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Beyond the Tropes: Race and African American Character in Speculative Fiction with Marc L Abbott

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Three Sessions via Zoom Sundays, 12:00 pm EST - 1:30 pm EST January 10 to March 7, 2021

The ‘With Books’ option includes all volumes required for this group at a 15% discount. To purchase discounted volumes individually, please email books@centerforfiction.org.


Meeting Dates:
1/10/21, 2/7/21, 3/7/21
Sundays, 12-1:30pm ET via Zoom

Race often plays a role in speculative fiction since much of the images of people of color are written by white authors. It’s often prevalent in science fiction, but can be found in the horror genre. How race is handled in horror as important to the story as the terror between the pages.

In this reading group, we will compare how different authors utilize race in the realm of speculative and horror fiction. We will look at how both white and African American authors uniquely use race in their works to help move the story forward. We’ll take a look at both a classic of the genre (and its modern counterpart), examine tropes beyond race in a contemporary horror novel, and sample some speculative fiction from the African diaspora.


Session I: The Horror at Red Hook by H.P. Lovecraft and The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
This original short story is often the talk of how Lovecraft’s views of minorities are seen as racist and degrading. We will take a look at the story and how Lovecraft used POC in his work, their connection to the supernatural and how this has started the discussion on the misrepresentation of minorities in speculative fiction.

How would an African American protagonist fair in the world of H.P. Lovecraft if given the chance? Author Victor LaValle answers that question by taking on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook with his novella of horror and suspense, The Ballad of Black Tom. In this session, we will look at the two stories and discuss the distinctions in both.

Session II: Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
A supernatural detective noir story set in 1959 New York City, author William Hjortsberg explores the darker side of the rich and the poor as his main protagonist, Harry Angel, searches for a missing person. We’ll discuss how minorities and religion play key roles in this world. We’ll take a look at the effects of privilege vs. faith, how they both serve the characters they are tied to and how religion and horror exist on the same plain.

Session III: A Selection of Works from Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora by Sheree R Thomas
We will examine themes and discuss selections from this anthology of speculative fiction. We will have an open discussion about the stories while looking at why these tales are important, what makes them work and what we take away from them.

Selected pieces:
Sister Lilith by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
The Comet by W.E.B. Du Bois
Chicago 1927 by Jewelle Gomez
Black No More by George S. Schuyler
Separation Anxiety by Evie Shockley

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Led by

  • Photo: John F. Sheehan Photography (www.jfsheehanphoto.com)

    Marc L Abbott

    Marc L Abbott

    Marc L Abbott is the author of the YA novel The Hooky Party and the children’s book Etienne and the Stardust Express. His short stories “Welcome to Brooklyn, Gabe” and “A Marked Man” are featured in the Bram Stoker-nominated horror anthology New York State of Fright and the Hell’s Heart horror anthology. He is the co-author of Hell at the Way Station, the two-time African American Literary Award-winning horror anthology with award winning author Steven Van Patten. He is also a contributing writer of the book Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy.

    In film, he is the writer and director of the horror shorts SNAP and Being Followed. A two-time nominated best actor for his role in the science fiction film Impervia. His won for Best Actor in the film Identity Check, in the summer of 2020.

    Abbott is a 2015 Moth Story Slam and Grand Slam Storyteller winner. He is the writer and performer of the storytelling solo shows Love African American Style and Of Cats and Men: A Storytellers Journey. He is the host of the monthly storytelling show Maaan, You’ve Got to Hear This! in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

    Abbott is one of the hosts for the podcast “Beef, Wine and Shenanigans” and an active member of the HWA New York Chapter and Gamma Xi Phi Fraternity.

    Find out more about him at www.whoismarclabbott.com.