It began a couple of weeks ago and then it spread like wildfire. Author Milton Davis posted this in the State of Black Science Fiction Facebook Group:
Okay y’all, here’s an anthology idea…
‘The City. No one knows how it began or when it will end. No one knows how we came to be here, 20 millions souls, 1500 different species all crammed together in plascrete and biosteel. No one’s been in or out of the city in 20 centuries. Some have their theories why, some don’t care. But no matter who you are, or what you are, you have a story, don’t you? The trick is finding someone that cares to listen…’
The reply he received was nothing short of astronomical. Writers in the group started posting snippets of stories set in The City. Then, several writers wrote tie-ins to other writers’ snippets, character from snippets made cameos in other people’s snippets and the readers loved it.
The already popular group grew by 200 members once the snippets started rolling in and many snippets have been shared across social media.
The City is now a thing. Cyberfunk is a thing!
What is Cyberfunk, you ask?
Like the genre from which it gains inspiration, Cyberpunk, Cyberfunk is a genre of Speculative Fiction centered on the transformative effects of advanced science, information technology, computers and networks (“cyber”) coupled with a breakdown or radical change in the social order. Unlike Cyberpunk, however, Cyberfunk is expressed through an Afrikan / Black lens (“funk”).
Often possessing a dark, gritty and cynical tone, Cyberfunk includes elements of Film Noir, hard-boiled Detective Fiction and postmodern deconstruction.
What might seem to be forward thinking in science fiction, in many Cyberpunk works, Afrika is a popular setting. Oddly, though, in Cyberpunk, Afrika often seems to be the one place in fiction that never gets better as time goes on. Occasionally in Cyberpunk, Afrika catches up to the rest of the world technologically, but, of course, it still doesn’t get any better. Technology is advanced, but there is still no reduction in widespread poverty; the continent still suffers from diseases the rest of the world seems to have gotten under control. Poor Afrikans…we just can’t seem to get it together no matter how advanced we are.
This is not the case in Cyberfunk, of course. At least not the case in The City – which may or may not even be set on earth, but one thing is sure, the majority of its inhabitants are of Afrikan descent and in some parts of The City, time and place are described using Afrikan languages and principles.
Heroes are often actually antiheroes and…
Well, I can show you better than I can tell you, so here are a few snippets from The City. Enjoy!
First rule of The City? Never, ever ask questions about The City. They might be watching you. How do you know if you’re being watched? Are you breathing? Then you’re being watched. From the day you were born, hatched, brewed or built you’re watched. Until the day you die, ascend, transcend, melt or rust. Ask a question, then They start paying attention. So live your life. Try to be whatever you want, or don’t want to be. But never question The City. Never, ever question The City.
- Knowledge Lateef, Street Priest. Writer: Milton Davis
I told him that moving to the Northside of The City would change things. Would change US.
Sure, we’ve killed before – me, more than he. But that was for cold, hard credits – hey, a girl’s gotta eat – but on the Northside, you kill because to do otherwise is to flip the middle finger at tradition. And in The City, tradition is everything…especially on the Northside.
I fit right in, but Sly? Well, the Northside traditions just aren’t his thing – a warrior’s honor and all that. I tell him all the time that he’s not on the Westside anymore and sticking to that code of honor is going to get him dead one day, but you can’t break a lifetime of training, I guess.
Me? I’m a Southside girl – born and raised. On the Southside of The City, killing isn’t a tradition, but it sure as hell pays the bills.
-Abeekay Sincere, Swordslinger. Writer: Balogun Ojetade
You just couldn’t keep from teaching the babies the Westside Ways, could you, Sly?
I told you…we were leaving all that behind us, but no…”The inhabitants of The Lush gotta know how to protect themselves,” you said.
Fool! The LUSH protects us! You just couldn’t let that old Warrior Code go. AND you couldn’t just die out there in The Beyond could you? You survived somehow and went back to The City. What? You thought we wouldn’t find out?
Now, I gotta leave The Lush; leave my home; leave my wife and kids and go back to The City and put you down.
And they didn’t send me on this hunt alone, Sly. Samfang is with me.You better HOPE I find you first. You KNOW Samfang won’t end you quickly.
Mama always said you were trouble.
Kofi Sincere, Former Warrior, 1st Class; Resident of The Lush. Writer: Balogun Ojetade
Makay ki ka nabilaa
Iye laidu mi tanye
Ki bi dem
Di ne ma
Ningye fro biye
Aiwa makeh ika fro bana
In that song is the key to this here map, boy…IF you got the gift of Interpretation.
There’s a LOT more songs…a LOT more maps.
Them songs can show you the way out; maybe even show you the way to The Lush.
Now, who you gon’ be down with? Knowledge Lateef or Black Powder?
Black Powder, Bard. Writer: Balogun Ojetade
Abeekay thinks I’m an http – a sentimental, old fool. But it’s the Ways of the Westside that’s gonna buy my way back into The Lush…and, hopefully, Abeekay’s way in to.
I think I’m gonna head back there with my girl on our anniversary. Surprise her. I’ll probably take Knowledge, too. He’s a good dude – hell, he married me and ‘Beekay – and he deserves to be there; to get away from The City’s Watchers, Runners and The Wave.
I can’t tell him where we’re going, either, though…he’d never believe me anyway.
Now, where WERE we?
Oh yeah, YOU dying and ME getting my other sword back.
Sly Sincere, Warrior. Writer: Balogun Ojetade
The hunt is ON, baby!
Not that I want to leave The Lush, you unnerstand, but I ain’t done no killin’ since I let you convince me to leave the Westside behind and come here with you and Sly.
Not that I’m complainin’. The Lush has really helped me with my…problem. And I don’t necessarily WANNA kill, but it’s just been so LONG. A man got needs, Kofi!
And I didn’t ask for this. The Elders chose me; just like they chose you, so don’t look at me like that.
Let’s just go, kill that big brother of yours, get the hell out of The City and back to baskin’ in real sunlight, fishin in real rivers, havin’ sex with real women and…well, havin’ sex with real women!
Samfang, Former Warrior / Interrogator, Resident of The Lush. Writer: Balogun Ojetade
What? You still asking questions? Okay, last answer, one way or another. The River is the Soul of the City. They say everything come from it, and everything eventually goes back to it. You ever been to it? Smells like perfection, doesn’t it? Water as clear as glass. Makes you want to jump in and swim with fishes, doesn’t it? Don’t. And never accept an invitation to go for a walk by the River. As a matter of fact, just stay away from it all together. Shit! I knew it! Walk fast and get the hell away from me. They’re paying attention!!!
Knowledge Lateef, Street Priest. Writer: Milton Davis
I’m from the Heap. Yeah, that low. But when there’s no way but up you learn what needs to be done to get out. You do, you don’t think. But a funny thing happens when you’re staring down on The City. Despite all the credits and all the influence and all the so-called power, you’re still trapped. You’re still nothing, just the nothing on top. Why, because you’re still in The City. And there’s got to be something better than this.
-Tilian Drew. Owner of Ooze, Inc. Writer: Milton Davis
Runners. The eyes, ears and mouth of The City. Whatchu say? We don’t need messengers? Everything is in the Wave? That’s exactly why the Runners exist. You keep forgetting what I told you. Nothing is secret to the City…unless it’s not on the Wave. If you want to send a message, give it to a Runner. They are honest, trustworthy, loyal…and literate. What does that mean? Ha! They can read and write! In any form. Oh yeah, they can take care of themselves pretty good, too. How do I know? I used to be a Runner before I found Street Wisdom. Now I spend my time schoolin’ folks like you, trying to keep you out of the River. The River? That’s another subject.
Knowledge Lateef, Street Priest. Writer: Milton Davis
“When am I?”
The words claw their way up my new vocal cords and yank themselves out of my still developing throat.
My speech is garbled, as it always is during the first few minutes following a shedding. The pitch of my voice is obviously female despite the slur of my words. I haven’t worn the skin of a woman in quite a while; hell, I haven’t worn the skin of a human in quite a while.
Things are about to get…interesting.
“Consciousness confirmed,” my Body Banker whispers into his recorder.
“When AM I?” I ask again. This time, my voice is clearer; husky – almost seductive.
“Lumumba 16th, he answers.”
“Really?” I ask, shocked at the length of my slumber. “It took me that long to shed?”
“You were pretty messed up when your partner brought you in,” the Banker says.
“Thank The Contractor for Lex Talionis!” I reply.
Damn…two months gone…completely wiped from my existence. Two months ago, there was another me – Arno Bailey – strong, handsome and smart enough to pull off a two year undercover operation as cyber security at Ooze, Inc.
Well, maybe not smart enough. That goddamned op led to my death.
But this body feels tougher…stronger. My new op must be wet work. Damn, Lex, what the hell have you gotten us into, now? I gotta get out of The City!
Maybe one day…
I bring my hands in front of my eyes to inspect them. The fingers are thin and long; the knuckles callused and scarred – obviously the work of many fists connecting with jaws.
Yep. Wet work.
Zipporah “Zip” Alonzo, Shedder / Detective 1st Class, Borg Emergency Action Team (BEAT). Writer: Balogun Ojetade
I keep tryin’ to tell y’all fools – the Heap…Ward 215…the River…even The Lush – they’re ALL constructs of – and controlled by – The City!
You think you gon’ escape to The Lush unless it’s by The City’s design?
So what I live in the ‘burbs…I KEEP my ear to the ground, ya feel me?
Yeah, dog…I BEEN hacked The Wave.
Yeah, my daddy owns Ooze Inc., THAT’S what makes is so easy for me to get inside, man!
Damn! Gotta go…here come a couple of Perimeter Patrol pigs!
Vincenzo Drew, Hacker. Writer: Balogun Ojetade
Yea…I been up the wall…up and over. Up past the shell heads…past the tweekers…past the wild girls and past the Blue Authority.
Up through Angel Bay with the haughty golden kids and the richy riches…
Higher than the Sweepers and farther than runners go…
High enough to look down on the Sun Tower and the carrier ships…
Past the smog where even the drones don’t go.
Got to the top…the wide scarred metal and crossed the antennae fields, the dish lake and looked over beyond and up above.
You know what I saw?
Kit Henson, Henson Repairs. Looking up. Writer: Gene Peterson
The Lush? No, it’s not a myth. It’s real, as real as you and me. The one place where the City can’t reach you, where the Watchers can’t watch you. Where is it? If I knew I wouldn’t be talking to you. I’d be there. People are always looking for it though I’m sure a few have found it. But since they ain’t coming back to tell nobody, it stays hidden. Now stop asking questions. They’re going to start paying attention.
Knowledge Lateef, Street Priest; walking away. Writer: Milton Davis
I told you that new enhancement made me feel…funny, papi. I told you AND your crew that I didn’t want to service you anymore…not like YOU wanted me to, papi.
I TOLD you.
Now, the BEAT is talking to me, but the words are all jumbled. I don’t like the words. I think I’ll make them all shut up, just like I made YOU, papi.
Yep…I think that’s just what I’ll do.
Lupe Garcia, Pleasure ‘Borg gone nutter. Writer: Balogun Ojetade
When a ‘borg or an AI goes all nutter butter, The City calls on me, not YOU, Lateef, so don’t get cocky.
Yeah, I know you Street Priests deal with the dark shit that ‘dwells deep in man’ and all that spirit walkin’, shea butter, turkey bacon hocus-pocus and I respect that.
But have you ever seen a ‘borg go nutter? It ain’t pretty and if one of us don’t get to him in time, the BEAT cops are gonna have to come pop a new asshole in his forehead.
And that ain’t pretty either, Street Priest; not pretty at all.
Father Ray, Techsorcist. Writer: Balogun Ojetade
I’d never been above the clouds before. The City spreads before the glass elevator, going on into eternity. Uncle says it never ends. But then again, Uncle says a lot of things. Keep your head down. Don’t spread rumors. Don’t insult the Northsiders. Stay away from the Southsiders. Never, ever challenge a Westsider.
Don’t speak. Don’t think. Don’t act. Don’t live. Just clean, collect your pay, and go home. But how could you look across the vastness of the city and not wonder about it all? Wonder if there is an edge and, if this city does end, what lies beyond it?
Wait, what’s that in the distance? Is that… green?
Cara Usare, Sweeper; wondering. Writer: Sarah Macklin
I’m gonna bring you and all of Ooze, Inc. down, Tilian.
‘Cause you’re screwin’ up The City.
‘Cause you’re walkin’ all over ‘borgs like you own ‘em. And you wanna know the worst part? You’re a ‘borg your goddamned self!
Lex Talionis, Detective 1st Class, Borg Emergency Action Team (“BEAT”). Writer: Balogun Ojetade
Read many more snippets in the State of Black Science Fiction Facebook Group and be sure to give us feedback. And make sure you check out The City: A Cyberfunk Anthology when it releases next year!
*NOTE: None of the images belong to the writers listed. They are merely inspirations and used to give an idea of the aesthetics of The City and of Cyberfunk in general.