State of Black Science Fiction 2012 – Ouroboros Rising

The State of Black Science Fiction 2012 has been a web/bloghop series started by Alicia McCalla and the Black Science Fiction Society in an effort to bring more awareness to the existence of Black writers of science fiction and fantasy and our diverse reasons and experiences for reading, writing and creating it. This is week seven of our journey. (Yes, I owe you two articles but I have to write other things, too.)

I have enjoyed this explosion of creativity and it is setting me up for my favorite yearly challenge, 30 Short Stories in 30 Days in April. Be sure to tune in then. Perhaps I can get some of my compatriots to join me. If you write and you want to join me, send me an email or post a comment. It’s one of the best experiences of my writing life. Give it a try. I leave you with our writing prompt inspired for a lecture given by the Black Science Fiction Society at Georgia Tech. You can see the writers reading their stories on my post marked the Bracelet.

Ouroboros Rising

“Apprentice.”

“Yes, master.”

“It’s time.”

I help him up and walk him into his study. He is paper-thin, light like a bird, a wisp of the force I remember from my youth. I can feel the fire burning through him, my second sight, even shielded cannot block the visions of his power. I help him to his workbench, a central seat of his gift. It was only as we drew close could I sense it.

The bracelet. It shimmered in darkness the way his power glowed brightly. A cool black metal that flickered like glass, lit from within with a sinister madness. This was my last time to say no.

Once he sits, his palsy stops when he picks it up. His eyes harden like flint and his unspoken gaze beckons me to sit across from  him. The light from the power within him dims. “Once you put this on, you will enter our Order. There is no release, no resistance, no rest from Ouroboros, her power is complete and unending. Do you understand?”

Of course I did. This was what I trained for this last fifteen years. This decision would mark my journey to true power.

“I know that look, boy. You think, you are getting what you want. Do you think I don’t know what you’re feeling? I sat there once.”

“Master, I am just eager to begin our work.”

“Don’t be in such a rush to go out and subjugate the world.”

“Master…”

“Spare me. Your lust for power was why you were chosen. Ouroboros requires strong passion, better to harness your gift.”

“Harness my gift?”

“Give me your hand, child. This is not a toy, or just a tool. It is a weapon coupled with your intent. Fail to harness your intent and it will kill you.”


He rubs the bracelet and taps it on his stone workbench. He taps it again. And again. The flat sound echoes across my senses, first a ripple, then a tide. Then a crack appears in the surface of the stone. Ironwood, once was living, now a metallic stone, one of the hardest natural substances, cracks, splinters to dust, with a sound like the world ending.He grabs my hand and his grip was as strong as it was weak a moment ago. The bracelet had expanded and my hand slipped into it easily. Then all I could feel was the power. All that I thought I knew about power was now erased. My inner energy was as a candle compared to this burning sun. He was right. I had no idea. The things I would do.The metal burned my flesh as it began to close tightly on my wrist. As mine grew darker, I could suddenly see his. It was always there, you only saw it for a second whenever he would transit a window curtain and the light hit it just right. Now it was alive, visible and its energy flew toward me.

“Yes, you can feel the power of Ouroboros and you think, I can do anything. And you are right. But with light, comes the darkness. Ouroboros is between all things, so I now give unto you the other side of power. Responsibility. The chains that binds this power to your very soul. Each time you partake of her power, you are dying. You will do great things. But whenever you reach beyond what is yours, and ask her for power, your sacrifice will be your time left to live. And you have much to do.”

The black shadow fell on my bracelet and its light was diminished, flecked with shadows, nuances and shades of grey. My vision returned to normal. His grip loosened and he fell back into his chair, boneless and still. I rushed to him over the remnants of his work desk, its power drained into me.

He looked at me, then down to the bracelet. He smiled fiercely. “Chained you again. He’s a strong one. Your scourge will be contained, for a time.” He lifted his head, his eyes rheumy with age. “I’m sorry, Kal.” His whisper barely reached me.

He died slumping forward into my arms.

“He was a bitter, old man. We will do great things, you and I.”

I could feel her coiled around my heart. Squeezing and settling down like a snake. Making my power her own.

All that light. The radiance that dwarfed my own. Those were the lives of mages she’d claimed before me. I am insignificant to her. She thinks to use me up. I am no more than food to her. I may never be able to be free of her, but I certainly don’t have to give her what she wants. She will earn every meal.

“They all said that. All fell before me. Ambition is a hard taskmaster.” She paused to let me think on that. Then she continued. “We have time; there is no rush to get back to taking your world for my own. Let us get to know one other.”

We conspired deep into the night.

Ouroboros Rising © Thaddeus Howze 2012, All Rights Reserved

Thaddeus Howze, Author – is a veteran of the IT and Communications industry with over 26 years of experience retooling computers to best serve human needs. Unknown to humanity, our computers have another agenda. Thaddeus recently released his first collection of short stories, Hayward Reach. In a coded format, he has secretly informed Humanity of the impending computerized apocalypse. You can read parts of the code here: https://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com. You can read excerpts and other short stories at Hub City Blues

Part of a series of essays on: The State of Black Science Fiction

Image

Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer – is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author – began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog: http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Ja Ja (DjaDja) N Medjay, Author – DjaDja Medjay is the author of The Renpet Sci-Fi Series. Shiatsu Practitioner. Holistic AfroFuturistic Rising in Excellence. http://authordjadja.wordpress.com/ Transmissions from The Future Earth can be found at: www.renpetscifi.com  or on Facebook – www.facebook.com/RenpetSciFiNovel or on Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/Khonsugo.

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com and www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author – lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines: http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/is available from Amazon.com  Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Alicia McCalla, Author – writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author – She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Balogun Ojetade, Author – of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: TheChronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author – is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author – is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. – is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd

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Black Scifi 2012 – Conventions We Know and Love

The State of Black Science Fiction 2012

This is the fourth week of the State of Black Science Fiction Blog hop being done in conjunction with the Black Science Fiction Society and Alicia McCalla. Today we were supposed to talk about the science fiction conventions we like to go to and meet other people who share our interest.

I have been a convention attendee for over twenty years. I have been to CreationCon, ComicCon in San Diego, WonderCon in San Francisco, Star Trek Conventions across the country, and numerous local conventions here in the San Francisco Bay Area such as Pantheacon, Kublacon and my personal favorite, Dundracon.

I have been an active Dundracon participant for more than twenty years. Dundracon started humbly about thirty years ago as a convention for fans of fantasy-roleplaying games such as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It blossomed and soon began to include many other forms of fantasy, war-gaming, board games, Live Action Roleplaying, seminars and meetings with the Society for Creative Anachronism or SCA. It has become one of the oldest conventions of its kind in Northern California and has been hosted at the Hyatt in Burlingame for at least a decade every President’s Day weekend.

I have enjoyed Dundracon as a participant, playing a variety of games including my favorites of the Hero Systems Games, Chaosium’s Games (Call of Cthulu, Elric, Stormbringer, and Basic Role-Playing), Cyberpunk 2020 and its cousins, Shadowrun. There are hundreds of these games for four days all Dead President’s Day Weekend from Friday at 6:00 PM till Monday at 6:00 PM. Games are played 24 hours a day until the close of the convention; many people play right up until closing.

For most of those years I was a game master or GM and would run games for other attendees. Being a GM is an honored position of both power and trust. People you don’t know will sign up for your game and for 6-12 hours share in a mutual experience that you will create for them and they will participate in with you. This is the element of conventions that I feel makes them most like writing with a bit of directing and even some acting.

A GM must create a series of scenarios, a story, as it were, and create all of the setttings and potential possibilities for how the story MIGHT flow. He then creates a group of adventurers (the players) who come to the game knowing the rules of HOW to play but not having any idea of what they will be doing beyond a simple one paragraph like this one:

203 Stormy Weather
Type: RPG
System: Cyberpunk 2020
Saturday, 8:00 AM in 149 for 8 hours
GM: Becky Thomas
Characters may be provided by GM
Power Level:
Variations: minor house rules
A Category 5 hurricane will hit Cabo San Lucas in 24 hours. The whole
area is being evacuated, residents and touristas. Your job is a little
counter-corporate espionage. The challenge: stay alive in the
hurricane, avoid the Federales and looters, AND bring back the stolen
data.

The challenge is to have a session where the GM describes the scene, outlines each scenario, and acts out the parts of all the bad guys while the players take on the role of their individual character, working with or sometimes against the goals of the group. The magic happens when a skilled GM finds a group of players who can spontaneously get into their roles well enough that the entire event ends up feeling like a movie. Each person takes on their role, creates their dialog, on the fly, and takes actions that resemble that of heroic adventurers we know and love from cinema and books. Yes, most of the time its goofy, badly done, and easily forgotten, but done right it is as good as anything you have ever read or experienced and because it is not public beyond whoever shows up, can be an shared experience that bonds the group of you together for years.

Make no mistake, playing in a game is tough work. Running a game is tougher. Its akin to writing a novel where characters are completely autonomous and you still have to challenge their decisions and actions, even if they were not what you intended when you wrote the story outline. Often, that is where the fun comes in for the GM. He must be able to change his storyline to deal with creative thinking on the part of his players who might come up with a solution to the problem he didn’t even know could exist. This builds the creative muscle in a way almost nothing else I can think of.

I have been a GM since 1981 when the first versions of Champions and Dungeons and Dragons were published. I have run a series of gaming campaigns that span over a decade with the same and often evolving groups of gamers and we have many shared experiences and late nights running adventures that span a continuum of genres, themes, ideas, stories and game systems. Gaming unfortunately is not an experience done by many People of Color. When I started there might have been one other out of a room of one hundred people. That ratio is much better now and I am often pleased by the increasing number of People of Color and women who are now participating. I remember the arguments about women playing games and how it was thought they would erode the quality of play. That idea is so dead. They are better players and often better GMs as well. Something about how women communicate allows them to see players and story themes that were previously not considered by male GMs, such as storylines involving complex intrigue and dare I say it, romance.

You might think that the lack of People of Color is reflective of a particular discriminatory nature of gaming but and I emphasis this: Nothing could be further from the truth. I have gamed for thirty years across the entire USA and even in the deepest parts of the South, I have almost never experienced anything resembling racist behavior from gamers. I would even be so bold to say, they are often the nicest, most polite people I have ever had the pleasure to talk with. Two random gamers can meet anywhere, find a game they have in common and talk as if they were friends forever. And even if they don’t share any games, the nature of the hobby seems to bring an inquisitive mind, a mind open to new ideas and new possibilities. It is why I believe I have remained involved in the playing side of the industry for so long. I once wrote for the industry, but that is another story.

How does this relate to Blacks in Science Fiction? If you have never played a roleplaying game (RPG) or a tactical board game such as Warhammer 40K, you are missing a hobby that expands the mind, challenges assumptions, considers possibilities, and teaches social skills, negotiation, communication at a number of levels, language, art, design, and done properly can offer a lifetime of benefits able to be translated so they improve your workplace life, your home life and anyplace in between. I have used RPGs as a mentoring tool to give students a chance to roleplay circumstances they may experience in real life, or as an opportunity to think about an event from a more direct point of view. Gaming has been a passion in my life and conventions were the first time I got to meet other people who shared it. If you haven’t done it, you might be missing out.

Since I started all those years ago, I have run games, small personal affairs and large multi-group gaming events. I have spoken at seminars on the best ways to run games, research eras, create maps, talk about the science of science fiction, and help new GMs improve their game play. I can safely say, conventions and I are inextricably linked. Attend a few and you may be too. ComicCon has become a cult phenomenon offering sneak peaks of comics, movies, stars and the dreaded/beloved cosplay. One day when I have had a beer or two I will tell you about my first ComicCon. The horror, the horror…

Thaddeus Howze, Author – is a veteran of the IT and Communications industry with over 26 years of experience retooling computers to best serve human needs. Unknown to humanity, our computers have another agenda. Thaddeus recently released his first collection of short stories, Hayward Reach. In a coded format, he has secretly informed Humanity of the impending computerized apocalypse. You can read parts of the code here: https://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com. You can read excerpts and other short stories at Hub City Blues

Part of a series of essays on: The State of Black Science Fiction
Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer – is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author – began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog: http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Ja Ja (DjaDja) N Medjay, Author – DjaDja Medjay is the author of The Renpet Sci-Fi Series. Shiatsu Practitioner. Holistic AfroFuturistic Rising in Excellence. http://authordjadja.wordpress.com/ Transmissions from The Future Earth can be found at: www.renpetscifi.com  or on Facebook – www.facebook.com/RenpetSciFiNovel or on Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/Khonsugo.

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com and www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author – lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines: http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/is available from Amazon.com  Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Alicia McCalla, Author – writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author – She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Balogun Ojetade, Author – of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: TheChronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author – is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author – is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. – is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd

Black Science Fiction with a Cappuccino

The State of Black Science Fiction 2012

I was asked to write a bit about why I decided to participate in the State of Black Science Fiction 2012 and when I started writing I ended up with yesterday’s entry: Black History Month sends the wrong message. I opted to participate because I believe in the need for positive representations of People of Color. After meeting many of the writers who are involved on the Black Science Fiction Society’s Ning site, I was impressed by their stories and wondered why I had never heard of them. Their work was exemplary. Then I remembered. See yesterday’s entry…. Collective Action is how we make a difference.

I know some people hate that expression, People of Color, but until the systems of the dominant culture begin to address all people who are different (whatever that difference might be) that is my way of being all-inclusive. Technically we are all People of Color and that is my point. A lot of people ask me how I ended up creating my book and strangely enough, I had already written about that in great detail. So we will let week four of the State of Black Science fiction continues with a short story from my recent release of my collection of short stories, Hayward’s Reach. The story talks about an event that binds us all together and no amount of money or privileged can prevent. But it doesn’t mean you couldn’t try…

A Cappuccino with Charon

Charon © 2010-2011 ~fo3the13th (JOEL AMAT GÜELL)

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop, dodging my workplace, when I saw Him come in. I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing at first, because, well, this is San Francisco, and you are liable to see almost anything here. He was wearing the equivalent of a long ragged cloak, stained with age and reeking of an unspeakable odor.

It was the scent of a recently opened grave, and while I had not been near one in a while, I had put a dead raccoon in my garbage can once and left it there for a week in the hot sun. Worst thing I have ever smelled. I was only too happy when the garbage man came. It was worse than that. No one else seemed to notice.

His cloak hid is face, but it was safe to assume I didn’t really want to look too deep in there, anyway. He was carrying a pole with a strange watermark on it and two runnels near the top. His hands were strong looking, like a weightlifter’s, with veins running through them. I could not see much else of him, but he was big, much bigger than I had imagined him to be.

See, I figured this had to be the Boatman of the River Styx.

“Cappuccino,” he said in a scary baritone.

“Four seventy-five, please.”

“Surely you jest?” was his response.

“Uh. Yes.”

He reached into his pocket and put pennies on the counter. Lots of pennies.

“Sir, we can’t take those.”

“They’re still currency, aren’t they?”

“Sir, they’re pennies.”

“I get paid in pennies.”

“Excuse me, miss, I will take care of this.” I found myself reaching into my pocket and paying with a five. “Keep the change.” The crowd was getting kind of hostile, and I wasn’t sure what might happen if he got pissed off. He looked at her, reached across the counter with his large, ham-like hand, and touched her chin.

“Rebecca Montez, angry boyfriend, six years from now, lamp. Unfortunate.” She looked at him as if he were crazy, but did not move. Almost as if she were under a spell.

He turned to me and said, “Thank you, Daniel Simmons.”

“How do you know my name?” I already knew the answer.

“I know all of your names.” That voice was really starting to work me. The rhythm of the shop resumed and people went back to typing.

“What are they seeing? How is it only I can see you?”

“Cappuccino, up.”

“Uh, that’s you.”

“Let’s sit and talk, Daniel Simmons.”

“Okaaaaay.” Didn’t like where this was going.

I sat down at the table and tried to hide my face behind the screen of my laptop so I could resist the temptation to look into his cowl. He reached across the table and closed my laptop, gently.

“So, Charon, can I call you Charon? What brings you up for coffee? And why is it no one else can see you?”
“Mmmmm. Good cappuccino. Very nice.” The cup disappeared into his cowl and did not come back out. “People deny their mortality. Part of my gift, people simply refuse to see Death for what it is, a part of Life. No one can see me because to them, I am some unfortunate hobo having coffee with an overdressed preppy. That would be you. As to why I am here? I need a guide, and since you can see me, you are volunteered.”

“And I can see you because?”

“Embolism, three weeks from now.”

Sobering. What could I know about that he would need a guide for?

“I am looking to franchise my infernal service.”

“Excuse me?”

“Earth is very busy these days, lots of dying, and humans keep making new ways to kill each other off. I can’t keep up. Look at this bicep.” He pulled back his sleeve and showed me this massive arm that would not have looked out of place on the Incredible Hulk. “Go on, touch it.”

“Um, no thanks.”

“I used to be scraps of bone and flesh; now I have biceps from pushing that thing.” He points outside the window.

For a moment I saw the flash of a large gondola-like boat, about the size of an eighteen wheeler. Off in the distance, I could see people, thousands of them, tens of thousands, standing patiently, wearing clothing from what looked like medieval times. When I looked harder, I could see dozens of different eras standing and waiting patiently for their turn to cross into the Afterlife. Then the street returned to its mundane appearance.

“Yes, I just cleared the backlog from the Black Plague last week. Do you know how long it takes to move seventy five million people by gondola? But I still have the Civil War, the Spanish Flu, World Wars I and II, Korea and every other little bush conflict modern governments feel justified in creating.” He was starting to sound a little hysterical and maybe pissed off.

“Uh, what about other death-oriented entities like yourself? Aren’t there others out there harvesting the dead?”

“Valkyries are still working, but they only want the valiant dead, so they swoop in and pluck one guy out of thousands, put him on their flying horse and they’re gone. I’ve tried shouting out, ‘Hey, you could grab a few more,’ but they keep mentioning something about Valhalla having a quality assurance clause, and then they’re gone.

When I complained to the Niflheim Residency Committee, they indicated they aren’t responsible for all of these people. They closed their doors when the last of the Vikings bought the farm. Something about Niflheim having a purity standard.”

“There are certainly other death agents, yes?”

“Heaven only takes devout Christians. Let’s just say that number isn’t going up. Same with the other sects. People don’t seem to have a desire for really rigid religious structures anymore, so most of those places are closing their doors, or waiting for a management decision from on high. Hell, well, it’s just overflowing. They even changed the sign. Used to say ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’ Now it says, ‘Abandon hope all ye who thought to enter here. Entry denied due to overcrowding.’ So, I keep going, moving the Dead into their afterlife of Last Resort. But I am starting to fall behind, so I hoped someone here might have some idea how to franchise this operation.”

“So you’re hoping to find people willing to help you ferry the Dead, for a fee. What kind of benefits would you be offering? You need a good benefits package if you are trying to recruit these days.”

“I am not trying to enter into management. I do not want to take responsibility for their work. I want to hand off a section of the workload to other interested parties.”

“That’s the problem. Who’s going to be interested in buying into a business where your job is to move the Dead across the River Styx into the Afterlife of Last Resort? What do they get out of the deal?”

“As long as they work for the Company, they can avoid dying of anything, as long as they manage their company effectively. If I have to pick up their slack, I will carry them across the Threshold myself. I am not interested in who they hire, as long as they get the job done.”

“Effectively immortal, long term job security, open hours, free hand in hiring, no micromanaging. I think I am going to quit my job. Okay, what’s the cost to buy into this program?”

“Two pennies.”

This guy has no money sense. How can you run a business on two pennies a soul? “Okay, first things first. We’re going to get you a suit and a bath. After that we are going to work together to increase the cost of dying. What we need to do is get a cut of the funeral home business…”

the end (for now…)

About the Art: Charon is a very popular guy on the internet. I found many pictures of him but nothing that quite did him justice the way I wanted. I decided on this one by fo3the13th because he showed him as a muscular man rather than a skeleton pushing a boat. I liked the somber tones and clean lines. Joel Amat Guell is a professional artist and retains all copyrights to his art.

Thaddeus Howze Atreides
@ebonstorm (twitter)
@ebonstorm@gmail.com

Thaddeus Howze, Authoris a veteran of the IT and Communications industry with over 26 years of experience retooling computers to best serve human needs. Unknown to humanity, our computers have another agenda. Thaddeus recently released his first collection of short stories, Hayward Reach. In a coded format, he has secretly informed Humanity of the impending computerized apocalypse. You can read parts of the code here: https://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com. You can read excerpts and other short stories at Hub City Blues

Part of a series of essays on: The State of Black Science Fiction
Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer – is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author – began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog: http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Ja Ja (DjaDja) N Medjay, Author – DjaDja Medjay is the author of The Renpet Sci-Fi Series. Shiatsu Practitioner. Holistic AfroFuturistic Rising in Excellence. http://authordjadja.wordpress.com/ Transmissions from The Future Earth can be found at: www.renpetscifi.com  or on Facebook – www.facebook.com/RenpetSciFiNovel or on Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/Khonsugo.

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com and www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author – lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines: http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/is available from Amazon.com  Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Alicia McCalla, Author – writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author – She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Balogun Ojetade, Author – of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: TheChronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author – is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author – is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. – is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd

Black History Month sends the wrong message

Normally I pay as little attention to Black History Month as possible. Why? It sends the wrong message. The message it sends is that for only 28 days of the year, in the shortest month of the year, we will take notice of an unsung group of Americans we do everything in our power to pretend the rest of the year, they do not exist, do not contribute anything viable to the American experience and if they vanished tomorrow, the only thing that would happen is the nation would breathe a collective sigh of relief, before they returned to finding the next cultural boogeyman to vilify.

And that, my friends, is the wrong message.

You see, Black History IS American History. We have been in this nation as long as any group of people to have ever lived here save the Native Americans. We have had as much to do with the establishment of this nation, its agriculture (unfortunately, as slaves of that industry) its transportation (the railroads and exploration of the West) its science, politics, religion, music, sports, entertainment, well, pretty much anything that has been done in this nation has been led by, created with the help of, designed with the support of or simply created from whole cloth by People of Color.

And that does not jibe with the monomyth of White Supremacy and its playmate, Cultural Superiority. America likes to believe it has exported its culture to the world; democracy, fair play, capitalism are all Great American Exports. And in some ways, those things may not have been invented here, but we (Americans) redefined them, repackaged them and now they are desired by the world at large.
But America does not drink the Kool-aid it sells to the world. This is a nation still divided primarily by money. Old money. Money that can trace its ancestry (such as it is) back to the days of Chattel-Agricultural Slavery and the Robber Barons of the American Railroad. For a part of American culture that had such long lived and powerful roots, slavery does not seem to have had any advocates nor beneficiaries, if modern culture is to be believed. No one’s family seems to have benefited from slavery. Nor does anyone know of any families that ever held slaves. “No sir, not me, my family never owned any slaves,” or so the expression goes.

Let’s keep it real folks, many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. They did it and like many who did, they grew wealthy. So if you want to figure out who held slaves, go back in history and follow the money. Likely, where money has accumulated, slavery or crimes like it held sway to develop that wealth. The old expression goes “You can find out how a man grew wealthy only if you can find the bodies he had to bury to get there.”  Now I don’t hold a grudge. Not a serious one, anyway. Slavery has been a human experience probably since we started walking upright.

The crux of the issue is this: How long can a nation stay divided, by the people in power, who use their wealth and influence to dominate society, to create false divisions (artificial boundaries where people fight over things that objectively have no real value whatsoever) and sow moral dissent in an effort to say in power? I ask this question because I realized that being Black was never going to change for me. I would never wake up one day and be White. So any stigma generated by my blackness, did not come from me. It comes from the person who holds the stigma. So if I find myself unable to find work because of the social conditioning that says: “Black men are lazy, shiftless and do as little as possible for themselves or their families, so you shouldn’t give them jobs…” even if I worked harder than a three-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, the stigma and joblessness stays with me, being reinforced because no one will give me a job, thus perpetuating the myth now becoming reality.

Let me say it again: The stigma is not mine. I did not create it. I did not perpetuate it. I don’t lay it upon me. I am simply forced to bear it. The society that promoted it is at fault for its continued perpetuation.

But let me ask you a question: If this nation were truly as egalitarian, as supportive, as merit driven, as opportunity-oriented as the spin doctors would have you believe, would there be this major political trend toward crushing unions, a thirty year history of purposeful stagnated wages, allowing the rich to grow fabulously wealthy by increasing the price of everything while diminishing your ability to buy it; an education system that has been allowed to grow enfeebled and unable to cope with the rapid pace of technical change in the world today? Would there be an ecological bankruptcy that simply denies that creating billions of automobiles, computers, cell phones, supermarket items, thousands of fast food restaurants where we harvest millions of organisms every year just to feed the developed world and pretend it has no effect on the world or the people living on it? What about drilling holes in the Earth to harvest hydrocarbons whose main purpose is to be sold by the highest bidder to the poorest people just to keep them in a form of economically-driven indentured servitude? What about the fact the American population is slowly growing less mentally capable, whose physical health is continuing to diminish despite having the most sophisticated medical technology in the world, all the while people are less happy, less motivated, more stressed, more suicidal and now have a quality of life that for the first time in fifty years, will not be higher than the previous generation? This is a culture which appears to be slowly self destructing.

How could such a nation exist and call itself enlightened? More over how could such a nation consider itself a paragon in the darkness that is life on Earth?

The answer: It can’t.

So, I have many years ago decided that the system of things being done in the world today are not being done in my name. I refuse to buy anything made in a sweatshop (if I know about it. I endeavor to know.) I wear nothing with a logo or a brand name, because no one is paying me to further their cause before I further my own. (No, I don’t own any iTechnology and I once loved Apple as a company, but their recent behavior has made me question all things computer-related.) I watch as little modern media as possible. It paints a negative image of People of Color, if they even exist at all. I do not watch nor support major sporting teams. If you knew how much money is spent and how little of it goes to the people who make it actually possible, you wouldn’t either. I devote my time to my family, educating myself and my community about what we can do to survive effectively, humanely, and to be a benefit to my world, rather than a drain on it.

You see it is about choice. You can decide you want to spend your life asleep at the wheel, Facebooking (or your social media of choice) your life away, taking pictures of yourself from arm’s length, talking about where you are, and what you are doing, learning about the sleeping habits of the inhabitants of Jersey Shore or the Real Housewives of (insert pitiful city here), or you can go out and learn a new language, meet new people, write a book, teach a person to read, inspire a child to greatness, help an old person who may not get around as well as they used to, volunteer yourself to a cause greater than yourself, read a book and enhance your brain, share that book and maybe you can shape the world.

The Public Good is Dead. It has been replaced by the Corporate Quarterly Report. Everything that matters from the gasoline in your car, to the politicians in your local office is now determined by the power of corporations all over the nation. If it does not expand the next quarter’s profits, it has no value and the human elements of our culture are being replaced by jurisprudence that boggles the mind. See the Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Committee rulings basically giving corporations the power to spend unlimited money on elections. Don’t take my word for it. Read it yourself.

When you get tired of watching corporations turn your world into a steaming pile of shyte, you can decide how to make them go away. Stop buying things you don’t need, to fund a never-ending cycle of boom and bust that only benefits big business, because only they have enough money to bet on both sides of the equation. If there is money to be made, they will make money selling the product, or they will make money cleaning up after the mess. No jail time will be had for any involved. As any of our major banking establishments after the 2008 financial collapse. Over 5000 protesters of the collapse in the Occupy Movement have been to jail. Not a single banker graces a cell yet. Seems equitable and fair, doesn’t it. Stop taking their crap. Stop participating in your own destruction.

So what does this rant have to do with Black History Month? Nothing. Not a damn thing. That is the point. Republicans keep harping on how President Obama is the Welfare President, and we have angry Black Politicians like Representive West in Florida saying that Obama is inflating the numbers for the unemployment of Black Men. And yet we are vilifying people who are on foodstamps which are at an all time high of 41 million people. This nation has political leaders who have done little to help President Obama since he has been in office and this is because he is a Black President. How does this ranting against the president help the nation? How did the promise of the Republican Party to make him a one term president really help anyone? Why would they even say this? It’s a Black thing. Not playing the race card, I am watching the Race Poker Championship and Obama isn’t dealing. He isn’t even wanted at the game.

Yes, I said what no one would dare to say in polite company. The Republicans (and a few Democrats) are obstructing his work, not because it does not meet with politics as we know it, because let’s face it, it does. His ideas, strange as it sounds have been the ideas of his political enemies (sometimes he has been so bold as to offer them things they had asked for a few weeks earlier) but they are too blind with their rage to see it. They will find their rage is directing Obama to a second term because they can’t get over themselves. So I have to laugh because Obama is using their rage to his advantage.

So when I look at Black History Month I have to realize, that the reason its only 28 days long is because the Whites that brought People of Color here all those years ago, did what they did because without People of Color, they would not have been able to be and do the amazing things that have been done in America. The wealth from centuries of paying no wages, has allowed this nation to grow and prosper in ways the founding fathers never realized. And I think strangely enough, only thirty or forty years ago, big business has relearned and reinvented this idea. Corporate America has been heading toward having people work for less and having fewer choices until there is virtually an entire slave caste again. I expect to see a piece of legislation called the Slavery Restoration Act, any day now and I am certain our politicians, back by big corporations, can make a case for it.

But imagine their secret shame when they have to acknowledge every day, that they owe their entire nation to People of Color whose sacrifices they are sanitizing from history every day, has allowed them to come to fabulous wealth and power and influence, but they must spend every day of that existence, every penny of that wealth, lobbying, brainwashing, blinding, controlling and manipulating everyone around them, because if anyone really knew what was being done, they might just tear it all down and replace it with what America said it wanted to be.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of our teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Every month is Black History Month. Without our ancestors work, yes, the work you could not do, you would have nothing.  Yes, I am talking to you. You know who you are. Without the brilliance of those people, who struggled, who fought, who ran, who lived and died under the lash, your America would not exist. You fear the day we should ever learn of our true power. The power that create George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Emmett Till, Madame Walker, Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, Mae Jemison, Micheal Eric Dyson, Octavia Butler, and Neil Degrasse Tyson who managed to overcome despite all of the obstructions placed before them.

What if all People of Color realized of what great stock they are derived from and what they are truly capable of? Our superstars transformed all music, science, mathematics, business, engineering and sports. And they did these things unsupported by the bulk of our community. Each only had a tiny handful of people who nurtured their talent to its ultimate form. Imagine what we could do if we worked collectively together, despite the machinations of the Econo-Socio-political Machine, toward that goal if we just put forth into practice the idea: “that the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”

Then there would be no need for Black History Month. It would just be History. What a great nation we would truly be.

Goodnight everybody, don’t forget to tip your waitress on the way out.