Steamfunk * Steampunk * Sword & Soul

WHAT IS STEAMFUNK? Exposing the Big Steampunk Lie!


Exposing the Big Steampunk Lie!

Steamfunk is narrowly defined as “a person, style of dress or subgenre of fiction that seeks to bring together elements of blaxploitation films and merge it with that of Steampunk fiction”. A broader definition is A philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or  steampunk fiction.

For those who do not yet know what Steampunk is, you can read my blog – Why I Love Steampunk – here:

Steampunk has the power to rip open the 19th Century’s belly and examine its clockwork guts – and to rearrange those guts in new ways – but most Steampunk authors – and indeed most Steampunks – choose to avoid the issues of racism, sexism, classism, colonialism and imperialism.

Steamfunk authors – thankfully – choose to address these very same issues, for we know that to avoid them – especially since there is such a wealth of Steampunk tales to be told from a Black perspective – is to perpetuate the Big Steampunk Lie.

Yes…lie; a lie by omission; also known as the ‘suppression of evidence’.

This type of lie is more subtle. It has the advantage that you can’t get caught in a lie, because everything that you say is true. You just fail to mention all of those bothersome little facts that do not support your point of view. Should someone point out one of those annoying – and unmentioned – facts, you can feign innocent ignorance, or claim that the fact is really just an unimportant, trivial detail, not worth mentioning.

Thus the Victorian Era / Wild West are represented in most Steampunk as merely an age of exploration and invention. A renaissance, if you will. A very interesting – and deceptive – way of describing an era in which the “explorers” who at best unintentionally – and at worst, and far more often, very intentionally – brought with them the forces of colonialism and imperialism throughout the world.

The “Wild West” of North America systematically robbed the indigenous people of their lands and murdered them wholesale while also oppressing and vilifying Asians. In the South and East of North America, people of African descent suffered horrors under the yoke of chattel slavery and things did not get much better after the Civil War. To romanticize such an era; to paint such a dystopian reality as a rose-colored (well, various shades of brown in Steampunk) utopia is the ‘Big Steampunk Lie’ of which I speak.

Now, I am not saying all Steampunk stories should be dark and foreboding. However, we should tackle issues of race, sex and class in our stories to some degree. So many incredible and thought-provoking stories are waiting to be told…if we care to tell them.

With the upcoming Steamfunk Anthology and with such already released novels as Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, by Yours Truly and The Switch, by Valjeanne Jeffers – along with a number of awesome short stories from Milton Davis, Maurice Broaddus, NK Jemisin, Malon Edwards and Balogun (me) – these stories, which must be told, will be shouted from our Funkadelic Airships.

Full steam ahead!

25 responses


    April 5, 2012 at 1:04 am

    • LOL! Thanks, Jaymee!!

      April 5, 2012 at 1:18 am

  2. Oh, and do you know what is the status of Steamfunk thus far? Is there a TOC? I am so excited for this anthology! Black-centric steampunk is so long overdue… makes me wish I was a publisher so I could keep pushing all this stuff all day long!

    April 5, 2012 at 1:09 am

    • The Deadline for submissions is July 31. I believe the publisher plans to publish the anthology sometime during the Winter.

      April 5, 2012 at 1:21 am

    • The Deadline for submissions is July 31. I believe the publisher plans to publish the anthology sometime during the Winter.

      April 5, 2012 at 1:21 am

  3. holzmantweed

    This seems like an opportune moment to mention A Count Named Slick Brass and the crew at Steam Funk Studios “Turning the Status Quo on its Head – Shifting the Paradigm with Style”

    April 5, 2012 at 1:26 am

    • Thank you for your comment! I will definitely check out A Count Named Slick Brass. Thanks for the link!

      April 5, 2012 at 8:09 am

  4. A Steamfunk panel needs to happen at WisCon.

    April 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm

  5. Good words. I just had to explain the Orientalist art in the header to my page, as it plays such a prominent role in steampunk. Forgotten or glossed over histories function as lies in plain sight.

    April 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    • Thanks for your comment!
      Forgotten or glossed over histories function as lies in plain sight.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm

  6. This is so hawt. I come to steampunk through weddings, and to a lesser extent, romance novels, so learning about “steamfunk” is quite revolutionary…well sais about the “subtle lies” perpetuated when we create these past utopias without confronting the worst of humankind simultaneously, or the intersections of race, class, and sexuality that make us way awesome! And that image…le sigh.

    April 19, 2012 at 10:42 am

    • Thank you!
      With the Steamfunk anthology, we plan to open up a whole new and exciting world of possibilities in Steampunk.
      And I agree…we ARE awesome!
      On the image: Yep…I LOVE it! Several artists will be commissioned to do similar pieces for the anthology. Please, stay tuned!!

      April 19, 2012 at 10:51 am

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  11. Reblogged this on DeDeRants and commented:
    Great read!

    November 7, 2012 at 8:14 pm

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  15. Interestingly, the game Bioshock, decidely steam-ish, does indeed address racism. I think every era has it’s own ugly underbelly and when we choose to play dress up and have fun with the past, not many folks are going to be all “Hey! I think I want to go as a dickhead who treats another segment of the population like dirt!” It’s not that we are pretending shit didn’t happen or are not aware of it.
    21 minutes ago · Just a though, not trying to be confrontational. :-)

    September 3, 2013 at 11:52 am

    • I did not take your statement as a confrontation. I don’t think anyone says that either. If they do, they are, indeed, a dickhead. I think it is more a matter of ignorance and / or apathy.

      September 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

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