With Mo*Con around the corner I thought it’d be a good time to introduce yet another one of our guests. John Edward Lawson, founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press, along with Chesya Burke and myself, are putting together the essay anthology, The Miseducation of the Writer. Here’s more about that (as well as what he’s looking forward to about Mo*Con).
Wait. Let me backtrack a bit.
The inimitable Maurice Broaddus has asked me to provide insight into a collaborative project of ours, the Miseducation of the Writer anthology (a name he came up with–catchy, isn’t it?). The anthology features writers of color providing commentary on what it means to be an ethnic-other in the speculative fiction industry. Our contributors have exhibited bravery in their life choices, and determination, so much so that as an editor I am inspired by their stories; I hope readers feel the same.
The project was conceived at ReaderCon last July. It actually came about through discussions in the final minutes as we were preparing to find taxis to the airport. Mo and I were hanging out with the intoxicating Chesya Burke. Mo was already busy scribbling down thoughts on another potential project we hatched, when Chesya and I got into a feedback loop that led to her suggesting the three of us edit an anthology together–because none of us had enough writing and editing commitments already, right?
My personal interest in the subject of authors of color is a convoluted one. I am, of course, a multiethnic author and editor myself, but for whatever reason I spent most of my career not wanting to “use” that. To make it “on my own” as an individual, as opposed to part of a collective identity. Um…why? Looking back on it now I couldn’t tell you. There are some observations I can share, however, related to the buildup of overwhelming dread I’ve experienced as an editor.
Raw Dog Screaming Press, run by my wife Jen and myself, has always prided itself in diversity of content. We bring books into the world that other publishers turn away because they don’t conform to expectation. At first that was enough for me. As time went by it became painfully obvious we were publishing work from a very narrow subset of society. Other publishers didn’t seem to be much better off.
In short, a project like Miseducation of the Writer is still necessary because there seems to be poor self-governance in the publishing world, especially among those who are accustomed to being considered “different” due to our taste in entertainment. Too often we don’t strive to be inclusive; we’re so busy exploring fictional cultures we don’t have time to for real-world cultures we are unfamiliar with–or that we believe readers are unfamiliar with.
As children we dream we’ll be whatever we want, be part of “the solution,” be admired. Later, as adults, when we read novels or watch films we desire to be revered and mourned like the protagonists or, more to the point, to be worth revering and mourning. Then we reach a certain age where we must listen to our hearts. When listening to our hearts what do we hear? Is it a war drum, or a mouse tap dancing? Are we shucking and jiving for the pleasure of others, or pursuing the goals that would fulfill us spiritually? Do we sell out or do we stay true?
And now, the hard part: which answer would you prefer to tell yourself, to tell your childhood self, to tell your children? The answer is fluid…every day we wake up with the choice to either “do” or “not do,” all over again. If you’re interested in Mo*Con then you’re likely interested in the arts, and by taking such an interest–either as an artist, being involved in the production end, or providing monetary support through purchases, sponsorship, etc.–then you’re already being proactive. You are making a difference. It may not seem like it, especially when comparing yourself to the accomplishments of others, or the “importance” of your field next to the world’s troubles. However, if everybody in your position–artist, editor, collector–woke up tomorrow and stopped, what kind of world would we have? One with no visual legacy, no songs, no stories to pass on. No culture. So, really, every little action is important.
And this is one of the many reasons I admire Mo. Despite being one of the busiest humans on the planet he makes time, via Mo*Con, to give us a platform for interacting, being involved, being proactive. Bettering ourselves by bettering our respective scenes, and through them maintaining and improving our broader culture. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends at Mo*Con, to making new ones, and to contributing in some way.
And, most of all, I’m looking forward to the food. I heard the food at Mo*Con is off da chain and out da frame. I advise you to arrive early to ensure a plate for yourself, because all my “save the world” antics give me one rowdy appetite.