by Thaddeus Howze
July 19, 2022 – I knew Valjeanne Jeffers for over a decade, though I never had the fortune or opportunity to meet her in person.
She had a way of connecting with you, no matter how you knew her, a familiarity which made you feel like family, no matter the distance between you. I first met her on the Black Science Fiction Society’s Ning site, back when Ning sites were a thing.
Back then, we gathered frequently, sometimes daily to talk about writing. I imagined a new writing Renaissance, only without the smoking, dancing or musical expression. An emotional Renaissance, where Black writers shared their speculative endeavors, far from the well-beaten paths of science fiction and fantasy.
We hoped for a seat at the table and gathered to cheer each other on. It was a turbulent time and none of us could see the future.
But we were hopeful. We were voices trading our secrets, carrying each other, lightening our burdens with camaraderie.
We commiserate on how we kept writing in the face of the gatekeepers, the rejections, those damnable blank pages we struggled to fill with ourselves. She was one of the most enthusiastic of us.
Eager to write and willing to share, Valjeanne was relentlessly energetic. Back then, I was new to writing creatively, and she would sit and talk with me about writing, why I wanted to write and she would tell me to keep at it.
I didn’t think a lot about it at the time. I thought she was just being kind, supporting a writer who was in doubt. But as I spent the years on the BSFS and as we migrated into other social media platforms, Valjeanne continued to be a supportive and creative force in our Black writing community.
I became inspired by her efforts. Her successes. Her willingness to share her story. She became a name to conjure by.
Popular, generous, kind, she was everywhere and beloved by many. Yet, she always found time to support a new piece or short story I might have gotten published. I watched her career expand and, after teaming up with another BSFS brother, Milton Davis, she found a publisher who understood her.
I knew she had a devoted family through our interactions on social media and we might communicate a few times a year between her conventions, interviews and publications. It was gratifying to watch her career growing and yet she remained a pillar of our virtual community.
A prolific creator, she was a quiet force, an insistent tide on a beautiful beach, she would sit with you, talk about your dreams and then glide back to sea, to create new stories.
Those early conversations on BSFS, the jokes we shared over my more ridiculous first attempts at fiction, the inspiration she gave me when I published my first book, “Hayward’s Reach,” was a real connection to me.
She was a co-conspirator, a whisperer of fevered dreams, someone who never failed to show you the power of a kind word.
I knew she was loved, because I kept up with her work, her stories, her fans, and when I heard she was not well, I worried, especially in this time of cholera and coronavirus.
To her family, I can only offer my words: she inspired, conspired, helped to build storied empires and uplifted us when we were tired.
I was unprepared for the shock of this phenomenal individual’s passing. Like the steady tide she had been in my life, I always thought she would bounce back more creative than ever. Sister Moon, they called her.
She brought with her the tides of creativity, generosity and kindness; three things which remain in short supply in our turbulent world. I watched her career as she appeared in new anthologies, wrote new stories and remained centered in our creative community.
To her family, I can only offer my words: she inspired, conspired, helped to build storied empires and uplifted us when we were tired. She became a quiet foundation to a revolution long overdue.
To the many creatives who spoke kindly of her, remember her best by doing for others what she did for you: Share yourselves, inspire each other and look out for those coming behind you.
I knew her only as Sister Moon. She brought light to me in a time when I desperately needed it. And yet, I had never met her in the flesh.
And yet, the ache is palpable. What must it be like to have such a person in your day to day life, and to wake devoid of such a presence, such a passion.
I can scarcely imagine it. I lived only in the shadows of her kindness. She was your Sun and I have never known how wonderful that must have been. I am always at your service and in her debt.
You remain a name to conjure by, Sister Moon, Valjeanne Jeffers. In this world or the next.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, Calif.