I “met” Sumiko Saulson for the first time when she was kind enough to include me in a list of Bay Area horror writers for a piece she wrote for the Examiner Online. After that, we kept running into each other through Horror Addicts and at BayCon. We’ve read together for Litquake San Rafael, the Literary Speakeasy, at StokerCon on the Queen Mary, and a week ago at the UnValentine reading at Old Devil Moon in San Francisco.
Sumiko Saulson is a cartoonist and horror writer, editor of Black Magic Women and 100 Black Women in Horror Fiction, author of Solitude, Warmth, The Moon Cried Blood, and Happiness and Other Diseases. She wrote and illustrated comics Mauskaveli, Dooky, and the graphic novels Dreamworlds and Agrippa. She writes for SEARCH Magazine. Sumiko is an Oakland resident who has spent most of her adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find all her books at Amazon.
Sumiko’s new book is Black Magic Women: Terrifying Tales by Scary Sisters. Imagine horror where black characters aren’t all tropes and the first to die. Imagine a world written by black sisters where black women and femmes are in the starring roles. From flesh-eating plants to flesh-eating bees; zombies to vampires to vampire-eating vampire hunters; ghosts, revenants, witches and werewolves: this book has it all. Cursed drums, cursed dolls, cursed palms, ancient spirits and goddesses create a nuanced world of Afrocentric and multicultural horror. Seventeen terrifying tales by seventeen of the scary sisters profiled in the reference guide 100 Black Women in Horror.
Black Magic Women includes stories by Mina Polina, Nuzo Onoh, Kenesha Williams, Crystal Connor, Valjeanne Jeffers, Sumiko Saulson, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Kenya Moss-Dyme, Lori Titus, L. H. Moore, R. J. Joseph, Delizhia Jenkins, Cinsearae S, Kai Leakes, Dicey Grenor, Kamika Aziza, Tabitha Thompson, and Alledria Hurt.
What inspired you to put the book together?
Black Magic Women contains stories by eighteen of the women from 100+ Black Women in Horror, which is a reference guide, sort of a who’s who of black women who write horror. That is an update to the 2014 book 60 Black Women in Horror. The original book’s eBook version included four short stories by myself, Valjeanne Jeffers, Crystal Connor, and Annie Penn. For the update, I decided to have a separate book of stories. I came up with the name Black Magic Women and the concept of stories prominently featuring black women and magic as a nod to the Black Girl Magic concept, but as it applies to horror writers. I was so fortunate as to have Mocha Memoirs Press sign on quickly, thanks to Nicole Kurtz. I think we were also very inspired by Linda Addison and Kinitra Brook’s project Sycorax’s Daughters, and earlier similar anthologies showcasing African American horror such as Dark Matters.
Do you have a favorite story about putting the book together?
While we were working on Black Magic Women, Sycorax’s Daughters ended up on the Bram Stoker preliminary ballot, along with its companion book, Searching for Sycorax, which is an educational study of black women who write horror by Dr. Brooks. Nicole and I both exclaimed that we hoped our book would get nominated. We also started rooting for the Sycorax books to make it onto the final ballot. They both did! You know, I first met Dr. Brooks at the Afrofuturist Symposium II at Loyola Marymount. She was there with Nisi Shawl and I was totally intimidated by all of these educated women with PhDs, but they took us out for beer and ribs later so everything was cool. I think Nicole and I both started squealing when the Sycorax books made the final ballot. Did you know that around a third of the women in our book were in that anthology? This is an exciting time for black women in horror.
What was the process as you asked for stories and put the book together?
I wrote a call for submissions and gave a copy to Nicole Kurtz at Mocha Memoirs Press, and we started to promote it in blogs and small press. Graveyard Sisters, HorrorAddicts.net, and Colors in Darkness are some of the places we promoted it, as well as on my blog and Mocha Memoir’s. The world of black women who write horror is relatively close-knit. We’re a community. Nicole and I were the two members of the selection committee, so we read each story and ranked them in a secret ranking process. We also checked to make sure they met the submission criteria. I edited them and sent the edit back to the authors. They approved or disapproved. Then they went off to the proofreading team at Mocha Memoirs Press. MMP compiled them into a whole book. I designed the cover art as well. It’s an acrylic painting of mine. I did the layout for the eBook cover. We had to get someone else to help out with the print cover, though.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
During the prerelease period, our eBook shot up to #1 on the Amazon Horror Anthology list! We were up there above Stephen King and Clive Barker. Everyone was so excited! The authors were posting screenshots of it, tweeting people doing victory dances, and posting hilarious celebratory gifs on Facebook. It really made us feel like a team. The sense of excitement was contagious.
What do you have planned next?
100+ Black Women in Horror, a reference book with the biographies of over one hundred black women, came out on February 21, rounding out the Black History Month and Women in Horror Month 2018.