A Film Festival And A Dance Battle

Found this great roundup of the recently concluded Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (ttff).

Great to see the films being appreciated, but even better to hear sound critical advice. Yes, our film-makers need to come from a more critical place, especially when making documentaries. We are presenting positive overviews right now, but I suspect as the industry matures, creators will worry less about offending sensibilities and start doing more to reflect the realities of the Caribbean experience, and start conversations we need to have before we chart our future.

I also came across this amazing dance battle on Twitter yesterday, filmed at the Montreal Swing Riot by Alain Wong. Street dancers faced off against vintage/swing dancers and the results were magical. It’s a bit long, but you won’t regret watching the whole thing.

Keep dancing your cares away, my friends!

Yes, Virginia, There Are People Of Colour In Your European Past

Been following this awesome Twitter account called Medievalpoc for a while now. The writer does amazing and important work identifying people of colour in European art history, especially during medieval times.

(Source: http://medievalpoc.tumblr.com/)

A lot of people have studied history and art and not been taught just how integrated the world was, and continues to be (do yourself a favour and look up the Silk Road). It’s a huge reason why when shows like ‘The Musketeers’ are produced and have people of colour as a main character, people come out of the woodwork to declare it ‘unrealistic’ or ‘inaccurate’. Truth is, we have the Victorian era to thank for erasing a lot of the multi-cultural eras that came before it, along with a lot of cherry-picking by historians who were more interested in finding ways to make the past fit their present.

Just so you know, ‘The Three Musketeers’–you know the book the series was based on–was written by a black man. Yes, Alexandre Dumas was black.

Star Trek Patrick Stewart animated GIF

Anyway on both Twitter and Tumblr, Medievalpoc has been working hard to compile evidence from the art and documents of times long past showing that the world has always been, and will always be, inhabited in every corner by people of colour. It’s important work, and fascinating, and I’ve learned a lot.

Take a look for yourself and tell me you’re not surprised and amazed by how much you didn’t know.

Have fun, and stay thirsty, my friends!

Is There Anybody Out There…?

So scientists may have found a giant object in space, which could only have been built by another civilization.

I mean, can you believe it? In this lifetime? That we may have finally found something–someone–completely alien to us?

Sure, it could also be a spectacular cloud of dust, but who the hell really wants THAT to be true?

A Dyson sphere…a real Dyson sphere…

It’s news that ran up my spine and around my brain. Sure, if it is the ultimate–another species and an advanced one at that–it could good news or bad news for us. But frankly I’ll take it just to see humanity discover that it’s not alone before I close my eyes and leave this rock for good.

I mean…can you IMAGINE?!

Owns Space animated GIF

A Talk And An Award

* Edit:  It appears I got my history a bit wrong. Marlon James is the first Jamaican to win the Man Booker. However, the first Caribbean national to win it appears to have been V.S. Naipaul. It just so happens he was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago! 

Yesterday I had a great time giving an informal talk about speculative fiction and what it takes to be a writer to the 6th Form students at St. Augustine Secondary School. I also read a bit from one of my current shorts, Wire and Blood.

The school was newly built, the library really nice–just like the librarians–and best of all, it was air-conditioned!

This was my first class of teenagers. I’ve given talks with teenagers present before, and even younger children, but not an entire class of them. I was delighted to meet a room full of intelligent, open, enthusiastic young men and women who needed no prompting to ask questions or react to what I was saying. In short, they were a great audience that gave me lots of energy, and I hope I was able to give them some insight and inspiration.

Here’s me accepting their wonderful tokens at the end of the talk. I made out like a bandit with stuff that included a new book and writing materials. I hope the librarian remembers to tell them how much I appreciated it!

St. Augustine Secondary Talk

On another note, I just read that the Man Booker Prize has been won today by a Caribbean national for the first time! Jamaican writer Marlon James bested the competition with A Brief History of Seven Killings. I’ve been hearing about how wonderful this book is since the Bocas Lit Festival put him on the short list for the OCM Bocas Lit Prize.

Scratch that–I heard about this book long before that, through an article in Caribbean Beat Magazine just before it debuted. It’s in my very large to be read pile, I’m sad to say, but I’m delighted that the Caribbean has another great author to celebrate, and a young one too. Jamaica to the World!

Congratulations, Marlon! Thanks for raising we nose!

Loop Water animated GIF

Stay thirsty, my friends!

A Few Good Women…

Earlier this year, Barnes and Noble did a great article featuring 7 speculative fiction books that feature strong female characters.

Is it exhaustive? By no means. But it has a nice mix of modern and classic and also had the good sense to include the queen of Caribbean speculative fiction, Nalo Hopkinson. Seriously, if you haven’t read ‘Midnight Robber’ you’ve…well, you’ve robbed yourself of something truly special.

See what I did there?

Pun Manatee animated GIF

Have fun with the list. I have it on good authority all the books are great, even the ones I haven’t read.

What are your favourite scifi or fantasy books with strong female leads? Sound off in the comments below. And if you buy and read (or already read) any of these, be sure to let me know what you think.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

The New York Times Is Loving Our Food!

Here we go in the New York Times again!

This lovely little article about a Trinbagonian family cooking and living in New York has definitely captured the essence of us.

We are no faded copy of any ‘mother’ country. Trinidad and Tobago is a blend of races and foods uniquely its own, and like all other places, we like food the way we like it. Our curry is not like India’s, but in a really good way according to most visitors. Many Trinis will tell you stories of traveling abroad and missing roti, especially if they’re an East Indian family. I spent two weeks in Barbados once and almost cried when I was able to come home and eat doubles lol. I love travel and I love to try new foods (another Trinbagonian trait), but after a while, you just want a good souse or plum chow and you can’t get that the same way anywhere else but home.

Food Eating animated GIF

Speaking for the islands though, when it comes to Caribbean food, there are ideas people have about us that are mostly wrong, so two hints. One, we wash most meats with vinegar and/or lime and water to cut the gamey taste (a lot less with pork though). Two, we don’t really roll savory foods in coconut flakes. We use coconut milk in everything, and put flakes in dessert, but coconut shrimp is NOT Caribbean.

What’s your favourite cuisine and what do other countries get wrong about it?

Growing A Penis At Twelve

Yes, you read that right. In the Dominican Republic, there is a small town where many men first present as girls when they are born, and grow a penis later, during the onset of puberty.

The absolutely fascinating article above explains it has to do with a deficiency in a certain enzyme that affects the conversion of testosterone in the womb.

What’s truly amazing is that because of this discovery, the pharmaceutical company, Merck, was able to develop a drug that has been successful in treating issues like benign enlargement of the prostate.

It never ceases to surprise me how much we still have to learn about ourselves. Often, the frontiers outside take up most of our attention. We marvel at space, at the oceans, at the animal kingdom. But we fool ourselves that we know and understand our own bodies, for the most part, when this is so not the case.

We even have a habit of ignoring information that doesn’t fit into society’s common understanding of human development and biology. For example, research has has turned up the fact that our sex chromosomes can be a bit sloppy when sharing genetic information. That can lead to a situation where someone can develop as a male, but be genetically female. And as it turns out, sex determination varies widely in humans and across the plant and animal world. Even more shocking, our entire understanding of the X and Y chromosomes and the part they play in gender determination is wrong. This article touches on some of the misinformation that has been spreading in science classes for generations. Yet I’ve seen none of this on the weekend news, or in the pages of newspapers.

That’s mind-boggling when you consider the implications for gender and the way humans develop. This article explains most of the new research and its ground-breaking discovers. For one, there’s the fact that mothers sometimes trade genetic material with the boys they carry in the womb and retain them, essentially testing male after birth. And science has proven there is not just male and female–there is a literal sex spectrum. Gender is, biologically, far more varied than we ever thought or taught.

Since I happen to be building a world where gender and magic are interrelated, all of this has inspired me hugely. Each new day brings new frontiers in our understanding of ourselves. I can’t help thinking it’s a great time to be a speculative fiction writer.

The sky is nowhere near the limit.

Tv Futurama animated GIF

The New York Times Mentioned Trinidad and Tobago!

It was no big deal though. Just a bit in their travel section about the new hiking trails we opened, but at least we were in their headline.

Still, we tiny nations so seldom get into the news I was quite proud to see us listed there.

Now, if only we could get this kind of recognition for Carnival. That’s when tourists would really enjoy us. Just ask Nikki.

Sexy Hot animated GIF

Have a good weekend and remember to have one on me guys!

Amazon In Space

So apparently Jeff Bezos is not content with taking over the entire retail world on Earth. He’s expanding his reach to the stars.

I’m not sure I really want the same guy who sells me my discount historical novels to be dallying with everything from on demand TV to space flight. I fear it distracts him from what really matters, like cheaper, smoothly delivered toilet paper.

However, as a spec fic author I have to applaud the gumption and entrepreneurial spirit it takes to assume your company must–and can, and will–do everything.

I wouldn’t want to hold stock in a company that has this many identities, but it is fascinating to watch Bezos try to be all things to everyone.

Even if he fails in that, he just might succeed at space travel and Lord knows Elon Musk needs some competition, and the ISS needs regular deliveries.

So you go, Blue Origin! We’re rooting for you!

good luck animated GIF

Tantie, Papa And The Mango Tree On Diego Colony

A bit from a story I’m still working on. Funny thing is, I finished another story with the same character and it got an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest last year, but for some reason this story is just not cooperating. It won’t tell me how to get to the ending, just yet.

Guess I’ll just have to trunk it until it does…

The day I turn ten, my mother walk into the corrosive sea on the western edge of Diego colony.  She used to cut sheself during her depressions, so she wasn’t no stranger to pain.  She didn’t even whimper when the hissing lilac waves attack her legs and red stains start to drift ’round her in threads. 

I don’t know if I scream or say anything.  I remember her sinking into the waves, graceful, graceful, and I remember running toward her.  I was lucky–I trip and kilkitay on my face. I fling out my right arm, trying to save myself, just as a wave come toward me.  My hand started burning, as if a thousand flames was under it, and I could still see the lilac coming toward my face, hissing all the way.

That was a bad day.  The worst day.  I could deal with anything because of that day.

I keep telling myself that as I walk down to the pier, sand sucking and trapping my shoes all the way.  I have to prepare myself before I get to the crowd on the beach or crapaud smoke my pipe.

I have to forget the waves biting the shore in front me.

I almost reach them when they turn as one to look at me.  Resentment and anger shifting and molding so many faces.  It fascinating how them faces is every shade between white and brown.  You don’t notice them things when you pass people on main street, but here, together, I can’t see nothing else.

I blink and shake off the distraction.  The metal in me like patterns. Is just the wired side of me, fixating, as usual.

The crowd split as someone push they way toward me.  Manno.  He bare arms shiny with sweat in the midday sunlight.  He nutmeg brown face twisted with grief and rage.  Big man, Manno, but usually no trouble.  Today, with his son John John in a coma back at Diego’s only Clinic, he definitely my biggest problem.

Before the crowd shift and fall back in behind Manno, I see Boyie standing next to the pier. He scared, poor thing. Beyond him, at the end of the metal platform, he tiny ferry rising and falling on the lilac waves. 

“Now you reach?”  Manno’s voice almost cracks.  “Now?”

“Is Market Day.”  I reminded him.  “I come when I hear.”

“Well, we don’t need you.”  Esther, Manno’s wife, push through behind him and grab he arm.  She small and bald with big grey eyes in she cappuccino face.  Today, the look she give me make them less beautiful.

“Esther,” I nod my head at her.  “I very sorry for what happen, but don’t forget who you talking to.”

“You threatening us?”  Esther’s eyes narrow.  “Who food you does eat every day?”

“So you exempt?  You could do what you like because you run the hydroponics lab?”  I shake my head.  “Esther, I not Tantie for some–I Tantie for all.”

“You protect him long enough,” Manno says through tight lips.  “No more.  Not after John John.”

A murmur of agreement goes through the crowd.  I ignore it.  People will talk theyself into anything if you let them.  My job is not to let them.

Wondering if to even bother to finish it. Perhaps I should just move on to other stories instead of wasting my time?

Decisions, decisions…

Stay thirsty, my friends!