While Lovecraft Country might be HBO’s new breakout hit, the series also represents further proof of a sea change in fantasy, science fiction, and horror that has been building since long before the Black Lives Matter movement’s resurgence. Virtual convention company AllAccessCon is highlighting the breakthrough of Black stories in genre fiction with a day-long online event called Writing Genre While Black this Thursday, August 27.
“We hope to demonstrate Black voices in genre fiction aren’t just a trend, but in fact are part of a continuum since the early days of such stories in the mid-1800s,” explains AllAccessCon founder John Edward Lawson.
Genre stories by Black authors of the Victorian era would today be categorized as “alternate history.” By writing under pen names they assimilated into all branches of genre fiction during the pulp era.
More recently, Black authors and editors have been spotlighted after controversies at the World Fantasy Awards, where Nnedi Okorafor was presented a bust of outspoken white supremacist H.P. Lovecraft, and just weeks ago at the Hugo Awards when Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin seemed to intentionally mispronounce names and otherwise diminish non-white, non-male award nominees and winners, such as Fiyah Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.
Author and educator B. Sharise Moore, poetry acquisitions editor for Fiyah, will be a guest speaker at Writing Genre While Black. In addition to discussing Conjuring Words: An Afrofuturist Textbook, of which she is editor, Moore will cover designing curricula around diverse representation for schoolchildren.
Lawson’s own “Goatman Country” presentation draws from his Goatman urban legend contribution to the Weird Maryland guidebook, and parallels between his attempts to walk back roads alongside the U.S. Agricultural Research Center where the Goatman was said to originate, and experiences of Lovecraft Country‘s protagonists driving through “sundown towns.”
Although AllAccessCon is based on inclusivity, and previously hosted genre-specific events, this is the first focused on racial equity and representation. In late 2019 the company began organizing virtual conventions for those left out of the convention scene because they live in remote areas, are from persecuted groups, or are undergoing economic hardship.
Genre website Sci-fi and Scary learned of the campaign on its first day through social media and championed AllAccessCon to their readership. “As soon as I read the description, I knew it was something that I personally needed to support.”
Sci-fi and Scary editor Lilyn G. added, “As someone who has psychological, physical, and monetary limitations myself, it was a pleasure to hear this from John. It emphasized to me that this project is coming from a place of deep desire to help all of his fellow bookworms connect in a way that is more comfortable and accessible.”
The crowdfunding campaign reached its goal, unlocking Indiegogo’s evergreen campaign feature which is still active at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/allaccesscon.
AllAccessCon plans to go beyond its initial mission, however. According to Lawson, “As a Black entrepreneur I know a lot of folks are struggling to make it after COVID-19. That’s why we’re donating twenty-five percent of proceeds to organizations making a difference on the ground right now.”
The three groups that will receive funds from Writing Genre While Black are Food Bank of Delaware, Fuel Fund of Maryland, and Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. Several Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction members, including authors K. Ceres Wright and L. Marie Wood, will also be involved as guest speakers.
Tickets to Writing Genre While Black are still available at https://hopin.to/events/writing-genre-while-black. In recognition of the current economy 250 free tickets have been made available in addition to paid options. Highlights of this and other AllAccessCon events will air at a later date on the company’s Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple Tv channels currently in development.
“We didn’t start this conversation,” Lawson notes. “And just like genocidal policies didn’t start or stop with the Jim Crow era shown in Lovecraft Country, we know the discussion around Black authors and heroes is going to continue well after our event. We just hope to give people hungry for info a bit more context and resources.”