Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where I Announce Super Good News...

Contracts have been signed.

It’s official. I’m happy to announce that my short story collection, Let’s Play White, has just sold to APEX Publications. The collection will include new work as well as several previously published stories, including my 2004 novelette, Chocolate Park, which sold out from the publisher just after publication.

Let’s Play White will debut at the World Horror Convention in April 2011.

I’m very excited about this collection and to be working with APEX. As some of you know, they’ve published some notable titles such as Dark Faith edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gorgon (which contains my short story The Unremembered) and The Apex Book of World SF edited by Lavie Tidhar. Their fiction magazine, which is edited by Catherynne M. Valente, is also impressive.

So, as you can see, I’m in good company. And just a little excited...

For future post and to keep up to date on publications, please visit: http://chesyaburke.livejournal.com/

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Facebook Friend Fail

The question: “One would think that since we’ve come so far as to have a black president we wouldn’t need award programs where the winners have to be of a particular ethnicity. Imagine the hate and protest that would come if there was a White Entertainment Television channel and awards ceremony, or a White Miss America Pageant. Are these ethnic-centered events still needed? Are they racist? What are your thoughts?”

My first thought is why do some white people feel the need to make themselves arbitrators of what is and isn’t racist. They almost seem to believe that if they don’t see racism it must mot exist, and furthermore, they only see it when it involves something they aren’t included in. Never mind (and willfully overlooking) that this exclusion is something that their ancestors began and that still goes on every day in all facets of life (but then, if they don’t see or experience it, it must not happen, right?). Never mind that this first black president who has magically eliminated all racism in the minds and hearts of all people has gotten more death threats than our last few presidents combined.

Maurcie Broaddus discusses this at great length.

I’m not going to say, as he did, that certain people aren’t racist. Personally, I don’t know. But I do know that it takes a special kind of person to blame those that have been oppressed instead of...oh, I don't know the oppressors. Guess it's easier than looking in a mirror.

Since Maurice discussed it, I’m not gonna tread there—it’s been said to death and if these people really cared to know, they could have easily researched. No, instead I’m sure they saw an easy in to expound on some pure racist shit that they may not have felt comfortable saying elsewhere. Or who knows, they may say it all the time and haven’t been called on it, or they just don’t care. Either way, I’m not anyone’s Negro Tudor and it’s not my job to teach them they’re full of shit.

Instead I’ll quote some of my favorite lines of the post:

“What would we have on wet (White Entertainment Television)? The brady bunch? there is not really any “white” tv shows.” In other words, shows with mostly black characters are black shows, but shows with mostly white characters are not white shows.

“I don’t see how self-segregating equalizes anything. Don’t whine to me about wanting equality and then set yourself completely apart.” Whine to HER about wanting equality? Really… So, PoC don’t automatically deserve “equality” we have to beg individual white people for it. There are no words…

And my personal favorite: “Dude… You are so not the first person to make this observation… Try being a high school senior and you don’t qualify for a certain scholarship because you’re white… Been there…” This person qualified for other scholarships but this ONE and now all of a sudden they’re oppressed. Please.

Yeah, no time for silliness. My Facebook response.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And just in case you haven’t gotten the memo, it’s NOT okay to touch my hair.

I have people coming up to me all the time to tell me how much they like my hair. Seriously. At one point a women walked pass me, stared at me the whole time while she passed, then walked all the way back just to say, “Your hair is awesome.” I enjoy this. My new hair IS awesome and I love to get compliments on it. I love compliments from my friends and from strangers.

The problem is when those friends and strangers just feel the need to touch my hair and not accept no for an answer. Not only do I not understand why you’d want to touch someone else’s hair (“Oh, is it soft?”—Opposed to what? A brick?), but it seems to be only white people who do this—at least to me. Black women seem to be capable of admiring it without wanting to finger it. In fact, most white women do too (the previous mentioned person who walked pass me, just to come back was white).

But the ones who are not content to admire my hair are always white. This is not happenstance, of course, white people generally feel more entitled to infringe on other people’s spaces. But, I won’t get into the historical and political aspects of why blacks hate this. There have been post, after post, after post on the matter, and even a guide here. They aren’t hard to find.

The main issue I have is that in this day and age, people should know better. Any information you wish is just a click away. Don’t believe me? Check google: “why not to touch a black person’s hair” or “touching black people’s hair.” See all those links? They are real. They are written by real people with real feelings. (In fact it has been written about so much I almost didn’t bother to post this. But it’s obvious some people just haven’t gotten the memo.)

There are so many reasons not to touch or ask to touch people of color’s hair. Some of them include: offensive, dehumanizing, rude.

But let’s get to the meat of it, show of hands. How often have you gotten you hair done just right, in that up-do, or curled just so for that special occasion and someone then come along and ran their fingers through it? How annoying is it? Very? Really? Well imagine being on display like this all the time, 24-7.

The most recent incident came when I was with a group of friends, sitting at a table and a woman walked over and said, “Oh, your hair is so pretty.” Then she stretched out her hands as if she was just going to touch it (without permission) and when I moved out of her way, she looked shocked. “Oh, I just wanted to feel it,” she said.

“No,” I shook my head.

She looked puzzled. “No?”

I smiled, and said nicer than she deserved, “I’m having dinner with friends, do you mind.”

“Well, EXCUSE me.” She said, as if I had offended her and not the other way around—as if I had the nerve to refuse her natural born right to touch me. I stared for a moment and watched her walk away. My group of friends were mixed company, but they are pretty awesome women.

“Bitch.” Someone said—I refuse to say who would say such a thing (besides my friends are like the mafia, snitch and you’ll wake up swimming with the fishes).

Listen, I’ve heard all kinds of excuses about why this is not a race issue. They seem to mainly be: “I am a white female with blonde hair, and on more than one occasion, someone has touched my hair.” But, I’ve learned along the years that I can't decide when someone else should be offended or why they get offended. Neither can you.

In the end, The Stuff White People Do blog put it best. You’re not allowed to touch my hair:

“Because I'm not an animal in the zoo."

"Because this is my body and I don't have to let anybody touch any part of it, EVER, if I don't want to."

"Because my black ancestors may have been your ancestors' property, and had to smile while they got touched in ways they didn't want to, but I am not YOUR property and never will be so you'd best move your hand away from me.”

And I’ll add one of my own: Because you live in a different world from your mothers and fathers and you have the opportunity, no, dare I say the responsibility, to research and find out the views of other people before you make an ass of yourself, and before you offend someone with your ignorance.

‘Nough said. Got it?

Monday, March 30, 2009


I’ve been taking a break from the genre. I think everyone should do this every few years just to clear their heads and find new perspectives. At least this is what’s happened to me. I’m well rested and energized.

While I was away, an interesting discussion on cultural appropriation and the concept of white privilege, among many other things exploded in the SF&F genres. It has been dubbed Racefail09. If you haven’t heard of it you can catch up here. But let me warn you, it is very long and involving. As these things tend to go, it has gotten very heated and crazy things have been said. Stupid things. Harsh, insensitive things.

But, I don’t want to talk about that right now.

Well, thank God, I guess you say. Who wants to talk about that? It’s a mess.

Well, I say that is the problem.

You see, there has been this deafening silence in horror. One that is so loud that it’s become the giant elephant in the room. This is so out of the norm that it struck a chord with me. After all, how often does SF&F spill over into horror and vise versa? All it takes is for you to think back to the Harlan Ellison and Connie Willis fiasco of ‘06. Everyone had an opinion about that. It invaded blogs and message boards across fandom. This is to be expected. We’re writers. We write. We form opinions and then write about them. So, what about this Racefail thing? Why all of a sudden did we big mouth, opinionated writers have nothing to say? Nothing to write about?

I’ll tell you why. Because it’s hard. It’s damn hard. We don’t want to get involved. We want to pretend that either this doesn’t effect us, or that if we just keep quiet it’ll go away.

Of course there are those who think that because we aren’t talking about it, then maybe it’s not a problem for “us” like it is for “them.” And by we, trust me, I don’t just mean you white folks. No, I mean us PoC too. Because you see, there are a whole lot less of us PoC in this field than there are in the SF&F field. So, we also pretend and hope no one mentions it and turn our heads. Even worse, we hope that by staying out of it we won’t hurt our already slim chance of getting published.

But I must ask myself, is it worth it?

Let’s be honest, no one wants to hear a person they respect say something so unbelievable that it’ll affect their view of them forever? No one wants to get called ugly names and made to feel as if their view is not valid. I don’t want this. So instead, I—like you—ignore it for a few weeks and hope no one notices me. Or better yet, I hope to God they don’t ask me how I feel because I’m black.

But, come on people, at some point we have to admit the truth to ourselves. If we aren’t talking about it, then we are simply avoiding it. And to be honest, this is a topic we have avoided for far too long.

There has been much heated discussion in fandom over this. The term Racefail says it all. But overall the horror community has buried its head in the sand. The problem with the current discussion is that people were so angry that they began yelling past each other (which is not easy to do on the internet, so it’s kinda comical). However, I think we, as a genre, can do better than that. I think we can discuss this much more rationally and intelligently than they did. In fact, let's be honest, we can’t do any worse.

But ignoring this issue and hoping it just goes away isn't going to help matters. This is so huge and so potentially damaging to the genre that we can’t continue to ignore it. Think about it, do you want people to feel so isolated from your work that they can’t even comment about it? Or worse, just stop reading you all together? It’s a serious issue, especially as the genre itself seems to be disappearing. Beyond the big names, it seems to have become an underground genre. Horror, I think, is seen as something for solely fourteen year old white males. And if young white boys are your perceived audience, how can you hope to expand and broaden that audience to other people?

Yes, people will get their feelings hurt. People may even threaten to blackball others. But, hopefully, when all the smoke clears, we will be a better, more diverse genre because of it.

I hate waxing philosophical right now, but—they say, that all it takes is for good men to do nothing...

So, kick me out. Threaten not to publish my books (idle threat, at this point), call me a troll. But, for Gods sake, let’s begin to discuss this. Let’s put it out there, let people listen, and understand. Or don’t, we can continue to pretend these things do not affect us or our characters. But do not make the mistake of thinking that if we aren’t talking about it, it’s not a problem. Even yelling at one another would be better than...silence.

So writers, go write.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

School Board Holds County Hostage

Clayton County Schools Lose Accreditation

I posted about this issue already.

I moved from the county several months ago, as I could not put my children's future on the line. But what about those who can not move. They aren't sure what will happen to seniors this year. Imagine having gone to school for twelve years and finding out that your diploma is worthless. Those poor kids!

Well, on my way to Dragoncon. If you'll be there, look me up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Formidable women, half retarded men

So, I helped my mother move yesterday. She was at work and couldn’t get off, so the only people there were myself, and my two sisters. My mom moves a lot. A lot. She doesn’t like to stay in one place too long, so about every two years she gets the itch, and I know I’ll be getting a call telling me she’s found the most amazing place. And they always are.

The only bad thing is that I have to help her move. I hate this. I think this is why I tend to stay in one place; because I’ve moved some many times in my life as a child.

My mother didn’t have any boys, so it has long been left up to my sisters and I to move her. Why not hire someone? Well, why do that when you have several young, capable women to do it for you—for free?

Anyhoo, my sisters and I had four hours to load and unload the truck and get it back. We packed everything we could on the truck. Several very heavy sofas, beds, mattresses, massive bookshelves, washer and dryer, deep freezer and lots and lots of other things. And did I mention that my mother lived up two flights of stairs?

We are formidable women, I tell ya.

So we drive the truck (a large U-Haul type thing) to the new house. The problem is my mom decided to move into the house from hell. Well the house itself is fine. It’s just getting there from the road that makes it hell. The driveway leading to the house is barely wide enough for a Buick mush less the tank we were driving. It’s shared with a neighbor whose house sits directly in front of my mother’s. The driveway itself is at a sharp incline and drops off on both sides into deep ditches. If you can’t imagine it, just think of a big U-Haul tumbling into a ravine and you pretty much got it. The imagery worked for me.

When we got there, the wonderful neighbors, who inhabit the house in front of my mother’s, had placed a garbage can, riding toy and a huge basketball goal in the driveway. He walked out of the house, shirtless, checked his mail and went back inside. My sister was driving and after pulling in, we decided she would have to come out, back the truck in, while dodging the uneven, hilly driveway and ditches.

I called to the shirtless fellow through his open screen-less window to please move his basketball goal while I moved his trashcan and child toy myself. He quickly agreed and we continued on.

My youngest sister and I directed my other sister into the drive, telling her which way to turn the wheel and if she needed to straighten out and start again. As she was backing in, the shirtless neighbor walked out, put his hand on my back, began laughing and said something inaudible.

I looked at him and smiled until I realized what he’d said.

“I wondered what the problem was,” he said, “until I realized it was a woman driving.”

I stared at him for a moment and then at my sister who looked like she could have killed him. I have no doubt she could have taken him.

He continued staring at me earnestly, as I replied. “I know, but it could be worse. We could have a man driving.”

The smile quickly faded from his face and he looked as if I had said the rudest thing in the world to him. He walked back into his house, staring back at us every couple of feet. I think he was really upset that I’d dare say that to him.

My sister said from the truck, “I can’t believe that asshole.”

Personally, I found it amusing. On the one hand he thought we were nothing but pitiful girls who couldn’t do anything. But he didn’t bother to offer any assistance. Not that we would have accepted, but if he’s such a fabulous man—better than any woman—isn’t that the manly thing to do when you see a women you think needs assisting? So what kind of man does that make him? Also, in what world does he live in that it’s completely acceptable to walk up to someone, insult them and expect them to giggle like silly little children.

(side note: seeing him there laughing like an idiot, I could just imagine the slurs that would have come out of his mouth fifty years ago—hell, twenty years ago.)

Also the fact that he thought it was fine to touch me was just strange. Infringing on my space was rude and creepy.

My sister got the truck into the narrow driveway with little effort and we girls unloaded the truck. Sofas, beds, mattresses, massive bookshelves, washer and dryer, deep freezer and lots and lots of other things.

The creepy, shirtless neighbor watched from his screen-less window.

When we left, we waved goodbye to him. He didn’t wave back. I’m sure my mom will be glad we’re making new friends for her already.

I’m aching like hell right now. But, damn, do I feel good.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Clayton County Risk Losing Accreditation

So, have I mentioned that I live here?

My daughters actually go to one of the best schools in the county (for all it’s worth). The school has continuously scored high on national testing, and had the highest test scores in the county on the writing assessment test for the last few years.

My daughter took her SATs on Saturday. I got up at six in the morning (on a Saturday!) to get her there by 7:45. However, all of that will be useless if we lose accreditation. This is also affects my 15 year old, and if it doesn’t now, will affect my 7 and 9 year old.

My home will be worthless. My children won’t be able to get scholarships. Other counties are not willing to take the children of this county in (and really, I can’t blame them).

The problems are due to the school board.

SACS found: “ Today’s announcement that Clayton County Schools are run so badly that they became the first system to ever lose their accreditation is a disaster. With the loss of accreditation, their students cannot receive HOPE scholarships, they may not be able to transfer their credits, and their college future is threatened. Those responsible for educating our children failed.”

The board members, who are accused of misappropriating funds, abuse of power, bid tampering and much more, refuse to step down. Obviously they care more about their egos than the children and families of this county.

If something doesn't happen soon, this will be me.