Derrick Ferguson: Who is Milton Davis?
Milton Davis: I’m a part-time speculative fiction writer and publisher. I write speculative fiction about African Americans and people of African Descent. I’m the author of seven novels and editor or four anthologies.
DF: Where do you live and what is your profession? Besides being a writer, that is.
MD: I live in Metro Atlanta with my wife and two children. I’m a research and development chemist.
DF: When did your love of science fiction, heroic fantasy and speculative fiction begin?
MD: I began reading science fiction and fantasy in college at the urging of one of my English instructors. She thought I was wasting my time majoring in Chemistry and should be pursing and English degree. I guess she decided to share science fiction with me because of my major. Once I read it I was hooked.
DF: How long have you been writing?
MD: Off and on, about thirty years. I took writing classes soon after college and went through the submission rejection cycle for a while. Then the children came and I stopped writing for a long time. I resumed about eight years ago as a self-publisher.
DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?
MD: I think writing should be fun. I’m not one to deal with deep issues, at least not intentionally, because that’s not what I like to read. My only constant is Black main characters. As a reader I was well aware of the absence of such characters in speculative fiction and I seek to rectify that in my own way. I also like the good guys to win.
DF: What writers have influenced you?
The two biggest influences on my writing are James Baldwin and Frank Herbert. James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” was the first fiction novel I ever read. I was 16 and home sick for a week. My sister, a big reader of fiction by Black writers, dropped a pile of her books for me to read. It was the first book I read and I was fascinated on his eloquent and economic style.
Frank Herbert’s “Dune” was the first book I read that involved serious world building. I was stunned at how someone could make a fictional world seem so real. Dune is the blueprint I use for every world that I build.
DF: What is MVMedia and what are its goals?
MD: MVMedia is my publishing company. Its goals are to develop speculative fiction novels that highlights African American and African descent characters and to develop this material into other media forms such as graphic novels, animation, movies and video series.
DF: For the few who don’t know, tell us what Sword and Soul is.
MD: Sword and Soul is heroic or epic fantasy based on African culture, traditions, history and spirituality. It was created by Charles R. Saunders in the late seventies with the release of Imaro, the first sword and sorcery character of color. The phrase ‘Sword and Soul’ was coined when Charles was asked to describe his form of writing.
DF: As a genre, Sword and Soul has grown tremendously in the past few years. To what do you attribute the growth of the genre?
MD: I think a number of factors. Charles R. Saunders, the creator of Sword and Soul, has built on his cult following over the past few years by releasing new Imaro and Dossouye books. I believe the release of my books and the Griots Sword and Soul anthology has contributed as well. But most of all I think it’s due to the power of social networking. Information spreads so much faster these days and we have been able to build a network of writers and readers interested in what’s happening.
DF: Tell us about MEJI.
MD: MEJI is a duology about twin brothers Ndoro and Obaseki. They are born to a royal family then separated because their birth is considered an abomination by the father’s people. The novels follow both brothers as they grow into their unique abilities and discover there is a reason for their birth.
MEJI was my first novel. I consider it my homage to my African roots. I tried to convey the diversity of the Continent and its people while delivering an exciting tale.
DF: Tell us about CHANGA’S SAFARI.
MD: CHANGA’S SAFARI is a historical fiction action adventure series. Changa Diop is the son of a deposed Kongo ngolo (king) who was forced to flee home at a very young age. The series begins with Changa as a successful Swahili merchant determined to build enough wealth to raise a mercenary army then return home to claim his father’s kingdom. His adventures are told through a series of kitabus (books), novellas that take the reader throughout the Spice Trade World and the African continent during the 15th century. The series will consist of four books. The first two books are complete; books three and four will be released in 2014.
DF: Tell us about WOMAN OF THE WOODS.
MD: With WOMAN OF THE WOODS I return to the Meji universe. It’s my first book with a woman main character so I was a little nervous about how it would be received. Sadatina is the child of a Shosa, women warriors trained to fight demons that are threatening her people, the Adamu. Sadatina eventually grows up to be a warrior herself, aided by two female lions she raised from birth. It’s an exciting story that follows Sadatina from birth and expands the world of Meji.
DF: You’ve recently written a children’s book: AMBER AND THE HIDDEN CITY. Why a children’s book and will you be writing more?
MD: Amber came from my interactions with readers at conventions. I was constantly asked by parents if I was going to write books for children and young adults. Many of them told me how their children were reading books like Harry Potter and wishing there were books like that with Black main characters. So I came up with Amber to help fill that void. My wife, a teacher, was also a major reason Amber was completed. She would light a fire under me whenever I got distracted. Amber will be a trilogy so there will be more. I have ideas for a few more YA books as well.
DF: You’re also a mover and shaker in the field of Steamfunk. Tell us about this genre.
MD: Steamfunk is subgenre of Steampunk. We incorporate the trappings of steampunk, such as steam-based technology and other concepts such as aether but our main characters are people of African descent. We also incorporated the history and culture of people of African descent during the time period which most Steampunk focuses on, the 19th century.
DF: You and Balogun Ojetade have formed quite the extraordinary partnership. How did this come about and where is it going?
MD: I met Balogun when searching for a source for indigenous African martial arts. Little did I know he was a renaissance man; writer, director, rapper and fight choreographer. Balogun and I have a similar vision when it comes to speculative fiction, which is why we work together often. We both have our separate endeavors, but we do come together often to work on projects.
I believe we’ll be working together for a long time. It’s our goal to move forward into speculative fiction movies and animation.
DF: You’ve been very vocal in promoting Black Speculative Fiction. What do you see as the major obstacle to Black Speculative Fiction being accepted by the larger reading public?
MD: Exposure. The last few years have proved to me that there is a demand for what we produce. The challenge is making people aware of it. Because I don’t have the funds to support widespread marketing my efforts have been more localized and more focused.
DF: Should writers of Black Speculative Fiction be seeking acceptance by the larger reading public?
MD: The reality of writing is that you won’t please everyone. Any writer pursuing any form of writing should realize that. The goal, in my opinion, is to find YOUR audience. As you write and promote your work the readers who like what you do will come forward. That’s the best you can hope for. And if you happen to be that lucky writer where your work appeals to the larger reading public, all the better. No one can predict that.
DF: You are seen (at least by me) as a major inspiration to those who are working and writing in the related fields of Black Speculative Fiction, Sword and Soul and Steamfunk. But how do you see yourself at this stage of your career?
MD: I’m still learning and hopefully growing as a writer, but I’m comfortable where I am right now. I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in my first 5 years doing this, and I’m looking forward to the next five years. I’m inspired by the folks that have supported my work over the years and I hope I stay in their good favor in the future.
DF: How important is it to you, personally, that Black people be represented in the fields of speculative fiction and heroic fantasy?
MD: It is vitally important. Entertainment is such a large part of our life these days. The images that we are exposed to on a daily basis have an effect on what we think of ourselves and the world. For so long we have been flooded with negative images about us and our history. Some people seek inspiration from fiction, so it is essential that they find positive images if fiction as well as real life. So I personally believe that we have to be represented and we have to be represented well.
Derrick Ferguson: What’s A Day In The Life of Milton Davis like? Anything else we should know?
Milton Davis: It’s rather routine. Wake up, write, go to work, come home, write, repeat. Not much else to share unless we want to put folks to sleep. I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the chance to read my work and especially thank those who continue. If you keep reading I’ll keep writing. Thank you Derrick for the interview.