I KNOW YOU ARE, BUT WHAT AM I?

Steamfunk and Dieselfunk is Racist!

LEROY_LOTUS_HQTwo days ago, I posted an article about my Dieselfunk novel, The Scythe, premiering at AnachroCon in February. I also mentioned that this year, AnachroCon’s theme is Dieselpunk.

Yesterday, this was all brought up by author and Dieselpunk, Jack Philpott, who inquired if the founder of Dieselpunks.org – the premier Dieselpunk social website – knew of AnachroCon’s Dieselpunk theme.

Here is the inquiry:

Tome, Larry, Johnny, 

I just heard that Anachrocon in Atlanta 14-16 Feb (http://www.anachrocon.org/) is having a Dieselpunk theme this year. Balogun Ojetade (CC) is even releasing a Dieselfunk book there.  Had any of you heard of that? Anyone have plans to be there (aside from Balogun)?

Jack…

Racist 3Here is the answer from the Creator / Editor of Dieselpunks.org, Tome Wilson (the bold emphasis is mine; the words, however, are all Tome’s):

Hi Jack, This is the first I’m hearing of it. Granted, I don’t pay much attention to “dieselfunk,” because it’s racist, but I didn’t even see the event across the wire. Things are bad at work in February due to the Olympics and SuperBowl, so I won’t be able to make it to Atlanta. All of the projects that have been put on hold will be lava hot emergencies once the big events are over. I probably won’t see daylight again until March. –Tome

Hell, I didn’t know Dieselfunk was racist, but if Tome Wilson, the Creator and Editor of Dieselpunks, says so, it – and by default, I – must be, right?

But wait…there is more proof that Dieselfunk – and Steamfunk, by the way – is racist. This time, Dieselfunk and Steamfunk are exposed by – horror of horrors – Lt. Condor of Dragonfly Armory. Check it out. Oh…and once again, the bold emphasis is mine, but not the words:

Dragonfly Armory from JC Barger Photography.

Dragonfly Armory
from JC Barger Photography.

It is kinda crappy that the rest of the world is not represented in most Dieselpunk media. I haven’t seen many of the films or TV shows but I get the point just from looking at the previews and posters. There should be more representation for the other nations that participated in these wars and all of the people who fought.

On the same page though, you have to factor another point in. What if there is just a lack of interest among minorities? The Dragonfly Armory is a private organized group that is nothing but white people, but that isn’t because we’re excluding someone who’s asian, latino, black, or middle eastern. In fact I’m sure we would welcome that diversity. We, as far as I know, have never had anyone show interest before. I don’t think it’s too much of an assumption either to say that it’s not that the writers/directors are making these films such that minorities can’t be in them. Rather it is more that there isn’t an interest among prominent actors, who are minorities, to have a part in these films.

I could be completely off base in this assumption, there may be many actors who wish they could be a part of something like this. I feel that if that were the case though, there would be a larger presence of minorities in both the culture, and the con scene.

What upsets me the most about this though is the emergence of Steamfunk and Dieselfunk. To me this goes back to so many other aspects of society and culture that I won’t even begin to reference… The point is your right hand is saying that you want to be included, and treated equal. While your left hand is creating a situation where you are being exclusive and segregating every other race out.

Dieselpunk is in no way racist, exclusive, or prejudiced against any group of people. Except perhaps those who support Nazis…we don’t really want to have anything to do with them.

Dieselfunk though…by the very name of it you’re basically saying this can only be black people. Why would you create something that excludes you from the rest of society? Why make a subset of a culture exclusive to your own race instead of just joining into what’s already established? No one is excluding you, you clearly just don’t want to be involved.

This is why I can’t stand it when people say: “I don’t support this because its racist.” “We want to be treated the same.” etc… And then you go out and support something that is racist, just racist in your favor, that excludes you from being treated as the same since you are separating yourself from the rest of the races in the world.

Racism and segregation will continue to persist in this world as long as there are people who buy into the idea that the exclusion of the majority and other minorities is okay as long as you accept your own minority.

All that said I really did enjoy the rest of the article. It was very well written and included a TON of links to other blogs and sources. I think it is definitely worth the read.

- Lt. Condor

Come on, Tome; come on, Lt. Condor…you can’t just call a subgenre and a movement racist all willy-nilly.

Only racists do that.

DIeselpunkFirst, let’s define racism. I mean the accepted sociological definition, not the willy-nilly one.

The proper definition of racism, which is commonly used in academic research, and has been the accepted definition by sociologists and social psychologists for more than a decade is: “racism is prejudice plus power”.

Anyone can carry positive or negative stereotypes of others based on racial or cultural characteristics. Anyone can be prejudiced – can judge others based on preconceived notions about their ethnicity or race.

People of any race can commit acts of violence, mistreatment or ostracizing based on these stereotypes. A Chinese boy might beat up a Black boy because he doesn’t like Black boys. A Black person might refuse to associate with Latinos.

These two scenarios might be negative; they might be terrible…however, to be racist – rather than simply prejudiced – requires having institutional power. In North America, white people have the institutional power.

“White” is presented as the norm; the default, because white people have institutional power.

Notice how Tome and Lt. Condor can just label Steamfunk and Dieselfunk – and, by default, Milton Davis, Valjeanne Jeffers, Maurice Broaddus, Yours Truly and all the other Steamfunkateers – racist with no explanation; no evidence; without study or experience.

Just…willy-nilly.

Because racism is systematic, they get to label things willy-nilly. They get to have no real argument for their anger. They get to feel justified without justification. They get to say dumb shit without being regarded as dumb.

They are really just acting out because they can…and because they feel threatened.

They feel threatened because we aren’t just getting along to get along. We are challenging the racism, classism and sexism found in Dieselpunk and Steampunk; we are telling the stories that, until we came along, went untold.

They feel threatened because, contrary to the lie that our “right hand is saying that we want to be included, and treated equal”, we are practicing Dieselpunk and Steampunk on our own terms. We are not seeking inclusion in any Airships or Armories not of our own making. We are not saying we want to be treated equal; we are equal, damn how you treat us. Our work is proof of that.

If you do not feel threatened, why utilize the classic – and oh, so obvious – defense mechanism of projection? We only defend ourselves when we feel threatened.

What is projection, you ask?

ProjectionProjection is the psychological phenomenon where someone denies some aspect of their behavior or attitudes and assumes instead that someone else is acting out this behavior or attitude. Projection also extends to philosophies and knowledge.

I am sure you have heard the old adage, “When you point one finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”

We see in other people the very things we do not want to see in ourselves.

Thanks to the power of our unconscious minds, we can manipulate our picture of reality and see it as we wish to see it – usually in a way that initially makes us feel more comfortable.

By means of projection, we get rid of unwanted feelings and relocate them in someone else.

Sounds pretty cool, huh?  Like some old Matrix-meets-Inception-meets Cloud Atlas-type s**t.

But, by their very nature, the projections we put out want to come back to us.  They want to come home where they belong.  And I’m packing their bags and sending their racist asses back to Tome and Lt. Condor and to all the other Dieselpunks and Steampunks who, instead of dealing with the racism in fandom, want to project it on to those who are actually working hard to make a difference; to those who have introduced Steampunk and Dieselpunk to People of Color all over the world as Steamfunk and Dieselfunk and have inspired them to take part in the cosplay and the cons; to purchase not only our books, but yours as well.

Steampunk and Dieselpunk have benefitted from our work and will continue to and we have done so without discriminating against anyone and certainly without being racist.

The fact is projection is one of the most destructive ways of handling our difficulties.  We fare better in life when we take responsibility for ourselves – when we own the good, the bad, and the ugly that belongs to us.

Generally speaking, projection alienates others and says far more about our own insecurities than any real truths about other people.

People of Color – and many white people – in Steampunk and Dieselpunk have cried out for, and even demanded, a re-imagining of the XYZ-Punk genres and subgenres that highlights lesser known struggles and gives voice to underrepresented groups in Steam – and Diesel – punk. And we Steamfunkateers are delivering…in a big way.

Why So Serious“It’s all just fun,” you say. “Why so serious?”

Shut up, Joker (the Heath Ledger version)!

Dieselpunk and Steampunk have great social, intellectual, artistic and political value, so, while cosplaying, reading your favorite XYZ-Punk novel, or engaging in a Bartitsu sparring match might, indeed, be fun, we won’t dismiss, or shy away from, any controversy, we will engage in intelligent discourse and action that raises awareness and appreciation of Steamfunk and Dieselfunk and we will continue to tell the stories that must be told.

If that makes you uncomfortable; if it causes you to project onto Dieselfunk and Steamfunk exactly what Dieselpunk and Steampunk still struggle with, so be it.

You’ll just give me more to blog about.

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.

52 responses »

  1. gassire says:

    Excellent post. The reality is that many folks are throwing around the word ‘racist’ like a hashtag with no idea what they are truly saying. I’m glad you took the time to define what racism is, and to clarify what Steamfunk and Dieselfunk actually is. Many white people don’t realize that to many people of color the appearance of an all white organization suggests, rightly or wrongly, that people of color need not apply. Our national history gives us this precedence. To assume that a group had no minority applicants because people of color are not interested is also a shallow perception.

    Of course there were many people of color participating in Steampunk and Dieselpunk long before we came along. But as you stated, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk has introduced the genres to people who would have never considered them because they lacked a connection. So to deem the genres racist because they focus on people of color, their experiences and their history is naive at best, ignorant at worse.

  2. Average White Band played “funk” and very well I might add. Does the fact that AWB was an Anglo group from Scotland mean that they somehow couldn’t play funk? Steamfunk and Dieselfunk are simply entertainment forms as viewed through a particular experiential filter and historical reference, usually that of peoples who have been colonized and/or are ethnic minorities in industriailizing nations from the 1800’s through the 1940’s. Those who choose not to extend themselves or cling to their own narrow filter, refusing to see the world from the point of view of others will definitely be threatened by the subgenre; a subgenre which they have obviously chosen to pigeonhole without bothering to read. Steamfunk and Dieselfunk (like Steampunk and Dieselpunk before them) are not exclusive to any ethnicity or gender. It simply takes the desire to learn the history and be cognizant of the experiences of the people. Once this occurs anyone can be just like AWB – funkin’ it up in no time, flat!

  3. Ray Dean says:

    Ummm… I wonder what the makes me? I’m Asian and one of the Steamfunk authors… By their definitions I’m in quite the pickle jar, eh? That’s fine by me… I just want to tell the stories I want to tell… Meet some amazing creative people along the way… And have a lot of fun… Love u guys!

    • Balogun says:

      Exactly!
      Thanks, Ray! Love you, too! :)

      • Ray Dean says:

        reminds me of the old AJA softball league here in Hawaii… it was Americans of Japanese Ancestry… why did they need it? Because after WWII no one wanted to play ball with those ‘damn Japs’

        okay… so they made their own league… and it became a damn good league… so good that those non- Japanese players wanted in…

        sigh…

        my point is.. Steamfunk isn’t taking anything away from Steampunk… it’s not saying get out of our sandbox.. Steamfunk is just allowing a different part of the universe to open up… and I personally can say that everyone has been welcoming to me… and that I’ve had such a wonderful time getting to know you guys.. and someday i hope to get off this little rock and over to an event to say howdy in person :D Viva la Steamfunk!

      • Balogun says:

        VERY well said!
        It was the same with the Negro Leagues in baseball, which my paternal grandfather played in.
        I look forward to attending an event ON that little rock, Ray! :D

  4. Im on fire right now…like I can’t even. I have loved alternate history since middle school when I first started reading books by Harry Turtledove and Steven Barnes. When i found out in college that Steampunk was a real thing I was totally excited, but hesitant because I actually don’t like the Victorian era, but have always had a love for WWII era. Then this past year I found out about Dieselpunk, Dragonfly Armory, you wonderful people, and Anachrocon basically all at the same time. I was ECSTATIC!! I had big plans after grad school to get stuff together and apply to Dragonfly Armory. Then I read that idiotic nonsense about what Lt. Condor wrote and I knew then that I couldn’t be around people who don’t think I exist and quite frankly I make a very hostile token friend. I literally can’t trust people who don’t have a deep understading of history and try to sugarcoat it because you can’t. I ca’t wait to join the Airship Sweet Chariot and I can’t figure out how people just don’t get it. All the events that I have seen you Mr. Ojetade and everyone else be involved in shows to me that their is a thriving Black community reflective of my own experience. Look at how many POC were at Dragon Con this last year?? To act like POC are not into Alternate History or cosplaying Dieselpunk and Steampunk is stupid and shows that you aren’t looking at the world around you with open eyes. I’m done with people who just don’t get it because I can’t live my life trying to explain to people…I did it for four years in college and I refuse to do it again.

    • Balogun says:

      Well said, Ashley!
      We will continue to create more Steamfunk and Dieselfunk.
      The Airship Sweet Chariot will continue to soar to higher heights.
      Welcome aboard! :)

  5. As the “Jack Philpott” whose private message was quoted above, I guess I really need to respond to this. As someone who likes, respects, and appreciates the work of both Tome and Balogun and the contributions they’ve made to the community I feel kind of caught up in the middle of this and feel bad that I may have inadvertently kicked this whole mess off. I’m a fan of your work, Balogun, and have been glad to promote and recommend it to my friends and readers since you first reposted your blog on Dieselpunks.org. I personally don’t find Steamfunk or Dieselfunk racist, exclusionary, or offensive and welcome them into the spectrum of *punk works (I’ve always been a “big tent” Dieselpunk). Most Dieselpunks I know are not offended by the Funk, and many have openly talked about how they love having it aboard, appreciating the broadened horizons it offers. I can’t speak for Tome or the Dragonfly Armory, though in Tome’s defense he’s been at the forefront of our opposition to such horrendous crap as “Nazi Dieselpunk” and bans blatant Nazi fetishism and apologism from his site. Perhaps that ongoing fight has left him over-sensitive to anything that appears to focus on race.

    In my own works, be they fiction stories or my many articles for Tome’s (frankly excellent) website, I’ve never shied away from exposing the bigotry and inequality of the past or tried to whitewash it, and Tome as the admin has never asked me to tone it down in any way. Such sociopolitical conflicts form a major core of my work, particularly in how these events resonate today. The parallels between the civil rights struggle of yesterday and the gay rights struggle of today, for example, are disturbingly similar. To ignore the uncomfortable sins of the past is to pretend they never happened, and to ignore that they’re happening still.

    Personally, I hope this whole mess has the positive outcome of creating an open and constructive dialog on race, culture, and colonialism within the retrofuturism movement and dearly hope this debate doesn’t spiral into entrenchment, factionalism, and anger as so often happens when shit goes down on the web.

    I implore everyone to remember to act with love and compassion in all things and focus on our shared human dignity and mutual desire to leave the world a better place than we found it.

    Jack “Cap’n Tony” Philpott…

    • Jha says:

      Anti-Nazism is REALLY EASY though… everyone recognizes that Nazis were evil. However, to confuse centering Blackness as a racist venture because it emphasizes racial issues demonstrates a simplistic approach to race issues. Which quite frankly is part of the mechanisms of racism. Thus, even if he were to demonstrate tolerance for exposing historical bigotries, to censure Balogun for centering race as being racist is quite frankly one of the many, many failings of liberal humanism that allows racism to continue.

    • Balogun says:

      Well said.
      I believe constructive dialogue HAS begun, in the wake of the not-so-constructive monologues that have preceded it.
      Thanks, Jack!

  6. Winterman says:

    since no one owns these genres, i sort of don’t give much of a shit if some people seem think there’s only one way to write them or one way to be inclusive or that saying “hey, if you’re not going to include us or only include us in a shitty manner we’ll have to take the wheel ourselves.”

    which we have done and will continue to do.

    anyone wants to trade story for story is welcome to step into the arena.

    if they can climb over the mountain of bodies of the defeated.

  7. Winterman says:

    correction : “hey, if you’re not going to include us or only include us in a shitty manner we’ll have to take the wheel ourselves.” is somehow racist.

    stupid send button.

  8. Thanks, Balogun. Open Dialog is what’s important here, and we need to make sure it’s clear to everyone from the start that no single Dieselpunk speaks for the movement as a whole or even represents an Orthodox Opinion, as there is none. In my experience it’s been one of the more open movements in terms of letting outside opinions, including Dieselfunk, in and cultivating a pluralistic dialog (the major exception being the Nazi fetishists…I think just about everyone thinks intolerance is justified there). It’s still an infant movement and there are too few of us to turn our anger inwards. Factionalism and “us-them” dichotomies hurt us all. “Stand together or hang apart” and all that.

    Just to clear one thing up, no one at Dieselpunks.org, Tome included, have “censored” Balogun or any Funk genre work that I am aware of. Tome’s opinion is Tome’s option, not the site’s (a neutral meeting ground) or the movement’s dogma. That comment was made in a private forum which Balogun chose to take to the public arena and has never been an official stance of the site or of the members there. In fact to the contrary many of us that frequent and write for the site have been *Funk’s most vocal supporters and promoters, which is the major point of my earlier post, not apologizing for Tome (he can speak for himself). Some of you may have missed that distinction.

  9. Tome Wilson says:

    If you feel we have an issue to discuss, I recommend discussing it with me.

    Jumping on a soapbox and libeling me on the internet is not constructive (at best), and can be interpreted as antagonistic (at worst).

    My exposure to dieselfunk has been, “It’s dieselpunk, but black.”

    No more. No less.

    If you knew anything about me, you would know that I oppose /any/ type of segregation in the genre and community, and I have over six years of very public history on Dieselpunks to prove it.

    If one wishes to promote a community that is _all inclusive_ and accepting of _all_ cultures and races, then I believe one should never work towards separating them and I’ve fought to make sure dieselpunk as a culture and as a community accepts all races, creeds, religions, and cultures.

    How you ever felt slighted by the community is a mystery to me. I pay for a site you and many others use to promote your books. I manage a database and harden the security you use to post on Dieselpunks. I personally promote your events on my calendar as soon as I hear about them.

    Why, even though I don’t agree with your stance?

    It’s because I’m against censorship and I maintain a neutral stance despite my feelings _for the benefit of the community_.

    Calling your work “racist” in a private email was ignorant. Yes, I admit this. It’s the word in my head that means, “Separating by race, or favoring one race.” Not strangely, more than half of the people polled from Facebook, Twitter, Dieselpunks, Google+, and StumbleUpon also make this mistake (https://polldaddy.com/poll/7752537/). Instead of “racist,” which I admit was the wrong term, I should have used the term “separatist” or “not in the best interests of promoting an inclusive community.”

    I believe if one wants to show dieselpunk as being all-inclusive, one should not segregate their work into sub-genres based on specific cultures. It splits hairs, stinks of marketing at the expense of the community, and sends the wrong message to the public akin to “If you want to see any POC in dieselpunk, we’re in this little fenced off area called dieselfunk.”

    The genre and the community has been slammed for being pro-fascist by ignorant people, pro-orientalism by ignorant people, and now you are calling me racist for not paying attention to your books and events? I feel my conscience is clean and my work for the community speaks for me.

    If you wish to discuss this like gentlemen, you can reach me at tome@dieselpunks.org like everyone else does.

    • Balogun says:

      And, once again, you choose to miss the point, or to misrepresent what I wrote.
      If you don’t pay attention to my books or events, that is fine. It is your labeling Dieselfunk racist and separatist, without ANY evidence of that being true, that I take issue with.

      You obviously have an issue with Dieselfunk, but chose not to discuss it with ME, however you recommend I discuss any issue with YOU, “like gentlemen?

      Come now.

      I also NEVER said I felt slighted. I don’t cry out for the attention of others, nor do I ask for others’ respect. I EARN it…through my work. I don’t seek handouts.

      If the genre and the community has been “slammed” for being pro-fascist and pro-orientalist, perhaps self-examination and examination of the genre is needed.

      You admit that calling my work racist was ignorant, yet you feel your conscience is clean? Ignorance is rectified through education; through investigation; through contemplation.

      Marketing doesn’t “stink”, Tome. What stinks is that Dieselpunk, Steampunk, and most other Science Fiction and Fantasy genres and conventions do not bother to market to Black people, or other People Of Color. It IS marketed…to white people. White males mainly. So, my colleagues and I market XYZ-Punk to those who were previously unaware of the existence of these cool genres, to those seeking something other than the “default”, and to those seeking a safe and comfortable space after THEY felt slighted at some con or on some website. Fandom has grown because of it.

    • Ruth DJ says:

      Wow, Tome, is this deliberate ignorance or just flying by the seat of your pants?

      Seriously, you think that somehow the name dieselfunk makes the genre completely inaccessible to the White audience?

      Didn’t it cross your mind that perhaps it expands, not contracts the dieselpunk/steamfunk world to be more, not less, inclusive? At a glance, a reader knows that there’s going to be African elements, whether it’s Black characters, set in an alternative reality or in the African continent.

      Personally, I’m working on a steamfunk set in an world where the Moors never left Spain and their African empire expanded, thus the entire history of Europe and the Americas and Africa has an entirely different outcome, including the history of the Native Americans. And it’s set in California. And the main character is a woman who’s not swooning on the arm of her man.

      I would prefer that my story be placed in the steamfunk, rather than generic steampunk, category, so readers are well aware that they aren’t going to be reading a book set in Victorian England and that there will most definitely be diversity in the characters.

      Your reaction is an interesting reflection of the sci-fi community, one that I’ve faced as a woman. Cuz, you know, women don’t read science fiction (tongue planted firmly in cheek as I roll my eyes). So I think I have a small clue about the reaction of the Black community when there are NO diverse characters, other than the occasional Chinese laundryman or a slave or three, written into books of any genre. The same as it used to be for me, when women were the White hero’s eye candy and not to be taken seriously. And certainly couldn’t be a main character, because nobody would read the book. (Don’t kid yourself, it’s still like that, I can provide a copy of a review of my niece’s book. A good review, but the guy couldn’t believe that a woman wrote it — and called her a housewife…)

      Dude, it’s not about separatism (and why are you so threatened by this anyway?), it’s about presenting a different perspective by authors, or in some cases characters, of Color. Just by your reaction, you’re pushing away the Black community, as if a different viewpoint isn’t OK.

      As I say on my own website — “It’s not about excluding White main characters — it’s about bringing People of Color into the Sci-Fi and Fantasy universe that I love. Surely the future will be diverse. Surely the leaders won’t all be White — right?”

      Some free advice for you:
      Relax, take a chill pill, and don’t feel threatened by the authors and readers who want to read about something other than the standard issue “White guy saves the world” speculative fiction.

    • srtorris says:

      Picture a stage, and past that stage, out there, are 500 hundred seats. Now, all those seats are filled with people of every creed, color, sexual orientation, etc. And they are waiting with bated breath for the actors to come to the stage and present the story of all ages.

      YOU are supposed to be in that play, to deliver your lines, which will move and intrigue, bring some to tears, and others howling with laughter, but you’re outside the theatre banging on the only door to let you in. Sure, there’s another door but that is reserved for the audience and YOU are a participator, not a spectator.

      Meanwhile, others are delivering your lines the way THEY think your lines should be said, and some of your words are being left out entirely. This happens night after night, people being entertained, beguiled, bewitched while you are outside banging on that one lonely door until your knuckles are raw. Three things are bound to happen…

      1) You will continue on this Wheel Of Fortune, hoping someone will one day open the door and let you in and onto the stage. 2) Depending on your degree of psychosis, you will burn the theatre to the ground. 3) You will open your own play. It may not start out in a 500 seat theatre but the potential is limitless. And that’s what we have here, Mr. Wilson – limitless potential.

      I was an admirer of Steampunk but from afar. When I wanted to become more heavily involved in the culture, I did a little research and found Nazis, Confederate States of America enthusiasts, and silent participants, whose silence was interpreted as a co-sign to the prior mentioned. “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was nice but needless to say, I kept a wide berth. If not for Steamfunk, I wouldn’t have come across the John Philpott types, inclusive, welcoming, and wanting the genre to expand in the best possible way. I’m afraid that the exclusion of which you speak, if you would ask POC who are newcomers to this, stems from participants of Steampunk, not Steamfunkateers.

      Unfortunately, society and its ills creep into art and artistic culture marring its perceived beauty. A lot of artists think, by virtue of being artists, we are immune to biases. We are not. Artistic culture whether it’s Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons, Vampires, Werewolves, Smaugs, Hobbits, Elves, Steam, Diesel, and Digitalpunk have maintained a strong Status Quo. That Status Quo is white, which is a heavy door to unlock and once you do, there isn’t a guarantee that you will even be let in, much less welcomed.

      Steamfunk, on the other hand, welcomes the kaliedascope of humanity as well as empowering the expression of POC. One doesn’t have to beg to be a part of something that claims to be inclusive when it’s not – we have alternatives. If the Status Quo feels excluded, it’s because of their arrogance in thinking that lampooning and reducing Steamfunk to Afro wigs and pimp canes won’t go unchecked and feelings get hurt when it does. But more likely than not, it is the Status Quo that refuses to participate in the first place. They didn’t sanction it, they want no parts of it. This is my observation.

      I happen to like the Victorian Era, Sherlock Holmes-ish, Downton Abbey-esque, Civil War is coming, add steam and let’s go themes. What I don’t like is the gaping hole that is people of color as if somehow we all mysteriously left and the cotton, sugar cane, tobacco picked itself; the railroad built itself, Elijah McCoy was some imaginary ghost person and his lubricating cup which advanced steam engines and locomotive travel, magically appeared from nowhere; the Brits ultimately prevailed in South Africa but not before getting their collective ass handed to them by the Zulus in some of their worst imaginable defeats, ever, the Chinese fought to the drug dealing Brits out of China; Indians fought the Brits in bloody battles to get them out of India – but in Steampunk, that’s imaginary mist, elusive to all. Times are a-changing, Mr. Wilson, and the pinhole I saw at the beginning of my Steampunk adventure has become a tunnel with a FUNKY light at the end of.

      After all, everybody’s got a little light, under the sun. ;)

  10. If you feel we have an issue to discuss, I recommend discussing it with me.

    Jumping on a soapbox and libeling me on the internet is not constructive (at best), and can be interpreted as antagonistic (at worst).

    My exposure to dieselfunk has been, “It’s dieselpunk, but black.”

    No more. No less.

    If you knew anything about me, you would know that I oppose /any/ type of segregation in the genre and community, and I have over six years of very public history on Dieselpunks to prove it.

    If one wishes to promote a community that is _all inclusive_ and accepting of _all_ cultures and races, then I believe one should never work towards separating them and I’ve fought to make sure dieselpunk as a culture and as a community accepts all races, creeds, religions, and cultures.

    How you ever felt slighted by the community is a mystery to me. I pay for a site you and many others use to promote your books. I manage a database and harden the security you use to post on Dieselpunks. I personally promote your events on my calendar as soon as I hear about them.

    Why, even though I don’t agree with your stance?

    It’s because I’m against censorship and I maintain a neutral stance despite my feelings _for the benefit of the community_.

    Calling your work “racist” in a private email was ignorant. Yes, I admit this. It’s the word in my head that means, “Separating by race, or favoring one race.” Not strangely, more than half of the people polled from Facebook, Twitter, Dieselpunks, Google+, and StumbleUpon also make this mistake (https://polldaddy.com/poll/7752537/). Instead of “racist,” which I admit was the wrong term, I should have used the term “separatist” or “not in the best interests of promoting an inclusive community.”

    I believe if one wants to show dieselpunk as being all-inclusive, one should not segregate their work into sub-genres based on specific cultures. It splits hairs, stinks of marketing at the expense of the community, and sends the wrong message to the public akin to “If you want to see any POC in dieselpunk, we’re in this little fenced off area called dieselfunk.”

    The genre and the community has been slammed for being pro-fascist by ignorant people, pro-orientalism by ignorant people, and now you are calling me racist for not paying attention to your books and events? I feel my conscience is clean and my work for the community speaks for me.

    If you wish to discuss this like gentlemen, you can reach me at tome@dieselpunks.org. I have work to do.

    • srtorris says:

      Picture a stage, and past that stage, out there, are 500 hundred seats. Now, all those seats are filled with people of every creed, color, sexual orientation, etc. And they are waiting with bated breath for the actors to come to the stage and present the story of all ages.

      YOU are supposed to be in that play, to deliver your lines, which will move and intrigue, bring some to tears, and others howling with laughter, but you’re outside the theatre banging on the only door to let you in. Sure, there’s another door but that is reserved for the audience and YOU are a participator, not a spectator.

      Meanwhile, others are delivering your lines the way THEY think your lines should be said, and some of your words are being left out entirely. This happens night after night, people being entertained, beguiled, bewitched while you are outside banging on that one lonely door until your knuckles are raw. Three things are bound to happen…

      1) You will continue on this Wheel Of Fortune, hoping someone will one day open the door and let you in and onto the stage. 2) Depending on your degree of psychosis, you will burn the theatre to the ground. 3) You will open your own play. It may not start out in a 500 seat theatre but the potential is limitless. And that’s what we have here, Mr. Wilson – limitless potential.

      I was an admirer of Steampunk but from afar. When I wanted to become more heavily involved in the culture, I did a little research and found Nazis, Confederate States of America enthusiasts, and silent participants, whose silence was interpreted as a co-sign to the prior mentioned. “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was nice but needless to say, I kept a wide berth. If not for Steamfunk, I wouldn’t have come across the John Philpott types, inclusive, welcoming, and wanting the genre to expand in the best possible way. I’m afraid that the exclusion of which you speak, if you would ask POC who are newcomers to this, stems from participants of Steampunk, not Steamfunkateers.

      Unfortunately, society and its ills creep into art and artistic culture marring its perceived beauty. A lot of artists think, by virtue of being artists, we are immune to biases. We are not. Artistic culture whether it’s Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons, Vampires, Werewolves, Smaugs, Hobbits, Elves, Steam, Diesel, and Digitalpunk have maintained a strong Status Quo. That Status Quo is white, which is a heavy door to unlock and once you do, there isn’t a guarantee that you will even be let in, much less welcomed.

      Steamfunk, on the other hand, welcomes the kaliedascope of humanity as well as empowering the expression of POC. One doesn’t have to beg to be a part of something that claims to be inclusive when it’s not – we have alternatives. If the Status Quo feels excluded, it’s because of their arrogance in thinking that lampooning and reducing Steamfunk to Afro wigs and pimp canes won’t go unchecked and feelings get hurt when it does. But more likely than not, it is the Status Quo that refuses to participate in the first place. They didn’t sanction it, they want no parts of it. This is my observation.

      I happen to like the Victorian Era, Sherlock Holmes-ish, Downton Abbey-esque, Civil War is coming, add steam and let’s go themes. What I don’t like is the gaping hole that is people of color as if somehow we all mysteriously left and the cotton, sugar cane, tobacco picked itself; the railroad built itself, Elijah McCoy was some imaginary ghost person and his lubricating cup which advanced steam engines and locomotive travel, magically appeared from nowhere; the Brits ultimately prevailed in South Africa but not before getting their collective ass handed to them by the Zulus in some of their worst imaginable defeats, ever, the Chinese fought to the drug dealing Brits out of China; Indians fought the Brits in bloody battles to get them out of India – but in Steampunk, that’s imaginary mist, elusive to all. Times are a-changing, Mr. Wilson, and the pinhole I saw at the beginning of my Steampunk adventure has become a tunnel with a FUNKY light at the end of.

      After all, everybody’s got a little light, under the sun. ;)

  11. Excellent article Brother Balogun!! After reading Jack’s comments I got so mad it took me a minute to calm down so I could post a response. Sure, minorities don’t participate in Steampunk and Diselpunk because we’re not interested. Right. That sounds so much like “We don’t have any minorities working here because no qualified minorites have applied.”

    Uh-huh, and the fact that by all accounts SF is still traditionally dominated by White males is just a huge happenstance. This is the 21th century. We stand in midst of a Renaissance of Science Fiction and Fantasy ushered in by folks of Color: Black, Latino, Native American, Asian… And there are number of White readers and writers who welcome this change in the playing field. So folks shouldn’t be surprised that if instead of beating our fists bloody against a door that’s locked and bolted from the outside, we build our own door. Better recognize. Let me say it one more ‘gin: We are coming. . . We are HERE.

    • Balogun says:

      It was Tome and Lt. Condor who made the statements, Sister Valjeanne. Jack has actually always been supportive of Steamfunk and Dieselfunk. However, I absolutely know how you feel.
      As a major force in the Steamfunk movement, you are well aware of why Steamfunk must – and will ALWAYS – be here.
      Thanks, so much, for your feedback, Sister Valjeanne!

  12. Cerece says:

    This is just a shame. I know I’m late to the party, but I wanted to show my support for Steamfunk as a valid and wonderful way to participate in the world of sci-fi fantasy. Many others have said it well and better, but I’d like to encourage Mr. Tome, et. al. to READ some Steamfunk work before commenting on it as if they knew anything beyond “Steampunk, but black”. As someone who has READ the Steamfunk Anthology, I can attest to the fact that it is VERY diverse, i.e. NOT JUST BLACK PEOPLE (Or White people for that matter…hhmm). In addition, it is well-written, entertaining and fun with the ability to appeal to anyone who likes a good read. (Imagine that!)

    Racism is a powerful term that has destroyed millions of lives. It is deeply irresponsible to use such a word without clear knowledge and understanding. To use it, without evidence, without thought, doesn’t build or serve ANY community well.

    • Balogun says:

      Thank you, so much, Cerece!
      Very Well said! As a person who has read Steamfunk and has seen our work beyond the anthology, you KNOW how we roll. :)

    • Lynn Emery says:

      But you see, privilege means you don’t have to really KNOW the true meaning or history of the word racism; you can sail through life wearing blinders and saying whatever. Because it doesn’t limit anything in your life, right? Clueless is so on target. So some get
      “offended” when we write our own stories and wonder why we’re being “separatists”. Yet seldom if ever even notice that the books in the mainstream genre have all white casts, let alone mention this. Hmm, isn’t that separatists? Oh wait, no because white is the default. They notice when we show up, don’t notice when were missing. Ludicrous.

      • Balogun says:

        “Yet seldom if ever even notice that the books in the mainstream genre have all white casts, let alone mention this. Hmm, isn’t that separatists? Oh wait, no because white is the default.”
        Beautifully stated, Lynn!

        Thanks, so much, for your feedback!

  13. Spykes says:

    I appreciate this examination of race and alternative movements; however, I agree that dieselfunk and steamfunk are exclusive. I agree with the evidence and statement of institutional racism and issues privileged; however, steamfunk is a result of institutional racism. Steampunk is genre of science fiction… It really has nothing to do with race. However, the culture and community as a whole is lacking in diversity. But when an subsect of a subgenre is created based off the sole purpose of race, it is racist. It is the notion of separate but equal… It’s not. I am not denying that there is an exclusion of people of color in diesel and steam punk; creating a subsections to an already underground scene does not promote inclusiveness. Sci fiction and other genre need to include more people of color ( and other underrepresented groups) but the term (I think )steamfunk is insulting… The name it self makes me cringe. When i first saw this term on pinterest, I was really upset of the segregation and that fact that it just couldn’t be steam punk. I just wish it was a better term or just not a separate movement all. I am just not a fan of this term or the sepasratist stance to create diversity… The sentence itself doesn’t even make sense!

    • lynnemery says:

      There is nothing segregationist about Steamfunk. Have you read it? Do you even know what it is? You cringe? Seriously? When we define a new take to include people of color you say, “It can’t be Steampunk”. Is it because whites have defined it and you accept that as gospel? Steampunk – fiction set in the age of steam power, i.e. Victorian age with either all white casts or maybe one person of color in a very minor role. Steamfunk – set in the same age but with people of color included as the main characters, but also with white characters. Explain please why what Steamfunk writers create “just can’t be steampunk”. Please tell me it’s not because “true” Steampunk must have white folks as the heroes and heroines only, and written based in anglo-saxon culture. If so, you’ve been sipping the Kool-Aid too long. Step away from the glass. Please. Wait, you’re right now that I ponder the subject. Steamfunk is NOT Steampunk. Because Steamfunk is inclusive, not just pretending that only one race or ethnic group invented, innovated, even existed during the steam era. So there it is. I AGREE with you.

      • Spykes says:

        I think you misunderstood me. I still don’t like the term steamfunk. But I never had the race attached to steam punk, in the first place. When I first got into steam punk I was intrigued buy the ideas of steam power and victorian era… I didn’t think only whites participated in steam punk. The statement “why can’t it just be steam punk” is staying steam funk is steampunk so why have a separate category. When I first saw the term, I was upset because I assumed that a person if non color attached this term to a black person dressed in steam punk fashion. Steam funk did not make me feel like I was apart steam punk…. It was the first time I questioned race in the steam punk movement. Granted I am new to the scene I have not been exposed to the ugly sides of steam punk; however, I don’t understand why steam funk and steam punk have to be separate…. When I think of the term steam funk, I think about blacexpolitation films. Although they were created to address issues of race in Hollywood, they were bad movies, in the sense of promoting the stereotypes of black people. When u search steamfunk on pintrest you get pictures of primarily black people in steam punk wear, but then you see this animated caricature of Blacks a steam punk…. It makes me cringe… The term itself steam funk is off putting in a stereotypical way. In no way I am I say blacks can’t participate on steam punk. On the contrary I am saying it is the same thing and shouldn’t have to be separate to make a point… I just don’t understand why the separate terms need to exist.

      • Spykes says:

        I also took the time to really examine the article and the comments and I see that home Tome responded in both instance was inappropriate and noted the problem. I understand both agruments ; however, I still don’t like the term. I appreciate the movement, just like appreciate black exploitation films… But again this is apart of institutional racism. We need to start recognizing our own participation in racism…

    • Ruth DJ says:

      This is kinda funny, because funk is inclusive.

      Don’t believe me? At nearly any party, throw on George Clinton’s Atomic Dog and watch the people crowd onto the dance floor, from the White guy who dances like a frog in a blender to the dark-complected beauty that MUST be a professional dancer — she’s that good — and nobody cares. Shoot, they’re probably dancing together and having a fabulous time.

      Doesn’t matter if you have rhythm, or not, everybody has to jam to the music. Funk is like that.

      Steampunk may not have room for diversity, but steamfunk has room for all. It’s inclusive, not exclusive.

      It’s all about the Funk. (Now where’s my George Clinton CD?)

  14. lynnemery says:

    Please research the meaning of racism and learn how racism works. This is called blaming the victim. Having suffered racism, to say that creating something and giving it a slightly different name is participating in racism offends me. Racism is deeper than that. Much deeper.

    There is a genre of music called “Funk”, are you cringing? Black people made “race films” back in the 30s, 40s and 50s because they weren’t getting the kinds of roles in movies they wanted to play. What? You think they should have kept being cast as maids, butlers, dense buffons because they shouldn’t have created their own?. Does that make you cringe? No, those are NOT part of institutional racism. They were created because of racism. But I doubt you will get this. Did you cringe when you noticed Steampunk had no, or very few, people of color as main characters in the books? Yet you’re cringing because POC are innovative enough to come up with Steamfunk. Well… that makes no sense. When people are marginalized, ignored, excluded and in no frame of mind to request/beg for representation, respect and inclusion they create their own. In fact, you may not realize this but many have labored long and hard in movies, music, publishing, sports, etc. not to have to pull out. Study history, these innovations have almost always been after decades of frustration. POC are the kings and queens of trying to be part of mainstream… whatever. You can go back years and read POC saying the same things we say today about the lack of positive portrayals in movies, television and yes, books. Many tried for decades (still trying), beating on the visible and invisible barriers. Thank goodness enough of us know that not waiting, and waiting, and waiting is crap. That being our own brilliant, talented selves, and doing it for ourselves is a reason to celebrate. Oh, and that little reference to Blaxploitation films being inferior (some were bad, some were okay, some were good like a lot of movie genres), as if to imply that Steamfunk must be inferior is also offensive. So if POC create it must be inferior? That’s rhetorical. Okay. I’m done. Not trying to convince you.

    • Balogun says:

      VERY well said, Lynn!
      We will continue to create and to move forward. If others cringe because of that, so be it. *shrugs*

      Thanks, so much, for your brilliant feedback and for your shining examples of what great Black speculative fiction is all about through your magnificent work!

  15. Fujimoto says:

    An excellent new post. This message is familiar, but one that needs repeating, shouted from the rooftops. I recon that had there not been any steamfunk/dieselfunk and people of color complained about a lack of representation then the responses would be along the lines of “grow a thicker skin and get used to it” or “everyone knows that fans can be exclusionary, and your complaining isn’t helping anyone; go take action yourself (but away from me so I won’t have to listen)”. Then you do take action, and you get labeled “exclusionary” by the exclutionists.

  16. […] very first Dieselfunk novel, The Scythe, is now available in both paperback and e-book […]

  17. […] some great Steamfunk, Urban Fantasy or Dieselfunk, get a book signed, or just chat it up. No debating if Steamfunk or Dieselfunk is racist or separatist, though. Save that for the panel discussions I am participating in…or go to author Milton Davis […]

  18. […] 20 STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK, SWORD & SOUL AND URBAN FANTASY BOOKS FOR BLACK […]

  19. psychugo says:

    Well said, or rather, well written.

  20. […] gave a lot of thought to his cosplay as well. Since this year’s theme for Anachrocon was Dieselpunk, which is set in the Diesel Era of the 1920s through the end of WWII, and he knew, through reading […]

  21. […] this unveiling was not without controversy, as anyone who reads this blog is well aware. Accusations of “racism” were made by a couple of prominent names in the Dieselpunk community, and arguments began on what […]

  22. edlacy says:

    Whoever says Dieselfunk is racist is missing the point. How can you have Dieselpunk without the Harlem Renaissance, without Josephine Baker, Art Tatum, WEB DuBois, Cab Calloway, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes?The assessment that Dieselfunk is racist is based on the mistaken assumption that it excludes non-blacks by definition. I don’t feel excluded. I am a member of the Dieselpunks website. I am “white” (whatever that’s about), and can find a lot of inspiration in Dieselfunk, and Steamfunk. In fact alternate Victoriana only makes sense to me if it has a component to it that addresses the inequities of Euroopean culture, which Steamfunk would inherently do. I think that people react to this without thinking it through. Fellow white people, if you can’t figure it out, I can’t do nothing for ya.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s