The year 2017 greets us with the increased likelihood of many social justice victories being rolled back. We have some of the highest levels of income inequality, case after case of sexual predators not being held accountable and a President who has boasted about sexual assault. More people than ever are distrustful of police due to, among other things, racial disparities in enforcement and sentencing. These issues and more can be connected with either a lack of diversity or a fear of it. It seems more important than ever that we see things from, not just our points-of-view but, from the eyes of others and this is just one reason #WhyArtMatters.
Grant Miller is an author who’s lived most of his life in Connecticut. At this time, he has four published books, all part of a series called the Nephilim Chronicles. Despite being science-fiction, his books seem very well grounded in reality. In Grant’s art we see themes from the past and the present all throughout the entire series. When you read, you’ll find issues of rape culture, stereotypes, gender roles, sex-work, mental-health, and also various stigmas. There are also themes of political corruption, sex-trafficking, government collusion, police militarization, drug wars, and of course biological warfare and experimentation. One of the more prominent themes in the series, is the topic of race. Grant explained to me how “Race was one of the main things I wanted to talk about in Connecticut. Because I feel like it’s not talked about in Connecticut. Connecticut has a past and present of racism. And I wanted to address that through Achilla’s eyes.”
What prompted Grant Miller to write was simple. “I always loved to tell stories.” Grant explained to me. “I used to make up stories all the time about things that I thought were entertaining. I always excelled at writing stories in school.” The names and characters that he used in this series originated about 8 years ago for a story that he ultimately scrapped. There were no aliens, no super-speed, super-strength, or super-senses just tales of everyday life and struggle. It wasn’t until some years later that this series was born. He told me “I’m in law school, I should’ve been studying law, [instead] I’m writing short stories and I’m showing them to other law students and they’re reading them and they’re saying ‘you’re a really good writer’.“
The character that the series revolves around, is what some might call a metahuman, named Achilla Johnson, who we see grow from a pre-teen into an adult. Grant turned the story from fiction to science fiction in part to answer a question. Grant had an affinity for Wonder Woman from DC Comics and felt like she was one of the most underrated characters and how aspects of her character were vastly overlooked. So Grant started to wonder “what happens when Wonder Woman doesn’t have a Justice League? Doesn’t have a superman holding her back? What will happen?” He decided to use the character of Achilla Johnson to answer that question. Throughout the series, Grant digs deep as he takes us on a journey in which we see all the knottiness of the philosophical dilemma of good and evil. He constantly brings up the issue of legality vs justice. Even with his black female protagonist, he didn’t set out initially to address gender but realized “obviously her experience isn’t going to be the same as a black man… That should have been my intent but it wasn’t, but I’m glad that it came in anyways.”
Although he deals with issues of morality, legality, and injustice, Grant says he has no overarching goals or intentions. “I want the readers to walk away with whatever they can” he says “I want them to question things. I don’t want them to always agree with the ‘good guys’ or always agree with Achilla.” He went on to explain “I don’t push any morality, I show Achilla’s morality, but I just show it, and from there you decide.” He expressed that sometimes “subconsciously your characters are there to represent something in your life”, and it makes sense being that he agrees with the late Nina Simone when she said that it’s an artist’s duty to “reflect the times.” Something he appears to be doing very well.
You can purchase Grant Miller’s Nephilim Chronicles on Lulu’s website.
He also maintains a blog, you can view here.
You can read some of his journalism regarding Connecticut basketball here.