I am a failed writer. Ask anyone who reads my work.
I have failed because I refused to draw an allegiance to any particular perspective, refuse to take on any titles or use any affiliations to define my work or how I write.
If you ask the black writers who write speculative fiction, I do not embrace the black psychology; I don’t use my blackness to drive my stories. My themes aren’t black enough. My characters aren’t black enough. I don’t promote blackness as the defining characteristic of my stories.
If you ask the blerds and bleeks who write commentary on science fiction and fantasy movies, television and cable out there, I am clearly not one of them because my emphasis is not on how many black writers, creators, or characters are already in play or needing new opportunities.
I don’t write long and extensive treatments on how Hollywood has disenfranchised minority actors, writers, and creators since film came into existence. I don’t talk about how black creators make far less money than their less-famous white contemporaries and I am not incensed about it.
I haven’t written about the most famous black creators in slavish detail or worship at the temples of famed black writers who have been producing quality writing for decades and probably don’t need an introduction from me anyway.
I won’t accept the words: Geek, Nerd, Blerd, Bleek, or any other such neologisms because they don’t mean anything good to me. I remember them as pejoratives and treat them as such. Re-claiming a word does not change its meaning for me and I like to think I am more than just a word used to describe a subset of society looked down upon by the mainstream, even if that mainstream is closer to said subculture than ever before.
I am a writer by choice. I made the conscious decision to create when my industry decided I was too old to work and be paid at the level to which my age and experience once allowed. Since I am unwilling to be paid wages which reflect a 1985 level of experience, I have been cut off from my previous occupation. I have come to accept this state of affairs in a nation slowly gone mad.
Now I write about whatever pleases me. Whether it be about blackness or something else. This has proven to be a difficulty I didn’t foresee. I did not understand the writing community is as fractured as everything else.
I didn’t realize I would be forced to take sides; that I would not be judged upon the quality of my writing but upon the quality of my blackness upon my writing.
I did not realize I would not be accepted as a science fiction writer before being pigeonholed as a black science fiction writer.
Here’s the rub: If I am not willing to subsume my writing identity as a black writer of speculative fiction, I will be unable to make headway in this industry. It doesn’t matter if I may write compelling treatments on characters and dissect cultural memes and norms as well as any of the people who have ever done this. My capacities are ignored by the very same people who are seeking to talk about racial inclusion but only on the terms they be the star of the show.
If I am not willing to say: My blackness is the most important aspect of my existence, excluding any other qualities which might make me an excellent writer in general, then I may as well not write at all.
Lately, I have noticed in Medium, as I have moved away from writing about race, my readership has become quiescent, almost invisible. The lack of writing about racial issues isn’t from a lack of interest — it is from a keen awareness of the problem. As a black man, I walk out my door every day with the understanding I may never return home due to forces outside of my control. In America, racial intolerance for black men has not been this problematic since the early 1950s.
I stopped writing about it because it was destroying my inner peace. I was angry all the time (and I understand to be aware is to BE angry all the time) but it was destroying my relationships with my family, particularly with my autistic son who simply does not understand any aspects of racism.
I recognize someone needs to talk about racism. I recognize someone needs to make the case for equality in a nation founded on atrocity. I recognize I have done so in the past and done it well.
I want to be known, however, as a writer who writes well. A writer who can take any idea: scientific, technological, cultural, social, religious, educational and make it compelling, interesting, believable, relevant and most importantly, worth reading.
Reading is an investment in a person. An investment of yourself into the mind of another. I want my investment to be one which spans the world in the way I see it. Not as a subdivision of a culturally marginalized people living in a toxic environment designed to repress their growth at any cost.
I want to create in a way which reveals how I see the world in my heart. One where I recognize the individual value of every person; the capacity each can and must bring to the development of the world at large.
I want to be a person who isn’t so culturally clueless that I write the 11 Steps to Improving Yourself without the awareness to recognize my own privilege in a racially segmented and stratified society.
I want to believe the potential of each of us can only be found in the service of others. To believe for any of us to be successful, we must ultimately elevate all of us, to see our lives, our societies, our cultures as parts of a wonderful whole. Because I recognize, for the foreseeable future, the Earth is the only home we have.
A home growing more crowded, more fearful, more secular, more challenging as the wealthy seek to distance themselves using their wealth as a tool and a weapon to gather and abscond with the Earth’s resources while destroying the very same place they need to live.
Mars is not an alternative. No place in our solar system will be Earth. We have an obligation to protect it.
We cannot protect it divided into clans, tribes, clades, nation-states, religious orders, and falsely-created racial hierarchies.
This is why I write. To bring a light into a dark future. One beset with greed and self-centered narcissism — the kind which does not understand we cannot improve the world by taking pictures of ourselves. If you missed the message, almost all media is designed to improve the perception of a particular subset of people at the expense of other marginalized groups.
We need to stop doing this. Or perhaps I should say, powerful media agencies run by individuals mentioned earlier should stop doing this. And we need to stop encouraging it.
I suspect I will continue to write. I will continue to create outside of the norms erected by people who cannot seem to classify my writing to their satisfaction. I will continue to refuse the titles of geek, bleek, nerd, or blerd, no matter how fashionable they may become. These words are too small and too simple to encompass what I write about, how I see the universe, and what I hope to accomplish as a writer.
I recognize there are writers here who are far more famous, far more compelling because what they are selling is an individualized package for fame. A kit which, if their words are to be believed, will ensure their rise into meteoric fame, vast wealth, and the adoration of millions.
I have no such illusions.
I, instead, will do what I have always done. Walk off that way, toward a light only I can see, with only those people who believe in what I say, appreciate how I think, and, like me, embrace the idea that we can only succeed when we come to see flourishing in collective, not radically individualistic, terms.
It is up to us to recognize the part we can play in the advancement of the species. Not many of us can lay claim to understanding our place within the grand scheme of things. There are too many distractions that keep us from paying that kind of attention. Too many inner mirrors beckoning us to stop and admire our funhouse reflections of our ideal selves.
When you are in service to an idea worth having, you will see yourself in service to others, not your ego. Not yourself. But to a system of thinking greater than you can ever be. It transcends you. It transcends your ideas of you.
I will be that kind of writer. One who realizes who I am is less important than the ideas which move us along as a whole. I recognize this will probably mean my fan base will probably be smaller than a good family reunion, but I am okay with this.
For those of you who actually have read my work and enjoyed it, I appreciate it. I have dealt with a good deal of family stress in the last eight years: multiple deaths, long-term unemployment, chronic health and disability. Working with my beautiful son who I have tried to teach to be the best person he can be, to help him see a world through his autism and how he can still be of service, has been my greatest accomplishment.
He is a fine boy who has the admiration of many and treats everyone as if they matter. He is the embodiment of what I hope to create with my work. I will be away for some time. I will post my last few articles here and then you may not see me for a month or two.
Know it has been a pleasure writing for you all. If there are stories here I have not finished, please forgive me. Times have been trying. When I return I will get back to work on them.
Take care of each other. Love one another. Reach past any false divisions to see the best we can be. We are all we have.
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. You can follow him on Twitter or support his writings on Patreon.