When it comes to African-American fiction, Black readers don’t have that many choices. Walk into any bookstore or peruse the titles of any vendor table and the selection is limited to Urban/Street Lit, Romance, Christian fiction, or Erotica. However in those same venues titles in genres like Science Fiction, Horror, and fantasy by African-American authors are almost nonexistent. I have to wonder: Is it because publishers don’t produce books in the genre? Or is it because of the lack of demand from African-American readers?
I really don’t think it’s a demand issue; brothers and sisters are always interested in fantasy titles like Isis when I present them at book fairs and book signings. From the responses I get on the street, I know there’s a market for African-American science fiction and fantasy titles. And I know there are lots of African-American sci-fi and fantasy fans; I see those brothers and sisters at the comicons and the toy shows. I know they want more material featuring African-American characters in the lead. And I want to provide it to them.
This year I’m publishing The Temptation of John Haynes so African-American readers can see that a supernatural story can feature African American characters. I want to provide brothers and sisters with their own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Twilight.
I feel science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories by African-Americans can have a huge impact on the lives of brothers and sisters. Science fiction and Fantasy stories encourage brothers and sisters to think “out of the box” and to imagine where they could be in the future instead of focusing on what’s around them right now. The inner-city is a world of limitations and boundaries governed by fear and oppression. Because so many brothers and sisters grow up having their realities dictated to them through a set of institutionally racist rules, they never learn how to use their imaginations to learn how create ways to overcome those barriers. And because brothers and sisters don’t learn how to use their imaginations they never think about who they could be in the future.
Long-term fantasy and Science fiction stories inspire people. They make people think. They give people ideas. Writers like Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry and Richard Matheson used the genre to make commentaries about the world we live in and how we can make it a better place. Many of the ideas in these stories inspired real-life devices such as the Internet, the PC, Cell phone, LCD and LED TVs, cloning, the ebook and e-mail.
As a child I’ve often wondered how African-Americans imagined the world in the future. Unfortunately every time I went to the bookstore or for comic books or sat in front of the TV to watch a fantasy/science fiction show it was a world imagined with mostly white faces.
I want African-American readers today to imagine their worlds in color.
I want brothers and sisters to imagine that it’s possible for characters that look like them to have fantastic adventures too. To see that it is capable for African-Americans to do amazing things. To see that they can live in a world without limits.
I want them to know for every Xena there’s an Isis.
For every Buffy, Twilight, Charmed, and Angel there’s a John Haynes.
One of my long-term goals as a publisher is to diversify the African-American book market and offer readers more choices. I want to walk into a bookstore one day and see books in categories like Fantasy, Science Fiction, and screenplays. My dream is to show brothers and sisters in the inner city that there’s a world outside of the ghetto and they can think beyond the borders of the block.