When a person was recently approached with the idea of being a guest (not by me, thankfully) at SOBSFic Con, the person responded by saying “Miss me with that shit! I don’t support Black anything! If white people threw a ‘White Science Fiction Convention’ Black people would be up in arms.”

Another person took it upon themselves to “enlighten” me after I posted an article about SOBSFic Con in a group:

“The real problem here is calling it ‘Black Science Fiction’,” they said. “If Afram writers insist on segregating their books in this manner, it will be a real challenge to market them. Simply writing a good book that HAPPENS to have a black character is good enough… I’ve found it’s difficult to sell a book OUTSIDE of people of color markets when we call the books ‘African-American’ or ‘Black’…this is just a sad fact. I’m black and it drives ME crazy!”

The article was about the convention, NOT one of my books, but okay. My response? Here:

“Black readers ARE my target market. Don’t let it drive you crazy. Just purchase what keeps you sane.”

I do not have the time or the inclination to break this down to folks every time this comes up – and it comes up too often – so I am writing this blog to serve as a link I – and you, if you choose – can share every time we are asked why white people shouldn’t name a con the White Science Fiction Convention, but it is not just okay, but intelligent marketing, to name ours the State of Black Science Fiction Convention.

Here are my responses; feel free to use them:

  1. “Because damn near every con – except for the few Black comic conventions – in the world is a white science fiction convention. Go to one, or look at the photos for any one of them and you’ll see.”
  2. “Because white people have not been ignored, excluded from, erased or made the savage in science fiction and fantasy.”
  3. “Shut yo’ dumb ass up!”

Now, I’ll add a couple of Milton Davis’ responses here, too, because he’s a lot nicer, wiser and older (had to toss that one in) than I:

  1. “When it comes to us, I like to be straight to the point; that way, there’s no guessing to what SOBSFic Con is about.”
  2. “State of Black Science Fiction is the name of the group.”

See…nicer; wiser, older more refined.

“Ok, Balogun, clever, responses,” you say. “You’re a witty guy, but the name ‘State of Black Science Fiction Convention’ is considered to be racist by some. Is it?”

Perhaps the State of Black Science Fiction Convention would be racist if its aim was to point out that Black people are superior to other groups. However, the State of Black Science Fiction Convention functions to highlight the oft-overlooked accomplishments of people of Afrikan descent in all genres and subgenres of speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, Sword and Soul, Rococoa, Steamfunk, Dieselfunk, Cyberfunk, Real Urban Fantasy™ and the like.

So, “Black” will remain in the title of our convention, people.

And, for the record, SOBSFic Con – the State of Black Science Fiction Convention – was never intended to make white people – or Black people who get uncomfortable when white people are uncomfortable – uncomfortable…unless maybe they ought to be.

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at https://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/blackspeculativefiction.

16 responses »

  1. Fujimoto says:

    Create a space to celebrate black speculative fiction and you get jerks crying about how it’s so mean to white authors. As if they weren’t celebrated enough already. I definitely see the State of Black Science Fiction Con as an important step for better conventions as outlined in the article “The Possibility of Achieving Inclusive Conventions”, and hope that it encourages similar conventions around the world. Maybe in a few years there will SOBSFic Con branches for other big cities of the US and Canada.

    I’m rooting for SOBSFic Con! May it be a big success!

  2. Libertad says:

    whoa! “I don’t support anything black.” My direct response would’ve been well, who do you expect to support you then? The con name is dope and lets it be known it’s for us. Being at white cons, it’s like begging people to pay attention to you. They don’t try to make you feel comfortable. I’d choose a con targeted toward PoC any day.

  3. saltigurl says:

    Hello Balogun! I was thoroughly entertained that I was quoted above. But, just to continue the conversation, I think my real issue is not with a State of Black Sci-Fi Convention, because I like the idea that I can find other unknown Afram writers in one place. My issue is that as black people we tend to segregate ourselves even outside of such events. Example: if you have 100 Afram sci-fi/fantasy writers at this wonderful conference being organized, only a small fraction will rent a table at a sci-fi convention that’s non-black. I assume we all want to be seen as sci-fi/fantasy writers, as opposed to being pigeonholed with the race card. I’d like to see more of these little known black writers introduce themselves to the world as a whole as opposed to solely in our communities. When I publish my Grey Witch Series, I intend to be everywhere, in people’s face, making my presence known.

    • I don;t think you CAN assume that everyone wants to be “be seen as sci-fi/fantasy writers, as opposed to being pigeonholed with the race card.” … also, so far, I haven’t alienated any of my white fans by associating with black science fiction and horror fans. They don’t see it as any different than being involved with Women in Horror month, or associating with and networking with female writers, who are also underrepresented. People can go to mainstream conventions and niche cons – it’s not mutually exclusive. If you don’t want to be associated with a certain niche audience or market, that’s your personal choice.

      • ichbinmeisterin says:

        It is a very interesting question. The subject of “race” has such negative connotations that worry a lot of writers. But I have now decided to make distinctions between these issues that allow me to channel my creativity in the way I want. Racism is not the whole of the black experience and we are not always depressed and downtrodden. So even though I consider myself to be a crime fiction writer, the original reason I wanted to write in the first place, was to create a black woman character that reflected the multi-dimensional nature of blackness, as opposed to the exclusion and denigration of black people we see in the media. Many writers are scared because of how black people are viewed by whites, without realizing that their creativity can say a big “fuck you” to all that shite. I read an article from a blac writer who was worrying out loud about things I had previously been worried about, and whilst reading, I was like “Why should I fret about these things?” So we really need to reclaim blackness as positive, and niche conventions like these really help. And actually, white people are not being barred from attending- they might learn something!

  4. The lack of representation in science fiction, fantasy and horror is precisely the reason why niche conventions exist. The Hugo Awards scandal alone should let people know that there is a problem (lack of representation) that needs addressing. The State of Black Science Fiction is not the only niche speculative fiction con. WisCon is a feminist sci-fi convention. BentCon is an LGBT comic book convention. None of these conventions take away from larger conventions.

    • ichbinmeisterin says:

      Exactly. And by the way, there are no laws saying a man cannot attend a feminist sci-fi convention, or that a straight person cannot attend a LGBT convention. Niche conventions are not an expression of prejudice, but an avenue for inclusion.

  5. ichbinmeisterin says:

    As someone who finds it difficult to find books/films/comics with black characters represented in a human, non-stereotypical way, we definitely need forums like this. And the point is- this isn’t even racist in any way shape or form. It is only offensive to people who don’t like black people. Isn’t it hypocritical to ignore the glaring lack of diversity and respect towards black characters in the mainstream, and then complain when someone tries to remedy it?

  6. […] you agree or disagree with anything I say, let your voices be heard at SOBSF Con (pronounced “SOBSFic Con”). Hell, if you don’t care about what I say, come anyway and tell me so. Whatever the reason, […]

  7. Andre Batts says:

    Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention!!!
    Ive experienced that same B.S. and I keep it moving…

  8. […] The State of Black Science Fiction Convention, or SOBSF Con (“SOBSFic Con”) began with a telephone conversation between authors, event collaborators and friends, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade. After attending dozens of geek conventions as guests, attending professionals and Guests of Honor, they both wanted to see a fan convention highlighting Black Speculative Fiction; a safe space for Black cosplayers and Black fans of geek culture in all its expressions: literature, film, fashion, art, comic books, theater and television. […]

  9. […] State of Black Science Fiction Convention (SOBSFCon / SOBSFicCon) provides a forum for fans to see first-hand, and meet, their favorite authors, […]

  10. […] State of Black Science Fiction Convention (SOBSFCon / SOBSFicCon) provides a forum for fans to see first-hand, and meet, their favorite authors, […]

  11. […] attended Black to the Future in Seattle in 2006, The State of Black Science Fiction in 2016 and Blacktasticon 2018. All three conventions focused on black speculative and were well […]

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