Writing While Black August 2020: The Outer Dark Symposium goes virtual

NicoleGivensKurtz, Writing While Black August 2020: The Outer Dark Symposium goes virtual, Culture Currents
African American author, editor and publisher Nicole Givens Kurtz

by Sumiko Saulson

The Outer Dark Virtual Symposium 2020 is taking place online between Aug. 14 and 16, 2020. It is hosted by Anya Martin and Scott Nicolay, and the following guests have confirmed and will be part of the live-stream programming:

Mike Allen, Sara Amis, Natania Barron, Laura Blackwell, Gregory Norman Bossert, Daniel Braum, JS Breukelaar, Michael Bukowski, Jesse Bullington, Chesya Burke, Benjamin Capps, Jeanne D’Angelo, L.M. Davis, Milton Davis, Julie C. Day, Kristi DeMeester, Seb Doubinsky, Jeffrey Ford, Chris Gavaler, Fiona Maeve Geist, Larissa Glasser, Orrin Grey, Nick Gucker, Edward Austin Hall, Lynne Hansen, Brian R. Hauser, Alex Hofelich, Matthew Jaffe, Valjeanne Jeffers, Gwendolyn Kiste, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Carrie Laben, Tonya Liburd, Kyoko M, Ian McDowell, Violette L. Meier, Gabriela Damián Miravete, Shane Morton, Hysop Mulero, Liv Rainey-Smith, Sarah Read, Sumiko Saulson, Eric Schaller, Jeff Strand, Brooke Warra, Kortney Watkins, Lesley Wheeler, Gordon B. White, Robert Wilson, Jennifer Wilson and teri.zin.

valjeanne-jeffers-author-pic, Writing While Black August 2020: The Outer Dark Symposium goes virtual, Culture Currents
Steamfunk author Valjeanne Jeffers at a book signing for Immortal, one of her Afrocentric paranormal romances.

African American Nicole Givens Kurtz’s short stories have appeared in over 30 anthologies of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her novels have been finalists for the EPPIEs, Dream Realm and Fresh Voices in science fiction awards. Her work has appeared in Stoker Finalist, Sycorax’s Daughters, and in such professional anthologies as Baen’s “Straight Outta Tombstone” and Onyx Path’s “The Endless Ages Anthology.” Visit Nicole’s other worlds online at Other Worlds Pulp. She is also the proprietor of Mocha Memoirs Press.

Valjeanne Jeffers is a speculative fiction writer, a Spelman College graduate and the author of nine books, including her “Immortal” series and her “Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective” series. She was also chosen as a Seer (2016) by the Horror Writers Association (HWA).

Afrosurrealist Writers Reading

Reading with Afrosurreal Writers Workshop of Oakland + Friends, with Musical Guest, Arthur Flowers

If you missed the June 28 Afrosurrealist Writers event with guest moderator Brent Lambert of FIYAH Literary Magazine, have no fear. The entire Zoom event was recorded via a YouTube Live Feed and can be viewed online. Readers included:

Alan Clark is your friendly neighborhood super villain and ontological mechanic and author of “Rise of the Black Panthers,” the sci-fi soap opera “Babylon” and founder of Phantom Electrik Comic, with solo exhibitions at Krowswork Gallery, The Eyedrum and New Street Gallery. Clark studied thermal dynamics and theoretical physics at Georgia State University. Find his comics at phantomelectrik.com.

Tara Christina is a mother, author and tea-maker. She is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project, author of several articles on Medium.com, and is working on her first novel. Tara loves good food, great tea, herbal medicine, nature and being a mom. Read more at 1TaraChristina.com.

jeneedarden, Writing While Black August 2020: The Outer Dark Symposium goes virtual, Culture Currents
Jeneé Darden is an award-winning journalist, author, public speaker and proud Oakland native.

Jeneé Darden is an award-winning journalist, author, public speaker and proud Oakland native. She hosts the weekly arts segment Sights & Sounds and covers East Oakland for KALW. Jenee has reported for NPR, Marketplace, KQED, KPCC, The Los Angeles Times, Ebony magazine, Refinery29 and other outlets.

Arthur Flowers, novelist and creative nonfiction author of “The Hoodoo Book of Flowers,” “Another Good Loving Blues,” “Mojo Rising,” “I See the Promised Land” and “Brer Rabbit Retold” (Tara Books, India). Blues-based performance artist, practitioner of literary hoodoo, former executive director of the Harlem Writers Guild, professor emeritus at Syracuse University with a master’s of fine arts in fiction.

Thaddeus Howze is a prolific writer of speculative fiction and fantasy, as well as scientific, technical and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California. Thaddeus has published two books, “Hayward’s Reach,” a collection of short stories, and “Broken Glass,” an urban fantasy starring his favorite adventurer, Clifford Engram.

Desi Lenc is based in Santa Cruz. Her fiction examines the power of unseen yet felt forces of the everyday while her nonfiction focuses on the tangible solutions of nonprofits and socially conscious businesses. Her blog, Outcast’s Mag, celebrates the unique contributions that artists, eco-friendly business owners and non-profits offer to their communities.

Raina J. León, PhD, is the author of the poetry collections, “Canticle of Idols,” Boogeyman Dawn and “sombra: dis(locate)” and the chapbooks, “profeta without refuge” and “Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self.” She is a founding editor of The Acentos Review. She is a full professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California, only their third Black professor to achieve this rank.

Kyla Marshell is a writer whose work has appeared in the Guardian, Gawker, BuzzFeed, O Magazine and elsewhere. She has earned fellowships from Cave Canem and the MacDowell Colony. A Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence MFA graduate, she is working on an AfroSurreal memoir, “A Seed Is a Star.”

LaMar Mitchell, born Dec.16, 1978, the love child of Barbara Mitchell and James Mitchell and idea-brainchild of some Martian civilization’s mad scientist, he grew up in Oakland. A self-described movie buff, poet, writer, novelist and screenwriter, LaMar can be found either crawling up the walls of a privatized rubber room or hunting for tardigrades in a petri dish. He identifies as queer/bisexual and aspires to meet both James Baldwin and Quentin Tarantino in some French café outside the realm of space and time. Part of his story is being incarcerated, with the psychic bruises to show for it.

Sumiko Saulson is an award-winning author of multicultural sci-fi and horror. The editor of “Black Magic Women,” “Scry of Lust,” “Black Celebration” and “Wickedly Abled,” zhe is winner of the 2016 HWA StokerCon “Scholarship from Hell” and the 2017 BCC Voice “Reframing the Other” contest. Zhe has an AA in English from Berkeley City College, and writes a column, “Writing While Black,” for a national Black newspaper, the San Francisco Bay View.

Kelechi Ubozoh is a Nigerian-American writer and mental health advocate featured in “The S Word” documentary, CBS This Morning with Gayle King, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her first book, “We’ve Been Too Patient: Voices from Radical Mental Health,” was released from North Atlantic Books amd Penguin Random House last summer.

Dera Williams is a fiction and memoir writer whose writing is informed by ancestral ties and family history research. This is reflected in her Oakland childhood stories and her Great Migration novel-in-progress as she heeds the voices of her ancestors in her mystical exploration of African and African American folklore.

Iconoclast Literary Arts Garden

SL17-Carolyn-Saulson-2, Writing While Black August 2020: The Outer Dark Symposium goes virtual, Culture Currents
A statue in the Literary Arts Garden shows off the writing of the late Carolyn Saulson.

The Iconoclast Literary Arts Garden, featuring 50 percent African American authors, debuted June 19 as part of the SecondLife 17th Birthday Exhibit. Although on the surface it looks like a video game, SecondLife is a virtual reality environment. People using SecondLife create avatars and live virtual lives in created environments called sims, short for simulators. Unlike some virtual reality environments which can require sometimes expensive special virtual reality or VR equipment, SecondLife is relatively low overhead. It is free to join and runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers.

SecondLife is the Internet’s largest user-created 3D virtual community. Established in 2003, June 19 is its 17th birthday. The annual celebration features two days of music, on June 19 and 20, and a fancy festival that goes on for 24 days, from June 19 through July 7, 2020. It featured unique builds from myriad SecondLife creators. Creators are asked to create brand new builds (buildings and simulated surrounding locations) for the event and keep them under wraps.

The San Francisco based 501(c)(3) non-profit Iconoclast Productions is proud to be a part of the celebration. Iconoclast Productions is the producer and creator of the African American Multimedia Conference and the Bay Area Black Independent Film Festival. It is the publisher of “60 Black Women in Horror,” “100+ Black Women in Horror” and “Black Celebration,” a collection of essays on African American horror.

SL17ZombieHaiku, Writing While Black August 2020: The Outer Dark Symposium goes virtual, Culture Currents
A zombie figurine holds a zombie haiku by Sumiko Saulson, displayed next to a Kindoll Reader showing off “60 Black Women in Horror.”

The Iconoclast Productions Literary Arts Garden is a part of the SecondLife Birthday, SL17, which is the 17th Anniversary of SecondLife. Statues hold poetry, short fiction and other works by literary arts associated with Iconoclast Productions, and spoken word, stories and interviews are featured on the audio feed. The statues were built by Sumiko Saulson, whose username is Miki Bizet in SecondLife. The Literary Arts Garden features a number of authors and poets and a few artists as well.

Iconoclast Productions is a media-arts nonprofit that serves the African American, African Diaspora and disabled artists, including authors. About half our programs are Black-focused. The other half consist of disabled authors and Kink/Leather LGBT+ community focused programs. These include “Wickedly Abled,” an anthology by disabled authors, and “Scry of Lust 1 and 2,” anthologies of erotica – much of it queer – published to raise money for San Francisco AIDSWalk through team #5015 SF Goth.

Approximately half of the authors involved in the Iconoclast Literary Garden exhibit are Black. They include LH Moore, Sumiko Saulson, Tananarive Due, Stephen Barnes, Linda Addison, Penelope Flynn, Valjeanne Jeffers, Quinton Veal, Carolyn Saulson and Kelechi Ubozoh,

Authors in the Garden: Valjeanne Jeffers, Quinton Veal, Sumiko Saulson, Bret Bouriseau, Kelechi Ubozoh, Greg Hug, Carolyn Saulson, Franchesca Gentille, Gandalfina Face-And-Hands, Pope Uncommon the Dainty, Princess Teacup Et Alia, Suzi Madron, Garrett Sohnly Schonhardt, StBarbWire and Darius Rudominder

SL-QuintonVeal, Writing While Black August 2020: The Outer Dark Symposium goes virtual, Culture Currents
A figure holds a poetry excerpt entitled “Afro Love” by African American poet, artist and author Quinton Veal.

Artists in the Garden: JardSorrow, Sumiko Saulson

Authors on the AirWaves,

* Emerian Rich – “The Pocket Watch”

* Suzi Madron – “For Sale or Rent”

* LH Moore – “Presswick”

* Sumiko Saulson – “Killer Romance” with music written and performed by Darius Rudominer

* Gandalfina Face-And-Hands, Pope Uncommon the Dainty, Princess Teacup Et Alia – “Nutrition,” “How Do Candles Make Ends Meet,” “867-5309/The People of Sumner, as Numerous as Sheep”

* Tananarive Due and Stephen Barnes Interview, Interviewer Sumiko Saulson

* Keyan Bowes – “And She Shall Have Music,” with music performed by Anisha Chandra

* Linda Addison – “Mermaid in the Bronx”

* Penelope Flynn reading Edgar Allen Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”

* Annette Schlichter – “We Are Somebody’s Children”

* Naching T. Kassa – “Silken Whispers, Crimson Blooms”

The SecondLife location: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL17B%20Sparkle/150/16/23

Authors who use SecondLife: Sumiko Saulson (Miki Bizet), LH Moore (Visionary Steampunk), Gandalfina Face-And-Hands (MerlinMonroeEtAlia), Pope Uncommon the Dainty (MerlinMonroeEtAlia), Princess Teacup Et Alia (Merlin MonroeEtAlia), Suzi Madron (Cinnamon Zemenis), Darius Rudominer (Altrus159), Garrett Sonly (gbuddy96), Emerian Rich (Emz.Masie)

After the show closes on July 7, it will be relocated to a permanent location in RatRun: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Rat%20Run/187/210/22.

The audio portion, which includes close to two hours of poetry and short story readings and an interview with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, can be heard online at

Bestselling author Sumiko Saulson writes award-winning multicultural sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Afrosurrealism. Winner of the 2017 Afrosurrealist Writer’s Award, 2016 HWA Scholarship from Hell, and 2016 BCC Voice Reframing the Other Award, (he)r monthly series Writing While Black follows the struggles of Black writers in the literary arts and other segments of arts and entertainment. (S)he is gender non-binary. Support (he)r on Patreon and follow (he)r on Twitter and Facebook.