At the Heart of Horror: Valjeanne Jeffers, Remembered

Around this time last year, I was interviewing authors for the Horror Writers Association’s Black Heritage Month blog series when I received the heartrending news that Valjeanne was coming toward the end of her life. She let me know that she was very ill, and asked if I could interview her over the phone, rather than via email, because of her illness. I said yes, of course, and proceeded to type up her answers as she dictated them to me over the phone. Valjeanne told me at the time that she didn’t think she’d be around very much longer. I asked her if there was anything I could do, and she spoke in glowing terms of her longtime boyfriend Quenton Veal checking on her regularly. 

Just six months later, she was gone, taking her remarkable light from the world and leaving so many of us grieving. Nonetheless, her legacy lives, not just in her body of work but in the way she impacted virtually everyone with whom she came into contact.

Valjeanne was an exceedingly kind and warmhearted woman, known to many of her friends and loved ones as Sister Moon, which was her email and social media tag. Thaddeus Howze spoke of this in his memorial piece honoring her, “A name to conjure by: Sister Moon, Valjeanne Jeffers,” which ran in the San Francisco BayView.

Like Thaddeus, I never had the honor nor pleasure of meeting Valjeanne in person, though we were on many of the same virtual convention panels (particularly during the extended stay-at-home period at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic), and we had also spoken over the phone several times.

Valjeanne was one of the writers I profiled on my original list of 60 Black Women in Horror, which I put together back in 2013. Although I didn’t know her at the time, I met her the following year and interviewed her for my blog. 

The first time I spoke to her on the phone, I remember her patiently explaining how to pronounce her name, Valjeanne. She was named after Jean Valjean from the Victor Hugo novel “Les Miserables” and her name was pronounced the same way, the “Jeanne” is pronounced more like “Joan” than “Jean”—most accurately, like something halfway between “Joan” and “John”, just like Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek.  Her mom was a huge fan of the play.

If you haven’t read any of her work, I encourage you to start here: Valjeanne’s stories have appeared in many anthologies – Steamfunk (2013); Griots: Sisters of the Spear (2013); Sycorax’s Daughters (2017); The City: A Cyberfunk Anthology (2015); Blacktastic: Blacktastic Con 2018 Anthology (2018); Dark Universe: The Bright Empire (2018); Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler (2017); Blerdrotica I: Sweet, Sexy, and Special Dark (2020); Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures (2016); and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (2007), among others. 

Valjeanne, in addition to being extremely talented and prolific, was the salt of the Earth. She was a warm, kind person who was extremely well-loved by everyone who knew her. I had the pleasure of sharing a number of tables of contents with her, including the anthologies Scierogenous II: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy (2018), Black Magic Women: Terrifying Tales by Scary Sisters (2018), Slay: Tales of the Vampire Noire (‎Mocha Memoirs Press (2020), Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2 (2022). 

She had two series under her belt, The Immortal Series (2009, 2010, 2010, & 2021; about star-crossed shapeshifters), and Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective (2014, 2016, & 2021). She also wrote The Switch: Clockwork (2013; a steamfunk crossover with the “Immortal Universe,”) Colony: The Ascension (2020; a space opera) and Southern Comfort (2016). She was a luminary in the steamfunk subgenre, as detailed in my San Francisco BayView remembrance of her, “The Queen of Steamfunk.”

You can find many writings by Valjeanne, along with interviews and podcasts of her, by searching her name on Her short story “The Lost Ones” can be heard on the Nightlight Podcast.

I shared a table of contents with her for what is likely the last release of her new original work, Blerdrotica II: Couple’s Therapy, which was released in December 2022, half a year after she joined the ancestors. I still recall speaking on Facebook with Valjeanne, Quinton, and another friend James Goodridge about how excited we all were to have been accepted into it. The fact the anthology came out after her death has given me many moments to reflect anew on her loss.

In my heart, I keep forgetting that she isn’t going to be at the book release event or conventions, that I couldn’t ask her for an updated bio for Black Women in Horror Month, that despite the many online panels we were on together I would now never be meeting her in person. Valjeanne was one of those people who always showed up, who could be relied on, whose presence brightened the spaces in which she participated, and the presence of her absence still breaks my heart.


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