theGrio’s 100: Tananarive Due, writer brings black fantasy heroes to the screen

theGRIO'S 100 - Tananarive Due is a writer, and now film producer, working tirelessly to bring images of blacks in science fiction and fantasy into the mainstream. Due hopes to empower us to cope with life's tests through the gift of a good story...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Who is Tananarive Due?

Tananarive Due is a writer and film producer working to bring images of blacks in science fiction and horror into the mainstream.

Aside from author Octavia E. Butler, few black writers are celebrated for depicting the African-American experience via fantasy fiction. Due has published 16 novels and several short stories in her genre featuring main characters of color.

“I’ve never had a ghost experience, aside from a couple of dreams I could interpret as visits, so for me it’s mostly metaphorical—a prism of reality that helps me process real-life terrors,” Due told theGrio.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100?

Due is now dedicated to revolutionizing our image of sci-fi for the silver screen. The Cosby chair for the Humanities at Spelman College, where she teaches screenwriting and journalism, is taking her filmmaking expertise and partnering with her husband to produce their stories. Her motivation? Hollywood’s resistance to African-American characters.

“I am a novelist and short story writer first, but I became intrigued by the film industry after my books were optioned and I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult to get them produced,” Due continued. “Hollywood is a challenge for everyone, of course, but it’s even tougher for black artists who literally must hear producers or executives say, ‘Do the characters have to be black?’

They resolved to produce their own stories with African-American leads, “and before I knew it, my husband Steven Barnes and longtime friend Luchina Fisher and I were producing a short horror film, Danger Word, based on the YA zombie novel Steve and I wrote called Devil’s Wake,”she said.

What’s next for Due?

Due will continue her quest to bring moving images of African-Americans in fantasy to wide audiences.

“Steve and I are optioning Devil’s Wake to an independent producer now,” she explained, “we’re developing horror ideas for a cable network, and we’re developing my haunted house/possession novel The Good House for TV with independent producers Effie Brown (who produced Sundance selection Dear White People) and Glendon Palmer (who produced Jumping the Broom).”

Due hopes to empower us all to cope with life’s tests through the gift of a good story.

Follow Tananarive Due on Twitter @TananariveDue