The road to publication is not easy for anyone and comes with a number of hurdles. For black writers, these challenges are multiplied and because of institutional issues, the path seems almost impossible. But the resiliency of black folks always finds a way and for many black SFF writers that way was in the form of self-publishing.
At FIYAH, we do not snub our noses at those writers who chose this path. We salute them because they have decided to embark on a journey by themselves that in traditional circumstances would involve a team. So we wish to acknowledge those black indie SFF writers out there working hard and dropping a good product. Our Indie Spotlight feature seeks to amplify self-published Black writers with features of their work in our magazine and interviews featured here on the website.
This quarter’s spotlight feature interview is with Milton Davis. A segment of his novel MEJI: BOOK ONE can be found in the ROOTS issue of FIYAH.
You’re a bit of a pioneer in black SFF self-publishing. What made you take up that banner?
It was more of a personal decision. I always wanted to see science fiction and fantasy with black main characters and felt that I would get resistance from mainstream publishers based on the research I did. I also wanted to have control over what I wrote, and self publishing was the best way to achieve both. I didn’t realize I was becoming part of a movement until I began releasing my books. That’s when things became interesting.
What do you feel are the greatest benefits for black SFF writers that choose to go into self-publishing?
I think the biggest benefits are being able to tell your story your way and to discuss subjects in a way that mainstream publishers would not support.
What advice would you give to writers looking to make a break into SFF self-publishing?
Take at least one writing class to learn the basics. Study the market so you’ll know what to expect. Network with other writers for advice and support. And realize that once you decide to self publisher you are basically going into business. Handle yourself accordingly.
What are some of your biggest overall writing influences?
James Baldwin was my first influence. I loved the way he could paint a detailed image with few words, which is what I try to emulate when I write. Frank Herbert taught me how to make the fantastic feel real. And Charles Saunders set the standard that I’m still trying to achieve.
You’ve written numerous projects. What are some of your favorite ones and why do they hold a special place in your catalogue?
Meji is close to my heart because it was my first novel and my homage to my African ancestors, whoever they may be. Changa’s Safari is the action adventure story I wish I had growing up. They were also my first two ideas, so that makes them special.
You got to work with Charles Saunders through MVMedia. What an honor! How did that connect happen and can we expect anything more from that collaboration?
Talk about a chance encounter! I was working on Meji and searching for African based sword and sorcery writers when Charles name popped up. Nightshade had just re-released Imaro. I was ecstatic because I knew someone had to have done what I was attempting to do. It was then I remembered I’d read a Dossouye story by him in Dark Matters. I tried to reach out to him through Nightshade but failed. A couple of years later a friend of mine, Richard Tyler, announced on Black Super Hero that Nightshade was dropping the Imaro series and he would be picking it up. I immediately contacted him and asked if he would introduce us. He did, and we’ve been Sword and Soul brothers ever since.
So far we’ve produced two anthologies together and I’ve published one of his novels, Abengoni: First Calling. I’m in the process of publishing the sequel to Abengoni, Abengoni: Drum Song. We don’t have any specific projects planned for the future, but you can be sure there will be more.
You get to have one of your projects made into a film. Which one do you pick and who do you get to direct it?
Now that’s a tough question. The one I’d like to see first would be Changa’s Safari. I would love Ava Duvernay to direct it. I’ve been a fan of hers since seeing her at Spelman and I’d love to see her handle a Sword and Soul adventure.
Who are some of your favorite authors currently working in the black SFF field, self-pubbed or otherwise?
That’s a long list. Charles Saunders of course. Balogun Ojetade, Carole McDonnell, Ronald Jones, Valjeanne Jeffers, David Anthony Durham and Phenderson Djèlí Clark just to name a few.
Five years from now where would you like to see your writing and MVMedia?
I have modest goals. I would like to see more people aware of my books, and it would be nice to develop a few graphic novel and animation projects.
What projects do you have coming up for us in the future that we should be on the lookout for?
I think the most exciting project I’m working on right now is Ki Khanga with Balogun Ojetade. We recently introduced the RPG and we’re currently organizing games and creating support material for the game. I can say that most of my Sword and Soul writing will be centered in Ki Khanga for the foreseeable future.
Milton Davis is owner of MVmedia, LLC , a micro publishing company specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Sword and Soul. MVmedia’s mission is to provide speculative fiction books that represent people of color in a positive manner. Milton is the author of ten novels; his most recent is the Steamfunk adventure From Here to Timbuktu. He is the editor and co-editor of seven anthologies; The City, Dark Universe with Gene Peterson; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology and Griot: Sisters of the Spear, with Charles R. Saunders; The Ki Khanga Anthology , the Steamfunk! Anthology, and the Dieselfunk anthology with Balogun Ojetade. MVmedia has also published Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade and Abegoni: First Calling by Sword and Soul creator and icon Charles R. Saunders. Milton is also a co-writer of the award winning script, Ngolo and recently as the Hal Clement Science Speaker for Boskone 54.
Milton resides in Metro Atlanta with his wife Vickie and his children Brandon and Alana.