Labor Day weekend I participated in Alien Encounters, a program of speculative fiction by people of color. To say that I enjoyed the experience is an understatement. About 13 years ago I missed the opportunity to take part in a similar program, a black science fiction meeting sponsored by Clark-Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA. I was two years into my own business, trying to sell floor products and satsfy investors when I heard the voices of Octavia Butler and Steve Barnes over my radio. I called in and spoke to them both, expressing my intentions to write science fiction and fantasy and I was encouraged by both of them to attend. Unfortunately I wasn't able. I had an important out of town meeting so I missed what probably would have been a significant day in my writing development.
So when I was approached about participating in Alien Encounters I jumped at the opportunity. The program was the culmination of the ambitions of Sharon Robinson, Associate Administrator of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History. She'd experienced a situation similar to mine when she attended a black science fiction convention on the west coast 10 years ago. She decided she wanted to do the same in Atlanta. She met me and other writers at the Decatur (GA) Book Festival in 2009 and the ball began to roll.
We weren't able to secure any of the big name black science fiction writers, but what we did achieve was well received. We had four nights of exciting presentations and enthusiastic audiences, proving to those of us that participated that there is an audience for what we do. Dr. Phylis Emanuel, retired professor of Clark Atlanta University and a participant in the meeting I missed 13 years ago was the speaker for the first night's event held at the Hammond House. The Black Science Fiction Society, a social website group, was the focus of the second night. The group debuted their anthology, Genesis, a collection of specualtive stories by members from around the world. I had the priviledge of moderating the evening and got the chance to meet Jarvis Sheffield, founder of the site. The third and fourth night involved discussions of black comic books and a documentary film on black men and the image of superheroes. Planning for Alien Encounters II is already underway and I can already anticipate a larger and more encouraging crowd. It's progress like this that keeps me writing every day.