Thursday, January 2, 2014

Interview for Sword and Soul about sword and soul

What is Sword and Soul to you?
Sword and Soul is about theme and culture. On the one hand, it's a celebration of African culture. Africa had as glorious a 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, s/s 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.
What is your process for developing plots and characters? I generally don't develop characters. The characters turn up as they are. I just try to see clear. 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 xactly 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, comes 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.

Where do you hope Sword and Soul will go in the future?
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 ghetto-ized. 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.

My books are: Fantasy Novel , The Constant Tower
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