Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Negroes Please!

So, I finally had the opportunity to read the so-called controversial speech that Bill Cosby gave at the 50th commemoration of the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision. You know, the one that got Dr. Cosby branded everything from a classist to a race traitor for suggesting that perhaps us Black folks are our own worst enemies at times and need to turn a mirror on some of our more self-destructive behaviors. If you haven't read it and have only seen and heard the more sensational sound bites and news clips then here is a link to it:

http://www.eightcitiesmap.com/transcript_bc.htm

I have to say that after reading it in its entirety there is very little I disagree with in Cosby's speech including the tone of it. What, exactly, is controversial about social responsibility? That fact that he did not mention all the obstacles Black people face is not an issue to me. He was addressing Black people. They already know the obstacles. He, himself, is a Black person. He for damn sure knows the obstacles. He was trying to make his way in show business in the sixties and seventies during the height of the Civil Rights movement. Trust, he knows the obstacles. He grew up in the same poor little neighborhood in Philadelphia that I grew up in, went to the same highschool as my mother and graduated with my aunt. He knows the obstacles. There has been enough said about the obstacles. We have been talking about the obstacles for decades and, while many of them still exist, Cosby's point was simply that we have not taken advantage of the obstacles that so many have fought and suffered to remove from our paths. We have not taken enough advantage of the opportunities we have. We complain about living in crime and drug-infested slums while contributing to the crime and the drugs. His question was a simple one, "What are we going to do about it?"

His analogy was right on point. There's an opponent in front of you. He's there to kick your ass. You know he is going to try to kick your ass. You can't ignore what he's doing but you better have some kind of game plan for what you're going to do in response. You better have some plan to avoid getting your ass kicked and maybe to kick a little ass yourself. Right now, we just aren't doing anything and even if you take issue with that assessment you'd have to agree that we certainly aren't doing enough. We are standing there whining and complaining to the referee while we're getting pummelled. We are in the ring complaining about fouls and low-blows and hitting behind the head while meanwhile we're losing the fight. We need to start swinging and not in a violent sense. We need to raise our children and find out why those who we call our brothers and sisters are not raising their own. Poor parenting needs to be treated as the cultural problem that it is. Dead-beat dads, promiscuous mothers having baby after baby from one man after another, need to be treated as the disgrace that they are. We, as a people, need to hold them accountable. It needs to be more than just fodder for jokes on Comic View and Def Comedy Jam. We need to practice birth control, if not abstinance, at least through our damn teen years! Does anyone disagree that teenagers should not be having babies? Fuck all you want once you have an education and a job! Have all the kids you want once you are in a committed relationship leading to marriage with someone you know will be there to support your children. Start giving more of a damn about the future of our people then whatever bullshit you're dealing with now. Care more about your children than your sex life.

We need to eschew crime and condemn the criminal rather than exalt him. Hip-hop lyrics that glorify drug dealers and Black on Black crime should be treated as the Tomism that it is. Those who write this mess should be treated as the sell-outs that they are and we should neither buy there records nor let our children listen to them and boycott any record station that plays this racist genocidal crap.

It should be an embarrassment that in some inner-city schools the drop out rate has reached 50%. It should be an embarrassment that there are more Black men in prison than in college. It should be an embarrassment that many Black children cannot speak proper English. What exactly is there to disagree with in all of this? Are we pissed off because we think Cosby is wrong or because we know that he is right? Are we pissed off because he aired our dirty laundry in public? News flash people, none of this is a secret to anybody. Are we pissed off because we think he could have found a nicer way to put it? Dr Cosby was speaking to a bunch of students as their elder, an elder who was rightly agravated. When, exactly, is the time for nice language and coddling over? When is it okay to get pissed off? I thank Dr. Cosby for his honesty and I wish that we would all get a little more honest with ourselves. We have problems beyond what White people have done to us, beyond what America continues to do to us. We have problems within our own community that we ourselves have caused, that we ourselves are perpetuating. When, exactly, is it time to address them?
Dr Cosby, I got the message. Preach on!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why I'm still going to WHC

The World Horror Convention is in Utah this year. I have no desire to go to Utah. I do need and I do mean NEED to be around other creative people. I am surrounded by Philistines in my little burg and I NEED a fix of creative people whose conversations extend beyond the latest sports stats or the top ten movies, songs, or TV shows. I NEED to be around people who don't think that every writer believes, lives, acts, has done, or will do everything or the same way the characters he writes believe, live, or act. I NEED a fix of open-minded people. I NEED a fix of people who actually read something other than self-help books and romance novels. I NEED to see people who actually do live in progressive metropolitan cities filled with art and culture to remind me that I'm not crazy.

Yes, I understand that the conventions often fall short of what is advertised. You often do not make the type of contacts that are going to lead to major New York publishing deals. The major New York publishers are almost never there. The workshops often fail to address some of the current hot topics in favor of repeating the same topics you've seen at every convention for the last six or eight years. You often leave the conventions with all the same questions about the industry and the craft of writing that you had when you signed up. The accessibility to fans that you thought you'd get at your reading or book signing often does not happen and you instead wind up reading to six of your closest friends because you've been booked in the same time slot as some literary legend and everyone else is at his or her reading or the fans just did not show and its just the same old conventioneers. Yeah, I know all the bad stuff. Here's the good stuff:

1.)If you have the balls to approach them, some of those answers that you had burning in your mind when you plopped down your $99.95 plus airfare, hotel, and expenses can actually be answered by some of the more established authors crowding the bar.

2.)Some really good small press editors attend these conventions and some of them actually may buy your book.

3.)Sometimes the workshops are really informative and enlightening and you actually do get some new information and answers to some of those burning questions about the craft and the industry.

4.) There is the opportunity to meet and build friendships with better more established authors who might be able to offer you tips on your own writing, serve as a mentor and perhaps even a proofreader, and maybe introduce you to one or two of those big-time New York editors who were not in attendance.

5.) Occasionally you do wind up with a really great reading slot and you wind up with a packed room reading to a couple of dozen people who have never heard of you before who then go out into the dealer's room and buy every book of yours in the room.

6.) Occasionally you'll be one of those fans sitting in a reading by someone you've never heard of and get so blown away by his or her story that you go scurrying off to the dealer's room to find every book by him or her that you can get your hands on.

7.) Occasionally you'll wander through the dealer's room and find a rare and wonderful book buried in a bin somewhere that will make the entire trip worthwhile.

8.) Occassionally you'll make a friend that becomes so dear to you that it makes the entire trip worthwhile.

9.) It gets you out of the maddening monotony of your own little routine for a few days.

10.) It's good to know that there are actually other people out there suffering the same frustrations you are and acheiving the same successes you hope to acheive.

11.) It's always good to hear from fans, especially when you live somewhere where people equate horror authors with devil worshippers. It's nice to hear compliments from people who enjoy what you do. It's good to put a face to that ambiguous mental image we all write for known as "The Reader" and to know that he or she is sane and normal and not some slavering psycho using your stories as inspiration for acts of inhumanity as non-horror fans always imagine horror fans to be. In the end, it's just good to know that there are actually people out there reading your stuff.

All that is to say this. I'm still going to WHC with all its flaws and failures. I'm going even though it's in Utah and not New York or LA. I'm going even though I probably won't leave there with a mass-market book deal with one of the big New York publishing houses. I'm going because I need to go in order to maintain my sanity and I need to be around others who need it too.