Steamfunk * Steampunk * Sword & Soul

Archive for January, 2012

STATE OF BLACK SCI-FI 2012: Why it is important to show race, culture and ethnicity in our writing

State of Black Sci-Fi 2012:
Why it is important to show race, culture and ethnicity in Speculative Fiction

In this blog, I will be addressing authors and soon – to – be authors directly, however, as readers of Black Sci-Fi, it is good to learn the creative process, so as to become more savvy readers, better able to discern good literature from not so good – thus saving yourself valuable time and money.

How different is your speculative fiction world from the present-day “real” world?
The closer your world is to the present, “real” world, the more you can rely on the reader to make correct assumptions about racial, cultural and ethnic identity in your novel. The less it is like the present world, the less you can rely on the reader to make correct assumptions; you will have to do more work to situate the reader’s experience in this different world; particularly, writers of fantasy (e.g. Sword & Soul; Steampunk), which – in most readers’ minds – defaults to Eurocentric settings and main characters.

Every book is an experience that is shared by at least two different people: the writer and the reader. Every writer has a different perspective on how much they are willing to be influenced by readers’ expectations. Certain aspects of the story will be read differently by different readers.

You cannot guarantee that every reader will get the same thing out of your story; in fact, it’s pretty much guaranteed that won’t happen. However, there are certain things that do need to be clear. Of course, the main elements of the plot need to be clear to every reader. If a character is meant to be an anti-hero, that needs to come across clearly.

When it comes to race, you have to decide if you are cool with the reader assuming that any given character might be white. If you are cool with that, then you don’t need to describe your characters’ race(s). If you are not cool with it, then you need to make their racial identity clear. Which raises the question: How do you make a character’s race clear without sounding ignorant or racist?

My writing students often debate about which words to use when describing someone’s skin tone. In an attempt to be more “marketable”, they will describe a character of African descent as “swarthy” or an Asian character as “deep olive”. I tell them that readers might believe that the character just has a tan rather than being from Nigeria or Mongol Uls (“Mongolia”).

If the character is a main or supporting character, to use “African” or “Asian” in their description is fine. However, if the character is a minor character (or “extra”, for you screenwriters) it’s not okay, unless you have written in the first person and your narrator is racist or ignorant as hell. “The Asian girl at the counter turned to look at me,” would make your character (or you) seem overly racially conscious, as the girl’s ethnicity has nothing to do with her being at the counter – unless she’s at a “White’s Only” restaurant or something.

That said, however, writers cannot be slaves to political correctness. If a word fits, use it! Yes, you have to be careful about which words to use, but you should be careful about which word to use in every line…in every sentence, if you want to write good fiction.

If your story is a set in an alternate history or world or is set far into the future, you need to think about how race is experienced in that world. Is it a multiracial world? Do people notice others’ race when they first see them? Are different races exotic or normal; friend or foe? Figuring this out will help you to describe your characters’ races and their reactions to other races. It is also important to remember that race is only superficially about skin color. It’s also about cultural practices, beliefs, rituals, food, language, etc.

Some authors believe you can signal race quickly through a character’s name. However, typical names of characters from the Diaspora (i.e. The Americas, the Caribbean and Europe) do not necessarily sound any different from Caucasian-American or European names; Willie Brown could be black or white. Now, if the name is atypical, such as “Bonquisha Tanqueray Robinson”, well…

And on that note, while giving your character an African name usually does evoke images of your character’s race, it does not denote place of birth. You might name your character Efunsegun Ige (which happens to be part of my full name), assuming your readers will quickly grasp that the character is Nigerian (thus Black). However, if they know someone like me – born and raised on the West Side of Chicago, with parents from Mississippi – your readers might not be so sure, so if you want your readers to know a character’s place of birth, be sure to reveal that at some point in your story.

Now, I’d like to touch briefly on metaphor. It is very important to remember, when writing any speculative fiction, that metaphor is powerful. Even though the world of your story may be extremely different from our “real” world, that story is being read by a reader who dwells in the “real” world, so you must be aware of how race in your speculative fiction world might be interpreted through the lens of that reader.

Be aware of the metaphor you’re broadcasting if you make all of your evil people a certain complexion, and all your heroes a certain different complexion. Be aware of the metaphor in play if a rugged, ruddy-complexioned hero saves all the sepia-toned natives – a la Tarzan.

Peter Jackson’s 2002 film “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” opens with a scene of the Uruk-Hai (“Orcs”) running toward Isengaard with the hobbits Merry and Pippin. For those of you who have seen the film, you will remember that the Uruk-Hai are tall, black, and muscular with long coarse dreadlocks – an image that evokes stereotypical portrayals of black men. The racism was such in this film that at one point, Legolas the elf comments on how quickly the Uruk-Hai move. He says: “They run as if the very whips of their masters were behind them” (P. Jackson).

Tolkien’s original language was actually much more neutral: “The Orcs have run before us, as if the very whips of Sauron were behind them” (Tolkien 35). This makes it apparent that Peter Jackson’s portrayal of the Uruk-Hai – and Legolas’ comment were meant to hammer a metaphor into the viewer. For more on “Orcs” and how they represent people of African descent, please check out my blog, “Racism in Role-Playing” at http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/racism-in-role-playing/.

Ultimately, we must be aware of the words we choose. There is no shortcut here. Do your research, and think about every word you use.

Remember, February 6th is the date of our first Blacktastic Giveaways! Here is a link to what I am giving to a few lucky winners for being so Blacknificent: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/the-state-of-black-science-fiction-2012/

Also, please check out my friends and what they have to say on their blogs. Oh yeah, and they are giving away a lot of cool stuff too!! Here are their links:

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer– is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website http://www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: http://www.mvmediaatl.com and http://www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author– lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is available from Amazon.com Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Thaddeus Howze, Author– is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

Alicia McCalla, Author—writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: http://www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an eBook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fi novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd


CARDS VS. DICE: Who shall emerge Champion?!

Cards vs. Dice
Recently, quite a few people have asked me what system we are basing Ki-Khanga™: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game on. I answer that I created the game mechanic and people respond with “Oh”, “Hmm”, or with silence. Now if Gary Gygax and the boys are capable of creating a game system, why isn’t a brother from the West Side of Chicago?

For those that don’t assume I am too stupid, too lazy, or too uninventive to create a viable and enjoyable game mechanic, I am next asked what type of dice we are using for resolution of actions like combat, running, jumping, building a ship, etcetera. When I answer that we are not using dice, we are using cards, I am met with either joy, pity for my soul, or outright animosity. One brother said with disgust: “Oh, another Amber.” I reminded him that Amber does not use any type of random generator. I also told him that Ki-Khanga™: The Sword and Soul RPG is not “another” anything. As an author, I take pride in my creativity. There is no need to be another Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls, Palladium, Vampire: The Masquerade, or any other game. We are giving the gamer a unique experience or nothing at all. My co-creators feel the same. If we were going to base our game mechanics on someone else’s we’d just create a game supplement.

At this point you might be saying “All that rhetoric sounds good but, hey, cards and dice are both means of generating a random number, so why not just stick to pulling out a few dice and getting people to roll a few random numbers? Stick to what everyone else does, man!”

Because I have no desire to do what everyone else does. If I did, I would not have chosen to be an independent author and filmmaker. I would have – and could have – gone “mainstream”; I have no desire to do so.

Before you dismiss me as insane, or plot my death for such sacrilege, I would like to put in my two cents for the playing card.

1. Playing Cards have a greater subtlety than dice. It doesn’t matter how many sides your die has, a 5 is just a 5. In a deck of cards, 5 could be one of two colors (red or black) or one of four suits (spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds). You can just use the 5 as a five but the color or suit could also indicate something about the particular 5 that has been drawn.

2. Playing cards also come with court cards. These unique cards (Jack, Queen and King) could be wild cards, have augmentation properties or indicate automatic successes or failures.

3. Playing cards come with a greater number of interpretations. There are 10 numbers and three courts per suit… and Jokers!

4. Dice need tables, cards only need hands. Dice need a surface to bounce off so that they can reveal their secrets. A player can sit on a couch in a room with no table and pull cards from a deck he is holding in his hands. With dice, he’d have to hunch down to roll them on the floor. Back pain…poor posture…shame.

I recommend a card-based system over a dice based one but, to each is own. The essential point is that your conflict resolution method should be intuitive. Here are some intuitive ways of measuring:

Numbers
Your random chance will be expressed as a number. When you test you will do some light mathematics and end up with a number. This will be compared to some other number and success or failure will thus be determined. Dice can do this too, but let’s examine the cards further:

Suits
This is one thing dice can’t do. A 6 in a deck of cards could just be a six, but it also possesses a Suit and that Suit could have significant meaning. A six of diamonds could be very different from a six of clubs.
Each Suit can deal with a different aspect of life, attribute, power type, school of magic and so on. For example:
• ♠: Intellect
• ♥: Emotion
• ♣: Spiritual Growth
• ♦: Wealth

You may note that the four categories described here present all sorts of possibilities for bonuses and plot effects. Anything that will give you, as the GM, a break in interpreting what a result means has to be a good thing.
Suits can also denote effects on plot, characters, world events (e.g. weather) or treasures. And don’t forget that cards come in two colors. This expands the possible meanings of the Suit even further. For example, red cards could mean “yes” and black cards mean “no”.

Court Cards
This is where cards really start to take off into a whole different stratosphere when compared to dice. No other randomizer has extra elements built in the way a pack of cards does. Here you have three cards per Suit that essentially have no numeric value.
They are “special” cards. They could mean something or nothing. You can even remove them if you feel they are unnecessary.

Aces
With dice, a roll of 1 is either great (on testing systems that go low) or disastrous (on testing systems that go high). Cards have tended to indicate there is something special about the number ‘one’. It’s called the “Ace”, after all – as in ‘acing’ a test, or an ‘ace’ pilot. One of the distinct problems of dice based systems is that once players are used to the system, they can tell, from a roll, what kind of result they’ve achieved. Cards allow for more flexibility in this case.

Jokers
Just when you thought a single randomizer couldn’t get any cooler, along comes a card without a numeric value or a suit. A card that essentially represents a kind of “all bets are off” concept. The power and versatility of the Joker card is exemplified by how the card itself has stepped out of the deck and into unrelated games like quizzes. The Joker symbolizes that some extraordinary game event has been introduced. Whether you harness this power for your own adventures is up to you.

Multiple Decks
If you take a die, add another die what do you have? Well, two dice. Take a deck of cards and add a second deck of cards and you could have a couple of things – Firstly, you have one HUGE deck of cards. Secondly, you could buy two packs of cards which are of different brands. Then, you have two different decks. You could use one for straight numeric randomizing and the other as a kind of fate deck and/or fortune deck. The possibilities are many.

Hopefully, I have helped to open your eyes – and mind – to the power of card decks as a randomizer in role-playing. Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG uses playing cards quite ingeniously for fun, exciting and versatile play.


State of Black Sci-Fi 2012: Why I Love Steampunk!

State of Black Sci-Fi 2012: Why I love Steampunk!

Airships…steam-trains…top-hats…goggles, gears, clockwork and floating, mechanical castles. These – and much more – are the stuff of Steampunk!

Still stumped as to just what Steampunk is? Well, you could just pick up a copy of my book – Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2) (http://www.amazon.com/Moses-Chronicles-Harriet-Tubman-Books/dp/1477422889/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1342614088&sr=8-2&keywords=moses+chronicles+of+harriet) – and enjoy a pretty cool Steampunk novel, if I may say so, myself – or read on and I will define Steampunk for you (feel free to still get the book, though – I won’t be mad at ya’).

Steampunk is a literary genre – a marriage of science fiction and fantasy that features the technological and social aspects of an Age of Steam. In the world of Steampunk, steam is the “nuclear power” of an industrial era – whether that era takes place during the Victorian Period of the 1800s, in ancient Egypt, or in a future in which electricity and steam takes the place of fusion power.

The funny thing is – I was writing and enjoying Steampunk long before ever hearing of the genre. I – and many of you, I am sure – was a fan of Steampunk for decades before the term “Steampunk” existed. From 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; From A Series of Unfortunate Events(Lemony Snicket) to The Golden Compass; from the old Wild, Wild, West television show to Warehouse 13 – all of these are Steampunk. Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes and even Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein – all Steampunk!

I have always loved Steampunk because it is so damned cool! I mean, in what other genre can you find a team of superheroes with a roster that includes Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo and Tom Sawyer?
In what other genre can you find Harriet Tubman in a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse with John Wilkes Booth?
In what other genre can you find a brother as cool as Catcher Freeman(or as frightening as his alter-ego – Catch – a – Freeman)?

I love Steampunk…for the most part.
What I do not love is the lack of main characters of African descent (hell, the lack of main characters of any descent, other than European). The literary genre, as well as the design aesthetic, is wrought with racism and sexism (as is the fantasy genre, in general). A few authors of African-descent are changing this; and, as we discover how much fun it is to write in this genre, many more of us will join in.

I already mentioned my book, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman – available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or directly through http://www.mochamemoirspress.com – and there are a couple of other Blacktastic Steampunk tales that I know you will love as much as I do:

The Switch, by Valjeanne Jeffers: http://mochamemoirspress.com/the-switch/
The Delivery, by Milton J. Davis: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76098823/The-Delivery

For a short story I wrote that combines Steampunk with the Sword & Soul fantasy subgenre, check out The Hand of Sa-Seti: http://www.scribd.com/AuthorBalogun/d/78886474-THE-HAND-OF-SA-SETI-A-Ki-Khanga-Tale

Oh, and for those few of you who do not know where to find the aforementioned cool-cat, Catcher Freeman – a character who made his first appearance on The Boondocks animated series – check out this video homage I made in his honor a while back: http://blackcommunityentertainment.com/videos/36/catcher-freeman

For more authors and the genres of fiction theylove, check out:

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer–is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L.M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website http://www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Milton Davis, Author –Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: http://www.mvmediaatl.com and http://www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author–lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is available from Amazon.com Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author –is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at:http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Thaddeus Howze, Author–is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

Alicia McCalla, Author—writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: http://www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole:http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek1-i73Pc70&feature=youtu.be


THE STATE OF BLACK SCIENCE FICTION 2012!

State of Black Sci-Fi 2012

There is a Blaxciting and ongoing event that is continuing through the end of February that I am participating in. It is “The State of Black Sci-Fi 2012″ blog dialogue with other writers and creators of black sci-fi/fantasy/spec fiction. It promises to be a great event, full of lively discussion about the present state and future of Black Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction.

Each of the authors/artists will be giving away prizes to a lucky few who participate in the discussion.
Our first giveaway day will be Monday, February 6,2012. I will be giving away a copy of my e-novel: Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman and a signed copy of my non-fiction book (which includes a 60-minute CD interview): Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within. There are several ways to win. You’ll receive:
1 chance for subscribing to my blog.

1 chance for posting a comment on my weekly “State of Black Sci-Fi” blog.
1 chance to win for sharing the link to my weekly “State of Black Sci-Fi” blog on Twitter (Follow me @Baba_Balogun)
and
1 chance to win for following me on Twitter.

For each chance you accumulate, you will receive one entry into the contest. All of the entries will be totaled and a winner will be selected at random. After February 6, we start all over again.
Also, since February is my birth month, I will throw in a free martial arts class at The Afrikan Martial Arts Institute to two subscribers in the Atlanta area. Heck, if you don’t live in the Atlanta area, but plan to visit one day, subscribe to my blog and comment that you are interested and two out of-towners will also receive a free martial arts class whenever they are in town!

And please check out the other Blacknificent authors and artists that are participating in this Blacktastic event! They are giving away tons of cool stuff too!!

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer– is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website http://www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: http://www.mvmediaatl.com and http://www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author– lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is available from Amazon.com Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at:http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Thaddeus Howze, Author– is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

Alicia McCalla, Author—writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: http://www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole:http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd


Black Speculative Fiction 2012!

For more information on Black Speculative Fiction, please check out these other Blacknificent authors and artists:

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer– is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website http://www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: http://www.mvmediaatl.com and http://www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author– lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is available from Amazon.com Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author — is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at:http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Thaddeus Howze, Author– is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

Alicia McCalla, Author—writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: http://www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole:http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd


Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Book 1: Kings) available NOW!

Now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/moses-balogun-balogun/1108162154?ean=2940013727045&itm=1&usri=moses+the+chronicles+of+harriet+tubman+book+1

Visit http://mochamemoirspress.com/


RACISM IN ROLE-PLAYING GAMES!

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RACISM IN ROLE-PLAYING GAMES!

Thirty-three years ago, as my friends and I sat at lunch discussing our latest scores on Pac-Man and Defender at the arcade – in the ancient of days, there was no Playstation, Wii, Gamecube or any other home game console (astounding to y’all yungins, I know) – I looked around and noticed that at every white table (yes, Caucasians sat separately from us – Chicago was, afterall, the most racially segregated city in the nation – it is now third most racially segregated) the male students were having a good time hurling plastic cubes (which I recognized as dice), pyramids and an array of other polyhedrons as they referred to books and charts and sheets of paper.
I alerted my friends to what was going on and – being the bold fellas we were – we sauntered over to a table and observed.

“What are y’all playing,” I asked.

No one answered. They were lost in what I discerned to be a battle that was taking place entirely in their minds, but was represented by the charts and sheets and books.

I asked again – “What are y’all playing?”

Role 1One of the guys, without looking up to acknowledge my presence, replied “Dungeons and Dragons”.

The name of the game sounded cool and being a fan of fantasy literature and of games – particularly wargames, such as Risk and games like Clue, in which you assume the role of a character – my interest was piqued, as were the interests of my friends. We stood watching the action, growing more interested in this strange, new game with every roll…with every declaration of a hit with a sword…with every spell cast and every lock picked. It was apparent that, within the world of Dungeons and Dragons, you could simulate anything with the game mechanics. I had to learn more!

After the session was done, my friends and I spoke to Phillip – the one the players referred to as “the Dungeon Master” and “DM” – and asked if we could play. Phillip agreed to teach us to play, but said he would only teach us “Basic D & D”, as “Advanced D & D” would be beyond our level of understanding. I felt an urge to punch Phillip in his ruddy face, but I hid my feelings and agreed to learn the game from him, determined that I would surpass him and would one day be a “Dungeon Master” without peer. Phillip agreed to meet us after school and left with a wave, saying “See ya later, Orc Clan!” My friends chuckled in ignorance. I did not. I had noticed the brutally inflicted upon an orc horde as the table of guys played and calling us orcs resonated as racist with me. My friends dismissed my suspicions. “Calm down, Farrakhan,” one snickered. “Yeah, Nat Turner,” another quipped.

“Just keep your eyes and ears open.” I said.

Role 5We met Phillip at the school’s library. We sat down and began making our characters. I chose to be a Fighting Man, as did my friend, Johnnie. My friend, Solomon chose to be a Cleric and my friend Reggie decided he’d be the Magic-User.

“At lunch, you guys had cooler classes to play,” I said.

“Yeah,” Phillip replied smugly. “That’s because we play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This is Basic.”
“When can you teach us the advanced game?” Solomon asked.
“Never!” Phillip shouted. “I told you, the advanced game is beyond your orcish capacity!”

I slammed my fist on the table and growled. “Call another one of us an orc again and I’ll beat your ass!”
The librarian peeked up from her desk.
“Sorry, ma’am.” I said.
The librarian went back to reading Wuthering Heights and I turned back to Phillip. “We will learn Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and I will be a better DM than your racist ass!” I hissed, trying to be as quiet as possible while getting my point across.

My friends and I tore up those lame characters and “chi-town pimped-walked” off, leaving Phillip red-faced, sweaty and shaking.
“How we gonna afford those Advanced D & D books? Solomon sighed. “I looked at the prices. They are twenty bucks each!”

I knew that we needed the three core books – Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual – I knew we were all broke and I knew our parents would be hard-pressed to spend sixty dollars on a game, but I knew – somehow – we would prevail.

I went home extolling the greatness of the game. How mathematical probability was generated with dice and even percent could be generated. My mother and sisters listened as I enthusiastically described Dungeons and Dragons to them. My family has always been supportive of my passions and – true to form – a week later, I had all three books in my hands. I devoured them, committing the rules to memory and my friends and I began to play an adventure I wrote. They loved it and thus began my three decades journey as a player, Gamemaster, collector, and now, creator of role-playing games.

I realized that most of the role-playing games on the market back then – and today – were played by, created by and written for the “Phillips” of the world. Non-Caucasian people were not a concern of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson when they created Dungeons and Dragons, other than the striking similarity between orcs and the negative stereotypes of people of African descent and the Willie Lynchesque handling of “non-white” races.

Role 6Let’s look at some characteristics and treatment of orcs and other non-human races in Dungeons and Dragons and tell me if I am just being paranoid.

First, let’s look at the magic users. While all the “white” races (yes, when we envision elves, dwarves, gnomes and even humans in Dungeons & Dragons, we see Caucasian people, don’t we?) have magicians, sorcerers and the like, orcish magic users are referred to as “witch doctors,” a derogatory term which is associated with traditional African healers and priests.

Now, let’s examine a quote from page 104 of the 1st edition of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. The italicized emphasis is mine:

“Non-human troops, bugbears and humanoids, will be very difficult to handle. They will tend to fight amongst each other, fight with humans nearby – whether friendly or not, run from battle if they see troops on their own side retiring or retreating, and fall to looting at the first opportunity. Communications are also a great problem. If the master is strong and powerful and gives them cause to fear disobedience, it will be of some help in disciplining such troops. Likewise, if there are strong leaders within each body of such troops, threatening and driving them on, they will be more likely to obey. Weakness in leadership, or lack of officering (overseeing), will certainly cause these troops to become unruly and impossible to control”. Shaking your head yet? Let’s continue.

Here are descriptions of the Half-Orc, the progeny of an orc and a human parent (assumed to be from rape, as orcs are, without exception, evil, brutish things). Once again, the italicized emphasis is mine:
This one is from page 15 of the Players Handbook (1st Ed.). “Half-Orcs are boors. They are rude, crude, crass, and generally obnoxious. Because most are cowardly they tend to be bullies and cruel to the weak, but they will quickly knuckle under to the stronger. This does not mean that all half-orcs are horrid, only most of them. It neither means that they are necessarily stupid nor incapable. They will always seek to gain the upper hand and dominate those around them so as to be able to exercise their natural tendencies; half-orcs are greedy too. They can, of course, favor their human parent more than their orcish one.” Spoken like a true racist, but oh, it gets worse.

This is from the 3rd Edition, released in 2003: “The orc language has no alphabet and uses Dwarven script. Orc writing is found most often in graffiti. Half-orc characters receive a +2 modifier to strength and -2 modifiers to intelligence and charisma ability scores. Half-orcs prefer simple pleasures: feasting, singing, wrestling and wild dancing. They have no interest in refined pursuits such as high art and philosophy.” I know you are shaking your head now…and rightfully so!

This racism is further perpetuated visually – and quite viscerally – in film director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on the books by JRR Tolkien.

Role 2Peter Jackson’s 2002 film, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, opens with a scene of the Uruk-Hai (“Orcs”) running toward Isengaard with the hobbits Merry and Pippin. For those of you who have seen the film, you will remember that the Uruk-Hai are tall, black, and muscular with long coarse dreadlocks – an image that evokes stereotypical portrayals of black men. The racism was such in this film that at one point, Legolas the elf comments on how quickly the Uruk-Hai move. He says: “They run as if the very whips of their masters were behind them”.

Tolkien’s original language was actually much more neutral: “The Orcs have run before us, as if the very whips of Sauron were behind them”. This makes it apparent that Peter Jackson’s portrayal of the Uruk-Hai – and Legolas’ comment – was meant to hammer a metaphor into the viewer. For more on “Orcs” and how they represent people of African descent, please check out Racism in Role-Playing Games.

Recently, Naz Humphreys – a Brit of Pakistani heritage – stood in line for three hours in Hamilton, New Zealand, hoping to be hired as an extra in the new Hobbit movie. When she finally stood before the casting director, she was basically told that her skin was the wrong color.

Humphreys, who is fairly short (under five feet tall), thought she’d make the perfect extra. Instead, one of the casting crew for the film told her and others at the audition: “We are looking for light-skinned people. I’m not trying to be… whatever. It’s just the brief. You’ve got to look like a hobbit.”

Role 7Humphreys told New Zealand’s Waikato Times that “It’s 2010 and I still can’t believe I’m being discriminated against because I have brown skin.”

Damned troublemaker!

Perhaps this is all Humphrey’s fault; after all, she obviously failed to read the casting call, which specified that applicants have “light skin tones”. Of course, this was not for a lead role or anything, it was for a position as an extra – as a hobbit running around some shire or another, or walking hand-in-hand with her (God forbid) “dark skin-toned” husband, or some other mundane act only noticed by your subconscious. But, how dare she start a Facebook group entitled Hire hobbits of all colours! Say no to Hobbit racism!. Facebook – in all their wisdom and righteousness – took that subversive group down.

Thank you, Facebook. I can only imagine the carnage that would have ensued had you not acted swiftly and decisively!

One Facebook group that Facebook – in all their wisdom and righteousness – did not take down provided the solution to all Humphrey’s tom-foolery: “For years J.R.R Tolkien has been called a Racist, because he created his books for mainly European children and created a mythology for English people. The Hobbits are based on White people, keep it that way and have some respect for Tolkien.”

See, problem solved.

Seriously, folks, it is absolutely ridiculous to have strict rules about depicting imaginary beings, in an imaginary world populated by…imaginary beings.

Role 8It is very important to remember, when creating any work of speculative fiction, that metaphor is powerful. Even though the world of your story may be extremely different from our “real” world, that story is being read by a reader, or watched by a fan, who dwells in the “real” world, so you must be aware of how race in your speculative fiction world might be interpreted through the lens of that reader or watcher.

Be aware of the metaphor you’re broadcasting if you make all of your evil people a certain complexion, and all your heroes a certain different complexion. Be aware of the metaphor in play if a rugged, ruddy-complexioned hero saves all the sepia-toned natives – a la Tarzan.

Earlier, I mentioned how we see the non-orc races of humans, dwarves, halflings (“hobbits”) and gnomes as “white”. Why? It is because the Caucasian image has been perpetuated as the face of fantasy – the characters…the settings…all very medieval…all very Anglo-Saxon, even if the hero is not “human”.

In nearly 100 illustrations that depict adventurers in the 1st Edition of the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide (both published in 1978), there are NO non-white adventurers. In the over 100 illustrations in the 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide (both published in 1989), there are NO non-white adventurers. In 80 illustrations spread over the combined 980 pages of the 3rd Edition Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide, there is one (scantily clad) black woman and no black men. And finally, in the 4th Edition (2008), there is one black man. Thus, through four editions, over thirty eight years, and 1,691 pages, there is one non-Caucasian male and one non-Caucasian female!

Role 4The creative team that is producing Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul Role-Playing Game say it is time for a long overdue change!
We are creating a unique table-top gaming experience that puts you in an alternate Africa, wherein magic still lives and wondrous and fearsome creatures still roam the savannah. Where Sumunguru and Sundiata Keita meet on the battlefield and you become Imaro, Changa, Mistress Oyabakin, or even Queen Nzingha.

Co-Creator, Milton J. Davis and I will release an anthology of stories, set in the world of Ki-Khanga, in mid-January, 2013. This book – chock full o’ amazing short stories –  will serve as a fundraiser to produce the game, which is currently in the final playtest phase all across the United States and in several other countries. We plan to release the game in the fall of 2013.

With over 2,000,000 people playing pen-and-paper role-playing games on a regular, monthly basis (based on 2000 market research – and the numbers are rapidly growing), it is estimated that 17% are non-white. We will increase those numbers and of those 17% already playing role-playing games, most will play Ki-Khanga™ and love it! Many of the 83% will become players of Ki-Khanga™ too.

How do I know? Let’s just say I have checked my Knowledge (RPG) skill against a DC of 10 and rolled a natural 20 (those who know, know…those who don’t, soon will)!


Steampunk Author Balogun Ojetade Writes Harriet Tubman as an Extraordinary Gentlewoman!

Steampunk Author Balogun Oyabode Abeegunde Writes Harriet Tubman as an Extraordinary Gentlewoman!
Monday, December 5, 2011 – Interview conducted by Alicia McCalla

I’m so excited to introduce everyone to an extraordinary steampunk author. I’ve seen snippets of the “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman”and I can’t wait to read it. I love books that are filled with action, interest, and have strong characters of color. Please take a look at this neat interview. Meet Balogun O.A. Ojetade.

What’s your favorite steampunk book, movie, or TV show?
My favorite steampunk movie is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; my favorite TV show is, of course, Wild Wild West. My favorite steampunk book is “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Book 1: Kings)”, by Yours Truly. I also love “The Switch” by Valjeanne Jeffers. Jules Verne’s’ “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” is pretty good too.

Why is it important for African-Americans to participate in reading and/or writing steampunk?
It is important for authors of African descent around the world to write all genres of speculative fiction because we are not seen in these stories. I believe the literacy rate among us would increase tremendously if we had characters and settings we could relate to in speculative fiction novels. In the steampunk subgenre we mainly see Caucasian heroes and (sometimes) heroines in Victorian clothing, speaking English with a British, French or other European accent and acting very…”European” for lack of a better term. The rare person of color is usually the hero’s sidekick or the villain’s brutish minion. We don’t relate to these stories, so we do not read them. With “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman”, I am doing my part to change that.

Tell us about the The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. What’s the series about?
“Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” is a book series that tells the story of Harriet Tubman immediately after the end of the Civil War. In the first book, Harriet – who is in desperate need of money to care for herself and her elderly parents – is given an opportunity to make a huge sum of money for undertaking a dangerous mission in the volatile South, where she is a wanted woman.
She takes the assignment – rescuing a young girl named Margaret – but quickly realizes that the mission was a set up. She is now wanted by one of the most powerful men on the planet, who hires a team of assassins who possess extraordinary abilities to hunt her down and kill her.
Harriet must rely on her wits, fighting prowess, an arsenal of gadgets and weapons and her own extraordinary abilities, which she attributes to being “brushed” by the Hand of God.
Along the way, Harriet encounters – and often comes into conflict with – well-known figures from history and creatures of legend.

What inspired you to write the Chronicles of Harriet Tubman?
Harriet Tubman is one of my idols. I also consider her to be the first modern “superhero”. There are true stories about her that are amazing. While returning home, after serving as one of the greatest spies and warriors in the Civil War, Harriet was told she could not ride in a train car with Caucasians. She refused to move and was attacked by five men, whom she defeated afterthey broke one of her arms. Harriet was also known to have accurate visions and seemingly could change her appearance. Harriet – who was a petite woman – has been described by witnesses and by those seeking her capture as everything from a very tall man to a portly old woman.
These types of stories inspired me to write “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman”. Our great ancestors live on through our memories of them; through the tales we tell. None deserve that more than Harriet Tubman.

How do you intertwine history/culture in your steampunk world?
Of course, Harriet Tubman is a historical icon. Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton and others all play important roles in the world of “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman”. The world is historically accurate, but I have played with the characters a bit. I have explained certain events in history that were – up until now – unexplained or contained mysterious elements with interesting twists. I have tried to remain true to the style and parlance of the day, but the world is a bit darker and a lot more exciting than in real life.

Could you share some of your most interesting gadgets or inventions?
In the series, readers will meet a fellow by the name of Baas Bello. Baas is an African man who possesses a genius beyond anyone on the planet. He is the creator of The Nefertiti – an airship created from a steam train engine. The Nefertiti is one of my favorites, as I am fascinated by airships and by steam trains. Baas is also the creator of the first subway train, inspired by the idea of the Underground Railroad for which he and Harriet Tubman worked.

How do readers purchase Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Book 1: Kings)?
Readers can purchase “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” in paperback at http://www.amazon.com/Moses-Chronicles-Harriet-Tubman-Books/dp/1477422889/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1342614088&sr=8-2&keywords=moses+chronicles+of+harriet, or as an e-book through amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Moses-Chronicles-Harriet-Tubman-ebook/dp/B006… and through Barnes and Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/moses-balogun-balogun/1108162154?ea…

Any parting thoughts or information that you’d like to share?
Please, treat yourself to “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman”. You will enjoy the fast-paced story, the twists and turns, the elements of the fantastic and the horrific. Read it and please, give me feedback. Also, look for my novel “Once Upon A Time In Afrika”, which is written in the genre of Sword and Soul, in the spring. It is published by MVmedia, the publishing company owned and operated by renowned author of Sword and Soul, Milton Davis.
Thank you for this opportunity, Alicia.
Long live Harriet Tubman!

Balogun Oyabode Abeegunde is the author of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”.


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