Originally published at Fangs for the Fantasy
A gent by the name of Malcolm X once said, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
Many people often wonder how I’m able to reconcile being a spec fic author with being a social justice activist. Malcolm X’s quote is that very reason.
Because while the media has the power to control the minds of the masses, it’s also a platform to hold a mirror and expose inconvenient truths such as bigotry to a society who is still plugged into the proverbial Matrix of privilege and institutional oppression.
But in order share the truth, marginalized artists have to make many decisions that can play an impact on our careers, our art and its potential impact on society.
One of the questions I’m constantly asked (which admittedly I never get tired of answering) is what my process in terms of world building and developing complex characters.
My approach to world-building and character development ultimately corresponds to my overall approach to storytelling. As a writer, I personally belong to the school of character = story. What truth do we discover along the character’s journey? More than that, whether it’s fiction, articles or blog posts, I generally have three mandates which I dub E-Cubed: Enlighten, entertain and empower.
Needless to say that E-Cubed has led to other techniques which has only enhanced my storytelling abilities over the years.
So last week Literary Phenom, Nobel Prize Winner, and Black Excellence Personified Toni Morrison celebrated her 85th birthday. This woman has been a guiding light for me both as a speculative fiction author and as a human being.
It’s 5:45 a.m. on Monday, November. 30, at the time of writing this article. For the past few hours I’ve been in writer mode which can best be described as Puppet Angel, hence the pic.
For most people it’s the start of a new week and the final day in the month. But for an intrepid lot, today is essentially Judgment Day.
The final hours of National Novel Writing Month are upon us. NaNoWriMo is perhaps the writing equivalent of Battle Royale/Hunger Games/Mortal Kombat/Thunderdome. Each year, many enter, but only a handful survive.
My sophomore novel, West of Sunset, has been nominated for 2015 Gaylactic Spectrum Award in the best novel category. I’m immensely humbled by this honor. It’s wonderful to be reminded that if you’re willing to dream and put in the work, opportunities manifest as a result.
With two novels under my belt, Hollowstone and West of Sunset, one of the things I’m asked the most is advice about getting published. Shifting into writer mode which coincidentally looks a lot like Puppet Angel (hence the above pic).
The following is an email I sent to readers sharing my experiences which I think may serve as a useful resource for other writing aspirants.
Originally published on Black Girl Nerds
When my debut novel, Hollowstone, was released a few years back, I had no idea how far the rabbit hole would go. What began as me publishing a YA novel that I completed during my inaugural NaNoWriMo challenge has resulted in endless opportunities (such as writing for Black Girl Nerds). It’s also sparked some most excellent discussions on diversity: race, LGBTQ, and gender.
I couldn’t be more humbled and honored.
Looking back, there was one thing I found to be a bit unsettling. Whenever white feminists commented on the female players of Hollowstone, they discussed (and praised) Neely at length. Understandable, given that she was a universal fan-favorite. While Abigail and Brianna were examined, I noticed Cassidy and Ruby were ignored. This bothered me. Brianna was only in the first half of the novel as opposed to Cass and Ruby who were main players that appear throughout the entire novel.
The difference is that both Cassidy and Ruby are Black women.
A great visionary by the name of Cindi Mayweather once said, “Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I didn’t have to become perfect because I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness.”
My name is Dennis R. Upkins. I’m a speculative fiction author who writes urban fantasy, YA, and superhero fantasy. Storytelling has always been my calling, but sometimes fate has to put you on the path. The key is to be astute when the signs present themselves.
It was two years ago and I had a homecoming of sorts as I was back in Atlanta for Gaylaxicon/Outlantacon. The con was a smashing success but that was to be expected. What wasn’t expected however was the revelation I would receive repeatedly throughout the weekend.