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March 27, 2006

Carl Brandon Gets Busy

The Carl Brandon Society has kicked into high gear.

CBS is an organization ('s been around for about six years or so) that just got really organized, by getting its own 501(c)(3) tax exempt status as a nonprofit. CBS's mission is to promote speculative fiction by and about people of color, and is organized, of course, mainly by writers of color who write speculative stuffs (sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism, 'n' other stuffs.)

The origin of the name is pretty neat. (Let's see if I get this right ... thus are myths and urban legends made: I'm telling this from my memory of what CBS founders told me.) Back in the '60's (?) science fiction writer Terry Carr (who is white) began writing to fanzines as the fictional African American sci-fi fan Carl Brandon. Because African Americans were so not in evidence at cons back then, this was rather revolutionary. Soon, fans were "Carl Brandon spotting" at cons, seeing him here and there and reporting their Carl Brandon sightings. Even six years ago, people of color were still rare at cons (and are still, but ever less so), so when CBS had their first caucus/conclave (at Wiscon, of course) they decided to name themselves after the elusive, and nonexistent, Carl Brandon. Now, correct me if I'm wrong!

In the past CBS has put together a terrific annual (for only two consecutive years, but what years they were!) listing of speculative literature published in those years by people of color. They also have an annual panel at Wiscon. This past year, however, has seen some organizin' down Carl Brandon way. At Wiscon 2006 they will be presenting their first annual awards: the "Kindred" award, to people writing (well) about people of color in speculative fiction, and the "Parallax" award, to people of color writing speculatively.

In response to the death of Octavia Butler, CBS has created the The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund to send a serious writer of color writing speculative fiction to one of the Clarion workshops. And just this week Carl Brandon's blog has started posting in earnest.

Here's one of the results, an essay by Vandana Singh called "On The Importance of Imaginative Literature". Singh says (what is apparent to all CBS members but bears repeated utterings outside our particular cross-hatch):

Both science fiction and fantasy provide us with powerful metaphors for how we live. Take aliens in science fiction or monsters in fantasy. Are they not a metaphor for the Other? The Other can be anyone different from ourselves --- a person of another caste, class, nationality, race --- or an animal, or an alien. How do we deal with the Other --- do we attack it in fear, worship it for the same reason, accept it on its own terms, bend it to our will? Imaginative literature confronts some of these questions in a way that reaches the deepest parts of our being. Imaginative literature ultimately enables us to face ourselves.

Hear, hear. And here's looking for more such pointers from the CBS blog.

If you'd like to support CBS's terrific work, go here to make a donation to the awards, the Octavia Butler scholarship, or to the organization in general.

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Comments

I've been lurking on your blog since MMW first linked, via Hyphen's blog, to your piece on Pop and Politics (which was amazing, btw, and thank you for it). As a frustrated "writer," former ethnic studies student, a student of issues of race and representation, and a hapa, I'm really enjoying your posts.

This issue of speculative fiction's ability to deal with issues of race and mixed race has always fascinated me, though I haven't read as widely as I'd have liked (just Kindred, the Xenogenesis trilogy, and Moseley's Blue Light). My favorite medium to analyze has been film and television. I came up with this crazy reading of "Species" as a passing narrative back in college. And my senior thesis in ethnic studies was a reading of Star Trek's use of mixed species characters as stand-ins for American popular understandings of mixed race and why that was problematic. It was called "Where No Half-Breed Has Gone Before?" ;)

Anyway, just wanted to say hey.

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