Volume 43, Issue 4
Fall 2020

Star*Line 43.4 cover
Cover: A forgotten allegory of souls (Hye-wo-mhye, Eban & Owuo Atwedee) (detail)
© S. Ross Browne
srossbrowne.com

Wyrms & Wormholes

A Note on Two Legs

Star*Line has been in existence for more than forty years. This is the first issue of its kind in our long history, and it has been made possible only through community effort and community values. I want to thank the SFPA membership and those SFPA members who diligently worked to express vocal support for this All Black issue of Star*Line, who promoted our calls for submissions to help make this a success.

An interesting story: members in and around the Exec Committee have been asking for and searching for ways to help search for and promote Black speculative arts for a while. There was already an effort in place to put a spotlight on Afrofuturism and the Black Speculative Arts Movement before the horrifying death of George Floyd prompted the world into a heightened and long overdue conversation about the marginalization and murder of Black people within not only our justice system, but our cultural institutions. I am grateful that we have an organization that is so primed and ready to move in the direction of justice, of positive progress, and to create the future we want vs. the one we fear.

I want to thank the poets who submitted to this issue. Each and every one of the individuals who submitted work, even those who were subsequently rejected. The submission meant so much. I am incredibly excited about the work in these pages because I feel that it not only represents some of the best of Black speculative poetry, but speculative poetry, period. There are many writers here who have never submitted to Star*Line before, and even a few who are getting their first publication credit in this issue (BRAVO!)

I want to thank the cover artist, Ross Browne, a poet and lover of science fiction himself, who has worked hard to meet us where we’re at to help contribute to this issue. Please, check out his work. I envision a world of bestselling SFF books with his art on the cover. It’s a good world, that one.

This has been hard to write. It’s hard to distill a glacier into an iceberg, it’s hard to distill a mountain. I’ve written and re-written it many times over and it remains hard. I’ve thought about trying to explain how much it means to have the opportunity to create something like this as a longtime lover of speculative fiction. What it means to be a BIPOC in a genre that throughout its history seems to be able to imagine everything and anything but you.

So I’ve decided to talk (briefly) about Ragtime.
You may know the history of Ragtime, you may not. You may know how the bulk of modern music has some root in Ragtime, you may be learning this for the first time. You may know of its birth and its Blackness, but maybe you haven’t considered what that means for speculative poetry.

In short, Ragtime came into existence when Black banjo players sat down in white parlors and started playing marching-band music the way they played banjos. Syncopated chords, different chord progressions. Instead of playing straight up and down, these cats would swing.
It was called piano-thumping. It was largely ignored. By the time ragtime caught on and overtook American music, it had been a thing for a long time in Black communities and music circles. From that piano-thumping, from that syncopation, from those polyrhythms, from those progressions came a revolution of sound, an expansion of sound, an expansion of what we call good music, and the textures to the soundtracks of our lives. Remember that it was rejected first and then it set the world on fire.

Whatever the current trends, whatever the good wishes of a few, Black speculative writers have been around for a long, long time. Poems have been called piano-thumping. Subtexts are “too Black,” “too political,” or not speculative enough without recognizing that there is another set of mythos out there to draw from, another way to structure the speculative, another way to aim it. You name it, we’ve heard it. The results have been that too few readers have got to enjoy Black poets for themselves. And some of the best poets never had the opportunities to build their careers at all.

You may find in these pages poems that you love. You may find polyrhythmic subtexts. You may find what seems simple at first until subsequent reads and then doesn’t quit. You may find symbols and ideas you’ve seen before, played in slightly different ways. You may find something swings instead of plays straight up and down. That’s all right, let your backbone slip. You may find yourself swimming in a sea of stuff you’re already down with. Cool.

To quote our immortal Auntie Entity (aka our immortal Auntie Tina): “Some people like it nice and easy, but we never do nothing nice and easy, we like to do nice and rough.” You’re gonna get a little of that too.

It’s so good, I wanna wiggle in my seat. Welcome to the Ragtime Universe, y’all, a future of possibilities made possible by you. Here’s to the Rebirth. Get you some.

—Melanie Stormm, Star*Line Editor


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Star*Line Staff:

Editor: Melanie Stormm
Layout: F. J. Bergmann
Production Manager: F. J. Bergmann
Mailing: Andrew Gilstrap

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Table of Contents

Departments

  • Wyrms & Wormholes • Melanie Stormm
  • SFPA Announcements
  • President’s Message • Bryan Thao Worra
  • From the Small Press • Maya C. James

Poetry

  • Kepler’s hunt * Soonest Nathanial
  • The Missing Link * Francis W. Alexander
  • Technician Man I * Solomon Uhiara
  • [ghost moon—] * Francis W. Alexander
  • Entry * Martha Darr
  • I’m going to bed * Shade Oyemakinwa
  • Shadows * Isaac Black
  • “Flee”—The Last Dispatch from the Jemison Station * Maya C. James
  • Little Red Wolf * Destine Carrington
  • Fusion * Martha Darr
  • The Thing * Hawona Sullivan Janzen
  • The Law of Lunar Base-Building * Bryant O’Hara
  • Ain’t a Thing but a Chicken Wing * Francis W. Alexander
  • A Sonnet for Sunday Dinner in Space * Stephanie Andrea Allen
  • Mother’s Entanglement * Bryant O’Hara
  • My Dead Friend’s Daughter * Akua Lezli Hope
  • Fermi’s Spaceship * Jamal Hodge
  • Aretha Orbits Us * Akua Lezli Hope
  • Sweet Home, Sweet Home; or, Robert Johnson Speaks From the Grave * Woody Dismukes
  • After Having Eaten From the Apple * Woody Dismukes
  • Soul Olympics * K. Astre
  • Summer Time(lessness) * Linda D. Addison
  • Haiku #43 * J. L. Herndon
  • Eartha Kitt Reflects On Cat Woman * Sheree Renée Thomas
  • A.I. * J. L. Herndon
  • back story * Gerald L. Coleman
  • Selves * K. Astre
  • Nu Apocalypse * J. L. Jones
  • In the Process of Powering a Planet * Solomon Uhiara
  • Fugitive; Wanderer of the Earth * Woody Dismukes
  • High-Tension Eiffel Tower * Solomon Uhiara
  • May There Come Soft Gardens * Maya C. James
  • Reconnaissance * Opal Palmer Adisa
  • Changeling * Sheree Renée Thomas
  • The Cause, The Effect * Linda D. Addison
  • an alien axiom * Gerald L. Coleman
  • Rhetoric for Bluland * Soonest Nathanial
  • Synth*Esthesia * Martha Darr
  • Watch * Akua Lezli Hope
  • We Have Come * Soonest Nathanial
  • All the Ghosts Keep Dying * Jamal Hodge & Linda D. Addison
  • rebirth (clean) * Hawona Sullivan Janzen
  • Clean Meat Only * J. L. Jones
  • Hoops * A. Z. Louise
  • My body, the graveyard * K. Astre
  • Descendants * Terese Mason Pierre
  • Γ Φ Nebulous * Krystal A. Smith
  • Last Seen Sunset * Hazel Ann Lee
  • The Festival of Stars and Bees * Bryant O’Hara
  • Baits * Soonest Nathanial
  • Zumbi dos Palmares Witnesses Nine Marvels and a Massacre * Woody Dismukes
  • Mirror, Mirror * Destine Carrington
  • A Tempest * Sheree Renée Thomas

Art

  • Doombox Trio * Fayanla O.
  • Spacecowrie * Fayanla O.
  • Voo-Doombox * Fayanla O.
  • Galactic Mud Cloth * Fayanla O.

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