Here are my questions and their responses.
What are you not seeing in contemporary fantasy that you’d like to see or feel we should be seeing?
More UNAMBIGUOUSLY brown-skinned or dark-skinned Black lead characters. I know that we're starting to see more of it lately like with the popularity of Children of Blood and Bone, but in my opinion, there still isn't enough. Often times when an MC or even a side character is Black, they're ambiguous and/or light-skinned. They have "caramel" colored skin, curly hair, and cute little nose. I want a dark-skinned character who looks unambiguously Black with Black facial features. The media has always had a tendency for colorism, wherein they cast or depict lighter skinned ambiguous Black people who you cant really tell if they're Black. Light-skinned privilege is real and it’s everywhere. Darker-skinned Black people are often overlooked or portrayed negatively and I want to see more of them in the spotlight in my fantasy books.
I don’t see people of color (POC) existing within but beyond their ethnicity. My blackness is usually determined by the room I’m in. I don’t sit alone in my room ‘feeling black’, I am usually reminded of my pigment by someone else’s reaction.
I listen to hip-hop and R&B but I also listen to Maroon 5 and Florida/Georgia Line. My childhood cemented how I feel, but not what I think. Miles Morales (the black Spiderman) is a great example of a black character whose character has nothing to do with his blackness, if that makes any sense lol.
Is Bruce Wayne of German descent? Does it matter? Is Jaime Lannister influenced by his ethnicity one-tenth as much as by his family and particular life experiences? I would like to see more characters who just happen to be POC and fewer ‘POC’ characters.
(How) can black authors participate in fantasy in a way that is uniquely their own, speaks to their heritage, and yet appeals to a broader base in the name of book sales?
Honestly, I don’t think they should have to appeal to a broader base. If a Black author wants to write their story in such a way that it mostly appeals to a Black audience, then so be it. Is a predominantly Black audience not good enough? I can imagine an editor saying "the story is great, but what about the white readers, they may not be able to relate to this" and to that I would hope a Black author responds, "What about them? This story is steeped in Blackness and white people can learn to relate to experiences that don't exactly match theirs or not. But Black readers have been doing it for years."
I have no idea! I write stories where the characters simply happen to be dark skinned, as the series progresses and more social issues become the focus of my main character’s journey, I will address things like discrimination, incarceration and slavery – but not from a western point of view. Racism is very different in a world where there are literally different races but the feelings, the oppression, exclusion, and hostility it creates, remain. I think simply by writing in the genre, our unique experiences will pepper our work and thus spread our perspectives. I have more friends raised by grandparents than parents. When I write that into a story it’s not to give it some urban edge, it just happens because it’s natural for me. As far as sales go; just write good books. Oh, and promote, promote, promote!
Are you seeing any increase on bookstore shelves and/or Amazon for black fantasy authors?
I have seen an increase; I actually recently download some books to my Kindle by Black fantasy authors that were recommended by the Kindle algorithm which I appreciated. I haven't read them yet but I was very happy to see a decent selection. I even went looking for more Black fantasy authors and was pleasantly surprised to find more than I expected
I am not seeing a bunch more authors of color, but I am seeing more POC characters on covers and that’s fantastic! When Drizzt Do’Urden came into my life, everything I thought about fantasy changed. Just to see a dark face on a fantasy cover was inexplicably beautiful to 14 year old me.
Who are you favorites or inspirations?
My favorite fantasy author of all time is currently Rick Riordan, I'd follow him into Tartarus honestly. My original favorite fantasy author was Anne McCaffrey until I discovered Rick. I don’t have a favorite Black fantasy author YET ‘cuz sadly I haven't read many.
I love Rothfuss, Jim Butcher, R.A. Salvatore, Mark Lawrence – Michael J. Sullivan is my current professional hero. Slim on options beyond white men for this list lol. These authors write characters. You could throw their creations in completely different universes and you would still get compelling stories because they are fully crafted, beautifully evolved, incredibly complex and complicated characters. And any of them being black or Asian or Martian would still not be the most fascinating thing about them.
What are you sick and tired of seeing?
Going back to my first response, I'm tired of unambiguous or light-skinned Black characters.
I'm tired of the "sassy Black best friend", while Black people are often humorous in real life and yes, we can be pretty "no nonsense", often times in books they're one dimensional. They have no personality or identity beyond being sassy.
I'm tired of seeing Black characters sacrifice their life or loved ones for the sake of the white MC. When this happens, the Black character often exists for the sole purpose of being killed just to save the more important white character. An example of this is Bonnie in the Vampire Diaries tv show. Over the course of 8 seasons, Bonnie dies twice (both times it was to save her white friends who caused the problem that resulted in her death), her father is murdered, her mother is murdered, her grandmother sacrifices herself to save Bonnie's white friends, and her lover is murdered. And at the end of the show, she gets NO happy ending. Nope, no happy ending. She goes off to Africa for some random ass reason. I mean really. Its absolutely ridiculous. She was a plot device who existed to suffer for the fuck ups of her white friends and then either she or someone she loved had to die as punishment or sacrifice. I am so beyond sick and tired of that shit.
The ugly side of realism. People write dragons, spaceships and elves on one page then add Nazi’s on the next because ‘realism’. Every female character gets raped, realism. The people who are poor speak slang are the darker members of their species because, you know, realism. Teen pregnancy, local bullies that everyone just kind of tolerates as he traumatizes their children. Jaded soulless teachers. You can do anything you want, and you build a world with all the problems of this one?! Why? I mean, I don’t know why one would make that choice given all the options available. This is fantasy, be fantastic.
For those interested, Alexzander's book can be found here.