Thursday, December 28, 2017

Searching For Sycorax: Black Girl Magic In The Blues & Conjure


"Folkloric Horror: A New Way of Reading Black Women's Creative Horror" (Music/Performance)
&
"Sycorax's Power of Revision: Reconstructing Black Women's Counternarratives"

Statement: Folkloric horror also extends to black women who make music. The blueswoman can be read as a conjure woman who brings the supernatural into the ordinary. Yet, conjure women are often labeled as marginalized outcasts. Brooks asserts that this status extends to the blueswoman and notes the "relationship between the blues and conjure".

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Searching For Sycorax: Confirming A Black Women's Horror Aesthetic

Wake (2010) dir. Bree Newsome

"Folkloric Horror: A New Way of Reading Black Women's Creative Horror"

Thesis: Black women artists who create works classified as horror "specifically revise and and redefine the genre" by grounding their subversive storytelling in the ever-present issues/fear surrounding womanhood with "the principles of natal African religions." This section demonstrates a way to understand the aesthetic approach of black women horror creatives and its "literary history in black women's writing," and the use of folkloric horror to examine contemporary black women's writing.

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Searching For Sycorax: The Fluidity Of Black Women's Horror Fiction


"Black Women Writing Fluid Fiction: An Open Challenge to Genre Normativity"

Thesis: Black women genre (horror, science fiction, fantasy, speculative) writers uniquely blend these themes in their work, creating a "fluid fiction" "to articulate the simultaneity of oppressions that uniquely affect black women."

The participation of black women in genre fiction:

1. Refuse to write their work in one genre. There is no distinct separation of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and the speculative.

2. Should not be positioned in "speculative fiction and Afrofuturism," and demonstrate an entirely unique subgenre "that is explicitly black and female."

3. Because genre lines have a natural tendency to blur, black women use this to their advantage in literary works, thus creating a subgenre that Dr. Brooks coins, fluid fiction.


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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Searching For Sycorax: The Struggle Of Black Women, Horror, & Literary Theory


"Black Feminism and the Struggle for Literary Respectability"

"The most egregious sin of black feminist literary scholars at the time remains their lack of engagement with the best-selling black woman writer of all time, Octavia Butler."

"black feminist literary theory lacks a space for horror...it proves detrimental in the recognition of the complexities of black women creators."

Statement: Black feminist literary theory has historically undermined the importance of horror/speculative texts written by Black women due to "the politics of literary respectability" that plagued this field and its movement to be accepted by academic standards. This chapter examines and why's and how's this respectability was employed in order for Black women's literature to be gained entrance into the academic literary canon and how the tactics have woefully overlooked speculative fiction written by black women.

Key Terms:

black feminist theory
- began in the 19th century in relation to the suffragette and abolitionist movments, demanding equitable "recognition,, inclusion, and authority in the aforementioned sociopolitical movements of American history," but constantly roadblocked by racist and sexist hierarchal structures, black women insisted on the need to "self-articulate a space that addressed the peculiar needs of black women." Thus, black women's lived experiences lived by black women created a foundation for theoretical interpretations of these experiences, further articulated as a serious topic of study.

respectability politics - in regards to the specifics of this chapter, "a set of social, cultural, and political mores that construct and demonstrate the virtue of black womanhood through race work--the uplift of the black community toward a more equitable standing of blacks in America." Respectability politics is heavily tied in to an anxiety about perception. Self-definition from the marginalized broken down to an essential, uncomplicated positive image that creates public acceptance, to be seen as human, equal in the eyes of those on a higher sociopolitical, hegemonic ladder.

black literary feminism - a strategy of establishing a literary tradition by giving due, the early generations of black women, particularly writers that have been heavily influential to contemporary writers by creating essays and written works which aid in the (re)discovery and celebration of their work as critical to/and should be included in the Literary Canon

Discussion Topics:

Black Feminism (late 1960's-early 1990's) this was the most fertile time period for black feminist theory with care to the multiplicitous nature and lives of the black women developing the discpline and additionally, its entrance into the academy which ultimately restrained a bit of its progression, becoming narrowly defined by a particular group of tenets and interests.

Certain black women, as feminists and theorists in the academy colluded with the use of the western Canon to favor and define "acceptable" written works "worthy of being titled literature." Horror, science fiction, and fantasy were then overlooked, ignored, and subjugated to the margins as unacceptable and inconsistent with a literary canon that makes black women's work respected.

"Black clubwomen," a social movement was a reactionary response to works such as the Cult of True Womanhood which blatantly excludes black women as being viewed or treated as women. These clubwomen, who created the foundation for black women's literature combated these negative images of Black women in their texts. Their work was influential in the later "literary respectability" move of black women in academia; establishing a history of black women's literature that combats negative images of black women.

This history of respectability that trickled into black feminist literary theory overlooked speculative works and speculative themes in the work chosen as canon. Horror was an established ghettoized genre and there was an assumption that speculative fiction was not a serious mode of storytelling, especially considering a theoretical approach to examining societal matters.

Perceptions of Speculative Fiction:

- "an indulgence," "trivial"
- a slim at best interest of Black writers and readers
- does not position black women in any sort of centralized, holisitic depiction
- black women peers at times, discouraged each other in writing speculative works

Examples: (Where Black Feminist Literary Tradition Has Failed)

Octavia Butler & Jewell Gomez


- not acknowledged nor was their work engaged by "black feminist scholars starved for black women's creative fiction" in the 1980's

Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987)


- investigated "in terms of the 'horrific' effects of slavery" but no examination of the novel as a horror text with its use of ghosts, possession, and hauntings as elements to tell a story that is additionally, a black feminist one

Gloria Naylor's Mama Day (1989)


- black feminist literary theory focused on the African American folklore, but no examination of Mirada Day's connection as a conjure woman to 'deeper elements' of horror that it inspires

Discussion Questions:

Who were the women who advocated for the needs of black women in the beginnings of black feminist theory?

How do the multiple aspects of black women's identities infiltrate "their social, political, and cultural output"?

What are some of those "rigid" standards that define "'appropriate' black feminist literature" and how is it tied into the advocacy of "black women's respectability"?

Why do you think "reactionary" works were necessary to black women in the 19th and 20th century? What does reactionary work due to those combating negative stereotypes in the long run? How do foundational perceptions form that makes identity and perception so difficult in our social interactions with each other, even to this day?

What do you find troublesome (if so) about replacing the term horror to make work 'more palatable' to certain divisions of society or academic disciplines? Consider the suggestions of Brooks as she argues for horror's critical importance: gothic, magical realism, fantasy, folklore.

Further Readings:

Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976 by Barbara Christian
Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women 1860-1960 by Mary Helen Washington



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Sunday, December 17, 2017

#SciFiSunday: Black Feminism In Octavia Butler's Kindred


Science fiction has the ability to stretch ones imagination far beyond the logical and comprehensible. The fantastic element of the genre alludes to a creativity that forces an audience to suspend reality while simultaneously reflecting on the real, social world through the allegories played out in the genre. Additionally, it predicts our future and argues the existence of concurrent spaces. But what happens when science fiction moves backwards instead of forwards? How are we then to prognosticate our futures when we’re stuck in the past?

Octavia Butler’s 1979 classic Kindred took a radical angle on conceptualizing science fiction. The skeleton of the story being framed in the antebellum South before the Civil War[1] spins the reader into a time passed. One can imagine that Butler would like her audience to grasp the concept of the past in order to better understand the present and the future. Further, it is her main character, a black woman in her mid-twenties named Dana Franklin who mystery is called back to this time in history sporadically only to find out that she is to exist by saving the life of an ancestor, a young white slave owner named Rufus Weylin. Her life as a black woman living in the 1970’s is conceptually transformed by living the experiences of a slave in Maryland in the 1800’s.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Searching For Sycorax: The Zombie Apocalypse, Black Women, & You


"The Importance Of Neglected Intersections: Characterizations of Black Women in Mainstream Horror Texts"

Thesis: The construction of black women characters in horror, while more bountiful than ever and proving "astronomical" in "advertising revenues" in the 21st century, still fail to escape disorienting and old tropes that diminish the complexities of Black womanhood in the genre. Here, Dr. Brooks "exposes mainstream horror's simplistic characterizations of black women by examining their presence in one of horror's most celebrated subgenres, the postapocalyptic zombie text" because of its varying, layered, and always complicated depictions of Black womanhood.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Searching for Sycorax: Black Women's Hauntings of Contemporary Horror


It tends to begin with a novel, or a comic book, someone on a screen. In the most extreme of circumstances or prosthetics, one character makes an indelible impression on our soft, youthful sensibilities. That one in horror is the pinnacle of overstimulation. Our imaginations run rampant; distorting truth and creating a reality that shakes our sense of safety to its very core. Yet, through terror, we are still here. Physically unscathed by what the screen makes possible. And for a little black girl in Louisiana, solving the equation of Grace Jones' alluring presence in 1986's Vamp was the spark that gives us "the first sustained critical examination of black women in contemporary horror," ever.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Yuletide Terror: New Anthology Book & International Screening Tour This December!




*From The Press Release

For many, Christmas is an annual celebration of goodwill and joy, but for others, it’s a time to curl up on the couch in the dead of winter for a good old-fashioned fright. The festive holiday season has always included a more somber side, and scary tales of child-stealing demons to ghost stories told ‘round the fireplace go back to pre-Christian celebrations. These long-standing traditions have found modern expression in the Christmas horror film, a unique and sometimes controversial subgenre that cheerfully drives a stake of holly through the heart of cherished Christmas customs.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Call For Submissions To Black Magic Women


Women listed in the 80 Black Women in Horror Fiction reference book are welcome to submit new short stories to a will-be-published by Mocha Memoirs Press anthology series, Black Magic Women: 20 Terrifying Tales By Scary Sisters curated by author Sumiko Saulson.

Theme: Black Magic Women.

These stories should include centralized, complex black women characters. We are actively seeking stories with diverse characters that are more than tokens and sidelined to secondary or villainous roles. Magic in the title refers to Black Girl Magic. Stories referencing that in some way is a bonus challenge to potential picks. Stories do not necessarily have to incorporate magic, but incorporating some sort of magic practice or object into your storyline are stories that will be especially considered. We want your best, polished, and ready to publish work that's fresh and invigorating to the universe of genre fiction.

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