On Monday evening I wearily walked on over to Settepani on Lenox Ave. I just had to have a raspberry rugalach
and a coconut macaroon. Yep, I only get one of each and that’s my indulgence of the day sometimes when I’m real good, for the week. As soon as I walk in I spot my comrade and friend to the end, Greg Tate
who was busy editing his science-fiction epic-- Altered Spade. He’s been working on this tome for almost as long as I’ve known him and that’s over a decade now. With a protagonist named Babylonia Free, I’m dying for him to get a book deal or just put it out himself. It’s funny because I was just telling this brother on the D train who was reading Wild Seed
—one of my most favorite books-- that Black folks need a lil science fiction in our lives just to counteract and balance out the realness of being Black in 2005 and I don’t mean Niggas In Outta Space or whatever that nonsense was called. I mean our own little War Of The Worlds cum X-Files. Our Cosmic Slop
for real! So while talking to Greg and making him understand the urgency there is for such a work, who should walk in the door? Chris Jackson
(scroll down link)-- my favorite editor partly because he signs very distinctively styled writers, but mostly cause I’ve known him since 7th grade where we both started our 6-year manic academic odyssey at Hunter College High School. So I make introductions and hope that destiny will take over and Chris will immediately drop his cappuccino and make a Random House deal with Greg right then and there. Hah! Tom Cruise running through Harlem screaming were all going to be killed by aliens in 90 seconds is more likely. Chris was busy reading and editing his own manuscript and so the deal will have to wait for now.
Greg and I start chatting and it seems like the talk amongst everyone especially those in publishing is the phenomenal success of Confessions Of A Video Vixen
, the tell-all memoir by Karrine Steffans, the music video girl errr… sex kitten, or is it ho now… nicknamed Superhead. She’s been on the NY Times best-seller list for like 5 weeks and is already in her 4th printing. Even Chris whose titles include the top-seller Bliss expressed his longing for a book like Confessions-- it would seem, even your most authentic and scholarly editors want a best seller (regardless of the content). I haven’t read Confessions (or Bliss for that matter yet), but I hear from EVERYONE at the Harlem Book Fair that Superhead came off wonderfully at her panel on Black beauty. Unlike her appearances on NYC urban radio stations like Power 105 or Hot 97, at the Fair she was warmly received, even embraced. I plan on getting a transcription of this discussion and will definitely run it in an upcoming issue of theHotness.
Havelock Nelson formerly of Billboard also rolled through. He was promoting the upcoming issue of National Geographic, which is dedicated to Africa. He happened to have an unbound copy of the issue
and I’m telling you now, the photos are amazingly beautiful and the stories, like the one about AIDS, are just as insightful. This is definitely going to be a collector’s issue. With all the writing-reading-editing heads in the house the discussion veered right back into self-publishing. I can’t help but pull-up this email written by my neighbor and uptown comrade Marita who, after attending the HBF had this to say:Self-publishing is the worst thing that happened to black folks since Integration. I was ashamed at some of those titles ("Ho-Tell" & "Hip Hop Word Search") First of all, if I were handling the table rentals, you would have to have a "literate" work before I would rent you space.
Anyway while at Settepani I pulled out this old article in Fortune
about the success of Ego Trip magazine that I had stumbled onto that morning (thanks to Backlist.com). Greg laughed and we all agreed that Sacha Jenkins and Elliott Wilson did it the right way! I’m quickly realizing the arena I so want to get back into is the one that mentors like Greg, Havelock and even Karen
are swiftly moving out of. All seem disheartened by and bored when writing for magazines and would rather write their own books, produce music like Greg’s really popular Burnt Sugar
or just do something entirely different like Havelock doing publicity. Hmmpph, and here I am like a maniac interviewing for magazine gigs and trying to get my writing in Vibe and Rolling Stone. I guess I have to remember that the grass is always greener, but it does give me pause. I wonder when will I/ we ever be satisfied by the work we are doing in our lives? Even Superhead has moved on from rappers to Bill Maher. I guess at some point we all have to keep it moving.