this question or one like it, would come. It always did. That moment they’d ask me a probing question, much like…

“Are you gay or something?”

*Face-palm* “If you must know, I only read books that feature diversity. Not that it should matter(or be any of your business) but Im not.”

“Why do you want to read that then?”

I’ve devised detailed answers over the years, but as Im getting older, between not giving a baboon’s behind and not wasting my time to educate people over and over, a simple “Because I want to” is all I need to say.

I used to spend up to 15 minutes of my valuable time educating co-workers on why diversity in books was not only important, but necessary. But for cats who don’t have a problem seeing themselves in ANYTHING, it’s usually a misuse of time.

Most of the time they’re so busy trying to convince me we’re all “human”, or that they don’t see race, and that the quality of work should matter more than the diverse experiences being told (Or not being told). All while I take pride in the fact a person feels comfortable enough to ask for a book recommendation when they’re on the lookout for a decent read every now and then, it should just be first nature to get excited about a story that does showcase a “human” narrative (Because what they hell else would it be, vampires?) for a character who just happens to be of Hmong descent, just as much as it is to read the endless amounts of white, cis, straight “Luce’s” and “Will’s” (I kid you not, before I read diversely, I read 4 Luce’s and Will’s, hell, there’s even a bunch of “Kai’s” and “Jace’s” too).

There are so many times when our peers, unknowingly pass their doubt, or own insecurities about the “diversity” conversation. This doesn’t just ring true for just white people in comparison to people of color. They have the power to come out in conversations about people with disabilities in comparison to the abled. Conversations about people in the queer community in comparison to others who identity as straight/cis. Even amongst the affluent vs the not so affluent.

Even our loved ones have the power, if not the most, to influence whether we read diversely.

Take a parent-child trip to the bookstore. Children often tend to be blessed(unless taught otherwise)with that blissful ignorance of not seeing the world for the dangerous and ugly place that it can be. When a white kid picks up a book with a fellow kid, who happens to be black, they’re just picking it up because there’s a kid with…I don’t know, a colorful cape on.

They’ve found that magically entertaining book that they will have their parents read to them every night, until they get bored with it and trade it in for a new book with a kid riding a dragon on the cover.

But here is where things can get complicated. The parent sees it…They see the character on the book doesn’t look like them or their child. Here it comes…They ask “Are you sure?”

Are you sure you want this book?” Let’s get one thing straight. Kids aint sure about a damn thing. They base “need” off of “want.” Anything they want could change at the drop of the hat anyway. But when you impose this question on them, secretly, you are voicing your OWN disapproval. Children are whimsical people, but they pick up on those micro aggressions. Suddenly they lose interest, in fear of losing your approval.

Basically you doom them from the beginning.

This holds true for educators as well. They are also the gatekeepers to people of all ages. Educators don’t seek diverse material for their children, because they think they wont want it.

That is a truly dangerous mentality to have.

That’s where I get frustrated. I want to convince people why diversity in books is important, but a part of me cant see why it’s not painfully obvious.While I might have the ability to educate others on the experiences I go through, on another note, it’s not my job to educate them. There are many experiences I get to read from books, that don’t mirror my own experiences. Im always tempted to ask a question about something I don’t particularly know about a demographic or marginalization I don’t belong to.

But as much as I would like for someone to take out the time to educate me, it is no one’s job to set me in the right path. I have to take that upon myself to actively seek diverse narratives, on my own. And it isn’t always an easy task, when the people around you just don’t get it.

I grew up in not only Miami, FL but another small urban area known as Fair Haven, CT. I definitely have to be careful on how I speak on around others, otherwise I create the risk of being seen as “hood” or “ghetto”(terms Im not ashamed, nor bothered by). But when it comes to having to explain yourself to your “old school” grandmother, my homeboy from work, or one of your favorite classmates why you’re reading a certain book, because you’re not “Queer/Asian/Disabled/Or Insert Marginalization Here, sometimes you just gotta say “Shut the *&%^ Up.”

Love them from a distance. Maybe even part ways with them if you’re able. There are a lot of people, in this small world. The last thing you need is someone keeping you from a good book.

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Guinevere Zoyana Thomas is one half of the ever so silent and deadly “Twinjas” @Twinja Book Reviews. When she isn’t perfecting back handsprings, or working on her red belt in Tang Soo Do, she’s going H.A.M. editing her diverse time-travel YA novel under the pseudonym “GL Tomas.” Check out her blog tour company “Diverse Book Tours”, a virtual tour company that brings diverse books.

Exciting Updates Are Exciting

Been busy these past few weeks and have some most excellent announcements.

First up you are looking at the newest contributor of Nashville Geek Life.

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A most excellent website that you’ll certainly want to bookmark. In fact my article My 20 Steps To Getting Published is live now.

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Next up yours truly takes the Agabond Challenge and has a guest post up At The Bar. In the piece I discuss my love for black women, the hell they endure in our society and how they still come out on top.

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If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you might’ve seen the hashtag #BlackFolksBeingAwesome. I’m happy to announce I’ve started a new project of the same name. Black Folks Being Awesome is a new site that will celebrate the accomplishments of those of the African Diaspora. In light of the recent travesty with the Supreme Court and the Voter Registration Act, the never-ending onslaught of attacks on blacks in the media, this endeavor is being used to counteract the negative and false charges by showcasing the truth and the positive. Black folks making news and making history and oh yeah, being awesome.

You can follow us on Facebook. The beta version of the website is live now. More to come. Feel free to spread the word about the new site.

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My next novel West of Sunset is coming. Been in communication with the publisher and we’re in the process of doing the next round of edits and revisions.

West of Sunset can best be summed up as: Black gay wizard detective, two best friends, witchy heroines, vampire biker gangs, all collide during a vacation in Los Angeles.

 

I’m really excited and I think you all are going to love it. Stay tuned.

Navigating Through Race- The Plight of Storytellers of Color

 

While I’m always striving to take my writing career to the next level, I also think it’s just as important to stop and note the blessings I’ve received.

Hollowstone continues to make sales, Ars Marginal is running stronger than ever, West of Sunset is scheduled to be released this year, my con appearance lineup continues to increase, I’m doing interviews, and I continue to receive invites to do some social justice guest posts from some extraordinary men and women who I absolutely adore.

In March I penned the Myth of Black Homophobia for my favorite bartender Ankhesen Mie At The Bar. At the end of the month, I was asked to do a guest post, What Gay Marriage Won’t Do, for the legendary Monica Roberts of Transgriot fame where I broke down the dangers of  the mainstream LGBT’ movement’s over emphasis of gay marriage to the detriment of everything else (job discrimination, violence against trans people, LGBTQ teen homelessness, etc). I also had the chance to do a followup post.

And as of Friday, I had the immense honor and pleasure of penning a piece, Navigating Through Race for Fangs for the Fantasy which is headed up by the legendary Renee of Womanist Musings and my Ars Marginal cohort, Sparkindarkness.

Long before I “officially” met Renee and Sparky, I had been a huge fan of their blogs for years. They were so awesome in fact, I was too shy to introduce myself.  To be given the opportunity to contribute to a wonderful website run by some most excellent peeps is definitely another accomplishment for me.

 

and now for our feature presentation

Another Outlaw Bodies Blog Post

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Well gang, you’re in for a treat. Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by Lori Selke, guest co-editor of the Outlaw Bodies anthology.

 

A bit of info on Outlaw Bodies:

The anthology contains nine stories and an essay, six of which are also featured here in this special issue of TFF, all about bodies that are trangressive, unexpected, disapproved of, repressed, attacked, degraded, upgraded, controlled, modified, neglected or traded-in for a better or less discomforting model.

The protagonists (or in some cases antagonists) in these stories are outlaws because their bodies are controlled, sanctioned or licensed in some way, because they don’t fit or they need to be made to fit social norms, or because they have decisions made about their bodies that are outside of their control. They are androids, models, women, disabled, queer, monsters, kinky, unhappy, mutants or artificial intelligences. They are all recognisable, either as echoes of or as metaphors for our world, ourselves, our bodies.

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I have been working on this anthology long enough and hard enough that nowadays, everywhere it turns it seems I see Outlaw Bodies – past, present, and future.

The US Tennis Association threatens to bench their star player because they think she’s too fat. South African runner Caster Semenya endures incredibly intrusive inquiries into her anatomy, her hormone levels, her very chromosomal makeup, just for the right to compete in her chosen sport. A baseball player begs my local team to take him back after serving a suspension for “performance-enhancing substances.”

Japanese scientists figure out how to create viable eggs from mouse stem cells. The eggs have produced at least two generation of mice – but the technique requires the use of fetal embryonic material. Another Japanese scientist is awarded the Nobel Prize for turning mouse skin cells into stem cells.

I trip across a sentence about how the practice of medicine is stuck in an “industrial model” and how to change that.

I read stories about a new trend in body modification – implanting weak magnets into your fingertips.  Another about a 3D printer constructing a prosthetic beak for a bald eagle. And another about the downsides of cloning dogs, including a high number of clones with “physical abnormalities” and the ethical considerations that their existence – their creation – poses.

I visit the new Cindy Sherman retrospective, all of which plays with representations of the body and the tension between the image and the underlying reality – when all we have is the image. Cindy Sherman’s work says that there are stories we intend to tell and stories that speak from underneath intent.

Some of these may not seem very “outlaw” to you and that’s fine; some of them aren’t – yet. But human nature seems to guarantee that, for better or for worse, any technological innovation not only can but will be turned away from its primary purpose and toward a plethora of secondary goals. Not all of those goals will be sanctioned by law or custom.

This is the genesis of true outlaw bodies. Real-life outlaw bodies, here and now. Fiction has been running behind the curve for too long. I wanted to give it a little push. That’s one story of how Outlaw Bodies was born.