Interview: Jarvis Sheffield, Founder of the Black Science Fiction Society

featured jarvis sheffieldI’ve been reading and watching science fiction since I was 3 years old and for a long time, the only character I found who reflected me was Lieutenant Nyota Uhura of “Star Trek.” In college, when I was introduced to Storm as leader of the X-Men in the comic book, I was thrilled. But I was grown before I discovered Dayna Mellanby of “Blake’s 7.”

Over the years, the inclusion of Black women in speculative fiction has become more frequent, for example, Angela Bassett has starred in “Strange Days” and “Supernova,” Sanaa Lathan in “Alien vs. Predator,” and Freema Agyeman in “Dr. Who.” But as a Black woman (before I became a writer), I wanted more.

For many Black writers, artists, and animators looking to work on projects that featured Blacks in prominent roles, opportunities were not as numerous as desired, and perhaps subject to the decisions of large media companies. Enter Jarvis Sheffield.

Jarvis saw a need for the marriage of science fiction with an increased presence of Black characters and creators. So he began the Black Science Fiction Society (BSFS). It resides online at http://blacksciencefictionsociety.com/.

Jarvis graciously agreed to be interviewed and tells us his story and his vision for BSFS.

ASM: What made you start BSFS?

There were several reasons I started BSFS: 1) I wanted to play my part in making things better for the black science fiction genre. There were so many comics, books, movies, and other products out there that represented us better than what we commonly see that needed a place to be easily found, promoted, and purchased. 2) I want my child and other children to have black science fiction that they can identify with and emulate. 3) I think I was riding high on the momentum of the ascension of now President Obama. I figured if this brother can make it, I need to step up my game and play my part to BE the change we seek.

ASM: What joys and challenges do you experience running the site?

I have had so much enjoyment running the site. I love discovering new comics, books, and things of that nature. The opportunity to meet and get to know creators and others like me that enjoy science fiction has been a true blessing in my life. The challenges I have experienced have been learning to maintain a safe family-friendly environment. I’ve had to put members out on occasion for being disruptive. This has made some enemies, but as someone I highly respect (Bill Cosby) said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” I take everything as a learning experience and put my best foot forward to keep things running smoothly. Lastly, this has been a grass roots effort from the start so everything has to pay for itself.

ASM: What new opportunities have opened up for BSFS?

We have a lot of things going on such as new Genesis magazine issues, the Genesis Anthology Book II, and Genesis radio show. We are also developing video games and 3D movies. One thing I am very excited about is the fact that we are creating our own digital production studio so we can partner with creators to produce original content like movies, animations, games, books, comics, and toys.

ASM: Where do you see BSFS in the future?

I see BSFS members being in the forefront of developing science fiction properties in the future. I see them making products that we have hoped and dreamed of our entire lives where Blacks are not window dressing but are featured prominently in the forefront. Our kids deserve better, we deserve better, and the world deserves better. I am excited about the future of Black Science Fiction Society. The sky is the limit!

(Ed. Notes:  This interview should have appeared yesterday on 12/17/13 and missed its schedule due to editorial error.  BSFS requires a (free) membership to read the majority of contents.  The publisher of Amazing Stories is currently a member of that organization.)

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