“He stammered, ‘A ch … A child? … With me?! With me now?! I’m in no condition to participate in such activities with you — or anyone else for that matter! I have to recuperate from traveling in a manner that my body is ill-equipped for.’ She purred, ‘Let me … help you.’ She slowly removed the cape that the Professor had designed for her to be able to insulate her energy. She then paced toward him in an animalistic gait, coercing him to the floor. She purposefully disrobed him and pressed her tingling skin against his trembling body, turning her frequency up to the ‘Energize’ setting while simultaneously stimulating her reluctant partner.”
These lines are from the forthcoming book, “The GOD Maps” by Yvette Kendall. Kendall, who is an African-American woman, is a newcomer to the science fiction genre — or “speculative fiction” as it is often called. (A relevant sub-genre is known as “Afrofuturism.”) Black women authors such as the legendary Octavia Butler and Hugo Award recipient N.K. Jemison paved (or wrote) the way for Kendall. Their work often paints a disturbing picture of a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future in which malevolent extraterrestrials or myriad other “monsters” roam freely and create mayhem with impunity. They sometimes dream up toxic viruses that are created by homicidal, megalomaniacal scientists. Fans of this genre know exactly what I mean.
I had the pleasure of meeting Kendall, who lives near Atlanta. My inquisitiveness got the best of me, so I begged her for an interview. She consented and the result was a wonderful conversation. When I asked who (or what) the inspiration for her book was, she said, “To be honest, it wasn’t an inspiration. I’m a Black female inventor, so (the book) is just the other side of inventing and innovation; it’s just a literary innovation.” I followed up by asking about common misperceptions about Black female science fiction writers. She said, “There aren’t many of us, but one of the tracks that we tend to stay on is writing about dystopian scenarios where we’re trying to overcome something — something to retain or regain our humanity.”
I then inquired as to “the story behind the story,” as it were. Kendall replied, “The story that I’m telling is an expression of my love affair with science and with sci-fi, but I wanted to tell a story that hadn’t been told before. I wanted to talk about who God is, but to do it on a ‘molecular level’. It’s a cautionary tale. In essence, all the characters are me. The work represents many religions and their understanding of God. And because some Black people have often been omitted from science fiction, I wanted to tell a story about being on the outside looking in.”
Ms. Kendall offers the following advice for aspiring writers: “Don’t be afraid to just start writing. We get so wrapped up in other people’s styles. Just write it down and clean it up later.” Finally, when I asked her about her goal (other than selling millions of copies), she said, “My goal for this book is to look at God, religion and spirituality from every angle from the inside out. I hope to upset people because, in some respects, hate and fear can be stronger than love if you’re trying to achieve something. I also want people to actually read the Bible for themselves. Wouldn’t that be something?”
Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.