In this new fiction series, a black man upends white supremacy. He opens it up for everyone.
I’ve been working on this for a few months. Every time I try to write about the Skin Trials series, I delete and start over again. I feel tremendous pressure to present it in a politically correct way that will receive the approval of feminists and progressives. But the struggle against racism in the American south is not a street protest. It’s not always captured in beautiful Pulitzer-worthy images or headlines. Instead, many minorities live out their entire existence in quiet humility, resigned to be happy with little upward mobility.
They’re the happy people hauling the luggage in the airports, laughing and greeting you at the post office counter, or ringing up your groceries at the store, or doing odds and ends jobs around the neighborhood. Yes, everyone does these, but the lower end jobs for black southerners serve as a badge of their lower station. A sort of invisible shield still separating them from the privileged comfort of whiteness. Lower level jobs and education in the south still function very much like the cotton field, reminding blacks that they belong in menial labor with little social capitol or decision-making power.
While inequality exists everywhere, it feels different in the southern part of the United States. It is purposeful, and not accidental. Blacks and whites intermingle, but the unspoken understanding is that blacks know “their place”.
I’m from Arkansas, and my family still lives inside this tension. Needless to say, this subject matter is dear to me. The job of science fiction is to push and stretch reality. Since race is such a live wire in the genre, I figured why not.
So in my novella, A Perfect Society, it takes a smart black man – Dr. Lyle Terry – to throw a stone at the glass house of oppression in all its forms.
Dr. Terry is a different type of strong hero – a scientist. And I describe him, how his work disrupts a town, through the eyes of a privileged teenage white girl in Madison, Mississippi.
Madison is an actual town that exists in real life- conservative and wealthy- in which racism is the last thing a white person of means and privilege needs to think about. So a comfortable cocoon is the perfect bubble to pop. In a lot of ways. The disruptor is an intelligent black man who uses his science to chisel at white comfort. Of course, I can’t tell you how, but it’s phenomenal. But disturbing for the privileged. Dr. Terry’s work is effective enough that it offends many conservative privileged people and the government intervenes.
Dr. Terry then fights a much larger phenomenon – a new government takes shape, and the wealthy are remaking the United States. Dr. Terry is becoming a key part of the #resist movement, in his own way.
Pepper Pickens is a good teen, but she’s just living her life, and enjoying her world. Innocent, kind, and pure. But a drop of reality from the lives of desperate people will rip through Pepper’s world.
That’s how ethnicity and racial conflict have always operated – when the hardship happens to other people, we’re too busy living our own lives to concern ourselves. Then, suddenly we have no choice. The conflict hits us in the gut, and then it’s changing our lives because we didn’t know it was so serious. By then, we have learned too late and we’re having to survive.
This is how the Skin Trials series begins. A Perfect Society is about 37 pages, a two-hour read. It’s young adult adventure with some very light science fiction. Let me know what you think.