So I haven't been doing a good job of telling the
I'm sorry about that.
My story "Rolling in my Six-Fo'--daa daa daa--With all my Niggas Saying: Swing Down Sweet Chariot Stop and Let me Riiiide. Hell Yeah." got in this space was a bunch of video links to Parliament, Dr. Dre and Blind Boys of Alabama singing their version of the old Negro Spiritual that appears in my title.
Sure I provided a link to the story, but I offered no context. Now the good folks at storySouth have listed it as a notable story in their Million Writer Award. That means that it is longlisted for the award and a shortlist will come out in May for public voting. Cool.
"Rolling in my Six-Fo'..." is an admittedly bizarre story. Follows Pryor's dictum of being profane and profound more than my other stories. I've agonized that it was more of the former and none of the latter a whole lot.
See, it's a chapter from my novel-in-progress and it stands on it's own too. I wrote it to bridge a gap in the novel. My character Doug is running and my reader said I needed to show that.
I didn't intend for it to be bizarre. I just started writing and I got stuck. At the same time I was writing my favorite story, a stand alone called "202 Checkmates." You can check it out soon in Fiction International. Not profane at all. About a little girl and her father. If God decides to wipe all my stories away but one I'll ask that he save "202 Checkmates."
But there must have been something in me rebelling against the lack of profane-ness in the Checkmates story because it all dribbled out in "Rolling in my Six-Fo'..." I had this image of a man in blackface standing by the side of the road, Coon W. Calhoun. I wanted to write a story about him, but I knew I didn't have time to work on a third story. So I said, why not throw Coon into "Rolling..."? that changed the character of the story. I asked myself where Coon came from. There was a lot of racial satire in the air. Some despicable. Some raw:
I watched the above video over and over. And the story got more and more twisted....talking giraffes, men in blackface, flying apes, a character named Nigger Jim???!!?!?! It was scary at some points. I kept asking myself what was the point of all the imagery. If it was a silly laugh, then was I performing in literary blackface? No, I needed for it to mean something. Not the same thing to everybody, but I needed the reader to come away thinking something.
I worked to achieve that and hope I did. I'm proud of it. I call it "202 Checkmates's" evil twin brother. "Rolling..." solidified for me that race is a topic I need to address head on in my work since it is always, always on my mind. It showed me that I could be as bizarre as I wanna be and also it was the first time I was able to work Pryor's dictum. I only wish my hero could have read it.
I wish luck to the rest of the folks on the notable story list. I'm gonna be reading through it. I'm sure there is some nice work on there. Roxane Gay, the co-editor of PANK, is on there over and over again. She is a great writer.