Steamfunk * Steampunk * Sword & Soul

Adventure

THE BUTLER / BANKS BOOK TOUR CONTINUES! The Humor-Infused Urban Fantasy of D.K. (Keith) Gaston

Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter

Who is D K Gaston?

Keith GastonI first met Darin, the author of more than a dozen books ranging from Speculative Fiction to Crime novels, on Facebook in the State of Black Science Fiction group. He was a quick-witted brother, always there with a funny joke. Liking his personality, I decided to purchase his book Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter – yes, authors, people will purchase your books if they like you, so stop with the diva act – and I loved it! The book was well written, had a great plot and was infused with Gaston’s humor.

I immediately searched for more of his work and found out some interesting information:  his first book was published in 2007. After serving five years in the military, he began college, earning a degree in Computer Science. Since earning his degree he’s gone on to earn two Masters degree in Technology Management and Business Administration. His experience in the military and computer sciences has shaped many of his stories and characters over the years. He also writes under the name Keith Gaston.

Taurus Moon: Magic and MayhemGaston’s most recent speculative fiction novel is Taurus Moon: Magic & Mayhem, which is the follow-up to Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter. Taurus makes his living by searching for supernatural artifacts for anyone willing to pay his price.

Gaston says “These two novels are among my favorite because they allow me to express my humor, as much as the fast-paced action, throughout the books.”

Taurus Moon: Magic & Mayhem is a fast-paced action and fantasy novel, sprinkled with humor. After saving the lives of a family about to be slaughtered by Lycans, Taurus and Gully are pulled into a realm where magic is supreme and technology is nonexistent. They must travel through harsh lands to find their way home.

The uneasy alliance between an evil sorceress queen, Morgana le Fay, and Grimes, a Lycan king, is threatened because of the relic hunter’s and mage’s presence. Taurus and Gully will have to use every trick they’ve every learned to survive the looming battle, but will it be enough?

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

Gully’s lungs burned, and cold sweat dripped down his face, but he couldn’t stop running, because stopping meant death.

Shadowing them on all fours, their stalkers were urged on with an inhuman need to slaughter. The heavy pounding of their massive paws against the frozen landscape grew ever closer. He pictured his pursuers’ tongues lolling from their mouths, salivating with anticipation. Wails filled the night; their terrifying howls alerting others of their pack that the chase was nearly over.

Gully had hoped the thick trees would offer him and the people he’d rescued, places to conceal themselves, but it wasn’t to be. The predators’ night vision could penetrate the dark with ease and their sense of smell could detect the four of them wherever they may hide.

Desperation begged that he plunge deeper into the woods. More than once, he’d seen what the claws and teeth of the predators could do to human flesh—saw the terror frozen in the eyes of their dead victims. Gully saw that same fear in the eyes of the family he was trying to protect. A hard knot had gotten trapped in his throat when the small girl glanced in his direction. Her gaze became saucers and she mouthed a silent scream.

Gully forced himself to twist his neck around to glance over his shoulder toward whatever she saw. He spotted the blood red glow of their ominous eyes first, then saw three of the beasts leap out from the darkness, their maws snapping open and close with enthusiasm as they anticipated flesh being trapped between their razor-sharp teeth.

The girl finally gave voice to her scream. It was time to stop running. Gully turned on his heels and faced the rampaging creatures. Exhausted and out of breath, he struggled to control his panic. Every fiber of his being shouted for him to continue running, but deep inside he knew that running would only get them killed. Gully shoved his fear aside, not for himself, but for the small girl and her parents.

The werewolves hastened their charge.

***

I sliced a jagged line across Darla’s neck with the silver blade from my wrist-mount to let her father know, I was serious about killing her. A thin line of warm blood trickled down her throat to her naked body. Grimes snarled, but stopped his advance toward me. His long abnormal fingernails and fangs retracted. Red menacing eyes reverted back to lifeless gray ones. As the dark brown fur slowly withdrew back into his skin, he grew smaller by several feet as he returned to his natural six-four height.

Grimes, naked and fully human, did not bother to hide his manhood, and he stared at me as if I was the one wrongly dressed for the occasion. “You are bluffing, Moon. You would not kill my daughter in cold blood,” he said not sounding entirely convinced of his words.

 Under my grasp, Darla snarled like a wild animal and said, “He’s weak, father! Kill him now!”

“Take it easy, princess. No one has to be hurt here tonight,” I whispered. I spoke to her father in a louder voice with as much confidence as I could. “Make one move, Grimes, and I’ll take off her head. Trust me, I don’t bluff.”

“That’s not exactly true, sir. Since my association with you, you have, indeed, deceived your way out of five precarious situations,” Mosley said deadpan while in his holographic Idris Elba form.

Grimes, Darla and I slowly turned our gaze to the hologram. “You’re not supposed to let the bad guys know you might be bluffing, Mosley. Sort of defeats the purpose, don’t you think?” I scolded.

The hologram winced in apology then his image disappeared. Sometimes, I wondered if Mosley was with me or against me.

Grimes smiled, his teeth elongating once again. “My daughter and I shall have white wine as we dine on your flesh tonight, Moon.”

I gritted my teeth and narrowed my eyes at him. “Despite what my blabbermouth friend said, I will cut her throat!” Something in my expression or body language told him I spoke the truth, because his teeth became humanlike again.

“You dare call my daughter and me bad guys, when it was you and your conjurer friend that broke into my castle in a pitiful attempt to rob me!”

Can you believe this guy? “You’re just going to skate over the fact that, in the midst of our pitiful attempt at robbery, Gully and I saved the lives of a family you and your darling princess here, were about to make a meal of. Here’s a tidbit of information for you. Eating innocent folks definitely places you and Darla on the wrong side of righteousness.”

Darla squirmed in my grip perhaps to break my hold, but I wasn’t having that. I pressed the silver blade tighter against her neck, drawing more blood from her. “Play nice,” I whispered into her ear.

“We have to eat,” she said defensively, as if that justified everything. “How else do you expect us to live?”

I shook my head, bowled over by the question. “That’s why the world has frozen meat sections in supermarkets, princess. You and I both know it’s not a prerequisite for werewolves to feed on human flesh. Raw meat is all you need to survive.”

“We are predators. We hunt for our food,” Grimes huffed. “You have no right to be here–no right to take our prey!”

“You’re only half right, buddy,” I retorted. “I don’t have any legal right to invade your home, but I do have a noble one. I need something from you. Not to keep… only to borrow,” I said, trying to gain some sort of control over the situation. I needed to nullify them before things got worse.

Grimes stood ramrod straight and folded his arms together. “You are joking, correct? My daughter is your prisoner, and you expect me to let you borrow something from my castle?”

“Kill him, father,” Darla yelled, as she shifted slightly, readying herself to make a move.

I lifted the flat of the blade, scratched off a thin layer of skin from her neck, and then gave her a solid tap underneath the chin. “Will you shut the hell up? Grown folks are talking here.”

She didn’t like that at all.

Too late, I realized, I’d gone too far with my belittling of her.

In an instant, Darla went into full animal state, growing two feet in height with hair covering her entire body. Two inch fangs and long fingernails as sharp and strong as the finest steel knives were only seconds away from ripping into me. I stood at a crossroads in a split second of indecision—if I cut off her head, Grimes would be on top of me with a father’s fury like no other—if  I did nothing, Darla would eventually get the upper hand in her stronger animal state. I hesitated a moment too long with my conundrum.

In a flash, she batted my arm away from her neck and heaved her head rearward, slamming the back of her skull hard against my forehead. In pain, I reeled backwards several steps, my vision an explosion of colors. I swung my blade wide and wild to make sure they couldn’t get close while I tried to regain focus. I could have used Gully right then and there, but he was busy getting that family Grimes and Darla had planned to eat to safety.

By the time my vision cleared, I saw that they had moved away to a safe distance. Both father and daughter were now full werewolves, and they both drooled at me with hunger in their eyes. Standing side-by-side, they looked at each other, then spoke in a series of grunts and growls, apparently debating who would get the first chunk of my flesh.

Grimes took a step back, letting Darla take the lead, an indication that they’d made their choice. I glanced over my shoulder, weighing what my chances would be if I sprinted down the corridor. There were no doors or turns, at least not until I’d ran down the long stretch for about thirty yards.

I would never make it. If I turned away to run, Darla would be on top of me before I took three steps, biting and clawing into my back. My pistols were already emptied from an earlier encounter. Though I had spare magazines, I’d never have time to reload. Left with the choice to fight, I planted my feet into a defensive posture and readied myself. One thing was in my favor—they’d decided to come at me one at a time.

Darla let out what I guessed was a laugh as she advanced toward me. She leapt to her left. Her paws pounded heavily against the left wall, as she launched herself to the wall on the opposite side. She bounded back and forth across the walls in a zigzag fashion so fast that she was almost a blur, in what I assumed was an attempt to disorientate me. I didn’t focus on her movements; it would have been impossible to track her that way. Instead, I listened to the timing of her paws as they made contact on the hard surface.

In my head, I counted down, three-two-one. Quickly dropping to one knee, I sliced my blade across the air above me. A dark shadow passed overhead at the same time. A gush of warm air and the smell of foul breath brushed against my face. An incredible weight fell on top of me. Darla and I went barrel rolling down the corridor. Her body stopped its momentum before mine. I continued rolling another few feet and landed on my back. Dizzy and aching, I lifted my head and tried to gain my bearings.

Darla was sprawled on the floor, and blood and spit overflowed from the severed jaw she worked desperately to put back together. My strike wasn’t a killing blow, but I’d nearly sliced her head in two. Darla’s supernatural restoration ability would eventually heal the wound. For the meantime, she would be out of the fight. Scrambling to my feet, I noticed my tumble with the princess had shortened the distance to the end of the corridor.

An anguished howl came from her father, who charged down the hallway. Leaping over Darla, Grimes made a beeline for me.

Already in mid-turn, I ran. Unlike Darla, her father wouldn’t be nearly as easy to subdue. He had a thousand years of fighting in armies throughout history under his belt. He also wasn’t as headstrong as her and had a habit of never underestimating his enemies. Lucky for me, Grimes wasn’t as agile or fast as his daughter. Immortal or not, he still suffered from the slow downs of aging.

I made it to the end of the hall and took a sharp left. Antique tables, vases and artwork adorned the walls. I retracted my blade, and pushed over anything I could get my hands on to slow him down. It didn’t work out as I’d hoped. Rather than duck and weave through the mayhem, he barreled through it as if there were no obstructions.

I groped in my pocket for a magazine and inserted the clip into my pistol. All the rounds were laced with silver. Stopping my run, I whirled around and raised my weapon to shoot. There was nothing behind me but smashed furniture and artwork. Grimes had disappeared. Cursing under my breath, I muttered, “This is not good.” I knew he could attack from any direction. Grimes’ castle probably had a network of secret passages running from every room and corridor. No matter which way I proceeded, I was likely to run into an ambush.

The best maneuver would be to stay where I was and try to find a way out of his little mousetrap. “Mosley, I need you,” I whispered, though I might as well have spoke with a bullhorn, knowing Grimes’ enhanced hearing in his wolf state could detect a pin drop a mile away.

“Is that absolutely necessary, sir? I mean, can’t you do this alone?” Mosley answered.

“Do we really need to have this conversation, you crazy computer? Of course it’s necessary, otherwise I wouldn’t be calling out to you for help,” I said frantically as I watched for an attack.

He let out a synthesized exhaustive breath. “Very well, sir.” Mosley appeared beside me clutching a chimney poker like a baseball bat. “How may I be of service?”

“Give me an overlay of the castle’s interior and then point out any heat signatures other than my own.”

 Mosley’s form changed from Idris Elba to a three dimensional map. Red blips indicated Grimes and his daughter. Darla remained where I had left her, but her father was quickly circling around to get ahead of me if I continued down the hallway. I was about to turn in the opposite direction, heading back toward Darla when more red blips appeared on the first level of the castle.

I pointed to the new blips. “Are there any cameras on that level you can tap into for a visual?” I asked, knowing he’d already bypassed Grimes’ security systems. Before Gully and I entered the castle, I had Mosley program in a loop into all the cameras to mask our illegal entry.

“Wait one moment, sir.” The overlay faded for several seconds and then was replaced with a visual of the first floor.

My heart pounded like a drum in my chest. Things had just gone from bad to a hell of a lot worse. Entering the castle like they’d been invited to an-all-you-can-eat dinner were a dozen or so large werewolves. They headed up the front and rear stairways, and used all the elevators. That howl from Grimes earlier hadn’t been anguish over his injured daughter as I had thought. It had been a clever call for backup.

TM: Relic Hunter is available in the following formats:

Ebook, paperback, audio

TM: Magic & Mayhem is available in the following formats:

Ebooks, paperback

 


DAY 4 OF THE BUTLER / BANKS BOOK TOUR! Author Milton Davis, the Sword and Soul Brother

Amber and the Hidden City

Days 1, 2 and 3 of the Fresh Fest of Afrofuturism…the Butler / Banks Book Tour were Blacknificent; Funktastic, even. Today, we get soulful.

Sword and Soul(ful).

Today, Milton J. Davis steps up to rock the mic.

Check him out, y’all!

Milton DavisMilton Davis is owner of MVmedia, LLC , a micro publishing company specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Sword and Soul. MVmedia’s mission is to provide speculative fiction books that represent people of color in a positive manner. Milton is the author of eight novels; his most recent The Woman of the Woods and Amber and the Hidden City. He is co-editor of four anthologies; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology and Griot: Sisters of the Spear, with Charles R. Saunders; The Ki Khanga Anthology with Balogun Ojetade and the Steamfunk! Anthology, also with Balogun Ojetade.  MVmedia has also published Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade.

Milton resides in Metro Atlanta with his wife Vickie and his children Brandon and Alana. 

 

As publisher of MVmedia, Milton brings us a wide range of incredible works of Black Speculative Fiction. Today, he gives us a peek at his Blacktastic YA Urban Fantasy novel, Amber and the Hidden City!

Amber synopsis:

              Thirteen year old Amber Robinson’s life is full of changes. Her parents are sending her to a private school away from her friends, and high school looms before her. But little does she know that her biggest change awaits in a mysterious city hidden from the world for a thousand years. Why? Amber’s grandmother is a princess from this magical kingdom of Marai. She’s been summoned home to use her special abilities to select the new king but she no longer has the gift, and her daughter was never trained for the task. That leaves only one person with the ability to save the city: Amber! But there are those who are determined that Amber never reaches Marai and they will do anything to stop her. Prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that spans from the Atlanta suburbs to the grasslands of Mali. It’s a story of a girl who discovers her hidden abilities and heritage in a way that surprises and entertains.

 

Amber excerpt:

AmberAisha kicked the garbage can across the alley and screamed. She struck out with her fists, imagining Bissau’s face as the target for her frustration. A sound distracted her; she turned to see a group of people staring at her. She grinned maliciously then before the eyes of her unwanted spectators she transformed into a huge grey hyena. Her maniacal laugh sent them all scurrying away; Aisha transformed back to her true self before exiting the other end of the alley.

              She underestimated Amber. Whatever powers she possessed manifested the moment they landed in the motherland. She had been overconfident when she knew better and now the girl and her mother were lost in Dakar. A quick sweep of the local hotels revealed they were not checked in. They were clever; they knew it would be the first place she searched. They weren’t familiar with the city, so they wouldn’t take a chance in seeking a stranger for help. Aisha was dumbfounded. Where would a person begin to look for another in this world? She would have to start with her own knowledge then go from there. In Marai each folk claimed its own section of the city. She would look for the American section of the city, if one existed. That would be where they would most likely go if they didn’t choose a hotel. Aisha spotted a man dressed in a large purple shirt and loose pants striding down the street towards her. There was a smile on his face; Amber smiled backed then approached him.

              “Excuse me sir,” she said in her sweetest tone. “Where would I find the American compound?”

              The man looked puzzled. “American compound? There is no…oh, you must mean the American Embassy.”

              “Yes, that is what I mean.”

              The man scratched his chin. “It’s a long way from here. Come, I’m walking to my car. I’ll take you there.”

              “Merci, sir! Merci!”

              Aisha followed the man to a dusty vehicle. She was used to automobiles now, so she climbed into the passenger side. They pulled away quickly.

              “What’s your name?” the man asked.

              “Aisha.”

              “Well, Aisha, your Momma should have taught you never to get in a car with a stranger.”

              The man’s sinister grin was barely on his face when Aisha snatched her wicked dagger  from her clothes and pressed the tip into his neck. It was her turn to grin.

              “No, sir. You should be old enough to know not to try to take advantage of pretty young girls. Now take me to this American embassy.”

              The man’s fearful eyes drifted down to the blade. “You won’t do it. I’m driving!”

              Aisha pressed the knife into his neck just enough to draw blood. The man whimpered.

              “The embassy, fool!” she spat.

              The man drove to a building that flew a red, white and blue flag decorated with stars. Aisha leaned closed to her reluctant chauffeur then kissed him on the cheek.

              “Thank you for the ride,” she whispered.

              She nicked his neck with her knife as she exited the car. The man yelled at her and shook his fist. Aisha had already forgotten him.

              The military man at the door greeted her with a smile before looking over her shoulder at the irate man.

              “Is there a problem, ma’am?” he asked.

              “No sir, but you are very kind to ask.”

              Aisha glanced over her shoulder as her involuntary ride sped away.

              “I hope you can help me, monsieur,” she said. “My friends from America came to visit me today but it seems I lost them at the airport. I think they would come to the embassy if they were lost.”

              The guard looked at her skeptically. “There were two Americans that came to the embassy earlier today. You say they are your friends?”

              “Yes, monsieur.”

              “Yet you miss them at the airport and then come here seeking them?”

              “I must make a confession,” she said. “My friends would not know me if they saw me. I was to meet them at the airport to assist them in their travels. They apparently grew impatient.”

              “They’ve made other arrangements,” the guard said gruffly. “Have a nice day, ma’am.”

              “Please, monsier, I must find them,” Aisha pleaded.

              The guard studied her a few moments before answering.

              “You can talk with the receptionist,” he said.

              “Merci, monsieur. Merci.”

              Aisha went to the receptionist. The woman confirmed that Amber and Alake had indeed come to the embassy, but she wasn’t at liberty to say where they were staying.

              Aisha thanked her then left  the embassy. So the duo had taken refuge in a local home. It would seem to be a good move, but there were few homes in Dakar that could provide two lodgers the comfort of a hotel. Her search would not be as difficult as Amber had surmised. She had no doubt she would see them very soon. She found another alley, ran then leaped into the air, her arms spread wide. She transformed into a falcon, a cry of joy escaping her mouth. Of all the creatures she could be, the birds of prey were her favorite. Their powerful bodies’ combines with their keen sight and ultimate mobility fascinated her. If there was any creature she could remain for the rest of her life, it would be such a beast.

              She beat her wings, climbing higher over Dakar. It did not take her long to find the city section she sought. A line of mansions rimmed the ocean side, houses resembling the lineage of Marai. She circled, seeking obvious sign of where Amber and the others would be but there was none. They were smarter than that, but still even the most intelligent person can make mistakes, as Bissau proved in Paris. She descended and found a perch on a nearby office building. The midday heat did not bother her; she was a child of the desert and the falcon she chose to be was well adapted to the high heat. Now was time for patience. She felt sure she was in the right place. She would soon have what she wanted.

              It was dusk when she saw it. A mystical flash rose from a sector of town south of her. She jumped from her perch, flying as fast as she could to the source before it waned. Someone used nganga nearby and she was sure she knew who. Despite her speed by the time she reached the source of the flash it had dissipated. Two homes filled her view, both splendid compared to the other homes in Dakar. There was only one way she could find which house was which. She transformed into her human female form, this time wearing the clothes of a local. She waited until darkness settled on the city before walking to the door of the first home. She knocked for a long while before giving up and proceeding to the next house. Aisha knocked then took on a sad expression. The door swung wide and was filled by a large man with a disapproving face.

              “What do you want?” he barked.

              “Something to eat,” she replied.

              “No beggars here,” he said. “Now go before I call the police.”

              “Just a little something,” she persisted.

              The man grabbed her shirt. “Didn’t you hear me? Be gone. You’ll disturb Miss Josephine and her guests!”

              Aisha’s eyes narrowed and she smiled. “Of course I will.”

              Aisha’s foot sank into the man’s stomach. He dropped her and she landed on her feet. She stepped over the groaning man into the house.

              “Bundu, who is it at such a late hour?”

              Aisha saw a light appear on her left. Another light appeared on her right. She looked right and a saw a woman she did not recognize walking toward her as she tied her house robe belt.

              “Who are you, child?” The woman demanded. “What is the meaning of…Bundu!”

              The second door opened. A woman stepped out, a woman whose face was very familiar. The woman saw Aisha and her hands flew to her mouth.

              A third door flew open at the top of the stairs. Bissau rushed out, his face twisted in anger. He jumped from the top of the stairs. Aisha grinned.

              She waited until Bissau was almost on the floor when she transformed back into the falcon and flew by him to the room. When she transformed she stood before Amber.

              “You’re journey is over,” Aisha announced.

              Amber stumbled back. The necklace about her neck glowed with a strange light.

              “That necklace will be mine once I’m done with you!”

              She struck at Amber’s neck and was shocked when the girl blocked her blow. Her foot flashed out and Amber blocked it as well. She almost laughed when Amber punched at her face until she realized the punch was a feint. She barely avoided the swinging elbow meant for her jaw.

              “You have some wrestling skills,” Aisha said. “Your Grandma taught you well.”

              Aisha glanced behind her; Bissau and Aisha’s grandmother were running up the stairs.

              “Time to end this!”

              Aisha reached for her pouch. Amber kicked her elbow and her arm fell limp.

              “Damn you, girl. I’ll…”

              Bright light filled her vision as Amber’s elbow crashed against her head then everything went dark. When she opened her eyes the back of her head throbbed and Bissau, Amber and her grandmother were entering the mirror inside the room.

              “No you don’t!” Aisha yelled.

              She jumped at the mirror. Bissau reemerged and slammed into her, knocking her to the floor. She tried to stand but Bissau pulled her back down.

              “We have unfinished business, shape shifter!” he snarled.

              “Then it will remain unfinished!” Aisha reached for her pouch again. Bissau dodged her and ran toward the mirror. Aisha smiled; as soon as he opened his portal she would follow him. He did no such thing. Instead he picked up a nearby chair and smashed the mirror. Aisha screamed then fell onto Bissau, pummeling him with hands, feet, elbows and knees.

              “Up the stairs!” she heard a female voice yell. “They’re up the stairs!”

              Aisha halted her assault on Bissau. He lay unconscious at her feet, his beautiful face beginning to swell. She ran to the edge of the stairs and saw four uniformed men climbing up to her followed by the woman and her butler. She hissed in anger; she was back to where she started. But at least this time she had a lead. She hurried over to Bissau, grasping his arms with her hands. What she was about to do would weaken her, but she needed him, at least until she could locate Amber and her grandmother again. The transformation took longer than normal; once she was done she was a falcon again and Bissau was a mouse in her talons. She flew upward as the uniformed men reached the top of the stairs then glided out of the door into the humid night.

 

Milton’s links:

http://www.mvmediaatl.com/amber-and-the-hidden-city.html

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Amber-Hidden-City-Milton-Davis/dp/098008427X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1397637761&sr=1-1

Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/amber-and-the-hidden-city-davis-john-milton/1117794226?ean=9780980084276

 

 


THE BUTLER / BANKS BOOK TOUR CONTINUES! Author Alan D. Jones Wrestles with Sacrifices in Science Fiction

Sacrifices

Sacrifices

It is Day 2 of the Butler / Banks Book Tour!

Day 1 was amazing and today, we continue the Blacknificence with our next author, Alan D. Jones!

Alan JonesAlan is a former columnist for the Atlanta Tribune, who has worked most of his adult life as a Business/IT consultant, working all across America from Los Angeles to Wall Street. Born in Atlanta, Alan attended GA-Tech and GA State, obtaining his MBA from Georgia State University’s Robinson School of Business. In addition, Alan was a feature writer for the student newspapers at both schools. Alan also served on the board of the Atlanta chapter of the National Black MBA association.

Alan, is the author of the Science Fiction novels, To Wrestle with Darkness and its prequel, Sacrifices.

 

In Sacrifices, a prequel to Alan’s first book, To Wrestle with Darkness, we meet Cil, Deborah, Ruth and Sarah. They are four sisters descended from the coupling of angels and humans. And as such they’ve been embodied with fantastical abilities which they use to defend the world from those who would harm it, be they flesh or spirit. In Sacrifices, they find themselves tested, as they must contest the forces of darkness that are intent on ending all of creation. If they are to prevail, there will certainly be sacrifices.

Check out this exciting excerpt:

One by one, four black horses, exploded out of nothingness into the white pristine snowfall of a Scandinavian winter night. Each horse ran hard through the woods of fresh powder. Atop each horse, rode a daughter of Hosea draped in black. Each rider rode with such purpose that no words were needed. Each knew her destination. On the way, they encountered a time walker dressed in white by the name of Akina. Cil pulled on the reins of her steed and her sisters followed suit. “Akina, all is as expected?” she asked.

Akina pulled back her fur lined hood to reply, “Yes, Auntie, all is as expected. But, you know that. Don’t you?”

SacrificesCil said nothing but smiled before she kicked her heels into her horse and rode off into the darkness. One by one, each of her sisters proceeded past Akina. First was Deborah, who had, as Akina would later describe, a wide-eyed, overly-excited look on her face. It was almost a bloodlust. Next came Ruth Ann, with a thousand miles away stare on her face. Bringing up the rear was Sarah, with her ever-present sunglasses firmly in place. She rode past Akina flashing her trademark irrepressible smile. Sarah’s opponents hated that smile and longed to wipe it off her face. The sisters followed Cil through the woods and towards the castle on the northern bay. They rode hard and fast through the woods as a winter’s full moon illuminated their path. 

As the sisters broke through the tree line, a castle and the wall that surrounded it were plainly in sight. They rode toward the guard tower along the outer wall. Nordic soldiers lined the top of the wall in a heightened state of readiness. As the sisters approached, a gate in the wall swung open and they passed through on their shiny black horses. Aunt Cil led them up the central corridor toward the castle beyond. Residents in the courtyard gasped as the four hooded riders proceeded, escorted by several guards on horseback. 
The ladies quickly dismounted in front of the castle and walked briskly towards the large wooden front doors. One of the guards barked out a command and once again a set of doors swung open before the women this time opening into a grand hall. The king and his court were sitting in their assigned places at the other end of the hall. It was clear that the Aunties were expected. 
The members of the court were adorned in their finest coats and pelts. A feast for four was laid out on the great dining table, but the sisters paid it no mind. It was an offering of sorts, but Cil and her sisters had no time for such things. 
They stood before the court and removed their hoods. This action froze the crowd more than the weather outside ever could. The sight of the four black women standing shoulder to shoulder left their mouths agape. 

Deborah leaned over to Ruth and whispered, “They’re looking at our hair.” 

Ruth rolled her eyes.

Cil motioned for Deborah to step forward. Deborah did so and began to speak to the king and his court in their native tongue. Deborah had the gift of speaking in the tongue of many languages. She could even speak languages that she’d never heard before. So, she translated between the parties. 

“King Helwig, Queen Helwig, and members of the royal court as our herald undoubtedly communicated to you, we are here to rid your realm of the terror currently approaching your gates.”

King Helwig stood up, “We saw what your herald can do but what can you do that would warrant us putting our faith in you to resolve this matter?” He pointed at the Aunties as he made this last point.

Cil nodded to Sarah. She removed her shades which immediately revealed her glowing eyes. Then, she gazed upon a large urn of water and unleashed a red hot beam from those eyes that split the urn in half spilling the water it contained onto the stone floor.

Next, Ruth Ann stepped forward. She raised her hands, and in a single scooping motion projected a blue shell which scooped the remains of the broken and still smoldering urn into the air. The sphere hovered in the air spinning slightly before launching upwards bursting through the ceiling and into the night sky. The entire court could see the blue ball accelerate towards the great beyond and out of sight.

Then, when all eyes landed on Deborah, she simply vanished. From the spot on the floor where she had stood, a spring sprung up spouting water thirty feet into the air. The geyser began to rage and quickly filled the hall with water. Suddenly, water began to flow into the hall from everywhere. Water flowed from every opening including the windows, the cracks in the walls, and the new hole in the ceiling. Members of the court scurried up the king’s landing and to the throne to escape the rising waters. Just as her audience began to panic, the water disappeared and Deborah reappeared right where she had been when the phenomena began as though nothing happened.

Finally, Cil raised her staff but before she could demonstrate anything, the king motioned towards her vigorously shaking his head. There was little need for Deborah to translate.

Deborah glanced towards Cil and then said to the king, “About our fee…”

 

To purchase Sacrifices on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sacrifices-Wrestle-Darkness-Book-Jones-ebook/dp/B00G1R1C1W/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1397533249

Or if you prefer, the TinyURL: http://tinyurl.com/kydzcee

Website for Sacrifices: http://alandjones.com/sacrifices/

Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/Sacrifices/130230720341543

Twitter: https://twitter.com/poppa1050

Instagram: http://instagram.com/poppa1050


THE FRESH FEST OF AFROFUTURISM IS COMING TO YOUR TOWN! Just 8 Days until the Launch of the Butler / Banks Book Tour!

Black Science Fiction

In just eight days, the Fresh Fest of Afrofuturism – also known as the Butler / Banks Book Tour – begins!

The lineup of authors is a stellar one, with some of the leading names in Black Speculative Fiction rocking the literary mic!

We are calling on every Steamfunkateer, every Dieselfunkateer, every fan of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction to join us on this tour and to spread the word.

When articles are still being written that lament the lack of Black Speculative Fiction available…when just three days ago, I see a video with some “Brother” screaming that there is no Black Science Fiction or Fantasy on the market, except his wack animation…when, in response to that same video, another “Brother” claims that, while there is a bit of Speculative Fiction written by Blacks from America, there is none from Africa because “Africans do not dream or imagine due to a lack of mental capacity to do so…” then, it is clear that a Black Speculative Fiction book tour is right on time and most necessary.

So, here is the lineup. There are, of course, many more great Black authors of Speculative Fiction out there; many authors who, for one reason or another, could not make it on this leg of the tour, but promise to join the tour on the next go-round.

And there will be a next go-round…very soon.

Join us in eight days, but shout it out now…the Fresh Fest of Afrofuturism is coming to your town!

Alan D. Jones: Former columnist for the Atlanta Tribune, Alan Jones has worked most of his adult life as a Business/IT consultant, working all across America from Los Angeles to Wall Street. Born in Atlanta, Alan attended GA-Tech and GA State, obtaining his MBA from Georgia State University’s Robinson School of Business. In addition, Alan was a feature writer for the student newspapers at both schools. Alan also served on the board of the Atlanta chapter of the National Black MBA association.

Alan, is the author of the Science Fiction novels, To Wrestle with Darkness and its prequel, Sacrifices.

Alan Jones

Balogun Ojetade: Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the short 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 six novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika, two Fight Fiction, New Pulp novellas – A Single Link and Fist of Afrika and the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk.

Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis.

You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/blackspeculativefiction.

Balogun Ojetade

Carole McDonnell:Carole McDonnell holds a BA degree in Literature from SUNY Purchase and has spent most of her years surrounded by things literary. Her writings appear in various anthologies including So Long Been Dreaming: Post-colonialism in science fiction; the anthology, Fantastic Visions III; Jigsaw Nation; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: writings by mature women of color; Fantastic Stories of the Imagination; and the Steamfunk! anthology.

She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, two sons, and their pets. Her novels – The Constant Tower and Wind Follower, were published by Wildside Books. Her other works include My Life as an Onion and The Boy Next Door From Far Away , Seeds of Bible Study: How NOT to Study the Bible. Her collection of short stories, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction, is available on kindle.

Check her out at http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/.

Carole McDonnell

Colby R. Rice:Sci-fi, Fantasy, & Thriller Novelist. Screenwriter. Film Producer. Globetrotter. Action Junkie. Rebel Ragdoll.

A shameless nerd and bookworm since the age of five, Colby R Rice is the author of Ghosts of Koa, the first novel in The Books of Ezekiel, a dystopian-urban fantasy decalogy. She was an Air Force BRAT born in Bitburg Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany and came to the States at the age of one. Colby bounced around a lot, but finally settled in Los Angeles, where she could at last deal with her addictions to creative entrepreneurship, motorcycles, and traveling.

Now, armed with a mound of animal crackers and gallons of Coca-Cola, Colby takes on fiction writing in a fight to the death!

Current projects include: the second novel in The Books of Ezekiel series, the first novel in a middle grade SFF detective series, the first novel in an adult sci-fi thriller series, development of her first sci-fi thriller film, and the growth of her production house, Rebel Ragdoll. Stay tuned at www.colbyrrice.com! ;-)

Colby R. Rice

Crystal Connor: Crystal grew up telling spooky little campfire-style stories at slumber parties. Living on a steady literary diet of Stephen King, Robin Cook, Dean R. Koontz and healthy doses of cinema masterpieces such as The Birds, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone; along with writing short stories specializing in the Science Fiction & Horror genres since before Jr. high School, it surprised no one that she ended up writing horror novels! 

She now lives in Seattle, WA, where she is a member of the Dark Fiction Guild, and belongs to both the Authors Anonymous and The Seattle Women’s writing groups and she is also an active member of The Critters Workshop. 

The Darkness, is her first full-length novel, followed by And They All Lived Happily Ever After and Artificial Light, the sequel to The Darkness.

Check her out at http://www.wordsmithcrystalconnor.blogspot.com/.

Crystal Connor

DaVaun Sanders: If imagination was a mutant power, DaVaun Sanders could have enrolled at 1407 Graymalkin Lane. Instead, he went the safe route and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002. After two fulfilling service terms with AmeriCorps in Phoenix, he eventually acquiesced to the student loan gods and returned to architecture. Yet his passion for the field faded as he spent more free time writing and performing spoken word poetry. 

The Seedbearing Prince began as a dream vivid enough to play like a movie trailer. Deciding to write his debut novel took some time, as it wasn’t part of “The Plan,” but the housing market collapse forced DaVaun’s small design firm under in 2008. He decided to plunge into writing full-time, and is loving every minute of it. When the keyboard cramps his fingers, DaVaun gets lost in the great outdoors of Arizona or attends open mic spots in the Valley. DaVaun is currently hard at work editing The Course of Blades, the third book in his World Breach series. Follow him on Twitter @davaunwrites and like on Facebook (facebook.com/davaunsanders) for updates and giveaways!

DaVaun Sanders

Jeff Carroll: The award winning Golddigger Killer was Jeff Carroll’s second film, which screened in over 10 film festivals and film series. Jeff Carroll’s first film, Holla If I Kill You, is the second rated all time best seller on B-Movie.com, the number one site for cult movies.

Jeff coined the term “Hip Hop Horror” and is pioneering this hybrid genre.

As well as being a writer and a filmmaker he is owner of Red, Black and Green Promotions, a college entertainment company where he works as an entertainment agent. Jeff Carroll is a leading voice of Hip Hop male/female relations reform and tours colleges and universities coaching students on dating.

He published his latest novel Thug Angel: Rebirth of a Gargoyle, through his own company, Hip Hop Comix N Flix

Jeff  lives in Miami, Florida, with his wife and son. Check out other great works by Jeff at http://hhcnf.blogspot.com/.

Jeff Carroll

K. Ceres Wright: Daughter to a U.S. Army father, K. Ceres Wright has lived in Asia and Europe, where her mother dragged her to visit every castle she came across. She attended undergraduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park, with a double major in economics and finance.  She then worked for 10 years as a credit and treasury analyst before deciding to change careers, entering the writing and editing field.

Wright received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and Cog was her thesis novel, which was later published by Dog Star Books. Wright’s poem, “Doomed,” was a nominee for the Rhysling Award, the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s highest honor. Her work has appeared in Hazard Yet ForwardGenesis: An Anthology of Black Science FictionMany Genres, One CraftThe 2008 Rhysling Anthology, and the upcoming Far Worlds anthology.

She works as an editor and writer and lives in Maryland with her two children. Visit her website at http://www.kcereswright.com and find her on Twitter @KCeresWright.

K Ceres Wright

Kai Leakes:From Iowa, but later relocating to Alton, IL and St. Louis, MO, Kai Leakes was a multifaceted Midwestern child, who gained an addiction to books at an early age. Sharing stories with her cousins as a teen, writing books didn’t seem like something she would pursue until one day in college. Storytelling continues to be a major part of her very DNA, with the goal of sharing tales that entertain and add color to a gray literary world.

In her spare time she likes to cook, dabble in photography, and assists with an internet/social networking group online. Loving to feed her book addiction, romance, fantasy and fiction novels are her world. Reading those particular genres help guide her as she finds the time to write and study for school.

Kai is the author of Sineaters: Devotion book one and the soon-to-be-released Sin Eaters: Retribution: Devotion book two, coming in June.

You can find her at: kwhp5f.wix.com/kai-leakes.

Kai Leakes

Keith Gaston: Also writing as D.K. Gaston,Keith was born in Detroit, Michigan. After serving in the military as an Infantry soldier, he earned his Bachelors degree in Computer Science, a Masters in Technology Management and a Masters in Business Administration.

Keith is the author of mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, including the wildly popular Urban Fantasy novels, Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter and its sequel, Taurus Moon: Magic and Mayhem.

Keith is a devoted husband and father and when not enjoying time with his family, he is always working on his next novel.

Check Keith out at: http://www.dkgaston.com/.

Keith Gaston

Milton Davis: Milton Davis is owner of MVmedia, LLC , a micro publishing company specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Sword and Soul. MVmedia’s mission is to provide speculative fiction books that represent people of color in a positive manner.

Milton is the author of eight novels; his most recent, Woman of the Woods and Amber and the Hidden City. He is co-editor of four anthologies: Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology and Griots: Sisters of the Spear, with Charles R. Saunders; The Ki Khanga Anthology with Balogun Ojetade and the Steamfunk! Anthology, also with Balogun Ojetade.  MVmedia has also published Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade.

Milton resides in Metro Atlanta with his wife Vickie and his children Brandon and Alana.

Milton Davis

Valjeanne Jeffers: Valjeanne is the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the steampunk novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books 1 and 2).

Her writing has appeared in: The Obamas: Portrait of America’s New First Family, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary, and Liberated Muse: How I Freed My Soul Vol. I. She was also semi-finalist for the 2007 Rita Dove Poetry Award and she was interveiwed in 60 Years of Black Women in Horror Fiction.

 

Valjeanne’s fiction has appeared in Steamfunk!, Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, Possibilities, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear. She is co-owner of Q & V Affordable editing. Her two latest novels: Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension will be released later this year.

Preview or purchase her novels at: http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers

Zig Zag Claybourne: Sometimes he is Zig Zag Claybourne, sometimes he is C.E. Young. Whatever the name, he is always respectful of the magic between him and his readers. He wouldn’t forgive himself if he wasted your mind, so it is his goal that every book you experience be a gift a thousand-fold.

Zig Zag is the author of the books Neon Lights, Historical Inaccuracies and (as C.E. Young) By All Our Violent Guides.

His blog is  http://thingsididatworktoday.blogspot.com/.

Zig Zag Claybourne


THE BLACK SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY YOUTH SYMPOSIUM: Inspiring Black Children to Imagine and Create Better Worlds and Brighter Futures

Black Science Fiction Youth Symposium

Black Science FictionRecently, I put out the call for Black creators of Speculative works to join me in putting on the 2nd Annual Black Science Fiction and Fantasy Youth Symposium. Authors and artists from around the country responded. Of course, since the event takes place in Atlanta, GA, I did not expect anyone from outside of Georgia to actually become involved, however, the enthusiasm and support is much appreciated and I hope that one day soon, such Symposiums will take place all over the U.S.

However, one comic book author – recommended by Sue Gilman, the Director of our partner in the symposium, the Wren’s Nest – the brilliant writer and creator of the (H)afrocentric comic book series, Juliana “Jewels” Smith, is joining us all the way from the Bay Area.

Jewels, a former professor in Oakland, California, was inspired to create (H)afrocentric after trying to find a way to teach her students about the United States’ prison industrial complex. Smith was amazed by how receptive her students were to a comic book she gave them called Real Costs of Prisons Comix and realized the power of the comic book medium to convey thoughts, ideas and principles.

Black Science FictionIn Jewels’ world of (H)afrocentic,  characters envision a neighborhood that is reminiscent of Ancient Egypt, with pyramids replacing houses; the legendary ancestral home of the Aztecs, Aztlán, called “Atzlan” in Jewels’ world, is the Southwestern United States, which is given back to indigenous peoples and political prisoners like Mumia Abu Jamal are released from prison. All the while, the characters – particularly the comic book’s hero, Naima Pepper – battle against the evil forces of gentrification.

Another comic book creator, Atlanta-based James “Mase” Mason, has also joined us. Mase, a member of the State of Black Science Fiction authors and artists collective, is writer and artist of the popular Urban Shogun: The Evolution of Combat comic book series.

Black Science FictionUrban Shogun: The Evolution of Combat follows the exciting adventures of students of an inner-city martial arts school and their Kung Fu Style war on the streets of Atlanta. Specializing in updated forms of Five Animal Kung Fu, Tiger, Crane, Phoenix, Mantis and Cheetah protect the streets from criminals and their dangerous martial arts rivals – the Venom Clan!

Renowned author and publisher, Milton Davis – who also serves as co-curator of the Alien Encounters Black Speculative Fiction and Film Conference and co-founder and co- curator of the Black Science Fiction Film Festival, both in partnership with Yours Truly – brings his experience as an author and publisher of the best in Black Speculative Fiction to the symposium.

Black Science FictionMilton is CEO of MVmedia Publishing and Beyond and has created and / or published great Sword and Soul, Steamfunk and Urban Fantasy for people of all ages, such as Meji, Books I and II; the Steamfunk anthology; Changa’s Safari, Volumes I and II; Woman of the Woods; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Griots: Sisters of the Spear; and Amber and the Lost City.

The ScytheCompleting the list of teachers is author, filmmaker and event producer, Balogun Ojetade (yep, me).  Through his multimedia company, Roaring Lions Productions, Balogun creates and publishes books and films made by, for and about Black people of all ages. In addition to his self-published works, Balogun is also traditionally published by various small press, as well as Major, companies.

Balogun’s works include the first Steamfunk novel, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 and 2); the popular Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time in Afrika; the Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, the Dieselfunk novel, The Scythe and two pulp Fight Fiction / Action-Adventure novels, A Single Link and Fist of Africa. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of the bestselling anthologies, Steamfunk and Ki-Khanga: The Anthology

With such diverse talent and personalities and with such an awesome schedule, the students are in for much fun, much learning and much development towards becoming the creators and developers of a brighter future.

Here is the schedule of events:

10:00am – 10:15am: Registration
10:15am – 10:30am: Welcome: Sue Gilman, Wren’s Nest
10:30am – 10:45am: Opening Ceremony (Youth African Drumming; Storytelling by Teachers)
10:45am – 11:00am: Introductions (of Instructors, then Students) and Overview
11:00am – 11:30am: What Is Science Fiction and Fantasy and Why Should We Read and Write It? (A discussion and Q&A between students and teachers)
11:30am – 12:15pm: Lunch
12:15pm – 12:30pm: The Fold and Pass Writing Game
12:30pm – 12:40pm: Divide students into the Young Authors Group and Young Comic Book Creators Group
12:40pm – 12:55pm: The Premise (we give the students the basic premise that their stories and comic books will be based on; they will all work from the same premise, however, how they tell their stories – and in which genre or subgenre of Science Fiction and Fantasy – will be up to them)
12:55pm – 2:15pm: The Young Comic Book Creators will sit with comic book writer, Jewels Smith and comic book artist, James Mason, who will guide them in writing their story as a comic book script. Any young comic book artists may also begin sketching their comic book if time permits.
12:55pm – 2:15pm: The Young Authors will sit with authors Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis, who will guide them in writing their story as a short story.
2:15pm – 2:45pm: After the Work is Done (Groups come together; Teachers speak on getting published and self-publishing)
2:45 – 3:00pm: Students prepare to read their work
3:00pm – 4:00pm: Student Presentation of Work (students read their work to the audience of parents, volunteers and fellow students)
4:00pm – 5:00pm: Artist / Author Meet-and-Greet (parents and students can chat more with us and browse / discuss our works)

This event is free and open to the public. However, due to overwhelming response, we are limiting availability to 45 spaces. Register to reserve your – or your child’s – spot.

Date: Saturday, April 26, 2014

Time: 10:00am – 5:00pm

Cost: Free and open to the public

Age Suitability : 8 – 14


BEYOND SWORD & SOUL: Charles Saunders, the Father of Dieselfunk!

Fist of Africa

BEYOND SWORD & SOUL: Charles Saunders, the Father of Dieselfunk!

Steamfunk Cover ArtFor this year’s Black History Month, I – along with author Milton Davis – was asked to teach a class on Steamfunk at GA-Tech.

For the class, the students read my story from the Steamfunk anthology, Rite of Passage: Blood and Iron and Milton’s story, The Delivery.

Milton read an excerpt from his upcoming, long-awaited Steamfunk novel, From Here to Timbuktu.

I decided to introduce the students to some Dieselfunk, so I read them an excerpt from my novel, The Scythe.

A few days later, I received an email from a student from Howard University – news travel fast in this Age of the ‘Net – who congratulated me on “another first.” In addition to my “stellar accomplishment” in authoring the first Steamfunk novel, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, according to the student, I was also the first to author a Dieselfunk novel, as well.

While I appreciated the compliments, I had to correct the student. I told her that the first Dieselfunk novel was actually written by one of my idols, who I’m sure didn’t even know he was writing Dieselfunk at the time, as I didn’t know I was writing Steamfunk when I wrote Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. I was just writing alternate history with some cool gadgets, enhanced abilities, the supernatural and a bit of magic.

“If not The Scythe,” she asked. “Then what is the first Dieselfunk novel?”

Damballa,” I replied. “Damballa, by Charles R. Saunders.”

“What is Damballa?” She emailed me back.

I replied thusly:

DamballaDamballa is Jazz. African science. Western science. A hooded, Black hero. Two-fisted pulp action.

Such is the stuff that makes Damballa the unique and awesome Dieselfunk read that it is.

A classic costumed pulp hero, the black-hooded Damballa steps out of the forests of Africa and onto the streets of 1930s Harlem to battle Nazi’s bent on proving the superiority of the Aryan race.

Damballa (2011) is an incredible pulp adventure written by author Charles R. Saunders, the founder of the subgenre of Fantasy fiction called Sword and Soul and creator of the Fantasy icon Imaro.

The action does not stop as the titular hero uses his vast knowledge of Western science, African science and martial arts to expose and neutralize the Nazi threat.

Set in Harlem in 1938, the world is on the cusp of World War II and the Nazis are bent on proving their racial superiority.

The world heavyweight boxing champion, an African-American named Jackhammer Jackson, is challenged to a title match by the Nazis. Their representative is Wolfgang Krieger, a freakishly strong and massive man known as the “Aryan Adonis”.  Krieger possesses inhuman power, which the mysterious Damballa believes has been bestowed upon him by Nazi scientists in an attempt to prove their racial superiority.

Aided by African-American NYC detective Bynoe and the brilliant Congolese elder woman Mamadou, Damballa hatches a plan to neutralize the Nazis’ fiendish plot.

Saunders layers this intriguing plot with historical details that recreates post-Renaissance Harlem to perfection.

Damballa is a shining example of what Dieselfunk is and what Pulp is when it is at its very best: thrilling, visceral, tightly-plotted, well-written, fast-paced fun and the hero, Damballa, is a shining example of what a pulp hero in the hands of a master can be: a hero the reader can actually stand up and cheer for; a hero with qualities and with a story other authors do their damndest to echo in their own creative and original ways.

Saunders delivers a masterful blend of storytelling, film noir, and boxing, with an eye-popping cover by Charles Fetherolf and interior illustrations by Clayton Hinkle that combine to make Damballa an instant pulp classic you do not want to miss!

“I must read The Scythe and Damballa now,” the student said. “But are they Dieselfunk or are they Pulp?”

“Both,” I replied. “Dieselfunk is a subgenre; Pulp is a style. Science Fiction, Sports Fiction, Crime Fiction, even Romance can all be written in the Pulp style, however, they are all quite different subgenres.”

She asked me to share excerpts from my work that were of different genres but shared the Pulp style. I now share with you what I shared with her:

The Scythe

Dieselfunk

The ScytheThe Scythe stormed into Ernest Woodruff’s office suite.

La Vipère Noire burst into the room behind him. She was dressed in a matte black cat-suit, studded with tiny black beads. Her boots, gloves and even her derby were all similar studded in a reptile scale pattern.  A black bandana concealed her face from her cheeks to her chin. Her derby was pulled low over her forehead and tilted slightly to the left.

The two vampires sitting on post leapt from their seats.

“Viper, take the one on the left,” the Scythe said.

“Got him,” the Black Viper said sauntering toward the vampire.

She extended her right arm, revealing a small, tubular, metallic flashlight in her fist. She pressed a button on the flashlight and bright, white light washed over the vampire’s face.

The creature laughed heartily. “Sunlight hurts vampires, dinge; not tungsten filament-light!”

The Black Viper whipped her left leg toward the vampire’s head in a wide arc. As her leg passed through the light, the studs on her leg seemed to swallow it for a moment and then spit the light out with the intensity of two suns.

The vampire screamed in agony as his flesh blistered and charred.

Viper’s shin slammed into the vampire’s neck, separating his head from his shoulders.

The vampire’s body collapsed as his head bounced across his partner’s feet.

“Damn,” the Scythe said as the head rolled past him.

The surviving vampire leapt to the ceiling and then clung to it like a spider. He scurried toward the exit.

The Scythe vanished.

He reappeared right below the vampire and then thrust his right hand into the vampire’s back.

The vampire wailed.

“That’s your spine I’m holding,” the Scythe hissed. “The first vertebrae of your lumbar spine, to be exact.”

The Scythe slammed the vampire onto his face.

Brown blood sprayed across the black and white checkered floor tiles.

The Scythe yanked upward, ripping the vertebrae from the creature’s back.

The vampire gasped and then released a weak moan.

“He’s all yours, Viper,” The Scythe said.

The Viper held her left forearm in front of her flashlight. She turned the flashlight on and the black studs intensified the light to a blinding brightness. The intensified light struck the vampire, setting it ablaze.

The vampire cried weakly as it convulsed.

A moment later all that remained of the creature was ashes.

Fist of Afrika

Fight Fiction

Fist of AfricaThunderous applause rose from the dense crowd before Nick. The people parted, revealing a hulking figure sitting upon an iron throne, carved in the shape of a leopard resting on its haunches.

Agbu Tochi rose from the throne, looming above the crowd like a statue carved from onyx stone. His forearms were as thick as an average man’s thigh and appeared to be as hard as the throne he had just risen from. He slammed his cantaloupe-sized fist into his chest and the crowd roared. Tochi sprinted into the ring, charging directly toward Nick.

Nick swallowed his fear and stood his ground as the human locomotive called Agbu Tochi sped toward him.

The colossus stopped just inches in front of Nick, his massive chest almost touching Nick’s nose.

The giant stood still and in silence.

“Are you ready, Nick Steed?” Chizo asked.

Nick nodded.

“Are you ready, Agbu Tochi?”

Agbu Tochi tapped his chest twice with his fist.

Chizo slid her arm between the fighters. “Then, fighters take your places.”

Nick shuffled backward to his place at the edge of the ring. Agbu Tochi shambled backward to his place, his unblinking gaze locked on Nick’s throat.

“And now …” Chizo raised her hand high above her head, her fingers pointing toward the clear noonday sky. After a long pause, she brought her arm down sharply, slicing the air with her well-manicure fingers. “Fight!”

Agbu Tochi lurched forward. Nick charged forward to meet him.

Nick hammered into Agbu Tochi’s ribs with a volley of heavy right and left hooks. Agbu Tochi staggered backward.

Nick shuffled forward with a lead-hand hook toward Agbu Tochi’s chin.

The giant leaned back. The punch shot past his face. He then countered with a fierce cross, catching Nick square on the jaw.

Nick collapsed to his knees. He shook off the pain and exploded back to his feet, careful not to let his hands touch the ground. Both knees and a hand on the ground at the same time would be a loss by traditional rules.

Nick’s feet had barely touched the earth when he was lifted high into the air by the giant, who had grabbed him from behind in a tight bear-hug.

Nick thrust his leg to the outside of Agbu Tochi’s thigh, hooking his foot behind the giant’s knee. With the throw now blocked, Nick bent at the waist as he threw his palms toward the ground, breaking free of Agbu Tochi’s grip.

Nick thrust back and upward with his left foot, driving his heel into Agbu Tochi’s solar plexus. Agbu Tochi doubled over in pain.

Nick whirled toward Agbu Tochi, slamming a crushing shin kick into the outside of his thigh. Agbu Tochi’s leg buckled.

Nick followed with a second shin kick to the inner thigh of the same leg. Agbu Tochi’s leg quivered and he switched feet, bringing his left leg forward to protect his right leg from further onslaught.

Nick burst forward, wrapping his arms around Agbu Tochi’s waist and pulling him close. The giant thrust his massive right arm between his hips and Nick’s to partially break his grip.

The men mirrored each other, both holding the others left triceps with their right hand and waist with their left hand. They then fought for superior position, snaking their arms over and under each other in an attempt to grasp the other around the waist with both hands.

Nick proved to be a bit faster, lithely coiling his arms deep under Agbu Tochi’s armpits and then digging his fingers into the colossus’ sinewy shoulders.

Agbu Tochi shook furiously, but could not free himself from Nick’s boa constrictor-like control of his upper torso.

Nick thrust his hips forward as he punched his arms skyward under Agbu Tochi’s armpits, launching the massive wrestler high into the air. Agbu Tochi’s eyes widened. A hush fell over the crowd.

Nick torqued his hips as he arched backward, increasing the momentum of the throw. Both men struck the ground with a thunderous din. A cloud of sand billowed up from the ring.

So, there you have it – Dieselfunk and Fight Fiction, two different genres; both, very much Pulp Fiction; both inspired by my idol, Charles Saunders, the father and founder of Sword and Soul and Dieselfunk.

 


Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!

Anachrocon

Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!

Anachrocon 2014My wife; my seventeen year-old daughter, Yetunde; my eleven year-old, son, Oluade; and my five year-old daughter, Oriyemi, recently participated in Anachrocon 2014.

Yetunde put tremendous thought into her cosplay. She is a stickler for historical accuracy, so she insisted everything from her shoes, to her hairstyle to her fingernails be done as they would have been during the 1940s; to achieve said accuracy, Yetunde devoted weeks of research to the aesthetics of the 1940s. She did this while maintaining the 4.0 grade-point average she has achieved for her entire academic career.

AnachroconOluade 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 my blogs and my latest novel, The Scythe, that Pulp magazines were popular during most of that era, Oluade decided he wanted to be a two-fisted masked pulp hero. Thus, the Auburn Avenger was born!

His concept of the character is so well-developed and so cool, I have promised Oluade that the Auburn Avenger will feature in a few of my short stories and perhaps even a Middle Grade novella.

AnachroconOriyemi was happy to just cosplay a vampire princess and to joyously – and accurately – point out which costumes at Anachrocon were Steampunk and Dieselpunk.

My children were completely comfortable at Anachrocon; much more than I have ever been at any convention.

Why?

Because they do not suffer from stereotype threat.

“What is stereotype threat,” you ask?

It is the fear or anxiety of confirming some negative stereotype about your social group; it is the idea that we hold within us that we might accidentally act in ways that confirm stereotypes about ourselves.

These fears are often self-fulfilling, pulling us, like magnets, toward the very stereotypical actions we hope to avoid.

In the Yoruba culture, we call this phenomenon Elenini – the personification of negativity. In western societies the statement “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” applies.

I have blogged about how the media often portrays Black people and other People of Color, negatively. One of the implications of these negative images is the notion of stereotype threat. A person who is constantly bombarded with negative images of his or her racial or ethnic group, begins to internalize the same social and personal characteristics of these images.

Numerous psychological studies have examined effects of stereotype threat in areas such as standardized tests, and athletic performance. 

For example, the commonly held assumption that women are less skilled in mathematics than men has been shown to affect the performance of women on standardized math tests.  When women were primed beforehand of this negative stereotype, scores were significantly lower than if the women were led to believe the tests did not reflect these stereotypes.

Channels such as BET and MTV offer blatantly stereotypical images of Black people and of women of all races that greatly affect young viewers who take these images to heart.

The term stereotype threat was first used by psychologists Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson, who, in 1995, conducted several experiments that proved Black college freshmen and sophomores performed more poorly on standardized tests than White students when their race was emphasized. When race was not emphasized, however, Black students performed better and equivalently with White students. 

The results showed that performance in academic contexts can be harmed by the awareness that one’s behavior might be viewed through the lens of racial stereotypes. 

Long-term effects of stereotype threat are shown to contribute to educational and social inequality and affect stereotyped individuals’ performance in a number of domains beyond academics.

Research shows that stereotype threat can harm the academic performance of any individual for whom the situation invokes a stereotype-based expectation of poor performance. For example, stereotype threat has been shown to harm the academic performance of Hispanics, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, girls and women in math, and even white males when faced with the stereotype of Asian superiority in math.

Stereotype threat produces numerous consequences, most of which are negative in nature, such as:

1.     Decreased performance

Perhaps the most widely known consequence of stereotype threat is reduced achievement on tests in situations in which the stereotype is relevant. In addition to affecting test performance, stereotype threat has been shown to decrease performance on other kinds of tasks, as varied as white people and women of all races in athletics ; women in negotiation; the elderly in memory performance and women in driving. Stereotype threat, it appears, can harm performance on any task where a stereotype is invoked suggesting that members of some groups will perform more poorly than others.

 2.     Internal Attributions for Failure

We often try to identify what factors are responsible when we fail to achieve a desired outcome. More often than not, we blame this failure on internal factors; on ourselves. This is especially true for those under stereotype threat. A test in 2008 showed that women under stereotype threat were more likely than men to attribute their failure on a computer task to their internal characteristics. When failure is internalized, stereotypes are reinforced.

   3.     Self-handicapping

Self-handicapping is a defensive strategy in which individuals erect barriers to their own performance to provide something to blame for their failure. They can point fingers at the barriers rather than at any deficiencies in their ability or effort. A test in 2002 showed that girls who performed poorly on a math test under stereotype threat were more likely to blame that performance on stress they experienced before taking the test.

 4.     Discounting the task

People under stereotype threat often question the validity of a task or the importance of the trait being tested. You might view a task as biased or as being ill-equipped to test your abilities if you expect to struggle with the task or have struggled with it in the past.

I believe this is one of the main reasons many Black people do not cosplay or read speculative fiction, whether it is written by a Black person or not. We are stereotyped as not being into Science Fiction and Fantasy; not possessing the capacity to create, or even understand it. Thus, we say such stuff is for white folks, or that Black people are too busy dealing with reality to deal with escapist hobbies such as reading Science Fiction or engaging in cosplay.

 5.     Distancing yourself from the stereotyped group

Stereotype threat can also affect the degree that we allow ourselves to enjoy and identify with activities associated with our social group. Steele and Aronson discovered that Black people who experienced stereotype threat expressed weaker preferences for – and performed less well than their White counterparts in – stereotypically “Black” activities such as jazz, hip-hop, and basketball. This identity distancing reflects a desire not to be seen through the lens of a racial stereotype.

To preserve their identity as a competent person in certain circles, stereotyped individuals sometimes distance themselves from an aspect of their social identity, or from people that bear the burden of the negative stereotype. When I first began to push Steamfunk, some Black Steampunks distanced themselves from me for fear that I was going to be the stereotypical angry Black man who happened to infiltrate Steampunk.

The effects of stereotype threat can be reduced or eliminated by several means.  

1.     Reframing the task

To reduce stereotype threat, you can “reframe” the task – use a different language to describe it. Simply informing Black people that it is cool to cosplay and showing examples of it can alleviate stereotype threat in fandom.

 2.     Deemphasizing threatened social identities

Interventions that encourage individuals to consider themselves as complex and multi-faceted can reduce vulnerability to stereotype threat. 

It is important for Black people to know that we are not monolithic and thus are not confined to some unimaginative, non-creative, non-expressive “Black box.”

 3.     Encouraging self-affirmation

Affirming your self-worth is an effective means for protecting yourself from stereotype threat and the resulting failure.

Encourage people to think about their important characteristics, skills, values and roles. Black people who are given the opportunity to affirm their commitment to being Steamfunkateers are less likely to respond in a stereotypical fashion and bring great originality, creativity and coolness to Steampunk.

 4.     Providing role models

Providing role models who demonstrate proficiency in a field can reduce or even eliminate stereotype threat effects.

A Black historian sat in on the Diversity in Steampunk and Alternate History panel that I and the Co-Editor of the Steamfunk anthology, Milton Davis, were panelists on. He said that his interest in Steampunk came through his introduction to it through my blogs about Steamfunk and later, through reading the anthology. He further stated that he would have never participated in Anachrocon, or any other fandom convention, for that matter, if not for my – and Milton Davis’ – work.

In my efforts to help make all eight of my children proud of their Blackness; their intelligence; their wit and their creativity, I have, fortunately, helped to alleviate and maybe even eliminate any stereotype threat they may have been under had I done otherwise.

They have always seen my pride; they have seen me live as an African traditionalist in non-traditional America; they have always seen me embrace my creativity; to admire and model the brilliant and the ingenious; to push myself just as much as I push them and to succeed because of it.

Oriyemi engaging in her first National Tea Duel.

Oriyemi engaging in her first National Tea Duel.

So Yetunde, Oluade and Oriyemi approached Anachrocon with no fears, no worry that they would fall into some stereotype and embarrass themselves, me, or Black people. They weren’t thinking of being Black; they simply were Black, thus at Anachrocon, like everywhere else, they shined.

I pray to be like them one day when I grow up.  


TOP 20 STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK, SWORD & SOUL AND URBAN FANTASY BOOKS FOR BLACK YOUTH!

Black Speculative Fiction

TOP 20 STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK, SWORD & SOUL AND URBAN FANTASY BOOKS FOR BLACK YOUTH!

 

Recently, I wrote about why Black children should read and write Science Fiction and Fantasy. I also wrote about it here. Now I would like to provide you with a list of books for young adults, teens and tweens. A list of books for children aged 2-9 will follow in a later blog. 

Sword and Soul

Young Adult (“YA”) Fiction is fiction marketed to adolescents and young adults, ranging roughly between the ages of 14 to 21. The majority of YA stories portray an adolescent as the protagonist, rather than an adult or a child. The subject matter and story lines are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character and the stories span the entire spectrum of fiction genres.

Middle Grade (“MG”) Fiction is intended for readers between the ages of 8 to 12, with the protagonist at the higher end of the age range.

MG readers are learning about who they are, what they think, and where they fit in. Their focus is inward and the conflicts in MG books usually reflect this. The themes range from school situations, friendships, relationships with peers and siblings, and daily difficulties that may seem ordinary to the rest of us. The protagonist’s parents are usually seen and have some sort of an influence. Stories are usually fast paced and chapters are short.

In contrast, Young Adult novels deal with underlying themes and more complicated plots. They allow teen readers to examine deeper issues, their roles in life, the importance of relationships, how to cope with adversity and even tragedy and how their actions can impact the world. 

YA protagonists are usually searching for their identity, figuring out who they are as an individual and where they fit in. YA books are generally much more gritty and realistic than MG books. Parents have less influence in YA stories and are often not seen at all.

Below is a list of twenty of the most Blacktastic books that are sure to entertain, educate and even empower readers, young and old.

The books are grouped into three categories, by age appropriateness, for your convenience.

While there are many more great books written by and about Black people, this is a good start and more books will be shared in future posts.

YOUNG ADULT (Ages 15+)

A Single Link, by Balogun Ojetade

A Single Link“A Single Link NEVER Breaks!” 

After suffering a brutal rape at the hands of a martial arts champion, Remi “Ray” Swan decides that, to gain closure and empowerment, she must face her attacker in the first professional fight between a man and a woman.

Join Ray in this powerful, two-fisted adventure as she fights, not just for herself, but for all who have suffered at the cruel hands of those who would wreak pain, oppression, injustice and death!

Step into the cage, where action, adventure, bone shattering fights, and a touch of romance await you!

Damballa, by Charles R. Saunders

The first ever African American 1930s avenger sets out to stop a Nazi plot to subvert a championship fight.

From deepest Africa to the streets of 1930s Harlem, the action is none stop.

Written by famed novelist Charles Saunders, with interior illustrations by Clayton Hinkle and a cover by Charles Fetherolf, this is a history making pulp adventure fans do not want to miss.

Devil’s Wake, by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

Devil's WakeWhat happens when an unprecedented infection sweeps the world, leaving the earth on the brink of the Apocalypse? 

But this infection goes far beyond disease. Beyond even the nightmare images of walking dead or flesh-eating ghouls. The infected are turning into creatures unlike anything ever dreamed of . . . more complex, more mysterious, and more deadly.

Trapped in the northwestern United States as winter begins to fall, Terry and Kendra have only one choice: they and their friends must cross a thousand miles of no-man’s-land in a rickety school bus, battling ravenous hordes, human raiders, and their own fears.

In the midst of apocalypse, they find something no one could have anticipated . . . love.

Dillon and the Voice of Odin, by Derrick Ferguson

He’s a soldier of fortune gifted with an astonishing range of remarkable talents and skills that make him respected and feared in the secret world of mercenaries, spies and adventurers. A world inhabited by amazing men and women of fabulous abilities that most of us are unaware even exists.

Fueled by a taste for excitement, driven by an overpowering desire to protect the innocent, see that wrongs are righted and assisted by a worldwide network of extraordinary men and women, all experts in their fields, Dillon spans the globe in a never-ending quest for the wildest and most breathtaking adventures of all!

Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, Edited by Milton J. Davis and Charles R. Saunders

GriotsMagic. Myth. Warfare. Wonder. Beauty. Bravery. Glamour. Gore. Sorcery. Sensuality. These and many more elements of fantasy await you in the pages of Griots, which brings you the latest stories of the new genre called Sword and Soul.

The tales told in Griots are the annals of the Africa that was, as well as Africas that never were, may have been, or should have been. They are the legends of a continent and people emerging from shadows thrust upon them in the past. They are the sagas sung by the modern heirs of the African story-tellers known by many names – including griots.

Here, you will meet mighty warriors, seductive sorceresses, ambitious monarchs, and cunning courtesans. Here, you will journey through the vast variety of settings Africa offers, and inspires. Here, you will savor what the writings of the modern-day griots have to offer: journeys through limitless vistas of the imagination, with a touch of color and a taste of soul.

Griots: Sisters of the Spear, Edited by Milton J. Davis and Charles R. Saunders

Griots: Sisters of the Spear picks up where the ground breaking Griots Anthology leaves off.

Charles R. Saunders and Milton J. Davis present seventeen original and exciting Sword and Soul tales focusing on black women.

Just as the Griots Anthology broke ground as the first Sword and Soul Anthology, Griots: Sisters of the Spear pays homage to the spirit, bravery and compassion of women of color.

The griots have returned to sing new songs, and what wonderful songs they are!

Ki Khanga: The Anthology, Edited by Milton J. Davis and Balogun Ojetade

What is Ki Khanga?

The answer lies in the pages of this amazing anthology.

Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis define this fascinating world which forms the foundation of the Ki Khanga Sword and Soul Role Playing Game.

Prepare yourself for stories of bravery, tragedy, love and adventure.

Prepare yourself for Ki Khanga.

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, by Balogun Ojetade

Steamfunk“I’m gon’ drive the evil out and send it back to Hell, where it belong!” – Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman: Freedom fighter. Psychic. Soldier. Spy. Something…more. Much more.

In “MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Book 1: Kings * Book 2: Judges)”, the author masterfully transports you to a world of wonder…of horror…of amazing inventions, captivating locales and extraordinary people.

In what is hailed as the world’s first Steamfunk novel, Harriet Tubman must match wits and power with the sardonic John Wilkes Booth and a team of hunters with powers beyond this world in order to save herself, her teenaged nephew, Ben and a little girl in her care – Margaret.

But is anyone who, or what, they seem?

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

Steamfunk, Edited by Balogun Ojetade and Milton J. Davis

STEAMFUNKA witch, more machine than human, judges the character of the wicked and hands out justice in a ravaged Chicago. John Henry wields his mighty hammers in a war against machines and the undead. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman rule a country of freed slaves that rivals – and often bests – England and France in power and technology.

You will find all this – and much more – between the pages of Steamfunk, an anthology of incredible stories by some of today’s greatest authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Steamfunk – African and African American-inspired Steampunk.

Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have put together a masterful work guaranteed to transport you to new worlds. Worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam. Open these pages and traverse the lumineferous aether to the world of Steamfunk!

Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter, by Keith Gaston

Taurus Moon is a relic hunter, but the artifacts he searches for aren’t found in the jungles of the Yucatan or the deserts of Egypt. His quests often take him through the grittier parts of urbanized cities where even the toughest of thugs fear to tread. Forgotten relics once thought of as only myths and legends can be found, if you know where to look, and have the guts to go searching into dark and deadly places. 

Taurus Moon is hired by a vampire crime lord to locate an ancient artifact that would make the criminal a God. Even though Taurus is no fan of vampires, especially one aspiring to become a Deity, he does love money and despite his misgivings, he begins the treacherous hunt for the artifact. Things become more complicated when a rival crime lord hires a ruthless relic hunter who has no qualms about killing the competition.

 YOUNG ADULT (Ages 13+)

Changa’s Safari, by Milton J. Davis

In the 15th century on the African Continent a young prince flees his homeland of Kongo, vowing to seek revenge for the murder of his father and the enslavement of his family and his people.

He triumphs over the slavery and the fighting pits of Mogadishu to become a legendary fighter and respected merchant.

From the Swahili cities of the East African Coast to the magnificent Middle Kingdom of Asia, Changa and his crew experience adventures beyond the imagination.

Changa will not rest until he has fulfilled his promise to his family and his people. The anchors are raised and the sails unfurled.

Let the safari begin!

Fist of Africa, by Balogun Ojetade

Balogun CoverNigeria 2004 … Nicholas ‘New Breed’ Steed, a tough teen from the mean streets of Chicago, is sent to his mother’s homeland – a tiny village in Nigeria – to avoid trouble with the law. Unknown to Nick, the tiny village is actually a compound where some of the best fighters in the world are trained. Nick is teased, bullied and subjected to torturous training in a culture so very different from the world where he grew up. 

Atlanta 2014 … After a decade of training in Nigeria, a tragedy brings Nick back to America. Believing the disaffected youth in his home town sorely need the same self-discipline and strength of character training in the African martial arts gave him, Nick opens an Academy. While the kids are disinterested in the fighting style of the cultural heritage Nick offers, they are enamored with mixed martial arts. Nick decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts to make the world aware of the effectiveness and efficiency of the martial arts of Africa.

Pursing a professional career in MMA, Nick moves to Atlanta, Georgia, where he runs into his old nemesis – Rico Stokes, the organized crime boss who once employed Nick’s father, wants Nick to replace his father in the Stokes’ protection racket. Will New Breed Steed claim the Light Heavyweight title … Or will the streets of Atlanta claim him?

Once Upon A Time In Afrika, by Balogun Ojetade

An exciting Sword and Soul tale by Balogun Ojetade, Once Upon a Time in Afrika Tells the story of a beautiful princess and her eager suitors.

Desperate to marry off his beautiful but “tomboyish” duaghter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of Oyo, consults the Oracle. The Oracle tells the Emperor Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament inviting warrior from all over the continent.

Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament a powerful evil is headed their way.

Will the warriors band together against this evil?

The Scythe, by Balogun Ojetade

The ScytheHe has been given a second chance at life. A second chance at revenge. He is the bridge between the Quick and the Dead. He is…THE SCYTHE! 

Out of the tragedy of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, a two-fisted hero rises from the grave!
Inspired by the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, a tale of action, adventure, thrills and chills await fans of Dieselpunk, die-hard pulp fans and readers who just love a gritty story that packs a mean punch.

Enter a world in which Gangsters, Flappers, vampires, robots and the Ku Klux Klan all roam the same dark back streets; a world of grit, grime and grease; a world of hardboiled gumshoe detectives and mad scientists; a world where magic and technology compete for rule over the world.

Dieselfunk has emerged in The Scythe…and the Roaring Twenties will never seem the same!

The Seedbearing Prince, by DaVaun Sanders

Dayn Ro’Halan is a farmer’s son sworn to a life of plowing on his homeworld, Shard. After finding a lost artifact called a Seed, he’s thrust into an ancient conflict between voidwalkers of the hated world Thar’Kur, and Defenders from a floating fortress called the Ring.

Dayn must become a Seedbearer and learn to use the Seed’s power to shape worlds before the entire World Belt is lost.

Woman of the Woods, by Milton J. Davis

Sword and SoulThe latest Sword and Soul novel by Milton Davis returns to the land of Meji, the amazing world of Uhuru. It tells the story of Sadatina, a girl on the brink of becoming a woman living with her family in Adamusola, the land beyond the Old Men Mountains. But tragic events transpire that change her life forever, revealing a hidden past that leads her into the midst of a war between her people and those that would see them destroyed, the Mosele.

Armed with a spiritual weapon and her feline ‘sisters,’ Sadatina becomes a Shosa, a warrior trained to fight the terrible nyokas, demon-like creatures that aid the Mosele in their war against her people. 

Woman of the Woods is an action filled, emotionally charged adventure that expands the scope of the world of Uhuru and introduces another unforgettable character to its heroic legends.

MIDDLE GRADE (Ages 10+)

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor

Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer.

There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality.

But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

Amber and the Hidden City, by Milton J. Davis

Amber and the Hidden CityThirteen year old Amber Robinson’s life is full of changes. Her parents are sending her to a private school away from her friends, and high school looms before her. But little does she know that her biggest change awaits in a mysterious city hidden from the world for a thousand years. 

Why?

Amber’s grandmother is a princess from this magical kingdom of Marai. She’s been summoned home to use her special abilities to select the new king but she no longer has the gift, and her daughter was never trained for the task. That leaves only one person with the ability to save the city: Amber! But there are those who are determined that Amber never reaches Marai and they will do anything to stop her. 

Prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that spans from the Atlanta suburbs to the grasslands of Mali.

It’s a story of a girl who discovers her hidden abilities and heritage in a way that surprises and entertains.

Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, by L.M. Davis

Make sure to clean up your messes. 

Keep the cat in the house.

Fraternal twins Nate and Larissa Pantera know all about strange rules. They’ve grown up with plenty of them, and they have always obeyed those rules without question

However, disturbing things are starting to happen–both at home and at school. And when their parents go missing and a strange messenger appears, they discover that the only way to save them is by breaking all the rules.

Interlopers: A Shifters Novel is the thrilling fantasy adventure. Fans of YA fantasy, such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, love this new series about the Pantera twins, who discover that everything they thought they knew is only the beginning of the truth.

I am sure this list will get you well on your way on your Blacknificent journey through the world of Black Speculative Fiction. We end this with a few book trailers to take along as companions on this journey. Enjoy!


FIST OF AFRICA: Pulp Fiction meets the African Martial Arts!

Fist of Africa

FIST OF AFRICA

Pulp meets the African Martial Arts!

Fist of Africa

Yep, that's me. :)

Yep, that’s me. :)

For those new to this page, I am a writer.

For those not new to this page, I am a writer.

I write speculative fiction – mainly Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Sword & Soul.

Recently, I have expanded my writing into the Pulp genre of Fight Fiction, which was pretty much inevitable because my novels contain lots of exciting action and fight scenes.

What is Fight Fiction. You ask?

Fight Fiction is comprised of tales in which the fighting – whether it happens in a temple in Thailand, a boxing ring in Las Vegas, a cage in Atlanta, or in a bar in New York City – is not merely in the story to make it more exciting; or to add a different spin to it. The fighting must be an integral part of both the story and its resolution. Take the fighting out and you no longer have a story. Think Fight Club; Rocky; Blood and Bone; Kung-Fu Hustle; Million Dollar Baby; and Tai Chi Zero.

Writing fight scenes has always been something I enjoy and that I believe I do fairly well. This is probably due to the fact that I have been a student of indigenous African martial arts for over forty years and I have been an instructor of those same martial arts for nearly thirty years. I am also a lifelong fan of martial arts, boxing and Luchador films.

Recently, I joined a team of stellar authors, who all write under the pen name Jack Tunney (for e-book versions only; paperback versions are in the authors’ names), as part of the Fight Card Project.

The books in the Fight Card series are monthly 25,000 word novelettes, designed to be read in one or two sittings, and are inspired by the fight pulps of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Fight Stories Magazine and Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan.

Balogun CoverIn 2013, the Fight Card series published twenty-four incredible tales of pugilistic pandemonium from some of the best New Pulp authors in the business. I am writing under the Fight Card MMA brand and my book, Fist of Africa debuts today.

“What is Fist of Africa about?” You ask?

Here’s a brief synopsis: 

Nigeria 2004 … Nicholas ‘New Breed’ Steed, a tough teen from the mean streets of Chicago, is sent to his mother’s homeland – a tiny village in Nigeria – to avoid trouble with the law. Unknown to Nick, the tiny village is actually a compound where some of the best fighters in the world are trained.  Nick is teased, bullied and subjected to torturous training in a culture so very different from the world where he grew up.

Atlanta 2014 … After a decade of training in Nigeria, a tragedy brings Nick back to America. Believing the disaffected youth in his home town sorely need the same self-discipline and strength of character training in the African martial arts gave him, Nick opens an Academy. While the kids are disinterested in the fighting style of the cultural heritage Nick offers, they are enamored with mixed martial arts. Nick decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts to make the world aware of the effectiveness and efficiency of the martial arts of Africa.

Pursing a professional career in MMA, Nick moves to Atlanta, Georgia, where he runs into his old nemesis – Rico Stokes, the organized crime boss who once employed Nick’s father, wants Nick to replace his father in the Stokes’ protection racket. Will New Breed Steed claim the Light Heavyweight title … Or will the streets of Atlanta claim him?
Tunney CoverWhen I spoke to Paul Bishop – who, along with author Mel Odom created the Fight Card concept – he expressed an interest in my protagonist, Nick ‘New Breed’ Steed and the story of his coming of age as a fighter in the Adewale Wrestling Compound in Oṣogbo, Oṣun State, Nigeria. I was happy because I have always wanted to share with the world the fierceness, efficiency and effectiveness of the indigenous African martial arts for self-defense, as well as their transformative powers in the building of men and women with self-discipline, courage and good character. Fight Card MMA was a perfect outlet for my unique brand of Fight Fiction, which I am sure you will enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

In Fist of Africa, readers will experience jaw-dropping action on the mean streets of Chicago, in the sand pits of Nigeria and in cages in the “Dirty South” (Atlanta).

2014 also offers a full slate of monthly Fight Card titles along with further Fight Card MMA, Fight Card Romance, and Fight Card Now titles, as well as the debut of the Fight Card Luchadores brand, set in the world of Mexican Masked wrestling.

My first Fight Fiction novella, A Single Link, while very different from Fist of Africa, is set in the same universe, thirty years in the future and some of the characters from Fist of Africa make appearances in it. I will be publishing several other books in this universe, as well and I am even working on a Luchadores Fight Fiction / Science Fiction / Horror mash-up (my homage to Luchador and Nollywood films) set in Mexico, Egypt and Nigeria.

But, for now, enjoy Fist of Africa and please, drop me a line to let me know what you think of it and, if you like it – and you will – help a brother out and give him a review. 


THE SCYTHE HAS RISEN! Dieselfunk has emerged and the Roaring Twenties will never seem the same!

The Scythe

THE SCYTHE HAS RISEN!

Dieselfunk has emerged and the Roaring Twenties will never seem the same!

 

The ScytheThe very first Dieselfunk novel, The Scythe, is now available in both paperback and e-book formats!

Here’s a peek at what it’s about:

 

Out of the tragedy of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, a two-fisted hero rises from the grave!

Dr. A. C. Jackson has been given a second chance at life. A second chance at revenge. He is the bridge between the Quick and the Dead.

He is…THE SCYTHE!

LA_VIPERE_NOIRE_HQInspired by the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, a tale of action, adventure, thrills and chills await fans of Dieselpunk, die-hard pulp fans and readers who just love a gritty story that packs a mean punch.

Enter a world in which Gangsters, Flappers, vampires, robots and the Ku Klux Klan all roam the same dark back streets; a world of grit, grime and grease; a world of hardboiled gumshoe detectives and mad scientists; a world where magic and technology compete for rule over the world.

Dieselfunk has emerged in The Scythe…and the Roaring Twenties will never seem the same!

 

*This novel also contains the illustrated short story, La Vipère Noire and the Initiation at Pic la Selle (illustrated by the Blacktastic artist Chris Miller) and other goodies!

**Cover art by Stanley “Standingo” Weaver, Jr.!


DIESELFUNK DEBUTS DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH & AT ANACHROCON!

Dieselfunk

DIESELFUNK DEBUTS DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH & AT ANACHROCON!

Steamfunk CoverLast year, in celebration of Black History Month, author and publisher Milton Davis and Yours Truly released the history-making, ground breaking and earth shaking anthology Steamfunk, through Milton’s publishing company, MVmedia.

We unveiled Steamfunk at AnachroCon - the premier Historical Reenactment, Alternate History and Steampunk convention in the South – and the reception was amazing. Steamfunk has since gone on to be a bestseller for MVmedia and is even studied in colleges and universities throughout America.

This year, AnachroCon’s theme is Dieselpunk – a sub-genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy that includes – but is not limited to, or bound by – the aesthetics, style and philosophies of film noir and pulp fiction.

Dieselpunk features retrofuturistic innovations, alternate history and elements of the occult.

Think the movies Captain America: The First AvengerSin CityHell Boy; the Indiana Jones films and The Mummy (1999 – 2008) trilogy.

Diesel Sista 2Often referred to as Steampunk’s grittier sibling, Dieselpunk is set during the Diesel Era – a period of time that begins at the end of World War I and continues until the early 1950s.

When the Dieselpunk theme for 2014 was announced at AnachroCon’s closing ceremonies last year, I was tickled because I had already planned to release the first Dieselfunk novel in history in early 2014. Thus, The Scythe will debut at this year’s AnachroCon!

What, exactly, is Dieselfunk, you ask?

Dieselfunk is fiction, film and fashion that combines the style and mood Dieselpunk with Afrofuturistic inspiration.

Dieselfunk tells the exciting untold stories of people of African descent during the Jazz Age.

Think the Harlem Renaissance meets Science Fiction…think Chalky White (from Boardwalk Empire) doing battle with robots run amok in his territory… think Mob bosses; Nazis; flappers. Jazz; bootleggers; Bessie Coleman; Marcus Garvey; the Tulsa Race Riots…that is Dieselfunk!

Since Dieselfunk is so wrapped up in Black History, it is the perfect type of writing to release during Black History Month.

For those who just can’t wait until February 14 to get your copy of The Scythe and you just gotta know what it is about, here is a sneak peek at the blurb on the books back cover:

Dieselfunk“He has been given a second chance at life; a second chance at revenge. He is the bridge between the Quick and the Dead. He is…THE SCYTHE!

Out of the tragedy of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, a two-fisted hero rises from the grave!

Inspired by the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, a tale of action, adventure, thrills and chills await fans of Dieselpunk, die-hard pulp fans and readers who just love a gritty story that packs a mean punch.

Enter a world in which gangsters, flappers, vampires, robots and the Ku Klux Klan all roam the same dark back streets; a world of grit, grime and grease; a world of hardboiled gumshoe detectives and mad scientists; a world where magic and technology compete for rule over the world.

Dieselfunk has emerged in The Scythe…and the Roaring Twenties will never seem the same!”

AnachroCon

And The Scythe is just the beginning for Dieselfunk. Milton Davis and I have discussed publishing the Dieselfunk anthology as a follow up to the popular Steamfunk anthology and The Scythe II will release at the end of this year.

Join me at AnachroCon February 14-16 and I will be happy to autograph your copy of The Scythe for you. If you can’t make it to AnachroCon this year, buy the book anyway and treat yourself to a great read.

Of course, I’ll still sign it for you whenever I see you, ‘cause we cool like that.

.


NO QUEENS IN AFRIKA: Women Rulers in Sword & Soul and other African-Inspired Fantasy

Sword and Soul

NO QUEENS IN AFRIKA: Women Rulers in Sword & Soul and other African-Inspired Fantasy

Oya

Sword and SoulRecently, an article about the history of Nzinga, woman ruler of Angola, has surfaced and is circulating around Facebook.

Now, while I am happy to see Nzinga recognized, every time I see it I cringe.

Why?

Because, the posters of that article scream “The mighty Queen Nzinga!” or “Warrior-Queen Nzinga!” or “Another great African Queen: Nzinga!” or, simply “Queen Nzinga!”

Sigh.

Nzinga was never a queen people!

No African woman ever was.

That’s right. I said it. Now, read on!

I should say that no traditional, pre-colonial, woman – or woman who opposed colonization / slavery ever was – because later, you did have some Europeanized African rulers who, in their attempts to reduce the power of women, reduced them to queens – and many women accepted their lot.

Nzinga was an Ngola – a ruler of a nation; a “king”, if you must.

Sword and SoulSome say she was given the title after the passing of her father, who was an Ngola. Some say Nzinga was given the title after murdering her own brother and becoming her father’s next heir to the throne. However she became Ngola, she was Ngola…not queen.

Traditional rulers throughout Africa were not always given the title and responsibilities of rule by birth or by blood. More often than not, the people chose their ruler and if the ruler did not serve and / or represent the people well, the ruler could be removed from his or her throne.

It was the people who governed and, to the people, gender was rarely a factor in who they chose to lead them.

Among the Yoruba, anyone born under the Odu – the 256 patterns of life / containers of destiny in which all creation exists – Irete Ogbe (aka Irentegbe, or Ategbe) is destined to be an Ǫba, or “king”; gender be damned.

The term “queen” is a product of recent history and the English language. In Ancient African, Asian and Pacific cultures, and even some European countries, women rulers were given the title king or its equivalent, such as pharaoh.

The Byzantine Empress Irene was called basileus – “emperor” – not basilissa, or “empress”. Jadwiga of Poland was crowned Rex Poloniae, King of Poland.

In China, Wu Zetian became the emperor and established the Zhou Dynasty after dismissing her sons. It should be noted that Emperor Wu is described throughout history as huangdi – “emperor”, as opposed to huanghou – “empress”. Similarly, in Korea, the rulers Sindeok and Jindeok were called yeowang – “female king” not hwanghu – “queen”, which refers to the wife of a king or emperor.

“Then what the hell is a queen?” You ask?

Well, let’s examine the term.

A queen regnant (plural: queens regnant) is a European female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen regent, also known as a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king.

An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire.

A queen regnant possesses and exercises sovereign powers. The husband of a queen regnant does not usually share his wife’s rank, title or sovereignty.

A queen consort, on the other hand, shares her husband’s rank and titles, but does not share his sovereignty.

A queen dowager is the widow of a king. A queen mother is a queen dowager who is also the mother of a reigning sovereign.

Among the Davidic Monarchs of the Kingdom of Judah, there is mentioned a single queen regnant, Athaliah, though the Hebrew Bible regards her negatively as a usurper. The much later Hasmonean, Queen Salome Alexandra (Shlom Tzion), was highly popular.

Accession of a regnant occurs as a nation’s order of succession permits. Methods of succession to queendoms, kingdoms and tribal chieftancies, include nomination when the sitting monarch or a council names an heir, known as primogeniture when the children are chosen in order of birth from eldest to youngest; or ultimogeniture when the children are chosen from youngest to eldest.

Historically, many European realms forbade succession by women or through a female line in obedience to the Salic law, and some still do. No queen regnant ever ruled France, for example. Only one woman, Maria Theresa, ruled Austria.

In Japan, the Chrysanthemum Throne – currently barred to women – did not always have such a restriction. There have been eight empresses regnant. The Japanese language calls such women rulers josei tennō – “female imperial ruler” – with kōgō being the term reserved for an empress consort.

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the differences between European and African women who rule and how referring to such African women as “Queen” in your fiction is not correct and could even be considered insulting to many, let’s look at a few African women rulers for information and inspiration in your research and writings.

Amina – or Aminatu – of Zazzau (Zaria)

Sword and SoulAmina was the eldest daughter of Bakwa Turunku – also a woman – the founder of the Zazzau Kingdom in 1536. After the death of her mother in 1549, Amina ascended the throne. This medieval African kingdom was located in the region now known as the Kaduna State in the north-central region of Nigeria, capital at the modern city of Zaria, named after Amina’s younger sister, Zariya.

The earliest commentator to mention Amina is Muhammed Bello’s history text, Ifaq al-Maysur, composed around 1836.

Amina is also mentioned in the Kano Chronicle, a well-regarded and detailed history of the city of Kano and the surrounding Hausa people.

Known as a great military strategist, the cavalry-trained Amina fought many wars that expanded the southernmost Hausa kingdom.

Queen Amina is a legend among the Hausa people for her military exploits. She controlled the trade routes in the region, erecting a network of commerce within the great earthen walls that surrounded Hausa cities within her dominion. According to the Kano Chronicle, she conquered as far as Nupe and Kwarafa, ruling for 34 years.

Moremi Ajasoro, Olori of Ile Ife

Sword and SoulMoremi Ajasoro was a figure of high significance in the history of the Yoruba people of Southwest Nigeria, Benin and Togo. She was a member, by marriage of the of the royal family of Emperor Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba people (whom some scholars believe was a woman).

Moremi was an Olori – a title held only by certain Chiefs – hailing from Ile Ife, a kingdom at war with the neighboring Ìgbò nation.

Scores of Ife – or citizens of the Kingdom of Ile Ife – were enslaved by the Ìgbò. Because of this, the Ìgbò were generally regarded with disdain by the Yoruba city-states.

Moremi – a very brave and beautiful woman – was taken and enslaved by the Ìgbò and, due to her beauty, was wed to their ruler.

After familiarizing herself with the secrets of her new husband’s army, Moremi escaped to Ile Ife and revealed these secrets to the Yoruba, who were able to subsequently defeat the Ìgbò in battle.

Following the war, Moremi returned to her first husband, King Oranmiyan of Ile Ife.

Oranmiyan immediately had Moremi re-instated as his wife and as a Chief.

In contemporary Nigeria, a number of public places are named after Moremi, such as the women’s residence halls at the University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University.

Hatshepsut

Sword and SoulHatshepsut – meaning “Foremost of Noble Ladies” – was the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt. She is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty. She is also known to scholars as “the first great woman in history of whom we are informed.”

Although it was uncommon for Egypt to be ruled by a woman, the situation was not unprecedented. Hatshepsut was preceded by Merneith, of the first dynasty; Nimaethap, of the third dynasty; Nitocris, the last pharaoh of the sixth dynasty; Sobekneferu, of the twelfth dynasty; and the warrior, Ahotep I.

In comparison with other women pharaohs, Hatshepsut’s reign was much longer and much more prosperous. She was successful in warfare early in her reign, but generally is considered to be a pharaoh who inaugurated a long peaceful era. Hatshepsut reestablished international trading relationships, once lost during a foreign occupation, and brought great wealth to Egypt – wealth that enabled her to initiate building projects that raised the caliber of Ancient Egyptian architecture to a standard that would not be rivaled by any other culture for a thousand years. Hatshepsut ruled for twenty-two years.

Ngola Nzinga Mbandi

Sword and SoulNzinga Mbandi was a ruthless and powerful ruler of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms, which is now the nation of Angola.

Nzinga fearlessly and cleverly fought for the freedom and stature of her kingdoms against the Portuguese, who were colonizing the area at the time.

Around the turn of the 17th century, the independent kingdoms and states of the Central African coast were threatened by Portuguese attempts to colonize Luanda, today the capital of Angola.

Portugal sought to colonize the region in order to control the trade in African slaves, and attacked many of their old trading partners to further this goal.

Unlike many other rulers at the time, Nzinga was able to adapt to these changing circumstances and fluctuations in power around her. By her own determination and refusal to give in to the Portuguese without a fight, she transformed her kingdom into a formidable commercial state on equal footing with the Portuguese colonies.

In 1617 the new Portuguese governor of Luanda began an aggressive campaign against the kingdom of Ndongo. His troops invaded the capital and forced Ngola Mbandi – Nzinga’s brother, who inherited the throne from their father – to flee from the area. Thousands of Ndongo people were taken prisoner.

The Ngola sent his sister Nzinga Mbandi to negotiate a peace treaty in 1621, which she did successfully. But Portugal didn’t honor the terms of the treaty.

Ngola Mbandi, feeling he had failed his people, committed suicide, leaving the kingdom to his sister, Nzinga.

Sword and SoulAs the new sovereign of Ndongo, Nzinga re-entered negotiations with the Portuguese. At the time, Ndongo was under attack from both the Portuguese and neighboring African aggressors. Nzinga realized that in order to achieve peace and for her kingdom to remain viable, she needed to become an intermediary. She allied Ndongo with Portugal, and was baptized as Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande, with the Portuguese colonial governor serving as her godfather. By doing this she acquired a partner in her fight against her African enemies, and ending Portuguese slave raiding in the kingdom.

The new alliance didn’t last very long, however. Portugal betrayed Ndongo in 1626, and Nzinga was forced to flee when war broke out. Nzinga took over as ruler of the nearby kingdom of Matamba, capturing Matamba’s ruler – a woman by the name of Mwongo Matamba – and routing her army. Nzinga then made Matamba her capital, joining it to the Kingdom of Ndongo.

To build up her kingdom’s martial power, Nzinga offered sanctuary to runaway slaves and Portuguese-trained African soldiers and stirred up rebellion among the people still left in Ndongo, now ruled by the Portuguese.

Nzinga also reached out to the Dutch and invited them to join troops with her. She told the Dutch she would be happy to ally with them because of their justice and politeness, whereas the Portuguese were proud and haughty.

Even their combined forces were not enough to drive the Portuguese out, however, and after retreating to Matamba again, Nzinga started to focus on developing Matamba as a trading power and the gateway to the Central African interior.

By the time of Nzinga’s death in 1661 at the age of 81, Matamba was on equal footing with the Portuguese colony. The Portuguese came to respect Ngola Nzinga for her shrewdness and tenacity.

Now, please, no more excuses. If you are writing Sword and Soul, building an African setting for your Fantasy Role-Playing Game, or hell, writing an essay on an African ruler who happens to be a woman, please, do your research. Get it right.

And for all you players and smooth-talkers, the next time you open your mouth to call a sister a “beautiful African Queen”…don’t.

Beautiful African King, maybe. But if that doesn’t sound right to you, although it’s much more accurate, hell, just go with Goddess. Yeah, that’s it.

Goddess.

Sword and Soul


MORE TROLLS THAN A MID-LEVEL DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS CAMPAIGN

troll 3

MORE TROLLS THAN A MID-LEVEL DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS CAMPAIGN

troll 2I have been the victim of trolling.

Recently, a person tried to bait me into an argument, or get a rise out of me by insulting my latest book release, A Single Link, without reading it. When that didn’t work, they said they were purchasing another book that released the same day as A Single Link.

Fine by me; my short story, Brood is in that book, too.

Silly rabbit.

No, not rabbit…troll.

In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a group forum, chat room, or blog.

While trolling – the term for the discordant actions of a troll – can be accidental, it is usually done with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment and bullying. For example, mass media has used troll to describe “a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families.”

troll 5The advice “Please don’t feed the troll,” is often given, which means to ignore trolls and their actions.

Of course, trolls are not limited to English-speaking countries. Every nation on Earth is plagued by the trollpocalypse.

In Taiwanese Mandarin, trolling is referred to as bái mù – literally, “white eye” – or, “eyes without pupils”. The pupil of the eye is used for vision; the white part of the eye cannot see. In regard to trolls, this means that trolling involves blindly talking nonsense over the internet, with no regard for others. The alternative term is bái làn – literally “white rot” – which describes an internet post that is completely nonsensical and full of folly made to upset others. It derives from a Taiwanese slang term for pale, white, male genitalia, considered to be the genitalia of someone who is young and foolish.

In Japanese, tsuri means “fishing” and refers to posts with the sole purpose of getting readers to react.

In Icelandic, þurs refers to trolls. The verbs þursa (to troll) or þursast (to be trolling, to troll about) are also used.

In Korean, nak-si means “fishing”, and is used to refer to Internet trolling, as well as to purposefully misleading post titles.

troll 6In Thai, the word krean – the name of a closely cropped hairstyle worn by school boys in Thailand – is used to address Internet trolls, thus equating them with school boys. The phrase tob krean, or “slapping a cropped head”, refers to the act of posting intellectual replies to refute and the messages of Internet trolls and cause them to be perceived as unintelligent.

Psychologists have discovered that trolling is a form of symbolic violence. Trolls desire to promote antipathetic emotions of disgust and outrage, which gives them a morbid sense of pleasure.

The troll is a predator who attempts to pass as a legitimate participant in a group, sharing the group’s common interests and concerns. A group’s success at detecting a troll depends on how well they – and the troll – understand identity cues.

And trolls must be identified and, upon identification, immediately banned from the group or unfriended because trolls can be costly in several ways:

A troll can disrupt a discussion, disseminate bad advice and damage the feeling of trust in the group or community. Furthermore, in a group that has become sensitized to trolling – where the rate of deception is high – many honestly naïve questions may be perceived as trolling and the questioner branded a troll.

“Why would someone in their right mind troll?” You ask?

troll 4Because they are not in their right mind. Predators – unless they are lions, tigers, or hawks or something – rarely are.

Most are bullies. Punk-ass bullies, at that.

These e-gangsters and keyboard killers are more aggressive, rude and forthright online because they are anonymous and can act as unpleasantly as they like without immediate consequence.

In real life, though, these chumps wouldn’t clap at a concert, because pulling the same shit would, at best, incur social sanctions and at worst, incur an ass whoopin’.

“Other than moderation and censorship, what can we do to stop these damned trolls?” You ask?

Well, let’s go to the experts on trolls – Dungeons and Dragons – and see what they have to say (the emphasis, in bold, is mine).

“With its 5 hit points of regeneration per round, a troll can stand up to a lot of punishment. Moreover, it has 10 feet of reach that allows it get the drop on Player Characters with attacks of opportunity, as well as two claws and a bite attack for significant Strength-enhanced damage.

troll 1Trolls are horrid carnivores found in all climes, from arctic wastelands to tropical jungles. Most creatures avoid these beasts, which know no fear and attack unceasingly when hungry.

Trolls have ravenous appetites, devouring everything from grubs to bears and humanoids. They often lair near settlements and hunt the inhabitants until they devour every last one…trolls can appear thin and frail but possess surprising strength

They launch themselves into combat without hesitation, flailing wildly at the closest opponent.

Trolls are infamous for their regenerative abilities, able to recover from the most grievous of wounds or regenerate entire limbs given time. Severing a troll’s head results merely in temporary incapacitation, rather than death. After cutting off a troll’s head or other limbs, one must seal the wounds with fire or acid to prevent regeneration. Because of this, most adventurers will typically carry some sort of implement capable of creating fire.”

“…After cutting off a troll’s head or other limbs, one must seal the wounds with fire or acid to prevent regeneration.” As I stated earlier, you must identify the troll, cut them off from communication with the group, or yourself, and then permanently ban them and warn others against the troll, thus “cauterizing” the wound caused by their actions.

So, hunt down those trolls, draw your +3 keen Vorpal Sword and decapitate those predatory little bastards.

Be sure you have a torch or a vial of acid handy, though.

Can’t have that troll growing a new head and coming back.

*DISCLAIMER: I do not condone the literal decapitation of  anyone, not even trolls…unless, of course, it is in self-defense, or it is an actual out-from-under-the-bridge troll.


AFRICAN PULP: The Spear in Racist Pulp Fiction’s Heart!

Lance Spearman

AFRICAN PULP: The Spear in Racist Pulp Fiction’s Heart!

comix 13Throughout Africa, storytelling has always been an intrinsic part of society, used to recall historical events, impart wisdom, debate and communicate messages from the divine.

Storytellers – called Djele, Sanusi, Babalawo, Iyanifa, Okomfo and other titles, depending on where, on the continent you go – are revered and are usually also skilled in spiritual and healing practices as well.

Tales of powerful heroes, megalomaniacal villains, sorcerers, witches and fearsome creatures abound in African folklore, thus I was not surprised at my recent discovery – thanks to Paul Bishop, author and mastermind behind the Fight Card brand of Fight Fiction books – that Pulp magazines, created by, and about, African heroes were highly popular across the continent in the 1960s through the 1980s.

Sold under the brand names African Film and Boom, these magazines – called photo comics, or “look books” – were illustrated with stunning photographs instead of drawings, giving them the uniqueness, creative flair and do-it-yourself spirit common throughout Africa.

With heroes like the Tarzanesque Fearless Fang (Boom) and the “African Superman”, Son of Samson, children and adults alike waited eagerly every month for latest edition to hit the newsstands.

Lance SpearmanThe most popular photo comic magazine was The Spear (African Film), which featured Lance Spearman, the super-spy / detective whose coolness James Bond and Derek Flint would envy. The Spear drove a Corvette stingray, sported a panama hat and well-tailored suits with a bow tie and smoked expensive cigars. And in true Pulp fashion, he had a bevy of beautiful women at his beck-and-call.

Lance Spearman pursued the bad guys with zeal, outwitting their conspiracies, kicking much ass with his African martial arts and saving the day…all in one issue!

These popular Pulps – a portfolio of black and white photos, complete with speech balloons, narration boxes and all the “bam-pow” sound effects that a kick and a quick upper cut to the jaw makes in any comic book.

Unlike the popular Pulps of the Western world, however, which were rife with racist tropes of uncivilized, uneducated, spear-chucking cannibals, or damn-near naked noble savages, with objectified, ample body parts, Lance Spearman was sharp, stylish and sophisticated.

Even the jungle stalking Fearless Fang was intelligent, witty, brave and well, cool.

Combining Western references with a distinctly African cultural identity, these amazing African Pulps presented a critique of colonialism and a significant variation in how the genre classically figured normality and otherness.

And they were entertaining as hell!

Published first by publisher Drum Publications in Nigeria in the early 1960s and later also published in Kenya and Ghana the photo comic had a powerful and lasting influence in fostering postcolonial pride and identity.

Its combination of extreme violence, melodrama, romance and glimpses of the glamorous life preceded and influenced the Blaxploitation craze in American cinema in the 1970s and its use of inventive DIY tactics to overcome budget constraints influenced the booming Nollywood film industry.

African PulpOther popular titles included The Stranger, about a two-gun toting, Black Lone Ranger-type hero; the romantic Sadness and Joy; and the serpentine shero, Cobra.

“Ok, you’ve told us about the photo comics, but how, and why, were they created?” You ask? “

 Well, Drum Publications of Nairobi, Kenya – tired of the clichéd racist images of Black people in contrast to the heroic images of white soldiers and superheroes in Western comics – decided to create comic books that would appeal to Black men. They began photographing black men in adventures that were designed to appeal to the Black African population.

Drum would buy stories and then send the scripts to Swaziland, where a photographer would takes pictures of a cast of Black actors. They would then send the photographed strips to London, England, where the magazines were printed. Finally, the photo comic magazines would be distributed in West, East and South Africa.

comix 12The Lance Spearman title was the most popular publication, with circulation figures estimated at 100, 000 in West Africa, 45,000 in East Africa and 20,000 in South Africa. In fact, Lance Spearman had a greater circulation in Kenya than any of the local daily newspapers at that time.

The writers of these look-books were Black Africans, who were paid $65 – equivalent to approximately $508.00 today – for every script they produced.

Expected in the scripts were lots of fistfights and the bad guys always losing in the end.

The readership of these photo comics included men, women, boys and girls from small rural towns to sprawling urban cities; from the barely literate to highly educated professionals.

The man, who played the character of Lance Spearman, was Jore Mkwanazi, originally employed as a “houseboy” in Durban, South Africa, scrubbing the floors of an apartment for $35 a month and as a musician, playing the piano in a nightclub for $1.50 a night, when photographer Stanley N. Bunn discovered him and decided he had the tough, cynical, sophisticated face that was needed for The Spear. In the role of the super-spy, Mkwanazi earned $215 a month.

Here is the original Drum Publications information, found in every issue of their photo comic magazines:

 
Drum Publications (E.A.) Ltd
P.O Box 43372
Nairobi
Kenya

Editor: J. Singh

Printed by 
Printing and Packaging Corporation Ltd
P.O Box 30157, 
Nairobi

But the story of photo comic magazines does not stop here.

In fact, it is just beginning.

In the summer of 2014, I will publish my first photo comic book, The Siafu: Revolution.

The Siafu is about escaped prisoner, Jamil Brown, who suffers a virus-induced myostatin deficiency that gives him enhanced strength, speed and endurance. Jamil is hunted by his makers, while gathering others like him to help fight against the corrupt system that made him.

For those of you who don’t know, siafu are army ants that, while small, are powerful and – in large enough numbers – can bring down an elephant.

So, be on the lookout for this amazing new graphic Pulp science fiction novel in a few months.

Get ready for The Siafu.

Get ready for Revolution.

 

 


THIS AINT I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: Rape in Black Speculative Fiction!

rape 3

THIS AINT I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: Rape in Black Speculative Fiction

rape 1As I write this, I think of the sad fact that three of my seven daughters – I have eight children; two grandchildren – have been raped. I, too, was raped as a little boy, by a woman.

For years, I worked as an expert witness on violent crime in Illinois and I am the founder of the NZINGA: Mother / Daughter Self-Defense Program, in which I taught rape awareness as part of the course. I say taught, because I have since given responsibilities of that program over to my wife and to the women who are Assistant Instructors under my tutelage.

Among African Americans, there is a reluctance to report rape and incest. A reluctance born of wariness of authority, especially white authority, which is learned from the experience of white lynch mobs; the death of four little girls killed during the bombing of a church in Birmingham and the battered body of young Emmett Till. There is reluctance, because we remember the destruction of entire cities – such as Tulsa, Oklahoma and Rosewood, Florida – at the hands of white mobs after a Black man was wrongfully accused of raping a white woman.

Historically, we have learned that the system is not to be trusted.

Rape is one of the most underreported violent crimes, according to the Department of Justice, regardless of the victim’s sex, age, race, ethnicity, religion or class, but as a group, African American women are the least likely to break the silence.

This phenomenon, first documented in 1981 by Gail Wyatt, a sexual behavior researcher at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, is now being addressed in self-help books and at rape crisis centers created specifically to serve People of Color, such as the Rosa Parks Sexual Assault Crisis Center in South Los Angeles.

I believe what I suffered, which I kept to myself for thirty years, led me to being sexually promiscuous at a very young age; to high blood pressure, which led to several strokes in 2012 and a bout with alcoholism. What I, three of my children and countless women I know, suffered also led to my portraying rapists, or potential rapists, as the vilest of villains in some of my writing.

It’s no secret that rape is common in fiction. Sometimes it’s relevant to the plot, often used as the catalyst in a revenge story. Other times rape is used to remind us that we live in a cruel world, filled with even crueler people. And other times, it is used to shock, or even titillate.

A Single LinkI don’t write much about rape. Only my latest book, A Single Link, actually has such a horrific event take place and in one of my screenplays, I hint that one of the villains is a rapist.

When I wrote A Single Link, which I first wrote, directed and produced as a film, I conferred with nearly fifty women of various ages. I asked if I had handled the rape intelligently, if it came off as a gimmick, or if it was predictable. They invariably answered “no,” and told me A Single Link was a story that needed to be told.

Many of the women – including my wife – gave suggestions on how I could make the story more believable; more like something they would want to see. I am glad I listened and made much needed changes based on their suggestions. The story went through fifteen drafts – more than I have ever done for any of my writing – before I was comfortable enough with the script to shoot it.

I am happy I did.

Many lazy writers use rape as a plot device in their stories because it is easy to use as a motivator for the shero to begin her quest. Well, for those who have known me for even a short while, you know I am far from lazy, so you know that was not my motivation (as one reader and part-time troll implied). She assumed my use of the rape is predictable…which is a predictable – and lazy – response, by the way (do your research – or at least read the book – before passing judgment, y’all).

However, to be fair, rape is often overused or misused in fiction; particularly in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

A Single Link Rape should not be used unless its occurrence is integral to the development of the story or a character.

In fact, no violent act – assault; battery; terroristic threats; murder — should take place in a story unless it is integral to the plot or to develop characters. Any violence, for the sake of violence, is wrong and makes for poor writing.

A common statement that has been made is “Let’s see men get raped in fiction as well.” Once again, if it is handled intelligently and with empathy, why not? However, if such a story is told on some old ‘quid pro quo’ bull, then it is just as gimmicky; just as lazy; just as wrong.

Rape of men has happened in popular fiction a few times; most famously in Pulp Fiction, Deliverance and Antwone Fisher. Sadly, these rapes have been made jokes of by men and women, as if a man suffering a rape – especially if committed by a woman – has no lasting effect on men. This should be rectified, so I would welcome someone writing a story that deals with this issue seriously.

America has been described as a “rape culture” – an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence – and I would agree with that description.

A Single Link is my contribution to the fight against such a twisted, cruel culture that leaves my mother, my sisters, my daughters, and even my son, unsafe.

I pray I got it right.

Read the book and let me know.


SISTERS OF THE SPEAR: Black Sheroes In Speculative Fiction

'Ayen and Bull' by artist Jason Reeves

SISTERS OF THE SPEAR: Black Sheroes In Speculative Fiction

 Women Warriors 1

A while ago, I wrote a blog lamenting the sexism in speculative fiction. We still have a long way to go, but, in Black Speculative Fiction, at least, great strides are being made to give women their due respect and some awesome sheroes have emerged.

In this festive month, alone, no less than two awesome books have been released that feature hard-hitting women protagonists:

The first is the Sword and Soul anthology, Griots: Sisters of the Spear, which picks up where the ground breaking Griots anthology leaves off. Charles R. Saunders and Milton J. Davis present seventeen original and exciting Sword and Soul tales focusing on Black women as sheroes. Just as the Griots anthology broke ground as the first Sword and Soul anthology, Griots: Sisters of the Spear pays homage to the spirit, bravery and compassion of Black women. The griots have returned to sing new songs; and what wonderful songs they are!

The Table of Contents and list of authors in Sisters of the Spear hints at just how much of an amazing must-read this anthology is:

A Subtle Lyric by Troy L Wiggins
Blood of the Lion by Joe Bonadonna
Brood by Balogun Ojetade
Death and Honor by Ronald Jones
Ghost Marriage by Phenderson Djèlí Clark
Lady of Flames by Treka Willis Cross
Marked by Sara Macklin
Queen of the Sapphire Coast by Linda Macauley
Raiders of the Skye Isle by Cynthia Ward
The Antuthema by Ds Brown
The Night Wife by Carole McDonnell
The Price of Kush by Sylvia Kelso
The Sickness by Valjeanne Jeffers
Zambeto by JC Holbrook
Old Habits by Milton Davis
Kpendu (a new Dossouye story) by Charles Saunders

Art by Andrea Rushing.

Art by Andrea Rushing.

The women in this book are brave, strong, powerful and brilliant. In my story, Brood, the shero is Mistress Oyabakin, the most powerful warrior on the continent and one of the main characters in the Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika.

The second book is the two-fisted (and footed; and elbowed; and kneed) action-adventure Fight Fiction / New Pulp tale, A Single Link.

After suffering a brutal rape at the hands of a martial arts champion, Remi “Ray” Swan decides that, to gain closure and empowerment, she must face her attacker in the first professional fight between a man and a woman.

In A Single Link, the author, Balogun Ojetade (yep, Yours Truly) challenges you to step into the cage, where action, adventure, bone shattering fights, and a touch of romance await you!

Remi Swan, who goes on to become known as ‘The Single Link’ when she transitions from receptionist at a martial arts school to pro fighter must earn her spot on the fight cards, battling not only men, but a formidable women’s champion, who feels Remi has no place in the sport of professional mixed martial arts at all.

Remi is a wife, a mother and a martial artist who lives in a near-future world in which mixed martial arts has become a sport more popular than soccer and basketball. A near-future that dares ask and examine the questions “can a woman win against a man in a professional fight?”

A Single LinkThis fast-paced, hard-hitting tale is the first in a series of books I call the WERK Chronicles. Also, set within the WERK (World Extreme Ring Kombat) Chronicles universe, but not directly part of the WERK Chronicles itself, is Fists of Africa, the Fight Fiction New Pulp novella I penned as part of the Fight Card MMA series. Fists of Africa will release in early 2014.

Another WERK Chronicles book featuring Remi ‘The Single Link’ Swan – Showdown in Sudan – will release in summer, 2014.

I’d like to introduce you to a few more powerful sisters in fiction:

In the Vampire Huntress Legend Series, a twelve book series written by L.A. Banks, we meet young, African-American spoken word artist named Damali Richards, who is one of the Neteru, humans born every thousand years to fight creatures from the Dark Realms. Her most dangerous and most constant enemies from the Dark Realms are vampires. Damali was orphaned at an early age and her experiences in foster care led her to escape, starting her journey as a vampire huntress.

The first book in this incredible series, Minion, unfolds Damali’s origin and introduces us to her team of fellow hunters. 

In the Immortal series by Valjeanne Jeffers, the shape-shifting Karla emerges. Karla is described as a young, “Indigo” (read the book to find out what an Indigo is) woman who works as a successful healer at a place called CLEAN, where people go to get “clean” from addiction to the legal drugs Rush and Placid. Karla is tormented by lucid and erotic – yet terrifying – dreams in which she is immortal.

Two men emerge from these phantasms: the first a Copper shape-shifter (again, read the book) and the other a demon more dead than alive. But Karla is more than prepared to deal with the dark creatures from her dreams…if her own lust doesn’t consume her first.

Parable of the Sower centers on a young woman named Lauren Olamina, who possesses what author Octavia Butler dubbed “hyperempathy”, the ability to feel the pain – and other sensations – of others. As a child living in the remnants of a gated community in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, Lauren develops a benign philosophical and religious system called “Earth seed”.

Society has reverted to anarchy due to scarce resources and poverty. When the community’s security is compromised, Lauren’s home is destroyed and her family is murdered. She travels north with a few other survivors to start a community where Earth seed can grow.

Dossouye is the tale of the warrior Dossouye and her war-bull, Gob, written by the father of Sword and Soul, Charles R. Saunders.

This fierce and fearsome character is inspired by the real-life female warriors of the West African Kingdom of Mahoney.

Orphaned at a young age, Dossouye becomes a soldier in the women’s army of the kingdom of Anomy. In a war against the rival kingdom of Avanti, Dossouye saves her people from certain destruction; but a cruel twist of fate compels her to go into exile.

On her journey across the vast rainforests outside of her homeland, Dossouye encounters many menaces and perils that will either break or strengthen her.

Woman of the WoodsWoman of the Woods, by Milton Davis, introduces us to Sadatina, a young woman of the Adamou nation. For centuries, the Adamou have been under attack by the yoke – dark, ape-like servants of the god Karan. Their only protection has been the Sosa – warrior-women blessed by their god, Cha, to fight the yoke. Even as a young girl, Sedating is stronger and faster and better at hunting and fighting than any of the young men in her village.

With the aid of two rhumbas – jungle cats whom she has raised from cubs – Sedating becomes the village’s protector and earns the name “Woman of the Woods”.

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, by Yours Truly, is an exciting mash up of Steam funk, alternate history and horror.

The shero – soldier, freedom fighter, Black Dispatch and monster hunter, Harriet Tubman, is hired by John Wilkes Booth to rescue his child Margaret from kidnappers.  Harriet Tubman is a supernatural shero, so she does her job well, but later discovers that Booth is not the girl’s father, which launches the story into a frenzy of action and adventure. The adventure speeds us across the U.S. and Mexico, introducing us to extraordinary characters and exciting scenarios along the way.
Matching Harriet Tubman in power are the murderous Mama Maybelle and the cigar-smoking, gun-toting, ass kicking anti-shero, Black Mary Fields (aka “Stagecoach Mary”).

Harriet Tubman is also one of the sheroes of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage and its upcoming companion anthology, Rite of Passage: Road to Nicodemus.

There are many more Black heroes in Fantasy and Science Fiction who I will introduce you to in later installments. What women heroes of color are your favorites?


A SINGLE LINK IS HERE!

A Single Link

A SINGLE LINK IS HERE!

A Single Link

I am excited – and proud – to announce that the action adventure, fight fiction, New Pulp book is available in paperback and ebook!

A Single Link is sure to keep your eyes popped, your jaw dropped and your fingers turning the pages as you step into the cage with  Remi Swan, who becomes the first woman to fight against men in professional mixed martial arts on her quest for justice and closure after suffering a brutal assault by a pro fighter.

I loved writing this Rocky meets Enough story, which is filled with heart, grit and pulse-pounding, two-fisted action and I know you’ll love it too!

The action adventure New Pulp novel A Single Link is now available in paperback and ebook!


A Steamfunkateer encounters Twinjas!

Sword and Soul

A Steamfunkateer encounters Twinjas!

 

twin 1Recently I was interviewed by Twinja Book Reviews, a website dedicated to the fight to bring multiculturalism to Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction novels.

Founded and helmed by twin sisters Libertad and Guinevere Tomas, Twinja Book Reviews is a great site to find YA books that go beyond the white male default protagonist. Check out their ‘Our Reviews’ section for a wonderful selection of multicultural YA.

Also, check out their site for other exciting interviews to follow. They have a line-up of authors set up you do not want to miss. The schedule can be found on their site here.

I was privileged to be the first interview the sisters conducted. I have reposted it below for your reading pleasure:

My sister and I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of your books yet, but there has been a lot of buzz surrounding you in various places. It’s like we can’t conduct an online search pertaining to diversity in books without your name being mentioned! Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself, as well as your writing?

I am very grateful for the buzz and I thank everyone for their ongoing support.

For those who don’t yet know me – and I would imagine that’s a lot of folks – I am an author; a father of eight children; grandfather of two; a husband; a Steamfunkateer / Steampunk; a filmmaker; a screenwriter; an actor (sometimes); a creator of role-playing games and a priest in the traditional Yoruba system of Ifa. I am also owner, master instructor and technical director of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute, which has representatives in Atlanta, Macon, GA, Raleigh-Durham, NC and London, England.

I live and work in Atlanta, Georgia.

I write speculative fiction; mainly, Steamfunk, Sword and Soul, New Pulp and Urban Fantasy.

For those unfamiliar with my work and my writing style, you can check out some of my short fiction on my website at Chronicles Of Harriet .

My published fiction books include my books, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2)Once Upon A Time In Afrika; and Redeemer (or, paperback)  and I am contributing Co-Editor of the bestselling anthology, Steamfunk and Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Anthology. In December, I will release my fight fiction New Pulp novel, A Single Link and in 2014, I will release two novels and one novella and will appear in several anthologies.

We’ve recently discovered the two genres you’ve penned, “Steamfunk” and “Sword and Soul” floating around the realm of diversity in science fiction and fantasy. Why don’t you explain what those genres are?

Steamfunk Harriet TubmanSword & Soul is the African expression of Heroic and Epic Fantasy; think Conan or Lord of the Rings with African heroes, probably in an African setting and featuring African culture and spirituality and you have Sword & Soul. Sword & Soul has been around since the 1970s when the subgenre’s founder, Charles R. Saunders – the masterful author of two incredible Sword & Soul novel series: Imaro and Dossouye – coined the phrase and created a new subgenre of Fantasy.

As far as Steamfunk;  in order to understand it, we must first give a brief definition of Steampunk. Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or fantasy, characterized by a setting – in the past, present or future – in which steam power is the predominant energy source. Think the television show The Wild, Wild West, the graphic novel / comic book series, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or the movie The Golden Compass

Steamfunk 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.

I am one of the founders of the Steamfunk Movement.

On our blog, Twinja Book Reviews, we only review books that feature marginalized groups (e.g. black, gay, Latin, Asian, disabled, plus sized) Why you ask? Well, because then our book blog would be lost in the sea of other book blogs! And why not spread the word on how much we’d like to get our message out there, to perhaps encourage authors to write diverse fiction and for readers to demand it! Why is Diversity in Science fiction and fantasy important to you?

BalogunFirst and foremost, I have been a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy since I was two years old. In fact, I learned to read at two because my sisters introduced me to superhero and Archie comic books at that age.

I learned just how important Science Fiction and Fantasy is after spending several years as an English and Creative Writing teacher in the public and private sectors. In conversing with other English teachers, I often asked them if they taught creative writing in their classes. Most did not. One teacher told me that she tried “that creative writing stuff” with her students, but quickly gave up on it and returned to a more “practical syllabus”. Upon further investigation, I discovered that she believed creative writing – particularly Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy – to be something outside – and, indeed, beneath – the instruction of English.

Most educators of English / Language Arts focus on the mechanics of the subject – how to read and write, rules of grammar, use of verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns and nouns and sentence comprehension – without the context of why and how those mechanics are used by students to express themselves.

Yes, we need to teach the mechanics – how to hold a pen; how to read; how words work – but we should not confuse use of a thing with understanding of it. Training in the mechanics of writing produces writing technicians; however, it does not make you a writer. So, you know how to spell; you can answer questions on grammar; you can repeat someone else’s literary criticism of a text – you are a technician. You can fix my text as a garage mechanic can fix my car. The garage mechanic can’t design a car. They can’t improve a car. They can’t build one from scratch. They can only ever work on someone else’s car.

This is why we – and our children – need to read and to write Science Fiction and Fantasy – so that our children do not only work on other people’s texts; they create and build their own. So they are not limited to just reading a story written by someone else and providing a report on it – they are out there in the field, experimenting with new stories and questioning old ones…if only for the reason that they can.

We need to teach our children to go out into the world to add to the pantheon of human creation and endeavor, not to dissect the words of long dead men. Science Fiction and Fantasy are best suited for that.

So, your latest book, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, features Steampunk elements (Or, as you say, Steamfunk) and Harriet Tubman as the Main Protagonist. You have to share what was going through your mind when you came up with that idea!

SteamfunkActually, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Book 1) is my first fiction book. It was released as an e-book in 2011 through Mocha Memoirs Press. In July 2012, I released Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2) in paperback under my own publishing and film production company, Roaring Lions Productions. I am now writing books 3 and 4 in the series.

Harriet Tubman is one of my heroes. I think because my mother, who is at the top of my list of heroes, is so much like Harriet Tubman, I fell in love with “General Moses” at a young age and I continue to love and admire her. I knew, long ago, that the first novel I wrote would have Harriet Tubman as the hero. I also knew that the world would be similar to that found in The Wild, Wild West – one of my mother’s favorite television shows; a show she made me fall in love with – but a bit grittier; a bit more fantastical.

What type of research goes into bringing one of your stories to life? 

SteamfunkTons of research…on the history; on the setting; on the culture and belief system of the people I write about. 

If we are going to write Steampunk and our story is set during the Victorian Era (between 1837 and 1901) and we want to avoid the cultural appropriation so prevalent in Steampunk, then it is necessary that we know history; that we understand how the Age of Steam was, so that we can determine how it should have been. 

If we cosplay a “Steampunk Squaw”, we should research how First Nation women lived during the Age of Steam; we should study First Nation cultures and choose in which nation we are going to gain historical and sociological expertise; we should research the word “squaw”, understand it is an offensive term to First Nation women and change the name…if you give a damn.

And that is what research is: giving a damn. So I do it…a lot.

What are some of your biggest challenges as a writer of Color?

The biggest challenge is letting people know that there are great works of Science Fiction and Fantasy by People of Color out there. Many more People of Color would read Science Fiction or Fantasy if they knew there are heroes in our books who look like them; who act, think and feel like them.

For years, we were the noble savage; the magical negro; the yellow menace. No one wants to invest days, weeks and sometimes even months, reading how less beautiful they are; how less intelligent; how less heroic. And mainstream publishes continues to perpetuate these images.

That is why I am convinced that the future of the literary industry is in independent publishing – small press and self-publishing. The mainstream literary industry is rooted in fear. It, like any corporation, is not in the business of taking risks – and Black books, other than street lit, are considered risky business. 

Books with People of Color as the heroes and sheroes are risks and the mainstream rarely wants to touch these books; and if they do, you are often asked to change your hero to a Caucasian male or they whitewash your cover, changing your Person of Color into a swarthy White person. Now, once an indie author creates a lot of buzz, the mainstream might pick them up, but before that, chances of your work getting published are slim. If your hero is Black, your chances are even slimmer and if your book is about Black on Black love, you can forget it. That is why I only work with independent publishers and I also self-publish.

I think one thing We love about your book covers is that they feature African American Women of a darker shade (Nothing against the lighter shades but you have to admit darker skinned women on book covers RARELY happens). I think the trend today is to write characters Bi-racial because some feel a black character is not as relatable as a bi-racial one that shares some European heritage. Do you think Colorism and the media’s narrow minded idea of beauty play a big role in the lack of black (especially darker skinned ones) characters on the front covers of books?

Sword and SoulI think the media is well aware of the beauty black people possess, however, for so long, the “beauty and magnificence of whiteness” has been fed to us through the media that now it is a risk to show otherwise and like I stated earlier, the media, like any other corporation, is not in the business of taking risks.

People who take risks; people who stand up and say “I am going to tell these stories about Black people unapologetically” – scare many white people. Hell, we scare many Black people too, who fear it is best to just get along. We scare the mainstream and those working within it because we show that we can be successful without the mainstream and we can do this our way.

In terms of diversity, you feature A LOT of characters of African descent (which is totally stellar). Do you plan on including other marginalized groups in future writings (e.g. Afro-Latina/ Latino characters; I ask because we’re both black Latinas) or Asian love interests?

I do include a diverse cast of characters in my books – and many Latinos / Latinas are of African descent, as I am sure you know – however, my main heroes and sheroes will always be of African descent. In my Steamfunk story, Nandi, which is set in 1970s California, the hero, Nandi, a law-enforcement officer who hunts the supernatural, is a Black woman, born in America, but with strong ties to Africa; her partner Pei-Pei Ming, is Chinese and her former lover, Wabli Ska, who is a law-enforcement officer, turned anarchist, is Native American.

I write what I want to see. I want to see more Black-on-Black love, so I write that; I want to see Black people on amazing adventures and being heroic, so I write that. I believe that most people want to see themselves as the hero. If they have the ability to create worlds in which they are that – through fiction, film, illustrations, or some other medium, they should do so.    

What are some areas or themes you haven’t yet covered but would like to in future writings?

I don’t believe in waiting. If I want something done, I do it, so I have now dived head first into writing New Pulp. I am also writing a Rococoa pirate novel, Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises. Rococoa is similar to Steampunk, but is set in the era in which clockwork technology is dominant. Think DaVinci’s DemonsThe Three Muskateers, or Brotherhood of the Wolf, told from a Black perspective.

All of these new writings will be published next year.

Where can potential readers learn more about you and your current and future works?

You can learn more about me and my works by visiting my website – Chronicles Of Harriet – or to learn more about the Steamfunk feature film I wrote, directed and fight choreographed, based on a short story written by author Milton Davis, visit Rite of Passage, The Movie

This amazing movie, entitled, Rite of Passage, will premiere in February, 2014 and is scheduled to screen at major film festivals and fan conventions worldwide.

You can also friend me on Facebook @ Balogun Ojetade; or follow me on Twitter @ Baba_Balogun

I am also quite active on Tumblr @ Black Speculative Fiction and Pinterest @ Balogun

 


Make it a REAL “Black” Friday!

Black Friday

Make it a REAL “Black” Friday!

Buy Black Speculative Fiction!

Black Friday

Also, try out these Blacktastic Books you will absolutely love:

Imaro by Charles Saunders – A masterwork from the father of Sword and Soul. Imaro is the definition of great Heroic Fantasy.

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler – Widely considered Butler’s best work, this is an incredible story of a dystopian future and a heroine with hyper-empathy.

Immortal by Valjeanne Jeffers – The first in a series of exciting books that takes place in the world of Tundra. Jeffers deftly combines Science Fiction, Horror and Romance in telling the story of Karla, a shapeshifter who fights the forces of evil of which she dreams. 

Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell – This epic fantasy romance explores race, ethnicity, and imperialism in a beautiful – and sometimes brutal – ancient African setting.

A Darker Shade of Midnight by Lynn Emery – Mystery, Horror and Romance combine to give you this masterpiece that is a first in an incredible series. LaShaun Rousselle – the protagonist, who uses her paranormal abilities to solve the mystery of who killed her cousin and what lives in the woods on her family’s land – is one of the most interesting heroine’s in fiction.

Order of the Seers by Cerece Rennie Murphy – This thrilling tale of discrimination, love, retribution, lust for power and the great potential that lies dormant in us all follows the life and struggle of Liam and Lilith Knight – a brother and sister duo who are hunted by a ruthless and corrupt branch of the U.N., which seeks to capture and exploit Lilith’s unique ability to envision the future.

Hayward’s Reach by Thaddeus Howze – a series of short stories told by Mokoto, the last survivor of an unexpected cataclysm. Mokoto, even in his current state of in-humanity, learns what it means to be truly human.

Steamfunk edited by Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade – This is the definitive work of Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines Black culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or  steampunk fiction – featuring fifteen masterfully crafted stories by fifteen amazing authors.

Woman of the Woods by Milton Davis – A powerful Sword and Soul tale, set in Davis’ intriguing Uhuru universe, first experienced in his seminal series, MejiWoman of the Woods draws us into the world of demon-hunter, Sadatina and her “sisters”, a duo of twin lionesses who aid her in her battle against the vicious Mosele and their demon allies, who seek to destroy her people.

Redeemer by Balogun Ojetade – This is an edge-of-your-seat adventure that is both gangster saga and science fiction epic. A tale of fatherhood and of predestination versus predetermination. An entertaining mash-up that Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Urban Fiction fans alike will enjoy.

If you are interested in finding more authors of Black Speculative Fiction check out Black Speculative Fiction Reviews.


AIN’T NO SUCH THING AS SUPERMAN! Do Black People Need Black Superheroes…or Just Black Heroes?

Black Superhero

AIN’T NO SUCH THING AS SUPERMAN!

Do Black People Need Black Superheroes…or Just Black Heroes?

Black SuperheroStories about the heroes and superheroes in speculative fiction, film and comic books capture essential truths about human nature. We relate to – and identify with – the characters and themes in these stories; we empathize with the dilemmas and problems that superheroes face, and we admire – and often mimic – their heroic acts.

What, exactly, is a superhero, you ask?

What is the difference between a superhero and a hero?

I would say that every hero in a work of Black speculative fiction – and least the works I have read, which is pretty vast – is a superhero.

The definition of a hero is someone who rises above his or her fears and limitations to achieve something extraordinary. A hero embodies what we believe is best in ourselves. By definition, a hero would include entirely fictional characters, such as Batman, Brotherman, or Storm; characters who are real, but surrounded by legend, such as John Henry, Bass Reeves, or ‘Black’ Mary Fields; and “real world” firefighters, teachers and parents.

The clearest difference between a hero and what we tend to consider a superhero is that superheroes possess fantastic powers, fight their battles with advanced technology, or possess uncanny beauty, bravery, skill, or luck. Superheroes are heroes who cannot possibly exist in our own world today.

Unlike ordinary heroes, superheroes must have abilities that normal people do not and cannot have.   A superhero like Brotherman – a great comic book hero and protagonist of a comic book series of the same name, brilliantly realized by writer, Guy Sims and his brother, artist Dawud Anyabwile – has no super powers. He belongs to the uncanny beauty, bravery, skill, or luck camp.

Brotherman is also larger-than-life and his stories are timeless; eternal.

Steamfunk Harriet TubmanWould this make Harriet Tubman a superhero? The great freedom fighter, spy and warrior of history is certainly a hero, however, while she possessed a supreme amount of bravery, endurance, skill, luck and the gift of accurate visions, her abilities were attainable by anyone – except, maybe those accurate visions. They were not uncanny, or otherworldly.

However, Harriet Tubman – protagonist of the Steamfunk novel Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman and one of the protagonists of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passageis a superhero. She possesses the ability to heal from massive damage to her body at ten times the rate of a normal person; she has the strength of several men; and she can cast illusions.

Milton Davis’ Changa, of the Sword and Soul series, Changa’s Safari, fights monsters, sorceresses and men and has the ability to see malevolent spirits.

A Single LinkRemi ‘The Single Link’ Swan, hero of the fight fiction novel, A Single Link, is the first woman in history to fight men in professional co-ed mixed martial arts.

These are all superheroes – larger than life; powerful beyond the normal realm of human ability; fearless, lucky, or talented beyond measure.

And, like Brotherman, all their stories are timeless; eternal.

No costume is necessary; but it is cool.

But, how do we relate to and identify with characters with such amazing attributes?

Is the reason why the most popular stories in comic books are origin stories because they show us the exact moment when a normal man or woman goes from being just an average Joe or Josephine to being somehow better, faster, smarter, or stronger?

I believe it is not the attributes, but the altruism, we identify with – or at least we aspire to.

It is also the trauma superheroes suffer at their becoming. Many have told me that they love the origin story of The Scythe, who readers will get to see more of when the novel is released in summer, 2014. What they have said they love is how Dr. A.C. Jackson makes a bargain with the sentient scythe of death to return to earth and exact revenge on his murderers. Dr. Jackson is, literally, a tortured soul; the victim of racism and brutality during the Tulsa, Oklahoma Race Riots of 1921.

Readers also identify with the life-altering force of destiny found in origin stories. In the film Rite of Passage, Harriet Tubman gathers several Guardians – those endowed with supernatural powers to fight men, machines, monsters, demons and the undead. One such Guardian, Harriet Tubman’s young pupil, Dorothy Wright, is reluctant to accept her destiny, yet she rises to the occasion and becomes one of the protectors of the Black-owned town of Nicodemus, Kansas. Many of us identify with Dorothy’s challenge of assuming a great responsibility that forces her to grow up sooner than she wants to.

BrothermanFinally, there’s sheer chance; or the illusion that it was chance – I am not inclined to believe in coincidence – that readers love about origin stories. In the Rite of Passage tie-in, the short film The Dentist of Westminster, the protagonist, Osho Adewale, travels to Nicodemus, Kansas to put his deceased grandmother to rest, but is introduced to a world of darkness in which he gains the power to bring the light. His heroism is an example of how seemingly random, adverse events cause many of us to take stock of our lives and choose a different path.

Good writers of speculative fiction are keen observers of nature, in general and specifically, human nature. They are able to express those observations as captivating stories; they are able to tell the stories of self through the stories of their superheroes.

So, pick up a great comic book, like Dusu (issue #1 is free), Watson and Holmes (also free), the Chronicles of Piye, or Sword and Soul Adventures; or great books, such as Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, Changa’s Safari, Damballa, or A Single Link (which releases at the end of this month). Soar with the superheroes within.

Capes aren’t necessary.

But, they are cool.


BLACK PULP: Fight Fiction with Funk!

Black Pulp

BLACK PULP: Fight Fiction with Funk!

Black PulpI am a writer.

I write speculative fiction – mainly Steamfunk, Urban Fantasy and Sword & Soul.

Recently, I have expanded my writing into the Pulp genre of Fight Fiction, which was pretty much inevitable because my novels contain lots of exciting action and fight scenes.

What is Fight Fiction. You ask?

Fight Fiction is comprised of tales in which the fighting – whether it happens in a temple in Thailand, a boxing ring in Las Vegas, a cage in Atlanta, or in a bar in New York City – is not merely in the story to make it more exciting; or to add a different spin to it. The fighting must be an integral part of both the story and its resolution. Take the fighting out and you no longer have a story. Think Fight Club; Rocky; Blood and Bone; Kung-Fu Hustle; Million Dollar Baby; and Tai Chi Zero.

My friend, renowned spoken word artist XPJ Seven, once told me “Dude, I like your fight scenes.”

“What do you like about them?” I inquired.

“They’re not like the fight scenes in most of the fiction I’ve read.” He replied, his brow wrinkling as he scowled.

“What’s wrong with those fight scenes?” I asked.

The wrinkles in XP’s brow deepened into canyons as he frowned in disgust. “Dude…they’re wack!”

Can’t argue with the wisdom of XP.

Black PulpThus, I write this as a helping hand to my fellow writers who may struggle with writing fight scenes. If writing fight scenes for you comes easy, please, keep reading; you’re already here…you might as well. And – in the spirit of all things not wack – if you will be so kind as to contribute your wisdom to this post, it will be greatly appreciated.

Writing fight scenes has always been something I enjoy and that I believe I do fairly well. This is probably due to the fact that I have been a student of indigenous African martial arts for over forty years and I have been n instructor of those same martial arts for nearly thirty years. I am also a lifelong fan of martial arts, boxing and action films.

Thus, I share with you what little I know about writing fight scenes in the following Fight Scene Plan, which I hope will help guide you toward the light at the end of that dark, dank tunnel called wackness.

Just remember – all good plans are malleable. As my good friend, author Milton Davis, says, “A plan is a work in progress. It must be adjusted and modified based on results. An inflexible plan will eventually lead to failure.”

Fight Scene Plan

1.      Show, don’t tell

I put this point first because it seems to be the one most writers have difficulty with when writing a fight scene.

Here is an example of telling:

After taking eight punches and several kicks to now vital areas all over her sinewy frame – such as her solar plexus, spine and head – Harriet Tubman staggered backward, wailing in agony.

This is “telling” because the punches and kicks are all lumped together, making it impossible to say, with any certainty, how many blows Harriet actually suffered.

Furthermore, we cannot be sure of exactly which body parts are suffering all the punishment, although we get a grocery list of a few parts that might be getting damaged…or might not – who knows?

Finally, what is Harriet doing while she is taking that beat-down? Just accepting it all willy-nilly? Does she throw a counterpunch? Beg for mercy? Scream “Feets don’t fail me now” and then haul ass? We don’t know. We cannot see this scene. We cannot see Harriet. We’re just being told about it. Wack.

2.      Show sequence, not simultaneity

It rarely makes sense to make two different actions simultaneous in a fight scene.

Why?

Because a fight scene is loaded with different sorts of actions, each of which takes a different amount of time.

If one action takes a tenth of a second and another takes two seconds, the action will feel distorted if the author asserts that they happen simultaneously.

For example:

John Wilkes Booth ducked his head and whirled to the right, simultaneously kicking furiously with his right heel as he shouted “Harriet Tubman, you just will not die, will you?”

Now, you can whirl to the right pretty quickly. You can kick pretty quickly. But how long does it take to shout ‘Harriet Tubman, you just will not die, will you’? All this action cannot happen simultaneously. So, writing something like this? Wack.

3.      Enforce causality

Cause should be shown first, and then the Effect shown afterward. Showing the Effect and then the Cause? Wack.

Case in point:

John Wilkes Booth ducked his head and whirled to the right. He kicked furiously with his right heel as he shouted “Harriet Tubman, you just will not die, will you?” Just after he spotted Harriet throwing another punch at him.

So, what happened first? Booth saw Harriet throw another punch at him. However, that is shown last in the passage. The Effect is shown first, followed by a long sequence of events: Booth ducks his head; Booth spins to the right; Booth kicks; Booth shouts; only after all that are we shown the Cause of it all.

4.      Show the fastest action first

When you sequence a group of actions that happen at roughly the same time, show those actions that happen fastest before you show those that happen slowest.

Do not write the passage this way:

The steambot was no longer a threat to Harriet, as it lay broken in the dirt, wondering if it would ever see its beloved creator – Mistress Nakamura – again, the very woman who had nurtured it and taught it love, an agonizing scream escaped its metallic throat.

We see the steambot pondering whether it would see its creator again and then we see it scream in agony. A scream usually takes less time than a deep pondering, so it is better to show the steambot scream first and then show it ruminate.

Showing the slower action before the faster one? Wack.

5.      For every action, show a reaction

A fight scene should be written in this order: Action then Reaction. The Steambot slams an elbow into Harriet Tubman’s jaw; she staggers backward. Harriet whips a roundhouse kick at the Steambot’s head; it blocks and swings a back-fist at her temple.

See? Action…Reaction. Writing the character’s Reaction before the Action is backpedaling toward wackness. Case in point:

Harriet staggered backward when the steambot slammed its elbow into her jaw.

The Reaction – staggering backward – took place before the Action – the elbow to the jaw. Wack.

Each Action – Reaction should have its own paragraph. This, however, is not always possible. Sometimes, the sentences are too short to have their own paragraphs and can be combined. It’s up to you how to format it.

The steambot exploded forward with a powerful uppercut.

Harriet leaned backward to evade the blow. A breeze slithered up her face as the steambot’s iron knuckles swished past her nose.

Or

The steambot exploded forward with a powerful uppercut. Harriet leaned backward to evade the blow. A breeze slithered up her face as the steambot’s iron knuckles swished past her nose.

6.      Make it happen in Real Time

When writing your Action – Reaction, be sure to make it happen in Real Time. When a fight is happening, you see one punch and then right away, you see the response; and then right away, you see the next punch. During a fight in Real Time, you do not have time for such contemplations as this:

The steambot’s elbow slammed into Harriet’s jaw. She staggered backward. She was hurt quite badly; perhaps not as badly as when she shattered her shin against the thigh of that giant knoll, but badly, just the same.

This should be written this way:

The steambot’s elbow slammed into Harriet’s jaw. She staggered backward.

7.      Control the pace

Pace is important in a fight scene.

It is not cinematic – and you want your fight scene to play like a movie in the reader’s head – to show a nonstop flurry of Actions and Reactions.

Even a warrior who possesses extraordinary gifts like Harriet Tubman has to catch her breath.

A cinematic fight has ebbs and flows in the pacing.

You show the faster parts of the scene with short sentences that show only the Actions and Reactions.

Use short sentences and phrases to make reading flow run faster. Long, descriptive sentences slow the reading pace.

In a fight scene, you want your reader to roll with each punch; shift in his or her seat with each kick.

Fast reading pace is essential. Use only a phrase, sentence, or – at most – two short sentences for each action. You can also combine short phrases together, since each phrase will still let the action move along:

Harriet paused, listening for movement. The whisper of a footstep to her right. She whirled, exploded forward, felt her knee connect with muscled flesh and then heard a soft thud as Booth fell to the floor.

Conversely, reading flow can also become bogged down if there are too many sentences of the same length one after the other. Cases in point:

He kicked. She ducked. He chopped. She whirled.

Or

Harriet turned at the sound of running feet. Booth crashed into her as she stood there. Her body struck the table with a thundering crash. Splinters stabbed into the back of her neck.

Continue to avoid long, rambling description, but vary your sentence and phrase length:

Running feet. Harriet turned. Booth crashed into her, slamming her into the table with a thundering crash. A low gasp escaped Harriet’s lips as splinters stabbed into the back of her neck.

You can also show the slower parts of the scene with longer sentences that show Actions and Reactions interspersed with dialogue and interior monologue.

To do otherwise? Wack.

8.      Favor completed verbs over continuing action verbs

Use simple past tense verbs, such as kicked, ran or leapt rather than participles such as kicking, running or leaping.

When you say Harriet head-butted Booth, you imply that it happened quickly and the act is now over. When you say Harriet was head-butting Booth, you imply that the act is going on and on and on. A head-butt happens in a fraction of a second, so writing “head-butting” causes the reader to envision the head-butt happening over and over and over again. Or they envision it happening in slow motion. Either way, it is not much like a fight anymore, is it? Wack.

Finally, remember that a good fight scene is about momentum and rhythm.

Jackie Chan once gave me some advice on choreographing a fight scene (yep, the Jackie Chan – I’ll tell you that story one day) that I now use in my writing. “The rhythm of a fight scene sells it. I use African and Japanese drum rhythms for my fights. Those rhythms draw the audience in and make them love the fight.”

Each move should flow from where the last one ended. If your hero throws a spinning back kick, where is her weight when she lands? Is she standing straight or bent at the waist? In what direction is her body leaning? The next blow she delivers should follow the same line of momentum. If she kicked in a clockwise motion, her next kick will also probably be clockwise.

Try to act out fight sequences – or, if you live off a steady diet of Krispy Kreme donuts and Coca Cola, ask someone else to do it – in order to figure out momentum and balance, which creates rhythm. Throw a punch and observe how your weight shifts, or what area of your body is exposed.

I often act out the entire fight scene with my wife. We are both career martial artists, so, for us, it comes easily. However, if you do not happen to have a spouse that is a martial arts expert handy, watch movies for ideas (or call me – I choreograph fight scenes for films, theater, comic books and novels…for a meager fee).

Finally, choose the type of fights you want in your story. Do you want gritty, brutal fight scenes such as the ones in Steven Seagal’s Above the Law or in The Bourne Identity (the 2002 movie, not the 1988 television miniseries)? Or do you want Hong Kong Cinema-styled fights, such as the ones in The MatrixInception, or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Most readers will follow either style as long as they make sense and are a good match with the genre you are writing in.

Black PulpRecently, I joined a team of stellar authors, who all write under the pen name Jack Tunney, as part of the Fight Card Project.

The books in the Fight Card series are monthly 25,000 word novelettes, designed to be read in one or two sittings, and are inspired by the fight pulps of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Fight Stories Magazine and Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan.

By the end of this year (2013), the Fight Card series will have published twenty-four incredible tales of pugilistic pandemonium from some of the best New Pulp authors in the business. I am writing under the Fight Card MMA brand and my book, A-Town Throwdown should debut in early 2014.

When I spoke to Paul Bishop, who – along with author Mel Odom created the Fight Card concept – he expressed an interest in my protagonist, Nick ‘New Breed’ Steed and the story of his coming of age as a fighter in the Adewale Wrestling Compound in Oṣogbo, Oṣun State, Nigeria. I was happy because I have always wanted to share with the world the fierceness, efficiency and effectiveness of the indigenous African martial arts for self-defense, as well as their transformative powers in the building of men and women with self-discipline, courage and good character. Fight Card MMA was a perfect outlet for my unique brand of Fight Fiction, which I am sure you will enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

In A-Town Throwdown, readers will experience jaw-dropping action on the mean streets of Chicago, in the sand pits of Nigeria and in cages in the “Dirty South” (Atlanta).

2014 will also offer a full slate of monthly Fight Card titles along with further Fight Card MMA, Fight Card Romance, and Fight Card Now titles, as well as the debut of the Fight Card Luchadores brand, set in the world of Mexican Masked wrestling.

Black PulpBefore the Fight Card debut, I will publish my Fight Fiction novel, A Single Link, based on the short film I wrote, directed and produced of the same name back in 2010. It is the story of Remi “Ray” Swan, who, after suffering a brutal rape at the hands of a martial arts champion, decides that, to gain closure and empowerment, she must face her attacker in the first professional fight between a man and a woman.

You will not want to miss this powerful, two-fisted adventure, set in the near future, as Ray fights, not just for herself, but for all who have suffered at the cruel hands of those who would wreak pain, oppression, injustice and death.

Look for A Single Link December, 2013.

If you have more to add to this post, please comment. I am always looking for effective ways to avoid wackness.


BLACK HEROES OF PULP FICTION (and we don’t mean Samuel L. Jackson or Ving Rhames)

A Single Link

BLACK HEROES OF PULP FICTION (and we don’t mean Samuel L. Jackson or Ving Rhames)

Luke Cage Noir from Marvel Comics.

Luke Cage Noir from Marvel Comics.

Some of you are saying “If not the movie by Quentin Tarantino, then what the in the hell is Pulp?”

Is it that nasty, fibrous stuff I hate in my orange juice, but my wife always buys, because – for some odd reason – she loves it?

What is Pulp?

Is it that early 80s British alternative rock band who sounded like a hybrid of David Bowie and The Human League?

What is Pulp?

Think adventure, exotic settings, femme fatales and non-stop action. Think larger-than-life heroes, such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, Marv, from Sin City and Indiana Jones.

The genre gets its name from the adventure fiction magazines of the 1930s and 1940s.

Pulp includes Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Western, Fight Fiction and other genres, but what sets pulp apart are its aforementioned fast-pace, exotic locales, linear – but layered – plots, its two-fisted action….and those characters! As author Thaddeus Howze describes them: “I like the larger than life heroes of the pulp era, loud, bombastic, often arrogant, sexy, outrageous and oh so violent…”

The first pulps were published in the late 1800s and enjoyed a golden age in the 1930s and 1940s.

And – like most genre fiction of the day…and today – Black heroes were absent. Like most genre fiction of the day, if a Black person was found in pulp fiction at all, they were the noble savage…or just the savage.

Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones

Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones by artist Jim Rugg.

Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones by artist Jim Rugg.

However, in 1957, we saw our first Black pulp heroes with the duo of Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, violent and vicious Harlem police officers, who operated more like private detectives, often going beyond police protocol to solve their cases.

A true master of the pulp aesthetic, Chester Himes – an accomplished author and screenwriter before going to prison – discovered the work of popular pulp author Dashiell Hammett while serving eight years in an Ohio penitentiary for armed robbery. Himes vowed to write pulp books that would, in his words, “tell it like it is”.

Upon his release from prison, Himes moved to Paris and – true to his word – wrote a string of what he called “Harlem domestic detective stories”, all but one written in French and later translated into English.

His first novel, A Rage in Harlem (1957) – first published in French as La Reine des Pomme and also known as For Love of Imabelle – which won the prestigious French literature award, Grand Prix de la Litterature Policière, gave us our first taste of the fearsome Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones.

Fans begged for more of these pulp bad boys and Himes delivered, with a total of seven more bestsellers and one unfinished novel that was published posthumously: The Crazy Kill (1959), The Real Cool Killers (1959), All Shot Up (1960), The Big Gold Dream (1960), Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965), The Heat’s On (aka Come Back, Charleston Blue)(1966), Blind Man With A Pistol (1969), Plan B (1993).

While the duo frequently uses physical brutality, psychological torture and intimidation to solve their cases, Gravedigger and Coffin Ed have deep and genuine sympathy for the innocent victims of crime. They frequently intervene – even putting their own reputations and lives on the line – to protect Black people from the vicious and truly pointless brutality of the white, openly racist police officers in their precinct. Jones and Johnson generally go easy on – and even tolerate – numbers runners, madames, prostitutes, junkies and gamblers; but they are extremely hostile to violent criminals, drug dealers, con artists and pimps.

It can be said that Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones were the darkest heroes in pulp…and not because they’re Black…well, that too.

Aubrey Knight

Black PulpThe next Black hero in pulp did not come on the scene until 1983. Who was he? Aubrey Knight, a lightning quick mountain of muscle, trained to be a Null Boxer who fights in brutal matches while locked in a zero-gravity bubble.

Aubrey Knight is the protagonist of Street Lethal (1983), a jaw dropping pulp thrill ride, penned masterfully by veteran science fiction, fantasy and horror author, Steven Barnes. Street Lethal is set in a near-future dystopian Los Angeles in which Aubrey Knight must battle genetically engineered New Men, drug kingpins, brutal prison guards, a ruthless femme fatale and brainwashing similar to the horrific Ludovico Technique from the classic novel A Clockwork Orange.

Street Lethal spawned two sequels starring the street-fighter, null-boxer and virtual superman: Gorgon Child (1989) and Firedance (1993).

Barnes, an accomplished martial artist himself, gives us a pulp hero who is one part Luke Cage Noir and two parts Iron Fist…only cooler, savvier and more…well, street lethal.

Damballa

Black PulpA classic costumed pulp hero, the black-hooded Damballa steps out of the forests of Africa and onto the streets of 1930s Harlem to battle Nazi’s bent on proving the superiority of the Aryan race.

Damballa (2011) is an incredible pulp adventure written by author Charles R. Saunders, the founder of the subgenre of Fantasy fiction called Sword and Soul and creator of the Fantasy icon Imaro. The action does not stop as the titular hero uses his vast knowledge of Western science, African science and martial arts to expose and neutralize the Nazi threat.

Set in 1938, Damballa is a shining example of what Pulp is when it is at its very best: thrilling, visceral, tightly-plotted, well-written, fast-paced fun.

And the hero Damballa is a shining example of what a pulp hero in the hands of a master can be: a hero the reader can actually stand up and cheer for; a hero with qualities and with a story other authors do their damndest to echo in their own creative and original ways.

Dillon

fight 9Equal parts James Bond, Indiana Jones, Doc Savage and The Saint, Dillon – by his creator Derrick Ferguson’s account – first came to attention of the world a decade ago, when he began hiring himself out as a soldier of fortune. Dillon possesses remarkable talents and gifts that make him respected and even feared in a world of mercenaries, spies, adventurers, powerful technology and mystic artifacts.

Actually, Dillon first came to our attention in the Pulp fiction masterpiece, Dillon and the Voice of Odin (2003).

Dillon’s actual age is unknown, but what is known is that he was born on the technologically advanced, doomed island of Usimi Dero.  After the Destruction of his home, twelve year old Dillon and his mother fled to  Shamballah, a monastery hidden in the Himalayas.  Dillon was adopted by Shamballa’s Warmasters of Liguria, who spent the next seven years training him in various martial arts and other physical and mental disciplines.  After those seven years, Dillon elected to leave Shamballah and return to the world.

Once back in the world, Dillon wandered, learning various skills that would help him in his chosen profession as an adventurer and seeking out those who destroyed his homeland.

This adventurer is the hero of four of his own books – the aforementioned Dillon and the Voice of Odin; Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell (2010); Four Bullets for Dillon (2011) and Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira (2012) – and appears in the anthology Black Pulp (2013).

Taurus Moon

Artwork by Winston Blakely.

Artwork by Winston Blakely.

First seen in the often hilarious and always exciting, Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter (2011) and now returning in the recently released, equally exciting sequel, Taurus Moon: Magic and Mayhem (2013), Taurus moon is a complex Pulp hero who walks a complex world of mythic creatures, gangsters and even mythic gangsters and gangling creatures.

The morally conflicted hero, Taurus Moon is often compared to another famed relic hunter, Indiana Jones. Unlike popular relic hunter Indiana Jones, however, the artifacts Taurus Moon hunts are not found in the deserts of Iskenderun Hatay, or in the tropical rainforests of Brazil. Taurus Moon’s quests take him through the grittier parts of urbanized cities; settings where Indiana Jones would get that whip and fedora shoved up his…well, you get the picture. Also unlike Indiana Jones, Taurus Moon’s clientele includes vampire crime bosses and other individuals of ill-repute.

Taurus Moon is straight up mercenary, motivated by money; yet he is imbued with nobility, which keeps him from being completely amoral.

If Indiana Jones and Blade had a clone created from both their DNA strains, with a dash of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford sprinkled in, that little GMO fella would be Taurus Moon.

2014 will see the premiere of at least three more pulp heroes.

A promo poster for Fight Card MMA: A-Town Throwdown by Balogun Ojetade!

A promo poster for Fight Card MMA: A-Town Throwdown by Balogun Ojetade!

In early 2014, my character Nick ‘New Breed’ Steed, the indigenous African martial arts expert turned MMA fighter will enter the world with a bang in my novella, which is part of the Fight Card Series, Fight Card MMA: A-Town Throwdown. A second novella starring Nick Steed, Fight Card MMA: Circle of Blood is likely to follow shortly behind it.

2014 will see another MMA fighter, Remi Fasina [ray-MEE fah-SHEE-nah] – a woman – battle men and women fighters – and her inner demons – on her quest to defeat the MMA champion who sexually assaulted her seven years in her past in my Pulp action novel, A Single Link.

Promo Poster for MMA Pulp novel, "A Single Link" by Balogun Ojetade

Promo Poster for MMA Pulp novel, “A Single Link” by Balogun Ojetade

Finally, the Pulp hero Black Caesar – a former slave, imbued with enhanced intelligence, strength, endurance and agility by dark forces run amok upon a stone slave ship – debuts in the first Rococoa novel, Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises.

I have also created the Pulp hero The Scythe, the resurrected Dr. A.C. Jackson, who was murdered in the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 and returns to reap vengeance upon his murderers and their kin. It is likely that I will expand his story into a novel in 2015.

What other Black Pulp heroes and sheroes do you know of? What Pulp heroes or sheroes are you in the process of developing or creating?


STEAMPUNK & STEAMFUNK WRITERS, GET READY! Seeking your stories for a new anthology!

Steamfunk Bass Reeves

STEAMPUNK & STEAMFUNK WRITERS, GET READY! Seeking your stories for a new anthology!

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

MVmedia, publisher of Sword & Soul, Steamfunk and Science Fiction, today announced that submissions are now being taken for the second Steamfunk anthology the multimedia company will publish – Rite of Passage: Road to Nicodemus.

Based on the feature film, Rite of Passage – which is set in a world conceived by authors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade, based on a short story by Milton Davis of the same name – Rite of Passage: Road to Nicodemus will contain a collection of short stories inspired by this exciting alternate history Steamfunk world.

The release of Road to Nicodemus will coincide with the release of the movie in February 2014.

MVmedia is seeking completed stories between 2,000 and 10,000 words.

Writers will be paid $25.00 upon release of the anthology.

The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2013

Initial release will be in e-book format. Paperback release will occur at a later date.

Here are the Submission Guidelines and a breakdown of the world of Rite of Passage:

GUIDELINES

  1. Submissions must be set during the era of reconstruction (1865 – 1877). The story can begin at any time in the past, but the bulk of the story (roughly 75%) should take place during reconstruction.
  2. The story can begin anywhere in the world, but will end up in – or on the road to – Nicodemus, KS.
  3. Main characters – be they Guardians or Emissaries (see below) – should be in possession of an artifact – a special item that grants the user incredible powers. This artifact will have been bestowed upon the Guardian by a Mentor. Artifacts can be anything: a book; a gun; a sword; the saliva of a werewolf; a drum; etc. and the method of bestowal is up to the author. All artifacts are linked to some African deity.
  4. Technology is a combination of mundane technology of the era and retrofuturistic Steam technology.
  5. Magic, psionics and the like are acceptable, as long as they are linked to some artifact.
  6. The main character should be of African descent / Black.

MENTORS / GUARDIANS / ARTIFACTS

Steamfunk Bass Reeves Harriet Tubman – the living embodiment of the power of the artifacts – had a vision that told her Jedediah Green – a powerful and dark entity whose power comes from the consumption of the artifacts’ power through consumption of the wielders of the artifacts’ souls – would descend upon the thriving Black-owned town of Nicodemus and from there, gather the ability to subjugate the world.

Harriet – whose power is fueled by the use of the artifacts (whether used for good or evil) – travelled the world, gathering the original bearers of the artifacts and convincing them to pass on the items and how to use them (which eventually bring about a severe depression and longing for release from the responsibility of bearing the artifact) to new bearers who would help her oppose Jedediah Green and his Emissaries.

The original bearers thus became Mentors and the new bearers of the artifacts became known as Guardians.

Harriet has called for all the Guardians to take up residence in Nicodemus, KS and has personally bought a few there herself.

The known Guardians thus far, their Mentors and their artifacts are:

Harriet Tubman – Mentor: Akingbe; Artifact: She is an artifact.

Dorothy Wright – Mentor: Akingbe / Harriet Tubman; Artifact: Shango’s necklace.

Bass Reeves – Mentor: Unknown; Artifact: Carbine and revolver/shotgun hybrid (Deity unknown)

John Henry – Mentor: Ogunlana (“Lana”); Artifact: Twin hammers of Ogun.

Jake Jessup – Mentor: Tara Malloy; Artifact: Shapeshifter’s blood, a gift from Eshu.

Henry Turnipseed / John D. Konkeroo (Mayor of Nicodemus) – Mentor: Mr. Giggles; Artifact: Baron Samedi’s top-hat.

Osho Adewale / The Dentist of Westminster – Mentor: Falana; Artifact: Tome of Obatala.

James and Corliss Riley (“the twins”) – Mentor(s): Grandma and Grandpa Riley; Artifacts: James uses goofa dust, black cat bones and other “conjure” tools; Corliss uses a fiddle. Both artifacts are from the Ibeji twin spirits.

JEDEDIAH GREEN’S EMISSARIES

Mark Curtis - Steampunk and Cosplayer - portrays vampire leader, Greasy Grant in the feature film, Rite of Passage.

Mark Curtis – Steampunk and Cosplayer – portrays vampire leader, Greasy Grant in the feature film, Rite of Passage.

Jedediah Green is the living embodiment of the dark energy that gave birth to vampires, ghasts, ghouls, lichs and other undead and evil. As such, these creatures do his bidding. Also, Jedediah maintains several Emissaries, who he is the sole Mentor of and to whom he grants an artifact forged by unknown dark deities.

The known Emissaries are:

The Piper / Tillman (once helped to escape to freedom by Harriet Tubman) – Artifact: Flute

P.T. Barnum – Artifact: Money clip

Peter Pan – Artifact: None; Peter is one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in the world who loyally serves Jedediah Green, who he narcissistically believes is his shadow self.

So, there you have it. If you feel you have a compelling story to tell – one that will enhance and / or expand the Rite of Passage universe – please, submit it to mv_media@bellsouth.net.

Now, hop offline (after you read a few more of my posts if you’re new here) and get to writing; and most of all…have fun!

 


DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Manga and Anime

Amber; cover by James Eugene; from the YA novel by Milton Davis

DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Manga and Anime

Amber; cover by James Eugene; from the YA novel by Milton Davis

Amber; cover by James Eugene; from the YA novel by Milton Davis

Yesterday, it was announced that author Milton Davis, Yours Truly and artist Sarah Bowman (Macklin) – known worldwide as S-Sama – will collaborate to create the manga version of Amber, a YA novel penned by Milton Davis.

Milton will publish; I will write the graphic script and Sarah will illustrate the work.

For those who are scratching their heads, wondering just what the heck ‘manga’ is, ask any teenager in the world and they can tell you. If no teenager is nearby, read on.

‘Manga’ is the Japanese word commonly used as the name of the genre for all comic books or graphic novels published in Japan. Manga has a certain style, recognizable in its artwork and in its literary tropes.

While manga is typically read by teenagers outside of Japan, there are publications aimed at both children and adults.

Bob Makihara, from the manga "Tenjou Tenge" by Oh! great (Ito Ogure).

Bob Makihara, from the manga “Tenjou Tenge” by Oh! great (Ito Ogure).

In Japan, however, all ages read manga, which is considered literature rather than “just a comic book”. In Japan, manga is so popular its yearly sales reach the billions.

Manga is often adapted into animated television programs and films called ‘anime’. Examples include Pokémon, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh! and my personal favorite, Death Note.

Krag of Kragmire, "The First Steampunk".

Krag of Kragmire, “The First Steampunk”.

Like most people born in America, my introduction to the Japanese style of graphic storytelling began with anime. As a four year old, I would sit in awe as I witnessed the adventures of Prince Planet – known in Japan as Planet Boy Papi – which tells the story of Prince Planet – a member of the Universal Peace Corps – from the planet Radion, who is sent to Earth to determine if our world meets standards for membership in the Galactic Union of Worlds and to assist its inhabitants during his stay. While on this mission, Prince Planet adopts the identity of an Earth boy named Bobby (‘Papi’) who, along with a band of human comrades, fights the forces of evil, both alien and terrestrial. In fact, my favorite villain of all time, who I call the “first Steampunk”, is Krag of Kragmire, Prince Planet’s greatest nemesis.

A couple of decades later, I introduced my children to the anime film Princess Mononoke and thus began their love of the art form. I later got them hooked on Death Note – the anime and the manga. Now, one of my daughters is so into manga and anime, she has become fluent in Japanese and Korean and plans to write manga of her own.

Miyuki Ayukawa, from the anime / manga, "Basquash" by Tetsuya Hayashi.

Miyuki Ayukawa, from the anime / manga, “Basquash” by Tetsuya Hayashi.

Black people in the United States – like nearly everyone else – have been heavily into anime since the early 70s and into manga since the early 90s. The well-plotted stories, incredible technology, fearsome creatures, cool characters, over-the-top comedy and eye-popping action are masterfully combined to make science fiction and fantasy palatable for all.

Most fans of the genre are unaware, however, that the visual approach and concepts of manga was introduced to the Western world by a Black man – Vernon Ethelbert Grant.

Vernon E. Grant, father of  Western manga / anime.

Vernon E. Grant, father of Western manga / anime.

Grant, known for his digest-sized comic book series, The Love Rangers, was born February 14, 1935. Always artistically inclined, Grant earned money as a child by drawing cartoons for birthday cards. After graduating from Ridge Technical High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he studied for a year in Boston at the Vesper George School of Art and then joined the Army in 1958 at the age of 23.

While in Europe as an airborne and air assault sergeant, Grant studied Japanese and French.

Grant was eventually sent to Tokyo, where he worked as a regular cartoonist for Stars and Stripes – the official newspaper of the Unites States Army. It was in Tokyo that he developed a strong fascination with Japanese comics. He also wrote and drew for Japan’s English-language newspapers, including the Mainichi Daily News.

In the late 1960s, while in Vietnam, Grant became interested in comic books. As he recalled: “When I purchased a French comic magazine in Saigon in 1967, it was the first comic book contact that I had in more than ten years. It reminded me of my early experiments with drawing color comics in grammar school…In 1968 I was discharged from the United States Army in Japan and began studies in Japanese history and culture at Sophia University in Tokyo…In 1972, while still in school, I saw and read my first issue of an underground comic book, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.  This publication was quite an interesting item for me. I had heard of underground comic books but had, until that time, never seen one. I was very impressed.

During the years he lived in Japan, Grant wrote and drew several graphic novels, including the two-volume military satire, Point-Man Palmer and A Monster is Loose in Tokyo (Tuttle, 1972) about the life of a foreigner in Japan.

The Love Rangers, by Vernon E. Grant.

The Love Rangers, by Vernon E. Grant.

When he returned to Cambridge, he created The Love Rangers, his science-fiction comic book series about a racially mixed space crew traveling the universe. Between 1977 and 1988, Grant published seven issues of The Love Rangers in a 36-page, 5½”x8½” format.

The series follows the lives and adventures of a number of officers, robots and members of a squad of genetically engineered Love Rangers that live on the spaceship called “Home”. It is an immense structure, housing 35,000 individuals on its seven levels. While some of the action in the stories takes place on board, many of the episodes in his comic books take place on planets they visit. The ship is commanded by a male and female Shipmaster who share equally in all responsibilities. One of the dominant characters is Princess Tomi, who single-handedly leads her Mice People in their battle against the Owls for survival. There are robots and devices in the ship that the U.S. military incorporated some ten to 15 years after Vernon had already incorporated them into his series. The fuel that powers the ship is the feelings of discord and hate that emanates from different parts of the universe. At times the Love Rangers have to use weapons to control the warring inhabitants of the different planets they visit, but they attempt to first use their “love gas” to change the path of history. In the first book, the love gas helps change the consciousness of Count Ratalus from having a killing drive to flooding his mind with an understanding of history as well as nature’s instinctive patterns. When this happens, a well of human compassion overrides his coded savagery. He stops himself from killing Prince Tug, and they go off to work together peacefully for the betterment of the mice people and toward peaceful co-existence with their enemies, the Owls.

On July 7, 2006, Grant suffered a heart attack while on a daily run, injuring his head when he fell. He went into a coma and died two weeks later on July 23.

Grant’s work is included in Michigan State University‘s Comic Art Collection.

 

Manga / anime facial study by Setor Fiadzibey.

Manga / anime facial study by Setor Fiadzibey.

There are several Black mangaka, or manga creators – most unpublished, unfortunately – who are doing incredible work. Most popular among these are our own Sarah Bowman / S-Sama, the talented Latif-Saeed and the brilliant sister, Nashya.

Finally, from Ghana, is visual storyteller extraordinaire, Setor Fiadzibey, author / artist of the graphic novel Adinkra, the Legend of the Bearers, which is about a group of people, separated by tribes but united by a divine being known as the Great Weaver, an autocratic king and a common enemy known as the Shadow.

Having wrestled with the Shadow through countless generations, the Great Weaver shares his immense power with certain individuals, known as Bearers, who would deliver the people from his dark nemesis. Each Bearer is born with an adinkra symbol that grants them great power and compels them to do the bidding of the Great Weaver.

Adinkra is the tale of those Bearers, their struggles with the Shadow, their struggles with their humanity – even though they have divinity in them – and their pursuit of victory over both.

Amber will soon join Adinkra in delivering an amazing manga that is sure to entertain and inspire fans of anime, manga and fantasy of all ages. Look for it in Spring, 2014.

HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,532 other followers