THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of what is now called Steampunk – a mash-up of fantasy and science fiction that embraces a fantastical past while incorporating a spirit of progress, exploration and do-it-yourself ingenuity.

Always a voracious reader, I devoured Jules Verne’s novels – From the Earth to the Moon; 20,000 Leagues under the Sea; and Around the World in 80 Days. One of my childhood rituals was to sit at the feet of my mother and, together, we would watch Wild, Wild West. My mother, a huge fan of westerns (she has probably seen every western ever made in English…yes, really) and comedic spy stories (Get Smart and I Spy are her favorites) was in heaven.

In my preteens, I was the first of my friends to break away from Dungeons and Dragons in search of a game that allowed me to create a world more like that of Wild, Wild West, in which espionage, steam power, trains and amazing gadgets were some of the tropes. I could not find such a game, so I included these elements in the TSR game Boot Hill (also created by Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D) and it quickly became a hit with my friends.

As an adult, when I decided to write my first novel I knew three things – I wanted the hero to be Harriet Tubman; I wanted Harriet to be an ass-kicking monster-hunter and freedom fighter; and I wanted the story to include amazing gadgets and over-the-top villains a la Wild, Wild West. Thus, the beginnings of Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman took form in my mind. Years later, I sent the first book in the series to independent publisher, Mocha Memoirs Press. The Editor-In-Chief of the company, Nicole Kurtz, wrote me saying they loved the story and were looking for more Steampunk stories like mine. “Steampunk?” I immediately hopped online and began my search and found a wealth of information on the movement.

My next search was Black authors of Steampunk, which did not yield much, however it did take me to an article written by an incredible writer by the name of Jha – who I later discovered is one of the leading authorities on Steampunk, Jaymee Goh – whose informative and inspiring work helped me to find other Steampunk People of Color. You should read her article – The Intersection of Race and Steampunk: Colonialism’s After-Effects & Other Stories, from a Steampunk of Colour’s Perspective [Essay] – at http://www.racialicious.com/2009/06/24/the-intersection-of-race-and-steampunk-colonialisms-after-effects-other-stories-from-a-steampunk-of-colours-perspective-essay/.

Shortly after finding the article by Jah, I joined Black Science Fiction Society. On http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/, I found other writers of African descent who write Steampunk. I was so happy I was not alone and that I could read works of Steampunk that included heroes who look like me.

Since that time, I have developed friendships and working relationships with most of the Black authors who write Steampunk and – through the genius and diligence of author Milton Davis, we will all contribute to the soon-to-be released anthology, Steamfunk.

A few Black authors of Steampunk have been gracious enough to provide me with interviews, which I would like to share with you. I am sure they will inspire you as they have inspired me. Each one, teach one. 

MAURICE BROADDUS

Maurice Broaddus is a scientist and a writer. He has been published in dozens of markets, including the anthologies Dark Dreams II and Dark Dreams III; Apex Science Fiction Magazine; Horror Digest; Horror Literature Quarterly; and Weird Tales and is the editor of the acclaimed Dark Faith and Dark Faith II anthologies (Nebula, Bram Stoker, and Black Quill nominated). Maurice is also senior writer for HollywoodJesus.com.

Contact the author at www.mauricebroaddus.com.

What do you like about Steampunk?

I was never much of a fan of history when I was in high school, you know, when you’re forced to sit through boring lessons by disinterested teachers. When I was getting into writing more seriously, I realized I enjoyed writing historical pieces and all the research that it entailed. With steampunk, I not only get to study various aspects of history, but also get to imagine huge “what if” scenarios.

What was your inspiration for writing a Steampunk tale?

Um, this is a little bit embarrassing to admit, but my inspiration was Twitter. I didn’t know much about steampunk other than to make this joke on Twitter: “I’m going to write a steampunk story with an all-black cast and call it ‘Pimp My Airship’.” When five editors wrote me to send them the story when I was done, I knew that I had to write one. (It was later published in Apex Magazine.)

Besides your own, what are your favorite Steampunk stories?

When I was sitting down to write “Pimp My Airship,” I picked up the anthologies Extraordinary Engines (edited by Nick Gevers) and Steampunk (Ann and Jeff Vandermeer). Those not only gave me an excellent overview of steampunk, but also have some of the best steampunk stories in them. “The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider” by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Chabon’s “The Martian Agent”, and Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock were some of my favorites.

What Steampunk stories have you written? Where can we read them?

The only steampunk story of mine available at the moment is “Pimp My Airship”, collected in the Descended from Darkness volume 2 (Apex Books) though it’s also available online (http://apex-magazine.com/2009/08/03/pimp-my-airship/).

What Steampunk works are you planning to release in the near future?

In the works are the novelization of “Pimp My Airship” as well as another short story, which is growing into a novelette, entitled “Steppin’ Razor”, a Jamaican steampunk story.

 

MILTON DAVIS

Milton Davis is a chemist by day and a writer/publisher by night and on the weekends. He writes and publishes uplifting science fiction and fantasy stories from an African American perspective because he feels that there is a lack of positive black characters in the speculative fiction market.

Milton is the author of five novels: Meji Book One, Meji Book Two, Changa’s Safari Vol. 1, Changa’s Safari Vol. 2 and Griots: A Sword & Soul Anthology, for which he is a contributing editor, along with sword and sorcery living legend – and founder of the fantasy subgenre, Sword and Soul – Charles R. Saunders.

All of Milton’s works are self-published through his company, MVmedia, LLC: http://www.mvmediaatl.com/.

 What do you like about Steampunk?

I like the alternate history aspect of the genre. I see it as an opportunity to explore “what if” scenarios as they refer to the experiences of the African Diaspora.

What was your inspiration for writing a Steampunk tale? 

The technology intrigues me, but again, the alternate history aspect really interests me.

Besides your own, what are your favorite Steampunk stories?

Actually, I’m actually inspired by movies that contain steampunk more than the stories.  I think the genre lends itself much better to visual interpretation rather than written. I grew up on Wild, Wild West, and although I wasn’t a big fan of Will Smith’s reinterpretation I did like the gadgets. I also liked The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie). A couple of anime movies handled steampunk well; Steamboy and the series Last Exile. I liked them both. Then there’s Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. It’s a fun story that I plan to write a review about.

What Steampunk stories have you written? Where can we read them? 

I’ve written one story, The Delivery, which is posted in my documents at Scribd.com: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76098823/The-Delivery.

What Steampunk works are you planning to release in the near future?

I’m working on a novel, titled ‘Unrequited’, a steampunk action romance that takes place in an alternate America. ‘The Delivery’ is based on this scenario.

VALJEANNE JEFFERS

Valjeanne Jeffers is a poet and SF writer, and the author of Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds, and The Switch: Clockwork, as well as two short works of fiction, Probe and Grandmere’s Secret.

Contact the author at sister24moon@gmail.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

What do you like about steampunk?

One of the things I love about steampunk is that it stirs my imagination. Working with this genre gives me such outrageous clothes (knickers, corsets, top hats etc.) and such extraordinary machines—airships, motorcars and steam powered computers to work with. Steampunk invites me, as a writer, to stretch my imagination, to experiment and to mix genres of horror and SF. My fabulous cover artist, Quinton Veal, helps to stir my steamfunk imagination with the images he creates.

What was your inspiration for writing a steampunk tale?

Steampunk clothing reminds me of the clothing hippies wore during the 1960s. There is a freedom of expression within this style of dress that speaks to me. So I’d have to say that my first inspiration for a steampunk tale was the clothing, which is vaguely reminiscent of the Civil Rights, Make Love Not War, flower power eras of the 1960s and 1970s.

Besides your own, what are your favorite steampunk stories?

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriett Tubman (Book 1: Kings) (by author Balogun Ojetade) is definitely among  my favorites— Harriett Tubman and steampunk? What’s not to love! My second favorite is The Delivery by Milton Davis, featuring George Washington Carver, no less, as a character.

What steampunk tales have you written? Where can we read them?

My first adventure into steampunk began with The Switch, a story about a futuristic society that operates on two levels: an ultra rich “upper city,” and a dirt poor, steampunk, underground populated mostly by folks of color. The story has elements of erotica, espionage and even a little time travel. At the time, I thought I’d leave it there, but at the insistence of my oldest son Toussaint, I developed it further.

The Switch II: Clockwork, includes book I (The Switch) and book II (Clockwork). The Switch II: Clockwork is available at Barnes &Noble nook and Amazon in print and kindle. Readers can also contact me for discounts on purchases at sister24moon@gmail.com

My other steampunk novel is the conclusion of my Immortal saga: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds. In Immortal IV, the characters are punished for violating the prophecy of their planet, Tundra. And they’re thrown into a steam powered, alternate universe where their enemy, the sorcerer, “Tehotep” rules. Immortal IV also has elements of erotic and horror.

I must add too, that although I intended this to be the last novel of the Immortal series, my readers have insisted that I not end it here! This, I feel is one the highest compliment a writer can receive—and I love these characters. So, book four won’t be the last one in the Immortal saga.

Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds is also available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Readers can also contact me for discounted sales at sister24moon@gmail.com

What steampunk works are you planning to release in the near future?

Right now, I’m working on a story based on the travels of one of my characters, from Immortal III, “Annabelle.” The setting will be in a New Orleans type of setting, peopled by vampires. This story is a prequel leading to Annabelle’s journeys in Immortal III.

More Afro Steampunk Blacknificence!

Some other cool Black Steampunks who are spreading the movement and inspiring other Black people to become a part of it are:

Lady March of the H.M.S. Chronabelle

The H.M.S. Chronabelle is an all-female airship crew based out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Lady March is the first and only woman of African descent to join this august group.

 

 

 

 

 

Phil Powell, Steampunk Dandy 

Originally a Goth, Mr. Powell – who converted to Steampunk in 2008 – says: “I turn Steampunk on its ear.  I don’t go for the generic guns/goggles/gadgets that permeate Steampunk; I feel that if we are going to recreate (and perfect) the Victorian culture, all of it must be represented, including the Dandy.  I am a Dandy, a proud one.  I wear very fancy outfits, feathers, accessories, pins, brooches.  THOSE are my gadgets.”

For those wondering just what a “Dandy” is, Mr. Powell defines Dandyism as “the art and practice of a fine gentleman who desires to dress in elegance and style, along with carrying himself in said elegance and style, at all appropriate venues. It is the practice for said gentleman to conduct himself in a manner of worthiness of being seen, even in a crowded room, and to find no shame in accessorizing.”

Tony Ballard-Smoot of Airship Archon

The famed, Ohio-based Steampunk crew, Airship Archon, is helmed by Captain Anthony LaGrange, nom de plume for Tony Ballard-Smoot, a maker, model and ambassador and activist for the Steampunk Community as a whole. Captain LaGrange founded Airship Archon in 2008 and is a popular panelist at Steampunk conventions.

Mr. Ballard-Smoot believes that Steampunk is unique among other cultural movements. He says “Steampunk is doing something fantastic that a lot of other movements have not done  –  create a community. You have a lot of scenes out there: the goth scene, punk scene, hipster scene but none of them have evolved into an actual community or family.”

Mr.Saturday                                                                                           

Born Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez III, Mr. Saturday – founder and  con-chair of Aetherfest, Texas’ first Steampunk convention – is a strong voice in the movement. With his partner, Sixpence, Mr. Saturday leads the San Antonio Neo Victorian Association, a large group of Texas Steampunks who have taken it upon themselves to spread Steampunk throughout Texas and beyond.

 

 

Shamus Tinplate, aka Tony Hicks of Tinplate Studios

Mr. Hicks is an ingenious artist of immense skill and creativity. He is a comic book  and natural science illustrator, sculptor and bodger (woodworker). His influences range from Charles Darwin to H.P. Lovecraft to Clement Ader.

Like many others (this author included), Mr. Hicks was a lover of Steampunk before the term was ever coined. He says: “As a small child, I watched 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and fell head first into the waters of Steampunk, from which I have yet to resurface.” Mr. Hicks’ work consists of Steampunk ray guns, respirators, odd gadgets, and masks as well as disturbing cryptozoological anomalies under glass and ocular oddities.

You can find Mr. Hicks at all manner of Steampunk and art conventions, fairs, festivals, shows, and other special events.

As Shamus Tinplate, he is proprietor of Tinplate Studios, which sells Mr. Hicks’ incredible work.

Miss Aetherley

Miss Aetherly works tirelessly to spread Steampunk throughout the Portland, Oregon area. She is fast gaining renown as a Blacknificent Steampunk model and as an intelligent and enthusiastic member of the movement.

 

 

 

Special thanks to Jaymee Goh for introducing me to these fellow Steampunks of African descent. Jaymee is a veteran Steampunk, writer, fan and reader of speculative fiction. She has written for Racialicious, Tor.com, and Beyond Victoriana. She holds a B.A. in English (Hons) and an M.A. in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory; her MRP is on postcolonialism and – of course – Steampunk.  

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – 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 – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. At present, Balogun is directing and fight choreographing the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk –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 – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is also co-creator of the soon-to-be-released role-playing game, Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG. Balogun is Master Instructor of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Technical Director of Martial Ministries of America, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth. He is also a traditional African priest, actor and conflict resolution specialist, who works and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, his seven daughters and his son.

47 responses »

  1. [...] THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE: African … THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE: African & African-American Steampunk! 22 Apr. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE. For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of what is now called … [...]

  2. Blacktastic post!! Thanks so much for including me Brother Balogun :)!

  3. Jaymee Goh says:

    Hey!! You have a cooler picture of Mr. Saturday than I do for my May Steampunk POC interview with him!! No fair!! :P

    Also, you should add Nivi Hicks to your list of awesome Black steampunks! SHE is running Salt City Steam Fest! Mr. Saturday will be performing there, I hear ^^

    • Balogun says:

      LOL! Yeah, the picture of Mr. Saturday IS cool!
      Thanks for the Nivi Hicks connection. I lived in Arizona for a while and would visit Utah fairly often. I’ll have to add Salt City Steam Fest to my list of next year’s festival / con tour.

  4. Jaymee Goh says:

    Also thanks for the mega-shoutout! Am always happy to connect people ^^

  5. ch4wordpress says:

    great information share

  6. skiffybroad says:

    Thank you so much for introducing me to these authors, and to African and African-American steampunk; another fantastic thing to know about.

  7. sumayyahtalibah says:

    Very, veyr nice post! I am exicted to learn more about steampunk writers and players of African descent.

  8. sumayyahtalibah says:

    Very, very nice post! I am excited to see this collection of steampunk writers and players of African descent. We need more of us in this area.

  9. Milton Davis says:

    Thanks for spreading the word, Balogun. I hope Unrequited will add another layer to the Steamfunk mystique.

  10. I’m glad to see there’s room for a Steampunk ghede in the League! Someone really needs to put together a group photo, a webcomic and short stories…seriously.

    Thanks for the inclusion!

    • Balogun says:

      There’s always room for the Loa! :)
      I agree. It should – and will – definitely be done.
      You’re welcome…and thanks for your feedback!!

  11. [...] Chronicles of Harriet site explores the League of Extraordinary Black People. Great [...]

  12. [...] first installment of The League of Extraordinary Black People, please visit: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-league-of-extraordinary-black-people-african…. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  13. Only YOU can prevent Hillbilly Republican Logic

  14. [...] month, I will feature members of the League of Extraordinary Black People who fit specific Steampunk [...]

  15. [...] League of Extraordinary Black People Series – a monthly series in which I feature members of the League of Extraordinary Black People who fit specific Steampunk [...]

  16. [...] in Steamfunk – we looked at the relationship between politics and fashion. Now, as part of our League of Extraordinary Black People series, we will examine the embodiment of this relationship – the Black [...]

  17. This is so refreshing! As a black female in love with steampunk as well as working on my steampunk story, nice to see other authors diving into this genre. You all are encouragment and inspiration. Much love and respect to my fellow steampunkers from Atlanta

  18. [...] THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE: Steamfunk in the ATL! [...]

  19. [...] return to our League of Extraordinary Black People series with a look at the great men and women whose lives were bolstered, or broken, by the arts of [...]

  20. [...] the next few weeks, in our League of Extraordinary Black People Series, I will explore the amazing achievements of Blacks during this incredible era and will share [...]

  21. […] THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE: Black Folk Heroes in the Age of Steam! […]

  22. Drifford Gabay says:

    THIS is what I have been looking for. Its good to see that there are so many black persons that are into the Steampunk movement and share such a pasion for it as I do.
    Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica. I haven’t had a community with respect to sharing my enthusiasm for Steampunk so most if not ALL if my interaction has been through online sources. Thanks for letting me know more about those of us involved. Thank you

  23. […] more Black women – and men, for that matter – as superheroes because Black women are, well…extraordinary; but they […]

  24. kenneth breckenridge says:

    Hello . I just love your site. My companion and myself plan to attend the Steampunk worlds fair in may and hope to meet many of you there. Are there club that could be joined ? If so please let me know. thank you

  25. tiberiusfunk says:

    I’m a black guy living in the UK and have only recently decided to start exploring this thing we call steampunk. I’ll be going to a film and comic convention in July in an original steampunk costume based on Scarecrow from DC comics. While doing online research gathering information and looking for inspiration I did notice a distinct lack of PoC. And then I found this site, with it’s amazing, interesting and inspirational pictures and articles. Keep up the good work guys.

  26. […] years back, Balogun Ojetade wrote an article “The League of Extraordinary Black People: African and African-American Steampunk.” He is by no means the first person to introduce multiculturalism to steampunk, but it was a […]

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