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Sheree Renée Thomas (born September 30, 1972) is a writer, book editor, publisher, and contributor to many notable publications. In 2020, Thomas was named editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Interview with Apex Magazine (2017)
- I wondered what it might be like if your dreams—or those of others—took a more lasting toll on us.
- I never quite know how to answer this question. I started working on Dark Matter in 1998, sold it in 1999, and it was published in 2000. We’re still having the same conversations about the paucity of diversity in the publishing industry that we were having then—except then, people could identify only a handful of black writers actively writing and publishing in the genre. Samuel R. Delany and Nalo Hopkinson spoke about waiting to see that “critical mass” and the inevitable backlash from that.
- "Have you seen changes in the world of speculative fiction you’d hoped to see? What has been accomplished and what still needs to be accomplished?"
- Good stuff is always being published. We want more “good stuff” and mo’ different good stuff, thank you! Work that reflects other lenses, other values, other world views in addition to the other good stuff that is traditionally published. I couldn’t say if there is a specific number in mind, but there is certainly a lot of encouraging, exciting work being created and shared today in a number of mediums, enough to see the flourishing of multiple communities of speculative writers and artists around the country and around the world. What an amazing, gratifying thing it is to be able to reach for whole volumes of South Asian steampunk, a novel imagining Belgian steampunk, African or Cuban science fiction, or whole volumes of any number of other fascinating bodies of work that might not have been visible two decades ago. If the increasing scholarship and number of Afrofuturism classes are a sign, and the festivals and conferences are a symbol, then new ground is being explored within and beyond the academy and the publishing industry. And that’s progress!
- What still needs to be accomplished can be summed up by the lovely album released on my birthday last year by Solange—A Seat at the Table. How much significant, systemic progress and change can be made if you still don’t have a seat at the table? Walter Mosley was organizing around this question in the early 90s via PEN’s Open Book Committee, which I believe he founded, to help bring more people of color into the publishing industry. Why is that vital? Because different people at the table ask different questions, seek different voices, and have a different relationship to all the things we are told are “universal.” Intersectionality matters. Consider what work we wouldn’t get to read if other talented people didn’t get a seat at the table, a chance to guest edit, an opportunity to curate, to be a juror, to host, promote, celebrate, read and review, be reviewed, speak …
- One of my favorite poets is Lucille Clifton, author of a good number of fine books, including Blessing the Boats, Quilting, and Two-Headed Woman.
- I like to write about ordinary folks in extraordinary circumstances.
- Mainly because I am a reader first and foremost and the book that I wanted to read didn't exist at the time. I really went looking for the book and couldn't find it...what I read for pleasure was science fiction. I wanted to read more Octavia Butler; I wanted to read another Tananarive Due book; I even read a LeVar Burton novel. I don't know how to tell you how desperately I was searching.
- "Why did you create the Dark Matter series?"
- Most of my friends who do love to read would, at the time, never consider themselves science fiction readers. They associated it with whatever they saw on television and whatever they stopped reading when they were little. And that's it. They simply thought white boys with guns, white boys with toys, lasers, or space operas, and that's it. They had no idea of all the different amazing work that's been going on for decades and decades and decades. And I thought, once they get it they're gonna love it.
- My parents were... It was in the house along with James Baldwin, and Amiri Baraka when he was LeRoi Jones. All of that was in the house. It was like my play land. And I'd like to say, they are like regular working class people who contribute to the bottom line. They didn't necessarily show up at the writers' conventions, or stand up at readings, but they bought books and read them regularly. In fact, that's how I learned about Tolkien. It was in the house. There were books everywhere and, of course, LPs [long-playing records] everywhere.
- "So you were always into sci-fi and speculative writing?"
- I remembered being so amazed by Greg Bear's stories from when my parents subscribed to OMNI magazine.
- It blows your mind, right?...it's a very painful story. And he has to get through the pain with humor. And also, the way he sets up some of our heroes, the leaders at time. I mean, Madam C. J. Walker doesn't come off too well in the book. Brother Frederick Douglass doesn't do too well either. W. E. B. Dubois . . . No one is safe. Not the black characters, not the white characters. He just kind of lays it out there.
- about Black No More by George S. Schuyler
- She went back and collected folklore that so many people had forgotten. So many people don't even tell their children anymore. Don't even know that we used to tell the stories. The tongue can barely even sing the songs anymore. She brought it back and she brought it back for children. That, coupled with the wonderful art that always went with her work . . .When I think back on my childhood book collection, there were very few books that reflected me. Very few with black children, or black anyone. And the few that I had were by Virginia Hamilton . . . and I feel that she touched many lives and did it so beautifully. Such a brilliant storyteller and writer. I mean, it's one thing to retell someone's story, but to tell it in such a way that was uniquely hers. She's such an amazing writer and that's just the folklore. You go into her novels. The House of Dies Drear. The Planet of Junior Brown. Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush. Just really amazing. And who knew that she wrote a traditional science fiction trilogy?