Sunday, April 26, 2009

Obama's First 100 Days

Once again, it is time to play the time worn parlor game of
evaluating a new president's first 1oo days in office. I tend
to grade President Barack Obama high but largely for style
points. The latest Bush administration was so disastrous that
Obama stays gold in simple comparison. I, for one, did not
inhale the "hopium" (to borrow Chicago columnist John Kass'
caustic and cheeky appellation of rampant "Obamamania").
I saw how cool, calibrated and calculated the Obama campaign
was and I am not disappointed that the Obama presidency is as
cool, calibrated and calculated as the campaign. It is time this
country was governed by the "best and brightest" instead of
the "dumb and dimmest."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Be Real Black for Me

I am of two minds regarding what it takes for a black speculative writer to get published. Mind One: I recently became aware of black novelist Willard Motley who wrote a critically acclaimed novel Knock on any Door in 1047. Now Mr. Motley first came to prominence as a teenager writing a column for the black owned Chicago Defender newspaper under the pseudonym "Bud Billiken." There continues to be an annual "Bud Billiken" parade on the predominantly black south side of Chicago in his honor to this day. But when the talented Mr. Motley decided to write his Great American Novel, he didn't write about black folks, just like now, ain't no money in that, he wrote Knock on any Door, a work of gritty naturalism, that concerns the life of Nick Romano, an Italian American altar boy who turns to crime because of poverty and the difficulties of the immigrant experience. It was an immediate hit, selling 47,000 copies during its first three weeks in print, and in 1949 it became a movie starring Humphrey Bogart. Has anyone ever heard of best selling author Willard Motley? From 1947 - 1951, Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man, the seminal novel of the black male experience in America. In 1953, Ellison won the National Book Award. Anybody heard of Ralph Ellison? Mind Two: Most black speculative fiction fans only want to see one black person in the future - themselves - and they have no problem having one main black character and having every other character be white. I have no interest in writing about white people. There are more than enough white people to do that. I also have little interest in reading about white people. Been there. Done that. Still, I have wavered and teetered on the verge of doing what is necessary to get published. I have gone so far as to fashion my World Ebon narrative around a white male protagonist - having him discover my world in much the same way James Clavell's John Blackthorne encounters the Japanese in the novel "Shogun." I christened this character Alessandro del Negro (Alex the Black) and I gave him porcelain skin and ink black hair (with a Superman curl) and thick eyelashes (just like Elvis, who dyed his dirty blonde hair black and wore mascara). Problem is, I don't care about Alessandro del Negro any more than I care about Elvis and I don't want to write about him. Not even to get published.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Somali Pirates or Morgadishu Merry Men

Why are the Somali Adventurers, stout-hearted men defending the territorial waters of their plundered country - with trawlers stealing their fish and other natural resources at one end while dumping toxic waste at the other end - called "pirates" while Robin Locksley and his Band of Merry Men, vicious highwaymen all, are revered as fighters against injustice and tyranny? You might ask if the Somali Robin Hoods give what they take from the obscenely rich and give it to the wretchedly poor. I don't know. Perhaps the "ill-gotten gains" go back into the Somali economy; perhaps it goes into the Merry Men's off-shore back accounts. But riddle me this: Why does former Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin, a terrorist who admits to blowing up innocent British civilians, have a Nobel Peace Prize instead of a war crimes tribunal? How much difference is there, really, between Hezbollah and Begin's terrorist cell, Haganah? And does that difference make much difference to the dead and dying?