Saturday, October 13, 2007

Interview: Cecil Washington, Managing Editor, Creative Brother's Sci Fi Magazine

I don't know Cecil Washington, and I've never met Cecil Washington, but if Cecil Washington was asked, "What's the best thing about being Cecil Washington?" without a doubt Cecil Washington would answer, "The best thing about being Cecil Washington is publishing the only paying black science fiction magazine in the world."

Okay, so Cecil Washington probably wouldn't answer that question by referring to himself in the third person, if he'd answer that question at all.
But with my severely limited knowledge of him, I can say with all honesty (and a bit tongue in cheek) the best thing about Cecil Washington is him publishing Creative Brother's Sci Fi Magazine. Catch me on a good day, and I just might say the best thing about Cecil Washington is him publishing me in Creative Brother's Sci Fi Magazine.

By the way, if you didn't know the name Cecil Washington before this interview, now you do.

In all seriousness though, nowadays science fiction movies and literature are more mainstream now than ever before, but it's somewhat disappointing to see that, for the most part, black science fiction has lagged far behind mainstream science fiction.

Of course, there are notable exceptions--Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor Mbachu to name a fraction of the few--but when it comes down to it, black science fiction, pardon the pun, only seems to exists in its own little world.

But hopefully Cecil Washington will help change that. I'm not sure if a black science fiction magazine existed before Creative Brother's Science Fiction Magazine, and I'm not sure if another such magazine will ever join it, but I refuse to look a gift horse in the mouth. I'm appreciative of what we have here and now.

Recently, I talked to Cecil about the current issue of his magazine, as well as his thoughts on contemporary black sci fi.

sixblockseastofmars: Let's start with your influences, your inspiration and your writing. Your website states you're influenced by Octavia Butler, John Faucette, Steven Barnes, Zane, all things P-Funk (including Snoop), some works by The Last Poets, and hip hop. While I can see a bit of a connection between each of those diverse influences, does more than one of those influences find its way into the same short story or novel? "

Cecil Washington: It depends. Lots of my earlier stuff was heavily influenced by Butler and Barnes. These days, I'm trying my best to either write out of my own head or based on things that I have read. The last short story I wrote was influenced by some of the writings
of Dr. Francis Cress-Welsing and Neely Fuller, Jr. In that story, I imagined a world where non-white people were so racially oppressed that Fuller and Welsing's work were put into interactive/instructional holograms.

sbeom: Now let's broaden the picture and talk about contemporary black speculative fiction for a moment. This may be a difficult question to answer, but who or what do you think is the single most influence on black speculative fiction today?

CW: Feminism. I see lots of feminist influence on the leading black science fiction writers, with the exception of Steven Barnes' works.

sbeom: "White" speculative fiction is very different from black speculative fiction, whether you're talking about thirty years ago or present day. Here's a two-part question for you, and I want you to answer the second part as a publisher and not a writer: How is "white" speculative fiction different from black speculative fiction, and can black sci fi crossover successfully to white readers?

CW: White speculative fiction assumes a Eurocentric stance. Rarely does it assume that any other culture besides the American or British culture will be popular in the future. And, most horror and fantasy stories are based on European mythology, which is understandable considering that the genre began in the West. Now can black sci fi crossover? Yes. Black art forms crossover eventually.

sbeom: People may not know this, but you founded and publish twice a year Creative Brother's Sci Fi Magazine. I found out about it through Spicy Green Iguana; I was looking for black sci magazines to submit to and found just one: yours. Your magazine is the only one like it, right? Why?

CW: I've tried Googling others and can't find any. I thought Shiree Thomas put one together also, but it turns out she publishes a journal called Anansi, which is not the same thing that I do. I've looked for others but have not found them. Perhaps mine is the only one. I also read that Octavia Butler had tried to start one but did not have much success.

sbeom: Recently, you published your tenth issue of your magazine, which is impressive considering most self-published magazines don't make it past the first few issues, no matter the genre. What are your short-term and long-term goals with Creative Brother's Sci Fi Magazine?

CW: My short and long term goals are to make money from the magazine. The reason why mine can keep going is because it is done using print-on-demand technology through does not cut you a check unless you warrant at least $20 in profits---FOR YOU. Therefore, it's not an issue if I only sell a few does not spend money until a sale is made.

sbeom: I can't do this interview without asking your thoughts on gender and spec fic. Maybe it's just me, but when I'm looking for markets to submit spec fic, I see a significant number of magazines and publishing companies geared towards women's spec fic and feminist spec fic. Is it just me? Are there equivalent markets for men?

CW: Feminism has taken over the current spec fic market, in an attempt to eradicate past sexism. In the process, it has eradicated present masculinity. I have not seen too many equivalent markets for men. We're going to have to make those markets ourselves and write what we want to read.

sbeom: So, before we wrap this up, let's get back to your writing. What are you working on? Is there new work of yours we can check out? What's your quintessential Cecil Washington work?

CW: The last short story I wrote is in the 10th issue of Creative Brother's Sci-Fi Magazine. It's about a man who struggles with committing genocide. I'm currently working on two novels. One is about a black planet in an alternate universe that is dealing with a global shift in religion. The other one, which is still in the outline phase, is about vampires.

Cecil Washington's homepage:

Creative Brother's Sci Fi Magazine # 10:


Carole said...

Eradicated present masculinity? Wow!!! Cecil, come on now! How so?

(I love you btw, but honestly!)

-Carole McDonnell

Kahnee said...

Great interview.