restricted access 3. Black Women Writing Fluid Fiction: An Open Challenge to Genre Normativity
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  Black Women Writing Fluid Fiction An Open Challenge to Genre Normativity What we need to learn is what are useful and efficient distinctions and what are inefficient and useless. —Samuel Delaney, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” They take you and put you in one ghetto over another. You can be a horror writer, you can be a fantasy writer, you can be a science fiction writer—but you can’t be them all. You have to choose one. —Chesya Burke This chapter discusses the fluid lines between horror, fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction and how contemporary black women genre writers exploit the obfuscation of these lines to articulate the simultaneity of oppressions that uniquely affect black women. Weakened distinctions between science fiction, fantasy , and horror create a genre confusion concerning black female authors because few to none have taken the time to explore how black women writers worry the lines between these genres to create a blend of horror/fantasy/science fiction that is specific to their themes and analytical needs.1 Confusion remains on this subject in mainstream literature, and the complex identities of black women Black Women Writing Fluid Fiction  often complicate an already labyrinthine genre discussion in writing what I term “fluid fiction.” I analyze black women writer’s participation in genre literature throughout this chapter in three distinct parts. I begin by exploring the seeping lines in contemporary genre definitions of science fiction, fantasy, and horror and attempt to discern how black women writers refuse to squeeze themselves into these limited ideals. Next, I dispute the placement of these black women creators into the categories of speculative fiction and Afrofuturism while arguing for a subgenre that is explicitly black and female. I end this chapter with my contention that many contemporary black women genre writers exploit the clouded genre lines for their particular literary means by writing fluid fiction as elucidated in Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine (2013). Genre Confusion Confusion about genre definitions is not a new concept, and it certainly is not specific to black women who write genre fiction. The Library of Congress’s Collections Policy on genre literature claims “the distinctions between science fiction and various other subgenres of fantasy [under which they include horror] are indeed blurred at times and usually artificial.”2 In fact, “many authors in the genre frequently cross these artificial barriers in mid-work.”3 I discussed the difficulties associated with defining the horror genre in the Introduction,and I choose to continue using the simplistic , yet nonspecific definition offered by horror studies pioneer Robin Wood, “When Normativity Is Threatened by a Monster (or the Other).”4 Though problematic—as all genre definitions are—Wood’s statement offers the flexibility needed to create a large-scale discussion of genre. Though the following discussion is, at times, frustratingly amorphous with increasing amounts of pliability between the definitions, it remains necessary in order to approach the pressing need for my fluid fiction framework presented later in this chapter—a theory that brings a crucial  Searching for Sycorax specificity applicable to the genre writings of contemporary black women. The Library of Congress explicitly states that fantasy “usually requires a willing suspension of disbelief.”5 The document continues with a description of characteristics of subgenres of fantasy: . [They] adapt, rework, or provide an alternate telling of myth or folktale. . [They] involve an alternate reality or alternate universe. . [They] rely on a displacement of time or space. . [They] make use of elements of the horrific, supernatural, paranormal , or the occult. It is clear that the Library of Congress has chosen to incorporate a popular critical organizing tactic of determining fantasy to be a metagenre under which includes both horror and science fiction. Though a sensible organization of these three genres, it remains problematic in its equivocal lack of clarity. Such an imprecise definition of fantasy allows for the above criteria to also define the horror genre.Many horror texts—such as F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London (1981),and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968)—adapt and revise myths and folktales of vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Authors such as Laurell K. Hamilton— the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series (1993–), Jonathan Mayberry—the Joe Ledger series (2009–), and Christopher Farnsworth—the Nathanial Cade series (2010–) create alternate realities in which demons, vampires, werewolves, fairies, and zombies exist and must be bargained with and/or destroyed. Stephen King’s dome...


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