JordanCon is fast approaching. The convention, dedicated to Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time series, takes place April 20th through the 22nd in Atlanta, Georgia. In preparation for the convention, I wanted to highlight a few of the authors who will be attending this year. Today’s author is Gerald L. Coleman, a sci-fi/fantasy author, poet, philosopher, and theologian.
Q: Welcome, Gerald. Can you start by explaining how all your writings connect? Is there a thin line between your prose and your poetry, or do they both come from the same place inside you?
Hi, Mashiara, and thank you for the invitation to share here on Dragonmount. I spent many years popping in here, periodically, with the same question so many others had: WHEN IS THE NEXT WHEEL OF TIME BOOK COMING OUT?! Lol. It’s a real pleasure to be here discussing my own writing.
But, in answer to your question, they come from the same place. My poetry often makes its way into the novels and the kind of imaginative creativity necessary for writing the novels and short stories is also necessary for writing the poetry. They are, however, different enough that the process of writing one does often feel like I’m taking a break from the other.
Q: In the collection Drawn To Marvel: Poems From The Comic Books, it looks like you combined your love of the fantastic with your love of poetry. Can you share what themes you showed with your contribution?
That poem was a kind of ode to a younger me - an homage to that time in my life when escaping into the fantastiqué was everything to me. Comics and science fiction and fantasy were my escape. As I wrote in the poem:
i was that / shoe unlaced nerd / with luke cage and / iron fist tucked / under my arm
And as the theme of the poem relates, I was all those things before it was cool to carry stacks of comics around under your arm, or the newest Elric of Melniboné novel, wearing glasses, a t-shirt, and Chuck Taylors. Not to mention doing all that as an African-American kid.
Q: The Three Gifts Series—with two volumes currently available—is praised for adding originality to the often-used tropes of sci-fi and fantasy. How are you able to keep your characters and world fresh?
As I’ve mentioned, I loved the fantastiqué. I was always reading and reading SFF. I read everything I could get my hands on from the Dragonriders of Pern, to The Faded Sun trilogy by C. J. Cherryh. I read The Black Company, the first Dungeon and Dragons novels with Drizzt Do’urden, Conan, Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, and even the Myth Adventures series by Robert Lynn Asprin. I said that to point out that if you’re going to try to add something that you think is missing to a genre then you need to know that genre to its core. So, what I really try to do is write great, classic high fantasy. The missing element that I’ve added is me. As much as I loved all the great SFF I read, I was never in any of it. There were no heroes (or villains) in it that looked like me. I applauded Robert Jordan when he added the Seanchan and the Atha’an Miere.
So, in The Three Gifts there are black and brown folk at the center of the adventure. When you do that you add new elements of imagery, culture, attitude, and perspective to the classic formula of the genre. It adds a depth and flavor that is too often missing from so many other stories. You visit other places beyond the standard European castle and you get to see different lands with different customs and people with different priorities – but it all happens within the context of the classic fantasy story. The other thing I do is write women characters as whole human beings. They aren’t present in the story simply to serve the aims and character arcs of the male characters. They have agency and affect the plot.
So, I am trying to do two things: to write in the tradition of the fantasy stories I have loved so much, but to do it in a way that expands the form to include all the people who have been missing. Everyone should get to see themselves as the hero in these amazing stories.
Q: You had a short story featured in the Cyberfunk anthology The City. For those who don’t know anything about the Cyberfunk genre, can you explain what it’s all about?
Cyberfunk is an attempt to address, in science fiction, what I address in fantasy. Most readers are likely familiar with Cyberpunk as a genre – think Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelany, Philip Jose Farmer. If those aren’t familiar, just picture Blade Runner or Altered Carbon on Netflix. What Cyberfunk does is place people of color, especially black folks, in the center of the story. The City is interesting in that the editors created this city in space with no past or history that its inhabitants are aware of, with various guidelines about technology, characters, and story and then allowed each author to create a story within the confines of that city. It was a blast to write my story, Hunter’s First Rule.
Q: You’re attending several conventions throughout the year. What’s your favorite reason for making time to participate in conventions?
Obviously, there is the marketing aspect of it. As a writer, it’s important to get my work in front of readers. But, what I immediately found when I began attending Cons was that I enjoyed the celebration of our shared interest, the discussions, the fellowship, and most importantly, getting to know new people. I have met so many people I continue to be connected to through attending these Cons that it makes it so worthwhile whether you sell books or not.
Q: This will be your second year at JordanCon. What brought you back?
Last year was a blast. I really had fun. I’ve been to a couple of Cons that really turned out to be too crowded, too noisy, unwelcoming to me personally, and felt like work. JordanCon was very different. I felt welcome by the staff, volunteers, and attendees – like they were actually happy to have me there. The discussions on the panels I participated on were incredibly fun. And I met some very cool people that I am still connected to. Of course, there is the fact that it’s dedicated to a fantasy series I spent nearly twenty years reading and enjoying. I think as long as JordanCon invites me to participate, it will be on my schedule.
Here’s a sweet moment from last year I’ll never forget. I was sitting at the Author’s Table for one of my one hour slots to sell and sign, When Night Falls. A lovely lady came over, smiled, said hello and picked up my book. She examined the cover and flipped through the inside. After giving it the once-over she placed it back on the table and said to me, “Don’t worry, one day they’ll be lined up out the door and around the block to get your book.” I thanked her, and we shared a warm smile before she made her way back into the main part of the hotel. It was only later that I realized that it had been Harriet McDougal (Tor editor and Jordan’s wife). It was like she’d spoken a prophecy over my novel like an Aes Sedai with the Talent of Foretelling, lol.
Q: Are you able to give us a sneak peek to which panels you’ll be on?
Friday: Writing in a Sub-Culture 2:30 pm
Saturday: Dr. Who: The 13th Doctor & Beyond 11:30 am
Remaking the Classics 1:00 pm
Sunday: Afrofuturism 1:00 pm
Q: What is your current writing project?
I am currently working on a classic science fiction novel (novella?). It’s about a young black girl on the cusp of adulthood, with certain abilities, who may have to save the galaxy – but first she has to save herself. Think Shuri from Black Panther meets Rey from Star Wars. I’m having great fun writing it. And then it’s on to Book Three in The Three Gifts series.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your works?
I always enjoyed the rousing, fun, action-packed kind of fantasy novels. So, when I sat down to write my series I really just wrote the kind of story I loved reading. If they enjoyed The Wheel of Time, I believe they’ll enjoy The Three Gifts. It’s been a real joy writing it for readers of the genre and I hope anyone who picks it up enjoys reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Finally, on a general note, when I began reading the genre as a kid reader reviews only mattered when it came to word of mouth – as in whether you told a friend about a book you’d read or not. But, given how the publishing industry has changed and given how we find new books has changed drastically (though word of mouth is still incredibly important), I’d like to encourage readers to really go and post reviews about the books they enjoyed. If they’ve read something that they enjoyed, going online to Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Goodreads, etc, is incredibly important. It’s actually one of the best things you can do, aside from buying the book, to help support authors that you enjoy. You will also encourage that author to keep writing in the face of a tough industry. So, go write those reviews!
Q: Thanks so much for your time! I’m looking forward to seeing you in just a few weeks!
Again, thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about writing and my favorite genres with this community. I never dreamed I’d find myself on Dragonmount. If you had told me all those years I was visiting the site, as I read through The Wheel of Time, that one day I’d be ON the site, I wouldn’t have believed you. So, I deeply appreciate it and I hope those who read the interview enjoy our interaction. Thanks for the great questions and I’m looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks!
“Suravye ninto manshima taishite!”