On June 27, author Zig Zag Claybourne will join Midwest BSFA on Twitter for the bi-monthly #blackscibookclub discussion of his story, “Revolver.” We asked him about his background, his love of writing and his upcoming projects.
Midwest BSFA: Tell us about yourself.
Claybourne: I am a class-one nerd who’s seen Iron Man about 35 times (thanks to my wee nephew), will likely wet myself when Black Panther comes out, and wishes to high heaven that they’d give Star Trek scripts to actual science fiction writers. (At this point, I would take Chuck Tingle over another Orci/Kurtzman Trek flick.)
Midwest BSFA: How did you get into writing?
Claybourne: Informally, as a kid writing short stories for my own amusement. Professionally, I started with poetry. I studied creative writing in college for a bit, wrote some poems that won prestigious contests, and then branched into doing more short stories and eventually novels.
Midwest BSFA: What would you do if you weren’t an author?
Claybourne: This should almost be what do you do in addition to being an author? since pretty much all writers are riding that side hustle! If not writing, though, I’d have loved to have gone into carpentry. Building sweet things from bits of wood and stuff is the ultimate cool.
Midwest BSFA: Who’s your all-time favorite author and why?
Claybourne: Toni Morrison. Nobody has ever done to me with words what she’s done. Not a word wasted, not a cliché to be had. Perfection.
Midwest BSFA: Did you always want to be a writer?
Claybourne: Nope. The dream was to be an explorer. I was gonna find the truth about Loch Ness, pyramid power and everything else. I was also the kid who was gonna find a Komodo dragon egg, raise the dragon from infancy (so it wouldn’t eat me), and ride on its back triumphantly. Don’t mind the shattered dreams on the floor.
Midwest BSFA: Were you a voracious reader when you were younger?
Claybourne: I read everything! Dr. Seuss, Peanuts, Marvel comics, pulp sci-fi, Shakespeare, James Baldwin. We’d walk to the library and I’d be giddy trucking my red and white bag of books home with Ma.
Midwest BSFA: Has that enthusiasm for books continued in your adult life? Isn’t that essential to be a writer?
Claybourne: That enthusiasm for reading is even more vital as an adult who ought to know and experience more of the world than what’s typically given. Without a sense of exploration, a writer goes in circles on a very tiny island thinking the footprints he sees belongs to others. If we’re not feeding ourselves a sense of wonder in some way, we do ourselves a great disservice.
Midwest BSFA: What sparked you to write “Revolver”?
Claybourne: It came from me asking myself if I was worthy of my dreams. Most times we dream about escaping from something. Well, we have to deal with the “to” part of the equation as well. I wanted to do a story about life trying to answer that over and over, and the only time we listen is when things get ridiculous.
Midwest BSFA: I first heard of you when I came across The Brothers Jetstream! You’ve said it’s marginally steampunk (I disagree, BTW 😊). Do you have any plans to write other stories with steampunk elements in the future?
Claybourne: Steam cred activated! There’s Brothers Jetstream 2, and I did a story in a pre-steam anthology (“Where sword and soul ends and before steamfunk begins, there is the age of spring technology and clockwork”), which I’d love to expand, about an African ship captain doing her best to put a wrench in the works of slavers. Technologically, her ship is leagues ahead of the English and Spanish ships of the time, so she’s kind of a Dora Milaje Captain Nemo.
Midwest BSFA: Sweet! What are you working on right now?
Claybourne: The Brothers Jetstream Part 2: Afro Puffs Are The Antennae To The Universe! Book 2 of the Jets adventure focuses on the women of the crew. I had the idea to do this years ago and I’m going full speed ahead with it! The first book was kind of the unconventional conventional adventure. It broke rules and flipped tropes left and right. I’m calling the sequel “the anti-sequel sequel” in that readers should NOT expect the standard upping of the stakes leading to Jedis getting their revenge and Vader going all Twilight twinkly.
Midwest BSFA: Anything else you want our audience to know?
Claybourne: I will trade books for a Cinnabon. I’m not tender-headed when it comes to being critiqued (unless folks slap a “Yo mama” joke in a review…that ain’t right). For fun books that are a little off center they should hit my website, www.writeonrighton.com. Everything is there, plus blogs, interviews and awesome pics.
DETAILS: Black Sci-Fi Book Club, June 27, 6:30-8:30 p. m., Twitter. Read the story here and use the hashtag #blackscifibookclub to join in!