02/28 – Diana McCollum

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

One Small Step...

Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

Either I’ve been alive a very (very) long time, or history has been moving along pretty fast lately. I remember in history class noting the long times between any events of merit. Not so in my lifetime. I’ve seen the Berlin wall fall. Feared for my brother during the Vietnam War. Watched the once dreaded USSR split into pieces.

Selma isn’t just a movie to me. That march and other acts literally reset my future and changed the lives for many people like me. Then I had to live through the assassination of the man who helped spearhead those changes, Doctor Martin Luther King. That was followed by the assassination of a President and then his brother, a Presidential candidate. All this changed the way we Americans looked at each other.

I’ve seen things happen that people couldn’t even dream of when I was born. A Black man as president of the United States. And pretty soon there will be a Woman President (unless people actually do elect the very scary and unqualified man who preaches hate). I’ve also seen a man walk on the moon. It happened when I was young and full of the glory of science fiction. I’d seen Sputnik, heard President Kennedy vow to have the US lead the race to the moon. I loved him for that alone.

I prayed for Apollo 13 and when Neill Armstrong took his “One small step for man…” I stepped with him. I cried when I watched the Challenger disaster, feeling the same pain that an earlier generation felt when the Hindenburg erupted in flames. Last week I sang along as the lonely Curiosity Rover sang Happy Birthday to itself from its forever home on Mars. I was there for the early pessimism about the Hubble Space Telescope, and now enjoy seeing some of the great pictures it sends us about the reality of the universe we live in.

And I love authors who give me views of possible future realities. I’m not much into the dystopian sub-genre, but I love seeing visions of distant times and worlds that show advancement and an overall positive future. Maybe because too many of the changes I have lived through have been negative.

Nichelle Nichols was my goddess every week from 1966 to 1969. (She still is my goddess for that matter). Zoe Saldano carries the torch well, and I love Uhuru's relationship with Spock in the reboot.  I also love that Star Trek portrays a more positive future, where things get better and the human race evolves. There is no evil Empire of dark side of the force holding us back. That's why I will always be more Star Trek than Star Wars.

As much as I read and watch S/F, for now my own muse insists on remaining in the contemporary realm.  I get my future fix by reading stories Sword and Soul and Afrofuturism stories from authors like Balogun Ojetade, Alicia McCalla, Valjeanne Jeffers and Octavia Butler in books like:

Once Upon a Time in Afrika, a Sword and Soul tale by Balogun Ojetade, is full of magic, gods and demigods. This fairy tale like story tells about a beautiful and badass princess and her father, the king who sets up a tournament that brings on eager suitors, along with an evil war lord out to grab the princess.  Fortunately, the princess is more warrior than wimp, and perfectly capable of picking up her own sword to deal with danger.
Alicia McCalla mixes West African mythology and Norse mythology in her African Elemental series, to create a story with elements of horror to go along with the science fiction. The heroine is from an African pantheon, the hero a descendent of a Norse god, and they have to accept their calls to become the warriors they are destined to be in order to save their child from a violent predator
Diverse Energies is an anthology of  short fiction. The many stories involve  diverse group of young people - students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers. They are all pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another. (Okay, many of the stories do have a dystopian air to them after all). This is my go-to book when I want a quick fix of the future or of alternate realities
FYI - I teach a class to writers called Writing with Diversity.  During the class two of my all time favorite S/F stories for examples of different techniques. Both Babel-17, a novel by Samuel Delany, and The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin, provide examples for two of the lessons:  Worldbuilding and Crafting Characters of  Color.



Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for the review, B.A. We must be similar in age because I also lived in those times. Always appreciate learning about books I've yet to read. And I've heard great things about your class. When/where are you teaching it next?

B. A. Binns said...

I'm thinking about hosting it again at the beginning of 2017. Right now it runs for four weeks, three lessons a week. I've had several students say there was not enough time to really go deep. I agree, the class includes several spots for hands on writing and critiquing, and since many students have day jobs, families and a struggle to find time to write,four weeks is too little time for them to get the most out of the material and exercises. I'm looking to stretch things over a 6 week period, and to avoid the holidays, so think January or February.

PS, I do have a shorter overview presentation that I give in workshop form in an hour plus Q/A time. It doesn't have the details, examples, or writing exercises, but it actually might help students to have that overview first. If you or any group you know of would like the overview of diverse writing, let me know.

Sarah Raplee said...

B.A., I loved your class! In fact, I want to take it again and the Jan.-Feb. time frame is perfect! Life got in the way near the end of the class for me last time. 6 wks sounds better.

please email me how you would like to do an overview on RTG: as a regular post, a series of guest posts, or a Special Event?

sarahraplee@yahoo.com (cc Judith)

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great post, B.A.--added a bunch to my TBR list. And I also loved your class, glad to hear you're doing more.