Join us as we talk with Milton Davis of MV Media. Milton will be discussing his writings as a black speculative fiction writer and owner of MVmedia, LLC, a small publishing company specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Sword and Soul. He’ll dive into a little more detail of what Sword and Soul is. You’ll want to grab one of his books after this conversation!
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[00:00:00] Halfling: Thank you all for tuning into the Halfling and the Spaceman. If you're new to our show, we welcome you and hope that you're entertained and inspired to start your own journey into active fandom if you're a returning listener. Thank you for choosing to spend some more time with us, and today we're excited to be talking with Milton Davis.
[00:00:20] Halfling: Milton will be talking about his writing as a black speculative fiction author and owner of MV Media, a small publishing company specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and sword and soul. Milton, welcome to the show.
[00:00:34] Milton Davis: Hey, thank you. Thanks for having me here.
[00:00:37] Spaceman: So, Milton, let's jump right in. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself.
[00:00:40] Milton Davis: Yeah. I am originally from Columbus, Georgia, and I've been in the metro Atlanta area for almost 30 years now. My secret identity is a chemist. I've been a chemist for over 20 years
[00:00:53] Halfling: Wow.
[00:00:55] Milton Davis: Yeah, and writing is my sideline. It's my passionate, I said my passionate profession.
[00:01:00] Halfling: Interesting chemist turned writer. Wow, that's awesome.
[00:01:06] Spaceman: It's not surprising, Halfling, we've met rocket scientists who are writers. We've met a Submariner who is a writer, you know, so
[00:01:13] Halfling: That's true. We wanna hear from everybody, so you got an interesting story to tell. You know, contact us. We're happy to hear it.
[00:01:22] Milton Davis: It's funny cause when I tell people that they kind of wonder, oh, how are you being, how have science and fantasy and fiction and stuff. But I'm a research chemist and for me it goes together because I'm taking different situations, I'm taking different raw materials and things that I'm working with and I'm having to use my imagination to come up with compounds and things like that.
[00:01:41] Milton Davis: And to me, writing is the same thing you're taking. your research, you're taking the information that you learn and you're using that to create a story. So they kind of run the same, it's imagination, but in different applications.
[00:01:55] Halfling: Okay. I wouldn't have thought about it that way, but yeah that makes perfect sense. So what does fandom actually mean to you? When somebody says that they're engaged in fandom or they're a fan of something, what does that mean to you and what types of fandom do you enjoy?
[00:02:13] Milton Davis: That's a good question because before I started writing, I didn't really think a lot about the concept of fandom. It took me years to realize that I was actually a fan of Tom Cruise, I was sitting down one day and I was looking at my DVD collection. I looked at the movies I have, and I looked at my wife and I said, you know what?
[00:02:29] Milton Davis: I think I'm a Tom Cruise fan. I kept seeing all the stuff I had there. So to me it's basically a person or people who are interested in a particular. Either a particular genre or a particular person or something like that. You know, we have like Steampunk fandom and science fiction fandoms, sword and sorcery fandom.
[00:02:48] Milton Davis: That's the way I look at it. The people who are like, particularly in interested, really interested in something and really to a point where they're doing the research and going into all the detail about things like that. As a writer, I'm very eclectic. I'm into a whole bunch of different things. I'm basically primarily a history nerd.
[00:03:06] Milton Davis: That's my thing. I love history. I wasn't really reading fiction actually until I started college. Up to that point, everything I read was non-fiction, especially history. There was a time that you couldn't ask me any question about dinosaurs that I couldn't answer, and then there was a time you couldn't ask me any question about World War II that I couldn't answer, and that's how my thing went when the nineties came along.
[00:03:29] Milton Davis: I decided that as a black person, I really needed to look more into African history because I knew more about European history than I knew about African history. And that kind of started my journey to becoming an, eventually becoming a fiction writer and writing the type of fiction that I do.
[00:03:44] Milton Davis: So I would say I'm a history fan. That's my thing. Anything that I do, any writing that I do is always somehow tied to history or some form or anything like that.
[00:03:54] Halfling: Mm-hmm. . Well, what are your earliest memories of being a fan of something? We've heard lots of different answers to this. We get a lot of, " when I was a kid I watched Star Trek with my dad", or things like that. So I'm just got curious what your earliest memories of being a fan are.
[00:04:12] Milton Davis: My earliest memory of being a fan would be, When I was very young, and you guys might be able to relate to this, I was a big Rat Patrol fan. I loved the Rat Patrol. used to come on, used to come. I would never miss the Rat Patrol that was just to see those jeeps coming over the dunes and kinda stuff like that.
[00:04:35] Milton Davis: That was my, again, it was associated with World War ii. I think Rat Patrol was probably my biggest, the story I was most interested in and probably Combat was second to that, but it wasn't until I was older that I realized how deep Combat really was to me. I was just watching action and stuff.
[00:04:50] Milton Davis: But then I really started looking at it when I was older. I said, these stories were actually pretty deep. They were really, you know, talking about personal issues and stuff like that. So to me, that's kind of how you end up enjoying things twice. Cuz when you're younger you're seeing it from one perspective.
[00:05:03] Milton Davis: When you get older, you start seeing it from another perspective. It was always there. It's just that you weren't old enough at the time, but didn't have enough experience to understand what those stories were about. And the only other thing I can think of other than that is me being a big fan of was Johnny Quest.
[00:05:18] Halfling: Oh yeah,
[00:05:19] Milton Davis: I love Johnny Quest. Johnny Quest was one of my, that's why I hope they never remake it,
[00:05:24] Halfling: All right.
[00:05:26] Milton Davis: because I just love it the way it was. And that just, I was a big fan.
[00:05:30] Spaceman: You know, it's funny you're talking about things from back when we were young, I recently decided to rewatch Buck Rogers in the 25th century. And there, there are things that age well and there are things that don't, and Buck Rogers,
[00:05:44] Milton Davis: Exactly,
[00:05:45] Spaceman: as much as I enjoyed it, when. 12, 13, 14. I'm, yeah,
[00:05:53] Halfling: Yeah, there, there's some things you can look back on with fond nostalgia, I guess. Then you can watch it over, over again and get the same enjoyment. And then there's some things that just don't age well, you know, and
[00:06:05] Milton Davis: That's definitely true.
[00:06:07] Halfling: The memory that you have of that first experience is better than the actual experience.
[00:06:13] Halfling: You remember it more fondly and being better than it necessarily was at the time.
[00:06:21] Spaceman: Thank goodness for nostalgia goggles.
[00:06:22] Halfling: There you go.
[00:06:25] Spaceman: Let's talk a little bit about your writing. So how long have you been writing now?
[00:06:30] Milton Davis: As far as publishing is concerned, I've been writing since 2005. That's when I decided to go ahead and get serious about it. I actually been writing before then I started playing around with it, dabbling around with it when I was in college back in the late eighties. This is an interesting story.
[00:06:48] Milton Davis: Well, I had a college instructor, Anna Holloway, we're actually Facebook friends now, and I was in college, I was Fort Valley State, majored in chemistry, and I got in her class and she gave us an essay to write. So I wrote this essay and the next day she said, I need you to come by my office. So I'm like, okay, what did I do now?
[00:07:07] Milton Davis: Did I write something that I wasn't supposed to write about
[00:07:10] Halfling: Uhuh.
[00:07:11] Spaceman: Oh Lord.
[00:07:12] Milton Davis: so I go to her office and she says, um, why are you majoring in chemistry? You know, you are a great writer. You should be writing. And I said, well, because writers don't make any money. And I'm a testimony to that to this day. But, anyway, she was actually the person that got me into science fiction.
[00:07:30] Milton Davis: I think she made the connection between science and, you know, what I was doing and, and fiction. So she introduced me to science fiction. She introduced me to Isaac Asimov, to Arthur C. Clark to Heinlien, you know, all the classic, the golden age science fiction authors and stuff, and I started reading these and then she started encouraging me to write my own stuff.
[00:07:52] Milton Davis: She would say, I think you could write something like this. So I started dabbling around writing me little short stories and she would take a look at 'em and she would tell me what she thought about 'em and corrections and stuff like that. And then I graduated from college and life happened. So I would kind of off and on, come back to it.
[00:08:07] Milton Davis: I was trying to get published at one time. I did the Writer's Digest thing. They teamed you up with a novelist, and they took you through a course. And I did that and I took some continuing education courses, but it wasn't until 2005 when I sat down and said, you know what? I really want to do this. And when I looked at the industry, I didn't think that the publishers would be interested in what I wanted to do, which was write, science fiction and fantasy based on African diaspora culture. And at the time, self-publishing was becoming pretty well known and I had had my own business earlier, so I figured, okay, I can write my own books and I can publish my own books and I could sell my own books.
[00:08:51] Milton Davis: And that combination just said, okay, let's go ahead and do this and do it our way. And we want to worry about any publishers or editors or anybody like that not liking what we are gonna do. Cuz what we're gonna do is we're gonna write our stuff and we're gonna go out and find our audience and so that was my whole approach and that's what I've been doing.
[00:09:07] Milton Davis: I officially started in 2008. That's when I started my publishing company. So I've been doing it since then. Next year it'll be about 15 years.
[00:09:16] Halfling: Wow. That's impressive. That's impressive.
[00:09:19] Spaceman: It is, being a small indie press ourselves in the past we understand the lift that it takes to do that. And, anytime somebody goes to that extra effort to do it, we just take our hats off to them because it is rough. Amazon has made it a little easier over the years, but you still have as many things to take care of.
[00:09:39] Spaceman: Well, other than actual warehousing books, that you did in the old days.
[00:09:43] Milton Davis: I think the technology has made it much easier, even between when I first started and now. There's so many things that I had to know how to do. It was very hard to set up eBooks back then. You had to set up so many different versions of them. You had to determine who was gonna distribute your books.
[00:10:01] Milton Davis: I got lucky early on and discovered Lightning Source Ingram and signed up for them. And basically they're the only people I've been dealing with, which made distribution for me pretty easy and even now I look at some of the other avenues like drafted digital. Where you can do your eBooks and they would distribute 'em to different outlets and stuff like that.
[00:10:20] Milton Davis: So it is much easier to get into it now than it was 14, 15 years ago.
[00:10:26] Spaceman: So, you had mentioned that you had started, MV Media and you wanted to tell tales of the African diaspora. Could you do us a favor and explain what sword and soul is and how that fits back into your publishing company, MV Media.
[00:10:42] Milton Davis: Well, sword and Soul is actually a term that was coined by Charles Saunders. He was the first person to do what I'm doing now, back in the late seventies and early eighties. He created a character named Imaro and Imaro was actually the first sword and sorcery character who was black and was based in the African culture.
[00:11:00] Milton Davis: And I did not meet Charles. I met Charles right before I let out my first book, and it was almost like an amazing thing because we both were inspired by Conan, Robert E. Howard. We both decided to write our characters for the same reason, for the shortcomings we saw in Robert E. Howard's Conans , and a lot of our sources were very similar.
[00:11:22] Milton Davis: It was amazing. And we all, and it was like 20 years apart, that kind of thing. And so when I started talking to him about it, then he said, "well, you know somebody asked me one day, what did I, what do I write? And I called it Sword and Soul." And I said," great. You know, let's, let's run with that."
[00:11:36] Milton Davis: Let's make that be our subs genre, that kind of thing. And basically it's what it kind of sounds like you, it is basically writing sword and sorcery, but instead of using European or Eurocentric history as its background, you're using history from the African continent. And when you do that, there's so much to pull from because the African continent is a vast continent.
[00:12:00] Milton Davis: There are so many different cultures there. Each culture has their own language, their own mythology. And when I first started researching it, I thought because I was coming from a traditional, you know, American education, I thought I was gonna have a problem finding the information to write my stories, but it turned out to be just the opposite.
[00:12:17] Milton Davis: There was just so much information there. I had a problem trying to figure out where I was gonna start and what I was gonna use as my background. And I'm still finding different areas of history and different cultures that I haven't even, touched yet. And it is so many more opportunities to write from that particular background.
[00:12:39] Halfling: Do you tend to pull from different African cultures or do your books tend to focus on one particular African culture or you, like I said, are you pulling them together?
[00:12:51] Milton Davis: I do different cultures. My first book Meji, I called it My Celebration of African Culture, and I wrote it as if, if you were to ask a particular culture, What was their story? What was their origin? Meji would be the story that they would tell you. And when I wrote that, I wanted to show people the diversity of African cultures. And I also wanted to put different cultures in proximity to each other that would not have been that close on the actual continent. So I pulled from a lot of cultures. I had a people called a Sesu that were based on the Zulu. I had a people called 'em Mawena, who were based off composite culture of the Yoruba and the Ashanti.
[00:13:29] Milton Davis: I had culture that I called the Tuaregs, which is basically the name that people actually called the Tuaregs. So I kind of pulled from all these different cultures. And when I wrote the story, I did it on different levels. You could read Meji and not know anything about any of these cultures and enjoy the story. But if you were from these particular cultures, you could read Meji and you would identify certain things that came from your culture and that was a fun part of it because I had people who were from some of these cultures and that read the book and they was like, "oh man, I could tell you did your research because you talked about this and you talked about that."
[00:14:04] Milton Davis: You know? And it was just really fun talking to those people cause they were picking these things up and stuff. But at the same time, it also sparked a lot of people to do research because they wanted to know where did he get this from, you know? And then they would start doing their own research and start finding out about these cultures and getting details about 'em as.
[00:14:23] Halfling: Well, I think that's wonderful and I think that there are a lot of people who would love to read more, you know, more books, more stories from different points of view, different cultures, and different backgrounds. Not just the Eurocentric kind of backgrounds or whatever that seems to be rather prevalent.
[00:14:43] Spaceman: I don't know. Halfling, I think that as many versions of the Iliad as we've gotten over the centuries,
[00:14:48] Halfling: Oh Lord,
[00:14:51] Spaceman: maybe people just wanna hear the same story.
[00:14:54] Halfling: Well, look, look, if you can turn Odyssey into, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, I mean, that's,
[00:15:00] Spaceman: I stand corrected.
[00:15:02] Halfling: That's that, you know.
[00:15:04] Milton Davis: I think, I think that the, it's not so much of the, what the audience wants to read. It's a situation of what the editors and the publishers think the audience wants to read. One of the things that I think helped the growth of what we do as black writers is being able to do conventions in places like that where we went directly to the readers.
[00:15:25] Milton Davis: And so you think that, you've heard over the years that if you write this, people aren't going to wanna read it, they're not gonna be interested. But I've never found that to be the case when I do conventions. Whenever I'm out there selling my books and I tell people what my stories are about, they're interested in the story and they buy the story and these are some of the same stories that years ago, if I had gone to an editor or a publisher, they would've told me, well, nobody's really interested in that. And that kind of to me explains that there's a particular disconnect sometimes between publishers, what they think people want and what people actually want. And sometimes it's not so much of a disconnect as it is a situation where somebody looks at it and says, "Well, I know some people might like this, but can I sell enough of it for me to make money?" And that's where the gate keeping comes in. That's why I like conventions so much because when you're at that convention or when you're at that book festival, you don't have any of that stuff between you and the reader.
[00:16:23] Milton Davis: All you have to do is tell 'em what that story's about. If they think it's a good story, they'll buy the book.
[00:16:27] Spaceman: Right, right. At conventions you connect directly with other people. It's a wonderful experience and I'm glad you've had a lot of success at conventions. Cause we are big believers in conventions.
[00:16:38] Milton Davis: I probably don't do as many of 'em as I should . But whenever I do them, I always have a good time. I'm not surprised anymore cuz honestly, I thought I would be because of what I was writing about. But over the years, that's when I learned that some of the things I had been taught, some of the misconceptions, they weren't really true. And you know, I tell everybody all the time, I said, people just want a good story. That's what they want. You know, there's other people trying to figure out what this is gonna do and how it's gonna act that, but when it's just the reader and the writer, it's a direct connection. And if you tell them something that's interesting enough, they'll buy the book and they'll check it out.
[00:17:16] Spaceman: Well have you found that self-publishing or doing your own press through Ingram Sparks has opened up doors that would've been closed through their traditional method of finding an agent and then having your agent pester the big publishers, and then going back and forth, do you feel like you're less gate kept?
[00:17:35] Milton Davis: Definitely, I'm a hundred percent dedicated to indie publishing. I don't submit books to anybody. Usually when you see my story somewhere, it's because someone has come to me and asked me to submit something to them but I've also seen authors that I've published through my anthologies or maybe some of their novels, I've seen them going on to be signed with major publishers.
[00:17:57] Milton Davis: And that was because we published stories by them that in the past people didn't think someone would wanna read. But by us publishing them and our anthologies, having some of a reputation, these people are getting a chance to actually share their voice. One of the first books that we did, the first anthology that I did was an anthology called Griots, and I did it with Charles Saunders because we both talked about the fact that how we wrote this African based sword and sorcery and how he had a lot of problems with the publishers and how, you know, I had to go through my own struggles.
[00:18:26] Milton Davis: So we said, let's create an anthology. Because we know there are other people out there that probably wrote these same types of stories, but had the same issues that we had. So let's create an anthology that would allow these people to tell their stories the way they want to tell them. And we had people who had written stories 20 years prior that never could get them published.
[00:18:45] Milton Davis: We had people who always wanted to write stories like this but didn't do it because they didn't think they would get them published. And we got those stories and we put 'em together in that anthology. And like I said, this was probably 12 years ago, and that's still one of my most popular books. And a number of the authors that submitted to that anthologies these were their first short stories.
[00:19:05] Milton Davis: And some of 'em have gone on to have some very successful writing careers. You know, so that's another part of what I do with MV Media is to try to create books and anthologies that allow black authors to tell their stories in genres that they don't normally get a chance to tell 'em in.
[00:19:24] Milton Davis: And not only tell those stories, but tell those stories without, trying to figure out whether or not the editor's gonna publish it because they're trying to figure out whether it's gonna, appeal to a white audience or a majority audience. I always tell my authors, tell me the story that you want to tell. That's what I want from you. I don't want you to be looking over your shoulders and thinking that I what I might want, cuz I don't know what I want. I don't know what I want until you put that story in front of me and I say, Hey, this is a great story, but always be honest and tell the story that you want to tell.
[00:19:53] Milton Davis: Because whenever you do that, that's gonna always be your best story. And over the years I've seen that.
[00:19:58] Spaceman: Right. People are only gonna buy the one flavor of ice cream if only one flavor of ice cream is offered.
[00:20:04] Milton Davis: Exactly. That's what it is. That's exactly what it is. I like to use that food analogy too. I say, you know, you can go into this one restaurant and keep complaining about this. Restaurant's not giving you what you want when there's a restaurant right across the street, , that if you just go there, you may find what you're looking for there.
[00:20:20] Milton Davis: You know? But as long as you go into this one, you're gonna get what they're serving. And that's how I see the whole thing.
[00:20:25] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:25] Spaceman: Now, taking a step back from that for a moment, one of the problems that I've seen in the past for book publishers is getting into the larger chains. The major book publishers tend to control those. A lot of times people have more success getting into the indie bookstores, but sometimes that's not the case because they're running on a low margin business as well so they're gonna more likely carry the most recent, Stephen King book than they are likely to carry the most recent Milton Davis book. And how do you deal with that as both an author and a publisher? How do you get your work out to people so that they know that there's that other restaurant across the street?
[00:21:04] Milton Davis: Well, I found a challenge dealing with both indie publishers and indie stores and major chain stores, for different reasons. I tend to stay away from the major chain stores because my fear is that if I got one of them interested in one of my books and they would order like 2000 books and I don't have the marketing structure to move those 2000 books, then 90 days later, I'm gonna get a 1800 books back on my doorstep
[00:21:29] Halfling: Oh Yeah.
[00:21:29] Milton Davis: And I can't deal with that.
[00:21:32] Milton Davis: So I do it locally and there's a couple of local indie stores in Atlanta that I've been working with from day one. One of them was the main reason why I am a writer, because that particular store owner knew the self-publishing process. And when I walked into his store ignorantly and said, Hey, I'm gonna be publishing this book, will you sell it
[00:21:52] Milton Davis: He looked at me and asked me, do you have a cover designer? Do you have all this stuff? He asked me all these questions and I said, of course. I said no to everyone. And every time I said no, he gave me a business card. Call this. Call that person. And then he said, once you get your book together, come back to my store.
[00:22:08] Milton Davis: I have a calendar that I have set up for authors to come in and sell their books. On certain days. You put your name on that calendar and then when that day comes, you come in and you sell your book. And that's basically how I got started in self-publishing. And we still work together till this day. And I learned that some indie bookstores understand the process better.
[00:22:32] Milton Davis: and they work with you better. Whereas other indie stores are kind of like you described, they're only looking at, if your stuff is gonna move off the shelf. They're not gonna do anything to aid that. This first thing they ask you is that, okay, if you put your book in my store, how many people are gonna come in and buy it?
[00:22:49] Milton Davis: And I'm like, I don't know. I'm. I'm hoping that some of your people will buy it. You know? And those are the ones that are more difficult to work with, you know, with the larger stores, over the years I've discovered what they're most interested in. They want your book to look good.
[00:23:03] Milton Davis: They want your book to be returnable and if you're in their area, they want to know what you're gonna be doing to make sure that that book moves through their stores. And those are questions that over the years I've answered. I think they're both challenging, but they're challenging in different ways.
[00:23:18] Milton Davis: And see, I've been in business before, so I understand the sales part, and I've worked for corporations where I was either technical support for sales or I actually did sales for them. So for me, it wasn't as daunting because I kind of knew the process. I just had to figure out what the process was for this industry that I was getting into.
[00:23:37] Halfling: Yeah, we had something similar. We've done an online zine called Crimson Streets, and we published some anthologies of short pulp fiction stories, and we put 'em together and we wanted to put 'em in bookstores because that was how we were gonna generate money to keep our web-zine going.
[00:23:59] Halfling: And it was such a challenge. Even like you said, going to some of the smaller, indie bookstores, they were very hesitant. And that was just a small, small piece of what you've dealt with from what you've said. So we feel the pain but if you can get your books in the stores, regardless of whether they're the bigger chains or whether they're the indie, more power to you. So question for you. Who would you say that has inspired you the most in your journey as a writer and owner of a publishing company?
[00:24:35] Milton Davis: Oh, wow. That's a good question. I've met so many people over the years that have inspired me and have supported me in this process. Charles Saunders was one of the first people that I talked to, there's actually a brother, his name is Richard Tyler and Richard was actually the person who introduced me to Charles.
[00:24:53] Milton Davis: And he also was a person that designed my book covers. He still designs my book covers to this day, and he's been real helpful in the journey. Linda Addison, who was, a horror poet. You may have heard of her. She was the first black person to win the, What's that word? The Bram Stoker Award for horror.
[00:25:09] Milton Davis: She was one of the very first people who, when I started writing, I came across her and talked to her and she wrote an intro for one of my books and she's been very supportive since then as a publisher. The gentleman, his name is Marcus Williams. He's the one that owns Nubian Bookstore.
[00:25:23] Milton Davis: He was the one that kind of got me up on my feet and showed me the ropes of the business and what I needed to be able to present as a publisher in order to get people, interested in my work. I think he probably would be the biggest influence on me from a publisher standpoint, because I really didn't, I didn't have any references to anybody else as far as publishing is concerned.
[00:25:42] Milton Davis: I would say those would probably be a few of the people. Nicole Kurtz, you know, she has a Mocha Memoirs. Nicole and I met during the con circuit, and we both have kind of been like partners in crime together in this publishing journey. I've published stories by her, she's published stories by me.
[00:25:58] Milton Davis: We put our heads together a lot talking about publishing and that type of thing. It's just a myriad of, man, so many people. Linda Yazi at Georgia Tech. Linda is over the literature department. She specializes in science fiction and fantasy. She was the first person that, allowed us to do a presentation about what we do, the state of black science fiction.
[00:26:17] Milton Davis: We did our first presentation on Georgia Tech campus. In 2012 and actually last month we did a 10th anniversary celebration of that first presentation on the campus. That went really well. I know I'm missing some people in, they're probably gonna say, man, you didn't mention me so I might have some things to answer to after this interview.
[00:26:37] Halfling: Uh, maybe we can do like what, what Marvel does and do a post credit, you know, post, yeah. Post credit, post credit.
[00:26:47] Milton Davis: Yeah, there's so many people along the way. I mean, that's one thing I like about this industry is that there are so many people that are very supportive and very open. To what you're doing. And, of course you run into your detractors, but they are small in comparison to the people who actually give you their time.
[00:27:04] Milton Davis: I think I was, I read something once they, they said, you have to have a lot of nerve. To think that somebody's gonna read what you wrote and you have to have even more nerve to think they're gonna pay you for it. So, I kinda look at the industry that way, so that's why I'm always very, thankful whenever somebody picks up a book and reads it and likes it and buy it, and then they continue to buy it.
[00:27:23] Halfling: Yeah..
[00:27:23] Spaceman: Well, you know, I say that it takes a small man to put somebody down, but it takes a big man to lift somebody up. So,
[00:27:30] Milton Davis: you go. Yep.
[00:27:31] Halfling: Yeah, that's a good thing. I like that. I'm not sure who came up with it, but yeah, that's a good, that's a good saying. So I guess Milton the counterpoint to the question that I asked was, Is there somebody that you would love to meet that you haven't had the opportunity?
[00:27:49] Milton Davis: Ooh, one one.
[00:27:52] Halfling: Here I go again.
[00:27:54] Milton Davis: Yeah, one, one of the good things about this is that over the years, I've got a chance to meet so many people that I actually wanted to meet, from doing the cons and different things like that. As far as right now, I believe for right now, there are the people that I haven't met yet.
[00:28:14] Milton Davis: Actually not in the writing industry. there's some people outside of the industry that I would love to meet right now. Currently, I would really like to meet, Ryan Coogler, the director of the two Black Panther movies. Um, not so, not so much before.
[00:28:28] Milton Davis: What the work he's done there, because I think it's, I think he's done a fabulous job. It's just that I had seen his movies, like his movie Fruitville Station before he was doing the Black Panther movies, and I saw the Creed movie that he directed, and I just think he's just a excellent storyteller.
[00:28:47] Milton Davis: He's got that great balance between, action, but at the same time sensitivity.
[00:28:51] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:28:52] Milton Davis: And I think that's something rare from directors. Cause you have some directors that they specialize in the drama and some of 'em specialize in the action. And I like the way that he's able to be good at both.
[00:29:06] Milton Davis: And I love to sit down with him and pick his brain and talk about that and how he projects that into the stories and stuff.
[00:29:11] Spaceman: Well, you know, that is part of the creative process. The deliverable might be different, but I'm sure that there are many elements of the process that are the same.
[00:29:21] Milton Davis: Exactly. It's telling a story and being able to find that it's something that when I write I'm trying to find that same balance because I like to write action stuff, but also at the same time I like to write stuff that's more personal and sensitive and being able to pull that off in the same story is a challenge sometimes and so always like to see, cuz my real inspiration for writing is really movies. I tell myself what I'm trying to do is write a movie on page and I want you to read my books and feel as though you're sitting in front of a big screen watching a movie.
[00:29:53] Milton Davis: And the first time I started publishing my books and people started saying, you know, man, reading your book is like watching a movie. I got so happy. I'm like, that's exactly . That's exactly what I want you to experience when you're reading my books. All writers want to be visual.
[00:30:06] Milton Davis: Some of us like prose and more than anything else, we like to get people caught up in the words, and I like those, type of books too, but I want people to see. A very clear image. And that's one thing I always hear over and over again when people read my books. They say, man, it's just so, the detail is, everything's just so vivid.
[00:30:23] Milton Davis: I'm like, well that's, cuz that's what, that's how I imagine. I imagine myself sitting at a audience, looking at a screen and watching this movie and that's when the thing that I try to convey and I said, why I mentioned, Ryan Coogler because , that part of the process is what inspired me a lot as a writer.
[00:30:38] Spaceman: So have you, had any of your works adapted into audiobooks,
[00:30:43] Milton Davis: I've done 'em myself, as a self-publisher. I've done three of my books. I have a book called Woman of the Woods that is an audio book, and I have another book called Fallen, which is an audio book, and I have a book called the Long Walk. Now, woman of the Woods and Fallen are both sword and soul stories.
[00:31:05] Milton Davis: Woman of the Woods is about a woman. It's interesting, this was inspired by the Mino of Dahomey, which everybody's knows about now because of Black Panther. But, anyone that was basically doing research in the African history would always come across the, some people call 'em the black amazons of Dahomey. And another funny thing about it was that, Charles Saunders actually did the same thing. He created a character named Dossouye who was inspired by that. And it was, so again, that was one of those conversations that we had, and we both laughed about it because he told me about Dossouye.
[00:31:35] Milton Davis: I said, well, you know, I just created this character Sadatina, and she was inspired by the same thing, you know, so , it came from that same background, but that one is a woman warrior story that I told years ago. And Fallen is a story about, literally about a fallen spirit. Who has been condemned to a human form in order to serve the spirits for a transgression that she made years ago.
[00:31:58] Milton Davis: The Long Walk is actually what we call a Steam Funk story. And it's about a young woman who was delivering a taliman to Harriet Tubman. And the story is about her journey, across America during the 1870s to deliver this talisman in the supernatural forces who are trying to stop her.
[00:32:18] Milton Davis: And so those are the three I've done right now. I do have one based on my Changa Safari series that is just waiting for me to listen to and give it the signal to whether or not it's gonna be active and.
[00:32:29] Spaceman: Oh, you mentioned Steam Funk as a. Genre for your writing? Could you tell us a little bit more about that? That sounds interesting.
[00:32:36] Milton Davis: Well, well, Steam Funk came out of a conversation. I used to be in a group called, the Black Science Fiction Society on Facebook, and I don't remember how the conversation exactly started, but someone started talking about the lack of representation in Steampunk. And so the conversation kept growing and growing.
[00:32:55] Milton Davis: And at that time, I'm publishing, so I said, Hey, you know, we're authors. Let's stop talking about it. I want everybody who's interested to write a story, a Steampunk story with Black main characters. and we'll put an anthology out. And so the conversation was like, well, what are we gonna call it? So, Maurice Broaddus, was in the conversation at the time, and he had already let out a Steam Funk story called Pimp My Airship and
[00:33:18] Milton Davis: He said, basically, he said, basically
[00:33:23] Spaceman: No, I love that title.
[00:33:24] Halfling: I do too. That's great.
[00:33:26] Milton Davis: is, it's actually a novel now. He actually has it out as a novel now. But he said, well, I call my stuff Steam Funk. And so we said, cool, we'll just call the anthology Steam Funk. So we released the anthology out and it was actually the first anthology that approached Steampunk from a marginalized, people, perspective.
[00:33:47] Milton Davis: And it was really interesting. There was a steam punk convention in Atlanta. That we decided that we would go to this Steampunk convention and we would debut Steam Funk there, and honestly, I was not expecting a great response. Because to be quite honest, there were not a lot of black people at this particular convention, but my co-editor, Balogun Ojetade, was scheduled to do a presentation about Steam Funk.
[00:34:12] Milton Davis: And so we're right outside the door, set up what our books, where they were doing the presentation and he did the presentation and then the doors flew open and everybody just came over to the table saying, Hey man, let me buy some of this funk.
[00:34:23] Halfling: Ah,
[00:34:24] Milton Davis: that kinda
[00:34:25] Halfling: success
[00:34:27] Milton Davis: Exactly, and it was mostly well received, but we also got some feedback, some pushback because there were some people that were saying that Steampunk had always been inclusive and that we were dividing people by bringing out something like that.
[00:34:44] Milton Davis: And, our response was if it has been inclusive from a standpoint of participants in cosplay, but it hasn't been inclusive as a standpoint from including other cultures. And the fact that the book was doing so well shows that there was a need for it.
[00:35:03] Spaceman: It does seem that steam punk as a genre is very British
[00:35:10] Milton Davis: It is. But what was really interesting about it was that it sparked a slew of other anthology where people were taking a look at Steampunk from different perspectives. A Southeast Asian, Steampunk anthology was re released, and so many were coming out from different cultures because it was almost like people were waiting for permission.
[00:35:26] Milton Davis: To tell these stories the way that they wanted to tell 'em. And after we came out with Steam Funk, we started just seeing a bunch of other people coming out and doing the same thing and stuff, you know? So it was really nice to see that happening. And the stories were great to read because now you were getting stories that were not so much from the Victorian British perspective.
[00:35:45] Milton Davis: You were getting stories from the other cultures that existed during that time, told from their point of view.
[00:35:51] Halfling: We, we've watched some anime, Steampunk. Which is interesting, like you said, it's different. It's a different culture and it provides a different background. And the stories that we have seen, I hate to say it, but we're not big readers. Exactly.
[00:36:08] Halfling: We listen to a lot of audio books and I am actually reading a book right now as well. But for the most part we're not big readers, so we watch a lot of things on tv, movies, et cetera, and audiobooks for our fiction and some non-fiction stuff.
[00:36:23] Halfling: But watching the anime that's got Steampunk elements to it is kind of interesting, too. So I'm really glad to hear that y'all sort of sparked this, you know, sort of like, well, I don't wanna be the first one, but some, they're, like you said, waiting for waiting for permissions.
[00:36:41] Halfling: Like, I want to, but I'm not gonna be the first one.
[00:36:43] Milton Davis: Well, that, that's the beauty of being an indie publisher. You don't go into this as a business looking over your shoulder. It's like you have an idea of what you want to do, and then you want to do it and you know that you're, at the same time, you're kind of creating your own audience.
[00:36:56] Milton Davis: And that's the way I've always looked at it. I looked at it as, I wasn't trying to take anybody audience, I wasn't trying to appeal to a certain audience. My thing was, we're gonna tell these stories. I'm gonna tell these stories, and I'm gonna find the people who wanna read them and like reading them.
[00:37:09] Milton Davis: And that was the whole focus.
[00:37:11] Spaceman: You know Milton, now you got me wanting to do a whole episode on just Steam Funk. I, yeah.
[00:37:20] Milton Davis: I'll tell you honestly, there have been a couple of people that have written some stories in it. Maurice Broaddus, has a book that, I can't remember the name of the title of it right now that actually deals with a gentleman from Jamaica.
[00:37:32] Milton Davis: One thing I found about the, big publishers that when you're a small publisher and you create something big publishers will do everything in their power. Not to call it what you call it, it's like not lending legitimacy to what you created. They'll call it like afro steam punk or something like that, that kinda, they'll give their own little spin to it and stuff.
[00:37:50] Spaceman: Yeah, so they'll call it retro Afrofuturism
[00:37:53] Milton Davis: Yeah, something like that, you know? But I've seen stories that if I was to define them, I would call 'em Steam Funk, based on what we've been able to create. And I still feel like there's not enough of it out there. And so, I'm always looking for people who are writing in that vein and hopefully getting a chance to publish 'em.
[00:38:13] Milton Davis: There's been a lot of people asking us when we were gonna. A Steam Funk too. Um, which we will probably, and I'm thinking about doing it. Steam Funk and spelling the two "t o o." so I'm thinking about probably doing something within the next couple of years, if not in 2023, be probably be 2024.
[00:38:32] Halfling: Well are you seeing sort of a shift in general, fiction, towards acceptance of more marginalized authors and voices are you seeing that kind of across the board? I don't know the scope of what you put out there and what you consume as a reader yourself.
[00:38:51] Halfling: So this may be a question you can't really answer, but I'm just curious if you see a generalized trend in fiction toward more marginalized voices.
[00:39:02] Milton Davis: You do. I see it very prominently now. You have over the past two years you've had Nnedi Okorafor. She was the first black person to win the World Fantasy Award. You have N. K. Jemisin. She was the first person to win three Hugo Awards three years in a row. So you see more and more, marginalized voices being recognized in the industry.
[00:39:22] Milton Davis: It hasn't come easy. Most of us remember the sad puppies incident, where there were a group of people who got together who were deliberately trying to keep books like that from being nominated. and for awards and stuff but over the years I've seen it become, I'll say it more acceptable from a publishing standpoint. The readers were there long before the publishers were, like I mentioned, over the years, during the conventions, the readers were, I've never really felt any pushback from readers. The people who weren't interested just didn't come to my table.
[00:39:57] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:57] Milton Davis: You know, but the people that were came, and I would do cons.
[00:40:03] Milton Davis: I've done cons all over the East coast. I've done a few in the Midwest, and I've never been in a situation where I felt like what I was doing was not well received and I think there's like a circle between writing and movies and Black Panther did a lot. The Black Panther movie did a lot of pushing the door open, wider, because what it did was expose it to a wider audience.
[00:40:28] Milton Davis: We kind of exist in a bubble when we do science fiction and fantasy. There's a certain group of people that like what we do and a lot of us don't realize how many people don't even recognize or look at what we do outside that bubble. Until you see something like a Black Panther comes out. and like in my case, my church organized a trip , to the first movie.
[00:40:47] Milton Davis: You know, and now when you get out and do it, I see the difference because it used to be, I had to spend a long time explaining to people what I was doing and what I was trying to do. But now it's a lot easier because people have been exposed to it. And it's almost to a point where people expect it. I've been out there 14 years, somebody who bought my book when I first came out, that was 10 years old or 12 years old, you know, they're in their twenties now.
[00:41:13] Milton Davis: And so unlike me, where this was introduced to me as being something brand new and having to create it myself. There are people out there that have grown up with it, so it's becoming more normalized.
[00:41:28] Milton Davis: We still have a ways to go but , it's better than what it was before. And as for new authors coming into it, there's more opportunities than it was before and there's less pushback. It's still there, but it's not like it was when we came out and it's easier for them to see their books being picked up and bought and recognizing that kind of thing.
[00:41:51] Halfling: What advice would you give for new authors? Especially, people that haven't had the opportunities in the past and maybe now they do have the advantage, like you said of these types of stories being more available but what kind of advice would you give to somebody, who may be black or may be Asian or what have you, wanting to get started.
[00:42:15] Milton Davis: Well, the first thing I always tell authors is to write your passion. You know? Don't pay so much attention to what you think people might buy. Now don't write so much for market as you wanna do right for yourself. And write your passion because you can write a great story and you can find your market.
[00:42:30] Milton Davis: I would tell them to be open to both sides of the process. Look at traditional publishing, but also look at self-publishing, because there's advantages to both of them and there are a lot of authors out there now these days, myself included, that are like, hybrid authors, we do self-publishing and we do traditional publishing.
[00:42:48] Milton Davis: You know, it just depends on the opportunities there and I guess one of the main things now though is to be proactive. The industry now calls for you to be your own sales person. Even mainstream publishers these days will take a look at your social media to see what you're doing in social media, and that's part of their consideration of publishing you.
[00:43:07] Milton Davis: Now, they expect you to have done some kind of work, to make yourself known. So it's a new world. That's just the way it is now. I mean, you're not in that time where a publisher would pick you up and nurture you and grow you and then introduce you to the world.
[00:43:21] Milton Davis: They expect you to do a lot of that work yourself and so understanding that, I guess that all leads to just saying, study the industry. Understand what people are doing these days, and understand what it's gonna be required for you to do and realize that if you're looking to have any kind of financial success or monetary success in it, that there are gonna be some steps that you're just gonna have to take that you can't avoid, you know?
[00:43:41] Spaceman: We've had a lot of people tell us how much hustle they have to do to promote their art, their writing, their publishing, or whatever their discipline is, that the days of relying on the publisher to be more than just somebody who prints books and ships them out are pretty much over un unless you're Stephen King.
[00:44:03] Milton Davis: Exactly. That's exactly. It's just, I was used to it because again, like I said, I had been in business so. That part of it didn't intimidate me. Matter of fact, I planned for doing that when I got into the business. I talked to a lot of authors who, when they get into it, how it just kind of hits 'em in the face and they didn't, man, I gotta do all this.
[00:44:21] Milton Davis: I gotta, I gotta do this. I gotta, I gotta do all these interviews. I gotta, you know, I gotta get online and tell people about my book. I'm like, well, That's the industry now, and you know, it's just part of what you have to do. If you're just writing for your own pleasure and you don't wanna sell a lot of books, you just wanna get it out there, then you don't have to worry about that.
[00:44:39] Milton Davis: If you're trying to have some kind of financial success from it or something like that, then there's just some things that you'll have to do. I used to teach a self-publishing course, before the pandemic. I did it for about like eight years straight.
[00:44:49] Milton Davis: And, and one of the first things I would talk about is I would ask a person, why are you doing this? Because that answer to that question is gonna determine how you're gonna do it, you know? . And if you're gonna get into Indie Publishing, then you gotta do a lot of work. If you're gonna do mainstream publishing, then you still gotta do a lot of work.
[00:45:06] Milton Davis: But you gotta put in a different direction, you know? So, and I had people, I had people who got up and walked out
[00:45:12] Halfling: Oh wow.
[00:45:14] Milton Davis: and I was like, well, they're being honest because they're learning what it's gonna take. And some of 'em are like, well, you know, I don't wanna be bothered with that.
[00:45:20] Milton Davis: You know, I don't really wanna write that bad, that kinda thing.
[00:45:22] Halfling: Well, I think sometimes people get a little disillusioned to start with and maybe they think they're gonna put out the next best seller, right off the bat and then they get disappointed because that obviously didn't happen. But you're right.
[00:45:37] Halfling: At least these people that walked out, right off the bat, I'm not willing to invest all that time and the energy that it takes.
[00:45:45] Milton Davis: Yeah. I was one of those people that thought I was gonna write a bestseller, right out the bat.
[00:45:49] Spaceman: Yeah.
[00:45:50] Halfling: Oops, sorry.
[00:45:52] Milton Davis: if you look at my two eight business plan, you say, what was he thinking? You know, but I learned the industry, I understood how it was, and then I decided to stay in it despite seeing what I, despite learning what I learned.
[00:46:04] Milton Davis: Because the bottom line is that I like what I write. I'm passionate about it. And I think, there are people who like it too, and I think there's a purpose for it. So I keep on doing it.
[00:46:14] Spaceman: Well, if we ever meet up at a convention, I'll take you aside and we'll have a couple of drinks and we'll talk about crazy optimistic business plans.
[00:46:23] Halfling: He could tell you a thing or two about that. Yeah, y'all could share stories
[00:46:27] Halfling: for sure. Can, we can share stories
[00:46:29] Spaceman: and let's hope that nobody who's young and aspiring listens to them.
[00:46:38] Halfling: Well, what exciting projects are you working on right now? And where can people find you and find out about MV Media?
[00:46:47] Milton Davis: Okay. Well, right now, I'm, actually, Starting to expand a little bit from a publishing standpoint, I'm working on a collection of short stories that was edited by Eugen Bacon. She's a new sci-fi fantasy author, out of Australia. Has really been taking the industry by storm right now.
[00:47:05] Milton Davis: And we met early on when she released her first book and I had a chance to interview her in Atlanta. And she has a book that she's putting out, it's called Languages of Water, which is a collection of short stories about different aspects about water and how they influence culture. and it's really cool because it's from authors from around the world and some of the stories are actually written in the languages of those authors.
[00:47:26] Milton Davis: I'm really looking forward to doing that. I've got a collection, it's a special edition of collection of one of my books called Changa's Safari. I decided to take all four books and put 'em into one particular book. It's a hard back. It contains artwork that was based on the stories over the years and I'm really looking forward to releasing that as well.
[00:47:45] Milton Davis: And I've got a bunch of projects. I could probably spend another hour talking about all the projects that I'm working on right now. Cause I'm always doing something. I have published 26 books on my own that I've written. I have another 20 books that I have published that are anthologies or books by other people.
[00:48:01] Milton Davis: So there's always other projects going on right on as we speak. But if you're looking to find me, I have a website. My company website is www.mvmediaatl.com. My author Vanity website, is www.miltonjdavis.com. Cuz sometimes I have to separate the two.
[00:48:24] Milton Davis: Um, I'm also on Facebook on the Milton Davis. I'm on Instagram under, obadoro, which O B A D O R O. Which is, a name from one of my characters and on, oh, I'm not there anymore. I used to be on Twitter, but I'm not there anymore, so you don't need to know that one. But that's basically where you find me. I'm either one of those places. I'm very active on Facebook and I have a number of groups on Facebook. But the best starting point is to start at my Milton Davis thing.
[00:48:55] Halfling: Okay, well, we'll be sure to get all that in the show notes for our listeners.
[00:49:00] Milton Davis: Thanks.
[00:49:01] Spaceman: Well, I think that's gonna wrap it up for the day. Thank you so much Milton, for talking with us and we've had a great time getting to know you and hearing a story about your journey. We wanna also thank our listeners for tuning in today. We hope that you've enjoyed and perhaps become inspired by today's guest Milton Davis, we want to give Milton a huge thank you for joining us today
[00:49:22] Halfling: Yes. Thank you so much. We appreciate you taking the time to join us and it has definitely been a pleasure to get to meet you.
[00:49:29] Milton Davis: Thank you. It's been fun to be here.
[00:49:30] Spaceman: And this is the Spaceman of the Halfling and the Spaceman signing off.