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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.  


BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION DURING THESE 28 DAYS OF BLACK HISTORY

Ki Khanga

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION DURING THESE 28 DAYS OF BLACK HISTORY

Every year around this time, things get very busy for me and for most of my other Black friends who create speculative works. This year is no different and many fun and exciting things are happening during Black History Month that I am proud to be involved in and that I know you will enjoy.

I’d like to share them with you and I would like for you to commit to attending at least one, if you are able to, or to shout them out all over social media if you are not; if you are attending one or more of these Blacknificent events, then please, shout ‘em out anyway.

Anachrocon

The ScytheBalogun CoverAs you probably know, my books, The Scythe and Fist of Africa dropped this month and are now available. However, the official debut of The Scythe is at Anachrocon. This is fitting because Anachrocon’s theme this year is Dieselpunk and The Scythe is a Dieselfunk Pulp novel.

My publishing / film production company, Roaring Lions Productions, will have a table there, with all of our books. Please, come by, purchase some great Steamfunk, Urban Fantasy or Dieselfunk, get a book signed, or just chat it up. No debating if Steamfunk or Dieselfunk is racist or separatist, though. Save that for the panel discussions I am participating in…or go to author Milton Davis with it; his table will be right beside mine. Just kidding, Milton!

Anachrocon happens February 14-16.

WREK Sci Fi Lab

On Thursday, February 20, from 7:00pm-8:00pm, Milton Davis and I will be guests on the WREK Sci Fi Lab Radio Show.

During the show, we will discuss Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and the soon-to-be-released Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage.

Listen in on the radio or on the internet; call in and ask questions, or harass us. We look forward to hearing from you – and responding in kind – either way.

The State of Black Science Fiction & Challenges Games and Comics Present: Black Authors and Artists of Science Fiction and Fantasy

James Earl Jones JediThis amazing event takes place Saturday, February 22, from 12:00pm – 5:00pm at the North Dekalb Mall in Decatur, Georgia (2050 Lawrenceville Hwy.; Suite 1018).

Come on out and meet Science Fiction, Fantasy and comic book authors Alan JonesAlicia McCallaBalogun OjetadeJames Mason and Milton Davis as we discuss Black Speculative Fiction and do some dynamic readings of our works.

Purchase books and have them signed by the writers.

As an added bonus, James Mason will provide caricatures for anyone who purchases books and comic books totaling $20.00 or more!

This is a great event for people of all ages!

Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis teach Steamfunk at GA-Tech

Balogun Ojetade and Milton DavisThis one isn’t open to everyone – apologies, y’all – but I wanted to share what was happening and we are going to film this and post it at a later date.

Milton Davis and Yours Truly are crashing and taking over the Science Fiction class at GA-Tech February 26 and teaching a class on Steamfunk, its relationship to Steampunk and why it is a necessary and fast-growing movement.

The students have been reading the Steamfunk anthology as part of their syllabus and now I get to play professor again; fun stuff!

Steamfunk in academia…who’da thunk it?

So, that’s my schedule, thus far. If any of you would like to bring Black Speculative Fiction to your school, presentation, convention, asylum for the violently insane, spice planet, or galaxy far-far-away, let me know…we’d be happy to work with you (well, maybe not the asylum).

Enjoy this Black History Month!


BUILDING BLACK YOUTH THROUGH SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

Black People Read

BUILDING BLACK YOUTH THROUGH SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

Black People Read

Renowned Author, Neil Gaiman (the novel, American Gods; The Sandman comic book series) shared a fascinating fact. While appearing as  Guest of Honor at China’s largest state approved Science Fiction convention, Neil decided to inquire why Science Fiction, once frowned upon by the Chinese government, was now not only approved of, but encouraged, with China now the world’s largest market for Science Fiction, with the highest circulation of Science Fiction magazines and the largest Science Fiction conventions.

The answer Neil was given is very interesting.

China is the world’s manufacturing powerhouse. But it doesn’t invent or design most of the things it manufactures. China wants to capture the creativity and imagination of the culture that has produced companies like Google and Apple. So Chinese researchers talked to people involved with those and other Fortune 100 companies to see what factors they had in common. The answer?

All of their CEOs, Presidents and Vice Presidents read science fiction.

Black People Read

Artwork by James Ng

The Chinese acted upon this research and today, throughout China, Science Fiction is a thriving and respected genre, read widely; which is very different from the early eighties, when Science Fiction was declared to be “spiritual pollution” and banned by the government. Back then, Science Fiction in China all but disappeared. But it has come back stronger than ever, appealing to a new generation of Chinese who see themselves as part of a world-wide cultural phenomenon, which includes Hip Hop, Fashion, Movies and Science Fiction.

In the past decade, Science Fiction has overtaken fantasy as the popular literary form, even though fantastic fiction is an integral part of the history of Chinese literature.

Science Fiction studies continue at Beijing Normal University, the largest research and editing center of science-fiction theory and criticism in the world. Western authors and scholars visit there often and in the future, this center is expected to be the center of international Science Fiction research.

Science Fiction is an essential influence in the development of top level creative thinkers, especially those dealing with technology. We live in an age of unparalleled technological development, which is creating change throughout society of an unprecedented magnitude. Science Fiction, in all its forms, is a valuable tool for helping train people to creatively work with that change.

Science Fiction does not just show us possible futures, it trains us to anticipate new technology, model how it will impact our lives and exploit that insight.

Black People ReadAside from Nnedi Okorafor’s Zahrah the Windseeker and the Shadow Speaker; Wendy Raven McNair’s novels, Asleep and Awake; Alicia McCalla’s Breaking Free, Tananarive Due’s and Steven Barnes’ Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls and this writer’s own Once Upon A Time In Afrika and Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, it is difficult to find Speculative fiction (Science Fiction and Fantasy) with Black protagonists, or even secondary characters, written for young adults by Black authors.

Middle Grade novels are even harder to find, with L.M. Davis’ Interlopers and Milton Davis’ Amber at the fore.

In their 2003 study of middle school genre fiction, Agosto, Hughes-Hassell, and Gilmore-Clough found that of 976 reviews of youth Fantasy novels, only 6 percent featured protagonists or secondary characters of color, and that of the 387 reviews of youth science fiction, only 5 percent featured protagonists or secondary characters of color.

Yet, as more Black authors of adult Science Fiction and Fantasy – like Charles Saunders, Walter Mosley, Keith Gaston, Valjeanne Jeffers, Milton Davis, Cerece Rennie Murphy and Balogun Ojetade (smile) – grow in popularity and fill a much needed void, more Black writers are getting the opportunity to fill that void in youth literature as well.

As the Chinese have come to realize, filling that void is important for several reasons and is a must for people of color, particularly those of African descent.

Black People ReadStudies have shown that, in the general population, Science Fiction and Fantasy has an impact on the teaching of values and critical literacy to young adults. Science Fiction challenges readers to first imagine and then to realize the future of not only the novel they are reading but, also the future of the world in which they live.

Looking at the most visible popular examples of Epic Fantasy – J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and bestselling authors J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan – a casual observer might assume that big, continent-spanning sagas with magic in them are always set in some imaginary variation on Medieval – and, sometimes, even modern – Britain. The stories include the common tropes – swords, talismans of power, wizards and the occasional dragon, all in a world where Black people rarely exist; and those who do appear are decidedly peripheral and usually work for the bad guys.

That same casual observer might therefore conclude that Epic Fantasy – one of today’s most popular genres of fiction – would hold little interest for Black readers and even less for Black writers. But that casual observer would be wrong.

Young adults of African descent can – and do – relate to the experiences in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Indeed, they crave these experiences and read speculative fiction just as voraciously as young adults of other races. But the lack of self-images in this literature can have a negative effect on the psyche of young readers and can, indeed, contribute to negative behavior. We derive our perceptions of self by what we hear, see, and read and our perception directly affects our actions.

The Process of Action works as follows:

  1. Perception (precedes Thought)
  2. Thought (precedes Impulse)
  3. Impulse (precedes Action)
  4. Action

If the Perception of ourselves is a person who lacks courage, integrity and goodness – because we do not see ourselves possessing heroic qualities in most books – the Thought creeps into our minds that we lack those heroic qualities, so we are – by default – villains. The Thought grows into a strong Impulse to be the villain; and finally, the Action of villainy takes place.

Youth 1However, if – through Fantasy and Science Fiction written with Black characters as the heroes – our youth begin to perceive themselves as heroic…as hard working…as good…they will begin to act in accord with how they perceive themselves.

Above, we mentioned authors who have published books of Science Fiction and Fantasy featuring Black youth as protagonists. An analysis of these books reveals plots that are fun and adventurous; Black protagonists who are gifted, insightful youth surrounded by functional, supportive family units; and themes common to the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, like courage, integrity, and good versus evil. While race and ethnicity are not ignored in these books, the race or ethnicity of a character does not drive the plot.

Our youth need stories that do not deny race or the historical implications of race, while remaining unhindered by the racism that may be present.

Youth 3On May 5, 2012, in Atlanta, a group of Black authors of speculative fiction – in conjunction with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History – came together to host The State of Black Science Fiction 2012 Youth Symposium, an amazing and day-long symposium that spotlighted Science Fiction and Fantasy as a signature intersection of science, history, technology, and humanistic studies. Fun was had by all and the students who participated, who ranged in age from 5-15, all eagerly purchased books to read during their lunch break.

The symposium featured panel discussions, workshops and games that inspired the imagination and challenged minds.

The authors involved were Balogun Ojetade, Milton Davis, Alicia McCalla, L.M. Davis, Wendy Raven McNair and Ed Hall. A performance of an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure story, written by the students was featured and famed author Tananarive Due – the world’s first and most popular Black author of horror and suspense – honored us with an inspiring key-note address.

I mention the symposium because I would like to host another such conference in April or May of this year (2014). I invite my fellow authors – and anyone else who would like to become involved – to join me in creating a special event for our youth; our future.

I invite all African-centered, private and public schools who serve and care about Black youth to participate. Bring your students. Have them write works beforehand to share during the performance portion. Make it a weekend field trip. Let’s give them a day of fun, learning and transformation. Let’s give them all that speculative fiction has given us, or what it would have given us if we saw ourselves in it.

So, there it is: a full day of Black speculative fiction workshops, performances, art, games, contests and vending – all for our youth.

Are you down?

 

 UPDATE!

The Black Science Fiction and Fantasy Youth Symposium is set for Saturday, April 26, 2014; from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.!

Black Science Fiction


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.


DIESELFUNK POETS: History of the Open Mic

Mahogany Masquerade

DIESELFUNK POETS: History of the Open Mic

 Mahogany MasqueradeOpen Mics (or “Open Mic Nights”) are open performance spaces generally held at bars, cafés, and music venues during off-nights. Anyone can come, sign up, and perform original or non-original music, poetry, performance art and prose.

And yeah, it’s “Mic”, not “Mike”.

Actress Michael Michele

Actress Michael Michele

Mic is the shortened form of microphone – the electronic sound wand used when reciting your creative work before a large audience; at an Open Mic, it is openly available for use by anyone who turns up the event and signs up to perform.

Mike is the shortened form of Michael – a dude – or, in the case of Michael Michele, an exceptionally beautiful Hollywood actress. At an “Open Mike”…hell, I don’t know what happens at an Open Mike and don’t want to know…unless, of course, the Michael in question is Michael Michele.

And just who performs at an Open Mic?

mic3Well, there are the Grand Storytellers – people who can spin a half-second moment of a drunkard falling on his ass into a gripping 10-minute story.

There are also the Bland Storytellers – people who can drone on, delivering pointless detail after pointless detail about nothing without a discernible punch-line in sight.

Despite the style and quality of storytelling, however, the audience will still clap and cheer, so for a few brief moments, you will be a superstar.

How – and when did the Open Mic begin?

They started during the 1930s, when a group of young black students and scholars, primarily hailing from France’s colonies and territories, assembled in Paris. There, they were introduced to the writers of the Harlem Renaissance by the author Paulette Nardal, and her sister Jane, both natives of Martinique and university students in Paris. This introduction led to the creation of the literary and ideological movement, Negritude, which was marked by its rejection of European colonization, pride in Blackness and traditional African culture and undercurrent of Marxist ideals.

The Nardal Sisters contributed invaluably to the Negritude Movement, both with their writings and through the Clamart Salon, the tea shop hangout of the French-Black intelligentsia where the Negritude movement truly began and which the Nardal Sisters owned. It was from the Clamart Salon that Paulette Nardal and the Haitian Dr. Leo Sajou founded La Revue du Monde Noir, a literary journal published in English and French, which attempted to be a mouthpiece for the growing movement of African and Caribbean intellectuals in Paris.

During meetings at the tea shop, authors would share their prose and essays and poets would share their work, which mainly dealt with the issues of colonialism, racism and what it means to be Black.

NegritudeThe founders of la Négritude, known as les trois pères (“the three fathers”), were originally from three different French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean, but they met while living in Paris in the early 1930s.

The Three Fathers included poet, playwright, and politician, Aimé Césaire, who hailed from Martinique; poet and activist Léopold Sédar Senghor, who went on to become the first President of Senegal and the Guianan poet, Léon-Gontran Damas. The trio met while studying in Paris in 1931 and began to publish the first journal devoted to Negritude, L’Étudiant Noir (“The Black Student”), in 1934.

While the Negritude Movement was strongly influenced by the Harlem Renaissance, the Open Mic format of the Clamart Salon influenced the authors and poets of Harlem, as well as the writers from the later Beat Generation of New York and San Francisco and thus, the Open Mic event became a staple in the artistic diet among American poets, writers, musicians and artists of all races.

XP Party PromoOn Friday October 25, in celebration of Black Speculative Fiction Month, the State of Black Science Fiction author, artist and filmmaker collective, in partnership with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on Culture and History, is hosting a party right after the 2nd Annual Mahogany Masquerade.

Wear your best Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa gear and after the Mahogany Masquerade, parade with us over to the after party at the BQE Restaurant and Lounge

We will eat; dance; and most of all, there will be an Open Mic – hosted by famed spoken word artist, Xpj Seven – for the authors, poets and musicians in the house to spit some verse.

There is one rule:

Each artist can only perform 1 story / poem / song and performances are limited to 500 words or 4 minutes – whichever is less – per person / group. 

Why is that the rule, you ask?

Because it’s way more fun to watch.  We are going to take a break in the dancing and mingling for a brief 10-15 minutes – every hour, on the hour – for two or three writers, spoken word artists or musicians to perform.  The variety keeps the party moving and keeps the audience engaged. 

No more rules, right?

Well…

Content should be in some speculative genre.

That’s it. I promise.

So, bring your Steamfunk, Horror, Sword & Soul and other Speculative Fiction stories, poetry, rap, song or spoken word and rock the house!

BQE Restaurant & Lounge
262 Edgewood Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

Friday, October 25, 2013
9:00pm – Until

Mahogany Masquerade


HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month

HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

SciFi 1In early June of 2013, author Milton Davis and I had a discussion – as we often do – about the importance of Black people reading, writing and watching Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Black authors, artists and filmmakers currently creating in these genres.

The conversation shifted to the various fan conventions we attend and the fact that the fastest growing demographic at these conventions is Black people. We became optimistic about this year’s Alien Encounters celebration and the audience that it is sure to draw. We also talked about how Alien Encounters is going national, with celebrations in the DC / Maryland / Virginia area, Philadelphia and even as far as California.

Black Speculative Fiction Month 4At some point, we began to kick around the idea of Black Speculative Fiction Month. Since Alien Encounters takes place in October, it made sense that Black Speculative Fiction month should also be celebrated in October.

On June 26, 2013, Milton Davis and I met with the Program Coordinator at the Auburn Avenue Research Library to plan the program for this year’s Alien Encounters when the concept of Black Speculative Fiction Month came up again. Milton discussed that meeting with famed writer and film producer, Reginald Hudlin and others the next day:

“So yesterday Balogun Ojetade, Morris Gardner (program coordinator for the Auburn Avenue Research Library) and myself were discussing the upcoming Alien Encounters program in October. We talked about a similar event being organized in the DC area the same month, and another event that will take place in Philly. At that point I brought up an idea Balogun and I were contemplating: let’s designate October Black Speculative Fiction month! Morris loved the idea. ‘Let’s claim it!’ he replied. 

And there you have it. We’re shouting it out as we speak, encouraging others to plan events highlighting Black authors of speculative fiction. We’re contacting libraries, encouraging them to spotlight speculative fiction books by and about black people during this month. Why? Because every day we meet Black people who have never imagined Black folks writing and reading speculative fiction; especially science fiction. Why? Because a recent poll among young people found that the most popular genres were science fiction and fantasy. Why? Because every prominent scientist in the US listed that they read science fiction. 

So there you have it. We hope you’ll join us.”

SciFiIn celebration of this august – well, October – occasion, Milton Davis has launched the Black Speculative Fiction Month website, which features events, in celebration of the holiday, that are happening worldwide throughout the month.

My Black Speculative Fiction Month gift to you – well, one of them, because there is much more to come – is a short list of Blacktacular books of speculative fiction, by – and about – Black people.

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, Meji. Woman 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.

Finally, if you would like to meet others interested in Black science fiction, fantasy and horror, join us at Alien Encounters IV and on the State Of Black Science Fiction Facebook group.

Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month


UnCONventional Gatherings: Steampunk, Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions and Conferences that target Black People

UnCONventional Gatherings: Steampunk, Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions and Conferences that target Black People

Cosplay3Nearly every month of every year, there are one or more conferences, conventions, or symposiums on the subject of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Steampunk and / or Horror.

Traditionally, these gatherings have attracted the default fan of Speculative Fiction – the Straight, White Geek Male – and always will, because that is who most of these geek gatherings are marketed to. However, there has always been a small group of die-hard fans other than the default who frequent these events as well.

In fact, according to a reliable source who is very active in the development and hosting of conventions throughout the country, the fastest growing demographic at conventions across the board is…you guessed it – Black folks!

With that growth, of course, have come gatherings that target a Black audience. All are welcome; however, these gatherings showcase works by – and, more often than not, about – Black people.

I have been fortunate to attend and participate in – as a professional and a fan – several of these gatherings and I am actually the co-developer and curator of one such gathering myself.

Below, we will examine several gatherings that target the Black fan of Speculative Art, Fiction and Film.

But first, let’s give brief definitions to the types of gatherings offered:

Cosplay 10conference is a meeting of people who “confer” about a topic. Also known as a trade fair, a conference provides the opportunity for creators, fans and the general public to network and learn more about topics of interest through workshops, presentations and meeting vendors.

convention is a gathering of individuals who meet at an arranged place and time in order to discuss or engage in some common interest. Conventions typically focus on a particular industry or industry segment, and feature keynote speakers, vendor displays, and other information and activities of interest to the event organizers and attendees. Such conventions are generally organized by societies dedicated to promotion of the topic of interest.

Conventions

Black Age of Comics Convention

In 1993, Turtel Onli launched the inaugural Black Age of Comics convention at the Southside Community Arts Center in Chicago and has been organizing the conventions ever since.

A trained artist with an interest in a wide range of mediums, Onli emphasizes “independent creativity” as the major subject of the convention. “Independent people need to come together and cooperate,” says Onli, who sees the Black Age of Comics Convention as a movement of artistic innovation; a movement that has grown by leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings.

Co-sponsored annually by the DuSable Museum, the Black Age of Comics Convention attracts hundreds of excited attendees each year.

East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

ecbaccThe East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, originally slated to be called the Pan-African Comic Convention (PAC-Con) or First World Komix Con (1st World Con), is an annual gathering of comic book artists, writers, their fans and retailers who are interested in discussing, buying and selling comic books, science fiction, action figures and related material by and / or about Black superheroes, super-powered characters and their adventures.

In addition, this convention also features panel discussions, self-publishing and graphic arts workshops for aspiring creators, and film screenings of works of veterans and amateurs alike.

Held in Philadelphia each May, ECBACC also features the prestigious Glyph Comics Awards. The Glyph Comic Awards recognize the best in comics made either by, for, or about Black people.

Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention

Detroit’s first convention for the aforementioned Black Age of Comics Movement was held at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center on February 07, 2009. Since then, the Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention has continued to follow the tradition set forth by Turtel Onli, as well as the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, spearheaded by Yumy Odum and Maurice Waters.

Andre Batts, the CEO of the Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention is also co-creator of the well known comic book series, Urban Style Comics.

OnyxCon

Cosplay 11OnyxCon is a progressive and diverse showcase and networking event for professionals who appreciate the African Diaspora’s contributions as it relates to popular Arts media. Like its sibling Black Age Conventions, OnyxCon’s major feature is comic books.

Not limited to comics, however, this event also showcases literary novels, video games, collectable toys and models, films and documentaries, and all other media fits the interest of their target audience.

Conferences

Alien Encounters

SteamfunkAlien Encounters – the annual conference for Black speculative and imaginative fiction, film and music – serves as a venue for both education and entertainment.

Co-sponsored by the State of Black Science Fiction author, artist and filmmaker collective and the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History and curated by author / publisher, Milton Davis and author / filmmaker, Balogun Ojetade, this conference features three days’ worth of discussions, lectures and book signings, all aimed at highlighting the wide variety of contributions by creators of color to the fields of science fiction, fantasy, Steampunk, Dieselpunk and horror.

In its fourth year, and growing larger and more popular with each annual conference, Alien Encounters promises to culminate Black Speculative Fiction Month with a bang.

Here is the schedule for 2013:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2013

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade: Black to the Future

Come dressed in your best Rococoa, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we enjoy Black Speculative Fiction short films and meet their creators.

Some of the films shown will be Evolve, from director Kia T. Barbee; Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster, from director Balogun Ojetade and Kina Sky, from director Coretta Singer.

9:00 pm until – Mahogany Masquerade After-Party

Drop the children off at Grandma’s and parade over to the BQE Lounge with us and let’s party the night away!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2013

4:00 to 6:00 pm – Retro-Futuristic Worlds of Steam and Diesel Funk

Join authors and creators of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade and Steampunk and cosplayer, actor and maker of Steampunk and Dieselpunk costumes and props, Mark Curtis for a discussion on Steamfunk and Dieselfunk, the long ignored stories of the Black experience during the Victorian Era and the Great World Wars told through retrofuturistic Fantasy and Science Fiction.

6:00 to 8:00 pm – Dark and Stormy: Horror Fiction on the Black Hand Side

Join horror authors Brandon Massey and Crystal Connor for this exciting panel as they discuss horror fiction from a Black point of view.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2013

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman

Join artist and Curator of OnyxCon, Joseph Wheeler III, comic book store owner, collector and publisher, Tony Cade and renowned comic book and animation creator and illustrator, Dawud Anyabwile as they discuss the conscious community of Black comic books and graphic novels.

Ongoing – Monday, September 3, 2013 – Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Neo-African Dynasty: Art from the Ancient Future of the Continent

This groundbreaking art exhibition, by renowned artist James Eugene, is a vibrant, afrofuturistic visual fusion of Africana ancestry, non-Western cosmologies and fantasy techno-culture.

Join James Eugene Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 7:00pm, for a discussion on his art, his creative process and the borderless Black future, rooted firmly in the African Diasporic experience, that he envisions.

PRE-CONFERENCE EVENTS

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2013

7:00 pm to 8:00 pm – The Animated Life of Floyd Norman: An Evening with a Legendary Walt Disney Studio Animator
Author’s Discussion and Book Signing

As a part of Alien Encounters Atlanta 2013, and in collaboration with The Wren’s Nest, Emory University and Morehouse College, the Auburn Avenue Research Library will host legendary animator, Floyd Norman, who will discuss his nearly fifty year career as an animator at Walt Disney Studios and his work with Pixar Animation Studios.

This event will also focus on Mr. Norman’s lifelong commitment to cultural diversity as an African American animation artist, his role as co-founder of the AfroKids Animation Studio, and his contributions to the animated classics Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, and the original Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s Fat Albert television special.

This community discussion will be facilitated by Dr. Stephane Dunn, Co-Director of the Cinema, Television, & Emerging Media Studies Program at Morehouse College. Copies of Animated Life: A Lifetime of Tips, Tricks, Techniques and Stories from an Animation Legend will be available for purchase.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – “Ancient, Ancient”, by Kiini Ibura Salaam

In collaboration with Charis Books and More and Afrekete, Spelman College’s LBGTQ Student Organization, the Auburn Avenue Research Library will host acclaimed Speculative Fiction author and Spelman College alumnus Kiini Ibura Salaam, who will discuss her collection of short fiction stories Ancient, Ancient.

Winner of the 2012 James Tiptree Jr. Award, these compelling stories introduce readers to alternate worlds, built around magical realism and fantasy, which ultimately provide transformative revelations about gender, sexuality and the human condition.

There you have it. Fun-filled weekends of Blacktastic Science Fiction, Funk, Fantasy & Horror you absolutely do NOT want to miss!

I look forward to seeing you at Alien Encounters next month!

 

 


ALIEN ENCOUNTERS IV: The Black Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Experience Returns!

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS IV: The Black Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Experience Returns!

Art by James Eugene.

Art by James Eugene.

Once again, Alien Encounters, the annual conference for Black speculative and imaginative fiction, film and music – which serves as a venue for both education and entertainment – returns to Atlanta in October, which is now recognized worldwide as Black Speculative Fiction month!

The Atlanta-based State of Black Science Fiction collective and the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History have collaborated to offer exciting, informational and interactive discussions, film screenings, book signings and much more that are all free and open to the public.

“About four years ago, I went to the Decatur Book Festival, and found authors of color who wrote in these genres (i.e., science fiction, fantasy, horror),” the original event organizer, Sharon E. Robinson, says.

“We got together, talked, had several meetings, and finally came up with the idea of putting together this program [Alien Encounters]. A lot of the time, our literary audiences aren’t as familiar with these genre writers as they are with, say, urban romance (authors) and others. There are a lot of writers, in the Atlanta area and across the country, who write in these genres, and we hope to increase readers’ knowledge base about them and their works,” she explains. “Our ultimate goal is to broaden visitors’ literary knowledge and understanding about these particular genres.”

The schedule for Aliens Encounters IV is as follows:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Steam Lady7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade: Black to the Future 

Come dressed in your best Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we enjoy Black Speculative Fiction short films and meet their creators.

Some of the films shown will be Evolve, from director Kia T. Barbee; Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster, from director Balogun Ojetade and Kina Sky, from director Coretta Singer.

9:00 pm until – Mahogany Masquerade After-Party

Drop the children off at Grandma’s and parade over to the BQE Lounge with us and let’s party the night away!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

4:00 to 6:00 pm – Retro-Futuristic Worlds of Steam and Diesel Funk

Steampunk and Dieselpunk cosplayers, Mark & Theresa Curtis.

Steampunk and Dieselpunk cosplayers, Mark & Theresa Curtis.

Join authors and creators of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade and Steampunk and cosplayer, actor and maker of Steampunk costumes and props, Mark Curtis for a discussion on Steamfunk and Dieselfunk, the long ignored stories of the Black experience during the Victorian Era and the Great World Wars told through retrofuturistic Fantasy and Science Fiction.

6:00 to 8:00 pm – Dark and Stormy: Horror Fiction on the Black Hand Side

Join horror authors Brandon Massey and Crystal Connor for this exciting panel as they discuss horror fiction from a Black point of view.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman

alien 4Join artist and Curator of OnyxCon, Joseph Wheeler III, comic book store owner, collector and publisher, Tony Cade and renowned comic book and animation creator and illustrator, Dawud Anyabwile as they discuss the conscious community of Black comic books and graphic novels.

Ongoing – Monday, September 3, 2013 – Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Neo-African Dynasty: Art from the Ancient Future of the Continent

This groundbreaking art exhibition, by renowned artist James Eugene, is a vibrant, afrofuturistic visual fusion of Africana ancestry, non-Western cosmologies and fantasy techno-culture.

Join James Eugene Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 7:00pm, for a discussion on his art, his creative process and the borderless Black future, rooted firmly in the African Diasporic experience, that he envisions.

There you have it. A fun-filled weekend of Blacktastic Science Fiction, Funk, Fantasy & Horror you absolutely do NOT want to miss!

See you there!

Art by LewisKF22

Art by LewisKF22


PAINTING A STEAMPUNK WORLD A DARKER SHADE OF BROWN: RITE OF PASSAGE: The Dentist of Westminster

PAINTING A STEAMPUNK WORLD A DARKER SHADE OF BROWN:

RITE OF PASSAGE: The Dentist of Westminster

Dentist of WestminsterOn Sunday, August 4, 2013, Yours Truly and the rest of the brilliant cast and crew of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage shot a short film that ties-in to the feature film, Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster.

In Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster, Osho Adewale, the first Black dentist in the United Kingdom – and the best dentist in Westminster, England – visits the town of Nicodemus, Kansas and his cousin forces an artifact upon him that forever changes his life.

The Gentleman VampireOsho becomes the fifth Guardian of Nicodemus  – along with Harriet Tubman, Dorothy Wright, Bass Reeves and John Henry – but Harriet Tubman sends him back to the UK to serve as her representative in Europe as they prepare for the coming of a powerful entity, who, like Harriet, is connected to the artifacts that hold the power of the Orisa but does not possess any artifact.

Harriet is the living embodiment of the residual power constantly leaked by all the artifacts on earth; the entity who Harriet is preparing to receive feeds off the power of the artifacts and of those who wield them.

The world of Rite of Passage continues to grow and the story is ever-increasing in excitement. Author Milton Davis and I are having a ball creating this amazing Steamfunk world, developing its heroes and villains and entwining it all with African and African-American history.

WestminsterJoin us August 23, 2013, as we draw you deeper into the world of Rite of Passage at the internet premiere of Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. Visit the Rite of Passage website after 12:00 pm EST, click the Dentist of Westminster tab and enjoy!

For those of you who receive an invitation to the Rite of Passage: Dentist of Westminster Private Screening and Meet & Greet on August 22, 2013, we have some fun and exciting surprises in store for you, so be sure to keep your appointment with The Dentist; his chair awaits you!


BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH: Celebrating Over 150 Years of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror By and About Black People

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH:  Celebrating Over 150 Years of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror By and About Black People

 

BSF Month 4Recently, the month of October was proclaimed Black Speculative Fiction Month!

In Atlanta, we are doing it big in October, with a full month of spectacular, educational and downright fun events, all leading up to the wildly popular, 4th Annual – and now national – Alien Encounters Black Speculative Fiction Conference.

In addition to Atlanta, Alien Encounters gatherings will take place throughout October in different major cities in the United States, including the DMV (D.C.; Maryland; Virginia), Philly and San Diego, just to name a few.

Join us for three exciting days of panels, presentations and parties as we illuminated and expand Black Speculative Fiction!

October 25, 2013, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade Film Festival and Cosplay Party: Come dressed in your best Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we enjoy Black Speculative Fiction short films and meet their creators.

9:00 pm until: Mahogany Masquerade After-Party

October 26, 2013
4:00 to 6:00 pm – Steamfunk to Dieselfunk: Historical Foundations of Fantastic Fiction.

6:00 to 8:00 pm – Horror on the Black Hand Side: Horror Fiction from a Black point of view.

8:00 pm until – Black Hand Side After-Party

October 27, 2013
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman: The conscious community of Black comic books and graphic novels.

BSF Month 1Very exciting times for creators and fans of Black Speculative Fiction and Film; however, the creation of such great and entertaining works are not new. In 1859, for example, Martin Delany published Blake, or The Huts of America, a novel about an alternate history in which a successful slave revolt in the Southern states leads to the founding of a Black country in Cuba.

Charles W. Chesnutt penned The Conjure Woman in 1899, which is the first known speculative fiction collection written by a person of color.

W.E.B. Dubois gave us The Comet in 1920, a post-apocalyptic story about a world where the only survivors of an apocalyptic event are a Black man and a white woman.

Also in 1920, South African author and entrepreneur Thomas Mofolo published his novel, Chaka, which presented a fantastical rendering of the famous – and infamous – Zulu king’s life.

Son of Ingagi is a Black Science Fiction / Horror film released in 1940. It is the story of Eleanor and Bob Lindsay, who inherit the house of Helen Jackson, a physician who has just returned from her trip to Africa possessing gold…and the monstrous, murderous, missing link-type creature named N’Gina.

Many great works of Black Speculative Fiction have followed through the years. Here is a sampling of more great speculative fiction and films by and about Black people:

The Jewels of Aptor, is a Science Fiction novel, written in 1962 by 19 year old genius, Samuel Delaney about a post-atomic future, when civilization has regressed to something near the Middle Ages, or even before, a young student and poet, Geo, takes a job as a sailor on a boat with a strange passenger, a priestess of the goddess Argo, who is heading toward a mysterious land of mutants and high radiation, called Aptor, presumably to recapture a young priestess of Argo, her daughter, who has been kidnapped by the forces of the dark god Hama.

This novel has since gone on to win countless prestigious awards including the coveted Nebula and Hugo awards.

Echo Tree, an amazing collection of short, speculative works by master writer, Henry Dumas, features such stories – all written in the mid-to-late 60s –  as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a fantasy story, with elements of horror, set in an underground jazz club.  The protagonist, Probe, tests a legendary instrument of immense power on a few unwelcome guests; and “Fon,” a story in which flaming arrows rain from the sky to dispatch a group of would-be lynchers.

Along with Charles Saunders, Henry Dumas is my favorite author and one of my greatest influences. After you read Echo Tree, I am sure he will be one of your favorites, too.

Space Is the Place is an 82-minute science fiction film made in 1972 and released in 1974. It was directed by John Coney, written by revered musician, Sun Ra and Joshua Smith, and featured Sun Ra and his Arkestra in starring roles.

The story revolves around Sun Ra, who has been reported lost since a European tour in June 1969. The musician lands on a new planet in outer space with his crew “The Arkestra” and decides to settle African Americans on this planet. Sun Ra’s medium of transportation throughout space and time is music. He travels back in time, arriving in a Chicago strip club where he used to play piano under the stage name Sonny Ray. There, he confronts The Overseer, a pimp-overlord, and they agree on a duel at cards for the fate of the Black race.

A Blacktacular pulp fiction novel – one of my favorites, by one of my favorite authors – is Damballa, an engaging tale of  a shadowy hero who fights evil in 1930s Harlem with unprecedented martial skills and a combination of African and Western science.

If you have not read any of Charles Saunders work, run, don’t walk, to your nearest computer and visit his website.

Pumzi is a Kenyan science-fiction short film written and directed by Wanuri Kahiu.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which water scarcity has extinguished life above ground, this brilliant short film follows one scientist’s quest to investigate the possibility of germinating seeds beyond the confines of her repressive subterranean Nairobi culture.

Winner of numerous awards including Best Short Film at BET Urban World Film Festival & a student film award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, Wake is a story steeped in the southern gothic tradition. Written, produced, directed & edited by filmmaker Bree Newsome, Wake is a masterpiece of horror, humor and dark fantasy. This is Southern Horror at its finest!

Next is a novel that helped launch a major movement in speculative fiction.

A long-time admirer of Harriet Tubman, in Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, Balogun Ojetade elevates this already heroic icon to super-heroic status, pitting her against the advanced technologies and enhanced abilities of the servants of a government that has turned its back on her and seeks to see her dead. Harriet, possessing extraordinary abilities of her own, enlists the aid of other heroes of history to make a stand against the powerful forces of evil.

Balogun transports you to Harriet Tubmans world: a world of wonder…of horror…of amazing inventions, captivating locales and extraordinary people. In this novel – the first ever book in the subgenre known as Steamfunk – 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?

With more authors and fans becoming interested in Steamfunk, many more works have begun to appear. The next bestselling work elevates the subgenre of Steamfunk and sends its popularity soaring into the stratosphere:

A 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.

This is the definitive work for what Steamfunk is and how much fun it can be.

 

Black AvengersThese are exciting times, indeed. October will be the culmination – and the beginning; the sharing and celebration of 150 years of stories that excite, inspire, frighten, educate, entertain and evoke change.

October is gonna be hotter than fish grease!

I’ll be celebrating all month.

Come party with me!

 

 


WE’RE HERE II: Black Creators of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in Film & Fiction

WE’RE HERE II: Black Creators of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in Film & Fiction

In my last post, I provided a listing of popular fandom events with a major Black presence.

I now offer you We’re Here, part II.

Coincidentally (?),  friend and fellow speculative fiction author, SR Torris, asked me, shortly after I scheduled this article to post, to check out a video in which the narrator launched a scathing attack on Black writers for our “lack of a literary capacity or intellectual competence to write such stories [Science Fiction and Fantasy]” and “Because most Black writers have no knowledge of anything other than pimping hoes and hearing women complain about not being able to find a man.”

As I have said before, I do not believe in coincidence; I know this post is right on time and much needed.

The lack of knowledge of the existence of great Black writers of speculative fiction by the narrator of that video – a man who calls himself “theblackauthOrity” – proves that.

I would like to introduce you to just a few of the people who – at present – are on the cutting edge of creating works that attract fans from throughout the geekosphere and who are regular guests of honor, vendors and panelists at fan conventions, festivals and symposiums around the globe, or regular bloggers on all things Black and Nerdy.

We’re here, theblackauthOrity.

We’re here.

Here is my list. There are many more great Black authors and filmmakers out there. Please, feel free to suggest others.

Charles R. Saunders

Charles 2Born in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, in 1946, but living in Canada since 1969, this brilliant African American author and journalist has, during his long career, written everything from novels to screenplays and radio plays to magazine articles on boxing.

Charles is also the founder and father of Sword & Soul – African-inspired epic and heroic fantasy.

I first read a work by Charles in 1987 in Dragon Magazine #122, entitled Out of Africa. Unaware that Charles was Black at the time I said “This white guy got it right, but one day, I’ll do better. As a brother, I have to!”

Ah, the blissful ignorance of youth.

Of course, by the time I discovered Charles – who is now at the top of the list of my favorite authors – he had already published his first Imaro story over a decade earlier and had released the first Sword & Soul novel, Imaro, six years before that Dragon Magazine article.

In addition to the mega-popular Imaro series of books, Charles is also the author of the Dossouye series of novels about the adventures of the titular woman-warrior and Damballa – a pulp novel about a scientist / shaman / warrior who fights against Nazis in 1930s Harlem.

His latest work, “Mtimu”, can be read in the anthology Black Pulp.

Reginald Hudlin

here 5A pioneer of the modern black film movement, creating such successful and influential movies as House PartyBoomerang and the animated Bebe’s Kids, Reginald Hudlin is unique in the entertainment business because of his success as a writer, producer, director and executive.

Hudlin is also the executive producer and writer of the Black Panther animated series and was executive producer of The Boondocks.

Hudlin received an Oscar nomination as Producer on the blockbuster film, Django Unchained, which also won two Golden Globes, two NAACP Image Awards and is writer / director Quentin Tarantino’s most profitable film and one of most successful westerns ever made.

In addition to his success in films and animation, Hudlin has found much success on the “small screen” as an executive producer of the 2013 NAACP Image Awards, which aired on NBC. The broadcast got the highest ratings for the show since 2009.

Other works in television include his directing the pilot of the hit series Everybody Hates Chris and his work as producer and director of The Bernie Mac Show. Hudlin has also directed episodes of Modern FamilyThe OfficeThe Middle, and Psych.

During his tenure as the first President of Entertainment for Black Entertainment Television, Hudlin created some of the most successful shows in the history of the network including the award-winning reality show, Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is; American Gangster; and Sunday Best.  He created the BET Hip Hop Awards and the BET Honors.

Reginald is also one of the most successful Black writers in the field of comics, writing award winning runs of Spider Man and Black Panther for Marvel Comics. He adapted Quentin Tarantino’s original screenplay for Django Unchained into a six issue limited series for DC/Vertigo Comics and co-authored the intelligent, witty and moving graphic novel Birth of a Nation.

Milton Davis

MiltonA self described “chemist by day and writer by night”, Milton has proven to be that and so much more.

A friend, writing partner, filmmaking partner and jegna (“mentor”) of mine, Milton has been a strong influence on my work.

Together, Milton and I produced the successful Mahogany Masquerade: An evening of Steamfunk and Film and the Black Science Fiction Film Festival, now both annual events.

He is the author of two Sword & Soul series, Changa’s Safari (Volumes I & II) and Meji (Books I & II) and he, together with the Father and Founder of Sword & Soul, Fantasy fiction pioneer, Charles R. Saunders, is the Co-Editor of Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, the definitive work of Sword & Soul, featuring stories from fourteen different black writers. The first such anthology of its kind, Milton also published this masterpiece through his multimedia company, MVmedia, a micro-publisher and film production company dedicated to bringing diversity to the science-fiction and fantasy fields.

Milton is also Co-Editor, with Balogun Ojetade, of the Sword and Soul anthology Ki-Khanga –which is an introduction to the world in which the table-top role-playing game of the same name they created is set – and the wildly popular Steamfunk!, an anthology featuring twelve masterfully crafted stories of Steampunk, told from an African / African-American perspective.

Milton is also publisher of Balogun’s Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika, the co-creator of the graphic novel, The Blood Seekers, with artist Kristopher Mosby and will release his own fifth Sword and Soul novel, the highly anticipated Woman of the Woods, in mid-June.

Milton is also co-producer and executive producer of the Steamfunk short film, Rite of Passage: Initiation and co-producer and executive producer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage.

Balogun Ojetade

7Balogun began his career as an author in non-fiction, as writer of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within, which is also used as the manual for the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute, in which Balogun is Master Instructor and Technical Director.

His career in speculative fiction, however, began as screenwriter, producer and director of the films, Reynolds War and A Single Link.

He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul, Steampunk and fandom in general, on his website, the popular Chronicles of Harriet.

He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk! and is the screenwriter, director and co-producer of the short Steamfunk film, Rite of Passage: Initiation.

Along with creative partner Milton Davis, Balogun produces the popular annual events, the Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk & Film and the Black Science Fiction Film Festival.

At present, Balogun is directing and fight choreographing the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage.

Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes

AE2Dynamic Duo…Wonder Twins…Mr. and Mrs. Smith…these descriptors do not begin to describe this epitome of the definition of “power couple”.

The First Family of Speculative Fiction, these authors and filmmakers are movements by themselves and forces of nature together.

Steven Barnes has written several episodes of The Outer Limits and Baywatch. He also wrote the episode “Brief Candle” for Stargate SG-1 and the “The Sum of Its Parts” an episode of Andromeda.

Barnes’ first published piece of fiction, the 1979 novelette The Locusts, was written with Larry Niven, and was a Hugo Award nominee.

Barnes has gone on to author nearly thirty great novels, including the speculative fiction novels, Street Lethal, Lion’s Blood, Zulu Heart and with Tananarive Due, the Tennyson Hardwick mystery novel series.

The first person of African descent to find success as an author of horror fiction, Tananarive Due is an icon, a living legend and immensely popular worldwide.

Beginning with the scary-as-hell, The Between, in 1995, Due followed up with the equally frightening The Good House, a book that gave my wife nightmares every night she perused its pages and still gives her goose-bumps whenever the book is mentioned. After that came Joplin’s Ghost, and then the African Immortals series – my favorite – then, the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with her husband, Steven Barnes in partnership with the actor, Blair Underwood.

Recently, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due have teamed up to create the “zombie” YA novel series, which includes Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls.

This series inspired the horror short film, Danger Word, which Barnes and Due wrote and produced.

R.L. Scott

here 6R.L. wrote, produced and directed his first short film at the age of seventeen. He has since gone on to involvement in over fifty short and feature films in many capacities including writing, directing, fight choreography, cinematography, post production work, and editing.

In 2006, R.L. wrote, directed, produced and choreographed the fan film Black Panther: Blood Ties, a film I, my wife and several of my students had the pleasure of acting and performing stunts in.

In 2007 R.L. brought us Champion Road, a popular martial arts / fantasy feature film he wrote, directed, choreographed and produced and in 2008, took on the same roles for its sequel, Champion Road: Arena.

Full disclosure: I play the heroic hermit / martial arts master, Soleem, in both films.

In 2012, R.L. choreographed the fight scenes for the feature film entitled Call Me King, which stars international superstar Bai Ling (Red Corner). Call Me King is scheduled to be released early 2014.

Recently, R.L. acquired the film rights to the Street Team brand of indie graphic novels, which feature street-level (think Wolverine and Batman) superheroes of African descent.

Rasheedah Phillips

here 7Rasheedah Phillips, Esq. is a 2008 graduate of Temple University Beasley School of Law.

Rasheedah’s life is one that inspires and educates. A mother at the age of fourteen, Rasheedah raised her daughter while attending high school, and college and, in spite of her many responsibilities, she was able to earn a cumulative 3.79 GPA, graduating Summa Cum Laude from Temple in three years with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice. In the fall of 2005, she began her first semester at Temple University Beasley School of Law, earning her J.D. in Spring, 2008 and becoming a member of the Pennsylvania Bar in Fall 2008.

Because of her perseverance and success in spite of personal difficulties, her story was featured in several publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Temple Times, as well as a few books, including It Couldnt Happen to Me: Three True Stories of Teenage Moms by Beth Johnson.

An educator, attorney, activist and advocate for teen moms, Rasheedah writes science fiction stories and essays on Philosophy and Metaphysics in her spare time. She has had a work of short fiction published in an anthology entitled Growing Up Girl, inspirational essays published in Sister to Sister: Black Women Speak to Young Black Women and Professor May I Bring My Baby to Class. She will publish her first science fiction novel, Recurrence Plot, in Fall 2013.

In 2011, Rasheedah created The AfroFuturist Affair, an organization dedicated to celebrating and promoting Afrofuturistic culture, art, and literature through creative events and creative writing.

Through The Afrofuturist Affair, Rasheedah has created the annual Charity and Costume Ball, an Afrofuturist-themed costume ball that features artists, authors, and performers who present creations using Afrofuturism and Science Fiction as vehicles for expression and agency.

Black Tribbles

here 1Black Tribbles is a radio show about geek culture and media in which five people of African American descent engage in thought-provoking conversation and provide critical insight into a culture that is often devoid of a Black influence. The show is witty, irreverent and informative, simultaneously entertaining as it educates.

Every Thursday night, the Tribbles – Jason “Spider Tribble” Richardson; producer, Len “Bat Tribble Webb; co-producer, Kennedy “Storm Tribble” Allen; Erik “Master Tribble” Darden; and Randy “Super Tribble” Green – gather in the radio studio to banter about the nerdy things that excite them, from comic books and fantasy movies to science, history and ancient mythology.

Recently, they hosted a special show – Octavia City – in which original tales of afrofuturism from some of science fiction and fantasy’s upcoming and brightest stars were performed live.

Of course, this list could be expanded to include many more Black men and women who are doing great things in speculative fiction and film. If you would like more authors and filmmakers featured, please, let me know and I will be glad to introduce you to others.

Until then, happy reading and watching!

here 4


WE’RE HERE: Ending the Search for Black Fandom

WE’RE HERE: Ending the Search for Black Fandom

Black Cosplay

searchRecently, I read an excellent – and somewhat saddening – post on the Rude Girl Magazine blog entitled A Search for Black Fandom.

The author laments: “A lot of times when I watch things, and am seeking out internet reactions and discussion, I wish I had access to other black opinions. Sometimes fandom is like watching a movie with a room full of white people – when someone does something kinda shady and racist, you want to lean over and be like ‘did this motherfucker just really,’ but then you realize you’re the only black person there so you have to weigh whether or not you’re in the mood for bullshit, because that’s what you’ll get by bringing this up with white people.”

The author thought that she was all alone in the nerdiverse. That there were no other Black people into Science Fiction, comic books, cosplay, Steampunk and Dungeons and Dragons and she felt crippled by this: “It’s no secret that fandom can be racist. Like, really, really racist…if you, as a black person, want to enjoy something – anything –  in most popular fandom, you kind of have to decide not to bring up problematic aspects of the source material if you’re not ready to break out the bingo card for yet another tragic game of ‘No That’s Not Racist Toward Black People, Let Me Tell You Why,’ during which white people from all corners of the globe will gather to attempt to invalidate your thoughts, feelings and experiences.”

I am constantly reminded of just how important the work I and the other members of our authors, filmmakers and artists collective – State of Black Science Fiction – do really is. We tell the stories that need to be told – stories of heroes that have been ignored; history that has been forgotten…or denied.

Author Milton Davis & Author / Filmmaker Balogun Ojetade at the Mahogany Masquerade

Author Milton Davis & Author / Filmmaker Balogun Ojetade at the Mahogany Masquerade

Steamfunk, Sword and Soul and Rococoa are subgenres of fiction, fashion and film that convey the heroes and history of Africa, African-America and, indeed, the entire Diaspora. There are also many great tales of science fiction, horror, action-adventure and the paranormal with heroes of African descent.

I have been a guest and panelist at several small and major fandom conventions and I – along with my friend and author Milton Davis – am the curator of the popular Black Science Fiction Film Festival and The Mahogany Masquerade and I am happy to say that there is a multitude of Black fans of speculative fiction and film and the numbers are growing rapidly and immensely.

SONY DSCHowever, every time I get comfortable, a blog, an attendee at a panel discussion, or a fan at a convention will say “I thought I was the only one reading, doing and / or writing this,” or “If I had known Black people were writing this kind of stuff (or making these kinds of movies), I would have gotten into this a long time ago.”

Statements like that tell me that there is a lot more work to do and that there are a lot more people to reach.

I want my sister at Rude Girl Magazine to know that she need lament no longer and that she is certainly not alone.

We’re here my dear sister.

We’re here.

Below is a list of great recent fandom events with a strong Black presence. Most are annual events, so put them on your calendar and be sure to attend.

Black Speculative Fiction Film Festival, August 2012 – Auburn Avenue Research Library; Atlanta, GA

OnyxCon 4th Annual Black Age of Comics Convention, August 2012 – Southwest Arts Center; Atlanta, GA

State of Black Science Fiction Panel, August 2012 – Dragon*Con; Atlanta, GA

The Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film, October 2012 – Alien Encounters (an annual Black Fandom Symposium); Atlanta, GA

The Afrofuturist Affair Museum of Time 2nd Annual Charity & Costume Ball, November 2012 – Philadelphia, PA (an annual costume ball and afrofuturism presentation / performance)

Black Science Fiction Film Festival, February 2013 – Georgia Institute of Technology; Atlanta, GA (an annual film festival featuring fantasy, science fiction and horror films by and about people of African descent from around the world); Atlanta, GA

Multiculturalism in Alternate History Panel, February 2013 – AnachroCon; Atlanta, GA

Octavia E. Butler Celebration of the Fantastic Arts, March 2013 – Spelman College; Atlanta, GA

12th Annual East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC), May 2013; Philadelphia, PA

State of Black Science Fiction Panel, June 2013 – SciFi Summer Con; Atlanta, GA

State of Black Science Fiction Panel, June 15, 2013 – Wesley Chapel Library; Atlanta, GA (upcoming)


THE LOWDOWN ON THE THROWDOWN

THE LOWDOWN ON THE THROWDOWN

atown1This past weekend, I participated in the A-Town Throw Down, a revered and popular stage combat workshop held at Kennesaw State University (near Atlanta, GA) every year. The Throw Down – sanctioned by the Society of American Fight Directors – is three grueling days of full-day training in everything from 300-esque spear and shield combat to bar fighting.

On day one, after a brief warm-up, I went to my first class – Q Stick (Quarterstaff) – in which we learned and executed choreography with the quarterstaff at full speed, only breaking once for water…I knew then that I was in for a world of hurt and that these Stage Combat folks were as serious about their craft as any other combatant. I was filled with an odd feeling of eagerness mixed with dread.

After the Q Stick class, I had a great time in the Throwing Knives class and was the first to hit the target with four of six blades. I was happy about that, but after nearly two hours of throwing heavy steel in the blazing sun, happy turned to “damn” and “where in the hell is my Tiger Balm?”

After a lunch of Chai Tea (only Chik-Fil-A was open on Kennesaw State’s campus and I don’t eat chicken), I headed to my Knife Class, where we had a grand old time “cutting” (the blades were dull aluminum) and disarming each other and then ended my day with some Unarmed Fight Choreography that left me sore, but eager to return the next day.

Balogun1The second day (Saturday), I began with some Instinctual Knife training and learned some things that will really enhance the blade fights in my films, then it was on to the Fighting and Music class, wherein I had to perform some of the fastest and most intricate choreography known to man. Thankfully, I was able to pick it up and execute it well; more thankfully, the teacher is a foremost master of Stage Combat and she was able to pull the fight out of us while maintaining absolute safety on a stage of about thirty people going at it simultaneously with swords. From there, I headed to what has to be the most physically demanding course on earth – the Shield and Spear class. First, I made the mistake of grabbing a big thirty pound shield and a heavy spear. Granted, I looked cool leaping through the air with such heavy weaponry, but after about a half hour of full speed choreography with the damned things, I was smacking myself in the forehead for not picking the much lighter small shield and one of the spears made of a wood half as heavy as mine. Everyone left the spear and shield class with a lot of knowledge and a WHOLE LOT of hurt. I finally ended my day with the Whip class. I had to block out the pain in my hips, feet, back and hamstrings in order to stand up and wield the damned thing, but it came naturally and I was cracking that whip from all sorts of directions. At one point, I thought about how my ancestors were probably beaten with such a weapon, which strikes at 900 miles per hour on average (that “crack” you hear is the sound of the end of the whip breaking the sound barrier) and I got nauseous and no longer had a desire to hold the weapon, so I sat down for a breather and to center myself. After a few minutes, I (slowly and with great and painful effort) got up and returned to the floor for more whip-crackin’ goodness.

Untitled 0 00 33-15On the final day, I started off with the Ground-N-Pound Class, where we choreographed our own ground fight after a few falling and rolling drills and drills to get us to commit to “the moment”. Some of the fights were cheesy. Most were exciting. I was working with one of the instructors and he gave me permission to push the envelope, so we did a brutal fight that ended in me catching him in a toe hold and snapping his ankle and knee (it was safe – no joints were harmed in the making of this fight). After that class, I went to the Single Sword Class, where we learned and executed some swashbuckling choreography. Spatial awareness and control are essential when two people are whipping steel rapiers all over the place.

Finally, I ended my day with what had to be the funniest, silliest class I have ever taken, yet it was brilliant. The class was entitled Roadhouse! (yes, the exclamation point is part of it) and it was an exercise in controlled mayhem. Fifty people on stage having a bar fight with mugs of beer, waitress trays, tables, chairs, a bar, bartenders and all – however, it is a bar fight in the Roadhouse universe – see the movie if you haven’t already and if you have seen it,  watch it again – so things were nuttier than squirrel poop. A punch to the stomach caused you not to bend over in pain, but to stand straight up…a waitress holding a tray was invisible, but if she hit you with her tray, you were knocked out…the only place thrown chairs ever landed was the bar and paper and cups were constantly flying through the air – even if it was unconscious people tossing them.

Like I said…squirrel poop. After that hilarious and surprisingly fun class, which taught me how NOT to choreograph (one of the points of the seeming madness), I headed home for some much needed sleep.

You guessed it...that's me in the purple shirt after I attacked the guy in the yellow shirt in the  "circle of death".

You guessed it…that’s me in the purple shirt after I attacked the guy in the yellow shirt in the “circle of death”.

When I awakened I reflected on the weekend…all the education I received…all the fun…but the discomfort I felt at being the only Black person at the event (well, there was one other, but he spent so much time trying to point out to everyone how Black he wasn’t – “I’m Panamanian and Filipino and yeah, there’s white in me too…I promise”) and the fact that many people avoided being my partner (“I don’t stink…I promise”) made me uncomfortable. I wondered why there weren’t any other Black people at the event, nor are there any Black instructors – let alone Masters or Directors – in the entire Society of American Fight Directors. Granted, there aren’t many Black people in theater, but there are many trying to break into film. Since you almost can’t make a movie without a fight scene nowadays, such training is essential if you are serious about your craft as an actor and certainly as a fight choreographer.

Wait do you think there aren’t any Black film fight choreographers? Don’t let the lack of Black faces in the Society of American Fight Directors fool or discourage you. Let’s examine a few:

Larnell Stovall

atown2Seeking to use his renown as a world and international champion in fighting, weapons and forms (kata) to break into Hollywood, Larnell Stovall moved from New Orleans to California to pursue a career as an actor and fight choreographer in February 2001.

Stovall quickly established himself as one of the best in the business with his work on the popular duo of web series – Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and Mortal Kombat: Legacy, as well as the films Undisputed III, Never Back Down II, Blood and Bone and Bunraku.

Style: versatile and dynamic; incorporates high and jump kicks and acrobatics, thus he works best with quick flexible and agile performers.

Chuck Jeffreys

atown3Washington, D.C. native William Charles Jeffreys, III – Chuck Jeffreys – began his training in the martial arts at the age of eight, starting with Western Boxing and Tae Kwon Do. He began training in Tien Shan Pai Shaolin Kung Fu in the early 70s and began teaching kung fu in 1974.

Over the decades, Jeffreys learned and mastered other martial arts styles and systems, such as Kali, Indonesian Silat and Shoot Boxing.

Jeffreys put his skills to use in Hollywood, becoming a stunt double for the actors Eddie Murphy and Ving Rhames.

He then went on to assist in the fight choreography – and to train actor and martial artist Wesley Snipes with the sword – for Blade. He has also choreographed fights for the blockbusters, Spider-Man and Freddy vs. Jason. He returned to the Blade franchise in 2004 to train Wesley Snipes and the rest of the cast for Blade: Trinity.

Style: efficient, realistic hand-to-hand combat, with occasional high and low spinning kicks for flare.

R.L. Scott

atown4R.L. Scott was born in America, raised in Salvador Bahia Brazil until the age of 16 when he returned to the United States. It was then that he began writing and one year later, he made his first short film. He has since gone on to involvement in over fifty shorts and feature films in many capacities including writing, directing, fight choreography, cinematography, post production work, and editing.

In 2007 Scott did the fight choreography for Champion Road, a popular feature film he wrote, directed and produced and in 2008, took on the same roles for its sequel, Champion Road: Arena.

In 2012, Scott choreographed the fight scenes for the feature film entitled Call Me King, which stars international superstar Bai Ling (Red Corner). Call Me King is scheduled to be released early 2014.

Style: probably closer to Chinese cinema than any other non-Chinese fight choreographer in the business. The beauty, power and stylistic fights of films such as Fearless, Dragon-Tiger Gate, Ip Man and Sha Po Lang – aka Kill Zone – is Scott’s signature.

Balogun Ojetade

I18After performing stunts and fights in several films, plays and demonstrations, Balogun – a master of indigenous African martial arts – went on to choreograph fights for the stage and for the independent films Reynolds’ War, A Single Link, Equalizers and Rite of Passage: Initiation.

Balogun is – at present – choreographing fight scenes for the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which is scheduled to premiere in early 2014.

Style: brutal, efficient and unique, combining the smooth, rhythmic, yet viciously effective African martial arts with such “exotic” martial arts as Savate, Bartitsu, La Canne, Capoeira Angola and Catch Wrestling.

I attended the A-Town Throw Down because I want to hone and enhance my craft so that I can create the very best films…so that I can bring you eye-popping fight choreography that you enjoy and that I am proud of.

Nothing less than excellent is expected of me or acceptable to me.

That’s my motto. Please, adopt a similar one (or just use mine) if you haven’t already and let’s make some great movies, y’all!


GA-TECH GETS FUNKY! Filmmakers Partner With The Yellow Jackets to Produce the First Steamfunk Feature Film!

GA-TECH GETS FUNKY!

Filmmakers Partner With The Yellow Jackets to Produce the First Steamfunk Feature Film!

RITE OF PASSAGE POSTER 3

I was recently contacted by an agent who asked if Rite of Passage – the Steamfunk movie that goes into pre-production in May and production in August – was a student film. I informed her that the film is a collaboration between the professional multimedia companies MVmedia and Roaring Lions Productions and GA-Tech’s School of Literature, Media and Communication, so yes, students will be heavily involved in the making of the film, but under the guidance and leadership of experienced and accomplished film professionals who are the directors, producers and cinematographers on this project.

I informed her that the students will not be treated as “amateurs”, nor is the film going to be amateur or second rate. The students involved in the making of Rite of Passage are expected to be just as professional…just as committed as those who have worked on ten or more projects.

The agent’s response?

“Well, I will probably send a few of my actors to audition, but most of my actors would never act in a student film. I was a bit surprised to hear that most of the actors she represents dismiss programs that have produced some of industry’s best filmmakers and actors. “She needs to educate her people,” I thought.

However, “To be fair,” – as Rite of Passage’s Producer, Akin Danny Donaldson, is fond of saying – he’s from England; everyone from England are fond of saying that – I could come up with a few reasons myself as to why an actor would not want to act in a student film – there is no pay; the filmmakers do not have a lot of experience and are still learning how to talk to and treat actors; and few student films become a success by Hollywood standards. However, from her reaction, I was sure she – or some of her actors – had experienced some Stygian nightmare in doing a student film.

RITE OF PASSAGE Promo 1She, or any of her actors, had not; she just thought there was nothing for her people to gain from such projects. She was oblivious to the tremendous opportunity provided by student films to form strong, lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with young, talented, up-and-coming directors, producers, actors and casting directors.

You could very well be working with the next Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee. They are not master directors yet, but “to be fair”, the next Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Malcolm X, or The Inside Man could be their next film.

Student films often achieve admittance into top notch festivals each year, earning these young filmmakers studio deals and the actors in their films worldwide recognition.

If you choose to act in a student film, there are certain things that you should not negotiate. You should receive a copy of your work in a timely fashion, be fed every six hours, and should not be asked to work longer than a 12-hour day without proper turnaround.

Know that student filmmakers, especially those in the early stages of filmmaking, tend to prioritize their aesthetic vision over an actor’s performance. Don’t be shocked, frustrated, or allow your ego to be bruised if hours are spent on a cool-looking, spinning, overhead dolly shot rather than your sublime performance in a close-up.

Keep in mind that these young filmmakers are attempting to bring their visions to life without large crews and budgets, so – “To be fair” – cut them some slack if things take longer than they should.

Actors, don’t feel ashamed, embarrassed or as if you are “settling” because you are auditioning for a student film. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad actor. Agents submit actors to films by USC, Columbia University and Columbia College Chicago every day.

“To be fair”, however, I will admit that many student films simply stink. The most common reason for such odoriferous works is lack of story. A suicide prone emo teen is a subject, not a story. If your story is about an emo college freshman with a football player roommate whose girlfriend is always trying to convince the emo kid to go out and party – who cares?

The second most common reason for the malodorousness is the student’s reach exceeding his or her grasp. The student tries to tell a story that is too convoluted; uses techniques that are far beyond his or her experience. The more complex the story, the more skill it takes to tell it and the greater likelihood that a relative beginner will fail in the telling of it.

Fortunately, Rite of Passage has some of the best professionals in independent film working on the project and the students chosen to work with us will be the best that GA-Tech has to offer, which, “To be fair,” is saying a lot, as GA-Tech is fast becoming recognized as one of the top film schools in America, particularly in the areas of special effects, sound effects, prop and graphics design and cinematography.

Below are the current professional members of the crew of Rite of Passage. We are all excited to work with the next generation of Scorseses, Lees, Singletons, Spielbergs, Poitiers, Tarantinos, Lucases and”To be fair,” Balogun Ojetades (go ahead, you can laugh)

Crew 1 Crew 2 Crew 3 Crew 4 Crew 5 Crew 6 Crew 7 Crew 8


THE MAKING OF A STEAMFUNK MOVIE: Part 2, The Cast

THE MAKING OF A STEAMFUNK MOVIE: Part 2, The Cast

cast 4What is the most important element of creating a film?

Is it a great script? The film’s director? The type of camera and lenses you shoot with?

Or is casting the right actor most important?

Casting a film is much like cooking – you need the right ingredients in just the right amounts to create something that’s palatable and satisfying. Casting professionals are chefs. They take a director’s vision and a writer’s story, and concoct a ten-course meal that’s worthy of a five-star restaurant. If the recipe is off, however, even a potentially great film could easily turn out to be average.

Actors, especially A-list players, cost a lot of money. Money that – contrary to what you might believe – is well-deserved. I have acted in several movies and I can tell you, it is some of the most demanding work I have ever done. Imagine putting on sixty pounds of muscle to play a professional boxer, or learning to ride a horse and fire a longbow from horseback – all while looking good and making it look like you have been riding horses and firing arrows from their backs since you were knee-high to a grasshopper.

Lesser-known actors don’t have the same salary requirements, but they may lack exposure or experience.

Thus, the Casting Director walks a fine line between beauty, budget, and risk –  carefully assessing each role and the type of actor you need to make that character successful.

cast 3Picture Katt Williams playing Django in Django Unchained, or Honey Boo Boo playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Chances are, they would have flopped.

The Casting Director, or CD, is the individual responsible for finding and auditioning actors for the roles in a movie. CDs work closely with the director and producer to find the talent they are searching for – the talent right for a specific role.

Casting directors are pros at matching the right actor to the right role. They are the matchmakers of the filmmaking industry, arranging auditions, casting calls, and callbacks and their help is indispensable.

In making their decisions, Casting Directors examine a number of factors, including an actor’s experience, “chops” (proficiency in acting), physical characteristics, and other special talents, such as martial arts training or stunt experience.

cast 1If you take on the responsibilities of Casting Director for a film, here are a few tips I would like to share. I learned these the hard way – through assisting directors in casting films, through auditioning for films and through making mistakes during production of my own films.

1. Avoid using one of your crew members as an actor in the film. You diminish the size –and therefore the efficiency – of your production team when you pull one of them out to act. A crew of four people that loses one to become a performer is diminished 25%. Usually this drastic trade-off becomes visible on screen in numerous ways.

“Spike Lee and Quinton Tarantino do it all the time,” you say? Yep. They are exceptions. Not the rule.

2. Try to work with those who have a reason to commit to the film. Actors and even acting students have a reason to participate in a film until the very end because it is important for them to have an acting reel, meaning samples of them performing. The better the project is, the better their reel, so they have a strong incentive to perform well. Not only do they get a credit on a film, but the reel can lead to other acting gigs.

However, a close friend who is a professor of English Literature might be excited about – and even agree to dust off those college acting skills and be in – your movie, but after the first ten-hour production day, they may start to lose interest. With mid-terms coming up, with an impatient wife to appease and teaching assistants to maintain, suddenly the thought of sticking around for three more shooting days isn’t so appealing to the good old professor. Frequently, good friends find the limits of their friendship on film productions.

3. Think twice about casting family members. Family relations are often complex; add to that the stress and arduousness of the filmmaking process, and you’re working with a volatile mixture – kind of like a gallon of nitroglycerin in the hands of your ninety-seven year old uncle after he has had a decanter of coffee, two Krispy Kreme donuts and thirteen cigarettes. Imagine asking your mother to redo her lines after she has flubbed them for the tenth time, but is convinced the last take was “a keeper”. “But you directed your wife in that action film, A Single Link and in Rite of Passage: Initiation,” you say? Again…exceptions to the rule.

cast 24. Always remember that it takes a skilled director, and lots of patience, to get a great performance out of a non-actor. For most films, casting skilled actors is important in order to get what you need for your film. Even if your film has no dialogue, a good actor can bring a new interpretive energy, authenticity, and creative resources to the project.

Finally, I would like to share the current cast of Rite of Passage, the first Steamfunk film, with you. As we add more actors to the cast, I will edit this section, so please, check back often.

Oh, and if you happen to be an actor, a Steampunk maker or Steampunk fashion designer / costume maker and are interested in working on this awesome film, please join us Thursday, April 18, 2013 at GA-Tech in room 343 of the Skiles Building at 11:00 am for an Information Session.

Cast Akingbe Cast Angus Cast Bagwell Cast Bass Reeves Cast Clemente Cast Dorothy Cast Dug Cast Joe Cast Lana Cast Marie Cast Turnipseed

Cast Harriet


THE MAKING OF A STEAMFUNK MOVIE: Pt. 1, the Crew

THE MAKING OF A STEAMFUNK MOVIE: Pt. 1, the Crew

crew 1When I left Howard University – and my despised major in Finance – in 1986 (don’t do the math) to pursue my vision of novelist, screenwriter and film director, my family – particularly my mother was supportive. My sister, Alesia, however – a film and video producer for the Air Force – did not warn me about what I was getting myself into.

I enrolled in Columbia College – the renowned college of the Fine Arts in Chicago – and my training in film, which I just knew would be easy and fun every minute, began.

And so did work ten times more demanding than any Finance, Economics, or Statistics class ever was.

Easy? My ass!

Fun? Hell no!

The work was grueling; tiresome; boring; lonely.

Wait a minute…lonely?

crew 2The first week of my Film Directing I Class was a solo directing project. Unbeknownst to us ignorant students, that project was designed for the sole purpose of teaching us – the hard way – that film is always a collaborative effort. Anyone who tries to be a one-man film crew is about as sharp as a bowl of Jell-O.

For those of you looking to make a movie, but you do not have access to a multimillion-dollar budget, you may have to assume more than one responsibility to make your film. While it is possible – and often necessary – to wear two or three hats when making a film, it is not recommended. Search hard for qualified and experienced people to work with. The more you do, the more the quality of your film suffers and the quicker you will burn yourself out.

In May, we begin pre-production on the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage. We start shooting in August. This is the bare minimum crew we will begin with:

I1Producer: A film producer creates the conditions for making movies. The producer initiates, coordinates, supervises, and controls matters such as raising funding, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the filmmaking, from development to “delivery” of a project.

Executive producer: In major productions, can sometimes be a representative or CEO of the film studio. Or the title may be given as an honorarium to a major investor. Often they oversee the financial, administrative and creative aspects of production, though not always in a technical capacity. In smaller companies or independent projects, it may be synonymous with creator/writer. Often, a “Line Producer” is awarded this title if this producer has a lineage of experience, or is involved in a greater capacity than a “typical” line producer. E.G – working from development through post, or simply bringing to the table a certain level of expertise.

Associate producer: Usually acts as a representative of the Producer, who may share financial, creative, or administrative responsibilities, delegated from that producer. Often, a title for an experienced film professional acting as a consultant or a title granted as a courtesy to one who makes a major financial, creative or physical contribution to the production.

Script Supervisor: The script supervisor maintains a daily log of the shots covered and their relation to the script during the course of a production, acts as chief continuity person, and acts as an on-set liaison to the post-production staff. They maintain logs of all shots and act as the chief continuity person on set, performing daily cross-referencing with the continuity stills photographer to ensure shots remain accurate and in logical order.

Continuity Stills Photographer: The continuity stills photographer uses a digital still camera to establish continuity referents for each shot covered in a day of shooting. These shots are cross-referenced with the script supervisor’s log for accessibility on set. The continuity stills photographer takes pictures of each shot covered, paying particular attention to the in-point and out-point of a shot – a photograph is taken just before the director says “action,” and immediately after he or she says “cut.”

crew 3Director: The director is responsible for overseeing the creative aspects of a film, including controlling the content and flow of the film’s plot, directing the performances of actors, organizing and selecting the locations in which the film will be shot, and managing technical details such as the positioning of cameras, the use of lighting, and the timing and content of the film’s soundtrack. Though the director wields a great deal of power, they are ultimately subordinate to the film’s producer or producers. Some directors, especially more established ones, take on many of the roles of a producer, and the distinction between the two roles is sometimes blurred.

Stunt Coordinator: Where the film requires a stunt, and involves the use of stunt performers, the stunt coordinator will arrange the casting and performance of the stunt, working closely with the director. This includes Fight Choreographers – stunt coordinators who specialize in the casting, design and performance of fight scenes.

Production Designer: A production designer is responsible for creating the physical, visual appearance of the film – settings, costumes, properties, character makeup, all taken as a unit. The production designer works closely with the director and the cinematographer to achieve the ‘look’ of the film.

I2Director of Photography / Cinematographer: The director of photography is the chief of the camera and lighting crew of the film. The DP makes decisions on lighting and framing of scenes in conjunction with the film’s director. Typically, the director tells the DP how they want a shot to look, and the DP chooses the correct aperture, filter, and lighting to achieve the desired effect.

Camera Operator: The camera operator uses the camera at the direction of the cinematographer / director of photography, or the film director to capture the scenes on film. Generally, a cinematographer or director of photography does not operate the camera, but sometimes these jobs may be combined.

I16Boom Operator: The boom operator is an assistant to the production sound mixer, responsible for microphone placement and movement during filming. The boom operator uses a boom pole, a long pole made of light aluminum or carbon fiber that allows precise positioning of the microphone above or below the actors, just out of the camera’s frame. The boom operator may also place radio microphones and hidden set microphones.

I4Location Scout: Does much of the actual research, footwork and photography to document location possibilities.

Film Editor: The film editor is the person who assembles the various shots into a coherent film, with the help of the director.

Sound Designer: The sound designer, or “supervising sound editor”, is in charge of the post-production sound of a movie. Sometimes this may involve great creative license, and other times it may simply mean working with the director and editor to balance the sound to their liking.

Composer: The composer is responsible for writing the musical score for a film.

Foley Artist: The foley artist is the person who creates the sound effects for a film.

Key Makeup Person: The key makeup person applies and maintains the cast’s makeup, working in coordination with the script supervisor and the continuity stills photographer.

Key Hairdresser: The key hairdresser dresses and maintains the cast’s hair, working in coordination with the script supervisor and the continuity stills photographer.

crew 4Costume Designer: The costume designer works under the supervision of the director and the art director to design, obtain, assemble, and maintain the costumes for a production. Costume designers develop costuming concepts and the design of costumes in coordination with the art director, production designer, and DP.

This is the crew I am working with, plus the assistants for each member of the crew, caterers and security. I bet no Financier ever had to work with so many people – from a couple of months to a year or more – just to complete one project.

Such is the life of a filmmaker, but I love it and when you see the fruit of the labor of our crew, when Rite of Passage hits the silver screen at the Black Science Fiction Film Festival in February, 2014, you’ll love it – and us – too!

More funk to come. Stay tuned, Steamfunkateers!

If you would like to be a part of the making of this film and live in or near Atlanta, please join us at the Information Session at Georgia Tech Thursday, April 18, 2013; Skiles Building; Room 343 at 11:00 am. We will discuss cast and crew needs, scheduling and benefits to be enjoyed by all involved!

ROP 1


The Looming Shadow of Death: The Black Vote in the Age of Steam!

The Looming Shadow of Death: The Black Vote in the Age of Steam!

Vote 2At the time of Ulysses S. Grant’s election to the presidency in 1868, Americans were struggling to reconstruct a nation torn apart by war. Voting rights for freed blacks proved a big problem. Reconstruction Acts passed after the war called for black suffrage in the Southern states, but many – in the South and the North – felt the approach unfair. The Acts did not apply to the North.

Contrary to the perception of the North being a utopian promised land for Black people, 11 of the 21 Northern states did not allow blacks to vote in elections. Most of the Border States, where one-sixth of the nation’s black population resided, also refused to allow blacks to vote.

The Republicans’ answer to the problem of the black vote was the addition of an amendment to the Constitution that guaranteed black suffrage in all states, regardless of the party that controlled the government. Congress spent the days between Grant’s election and his inauguration drafting this new amendment, which would be the 15th one added to the Constitution.

The writers of the Fifteenth Amendment produced three different versions of the document. The first of these prohibited states from denying citizens the vote because of their race, color, or the previous experience of being a slave. The second version prevented states from denying the vote to anyone based on literacy, property, or the circumstances of their birth. The third version stated plainly and directly that all male citizens who were 21 or older had the right to vote.

Vote 6Determined to pass the amendment, Congress ultimately accepted the first and most moderate of the versions as the one presented for a vote. This took some wrangling in the halls of Congress, however, because many Congressmen felt that the first version did not go far enough, and that it left too many loopholes.

Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment on February 26, 1869. But some states resisted ratification. At one point, the ratification count stood at 17 Republican states approving the amendment and four Democratic states rejecting it. Congress still needed 11 more states to ratify the amendment before it could become law.

All eyes turned toward those Southern states which had yet to be readmitted to the Union. Acting quickly, Congress ruled that in order to be let into the Union, these states had to accept both the Fifteenth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted citizenship to all people born in the United States, including former slaves. Left with no choice, the Southern states ratified the amendments and were restored to statehood.

Finally, on March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution. To many, it felt like the last step of reconstruction. But just as many had predicted, Southerners found ways to prevent blacks from voting. Democrats and Republicans clashed over the right of former slaves to enter civic life an white supremacist vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan gained strength as many whites refused to accept blacks as their equals.

Jim Crow – the racial caste system and series of rigid anti-black laws that operated primarily, but not exclusively, in Southern and Border States, between 1877 and the mid-1960s – was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second class citizens.

During this era, many Christian ministers and theologians taught that whites were the Chosen people, and that blacks – all victims of the curse of Noah’s son Ham – were cursed to be drawers of water and hewers of wood (i.e. servants).

Vote 8Craniologists, eugenicists, phrenologists, and Social Darwinists, at every educational level, buttressed the belief that blacks were, by nature, intellectually and culturally inferior to whites. Politicians gave eloquent speeches on the great danger of integration – the mongrelization of the white race. Newspaper and magazine writers routinely referred to blacks as niggers, coons, and darkies; and their articles reinforced anti-black stereotypes. All major societal institutions reflected and supported the oppression of Black people.

Under Jim Crow, the following “norms” were enforced:

A black boy or man could not shake hands with a white male because it implied being socially equal. And if a black boy or man dared to offer his hand or any other part of his body to a white woman, he risked being accused of – and hanged, castrated or beaten to death for – rape.

Blacks and whites were not supposed to eat together. If they did eat together, whites were to be served first, and some sort of partition was to be placed between them.

Under no circumstance was a black man to offer to light the cigarette of a white woman – a gesture considered an implication of intimacy.

Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another because it offended whites.

Jim Crow etiquette prescribed that blacks were introduced to whites, never whites to blacks. For example: “Mr. Sam (the white person), this is Cleophus (the black person), that I spoke to you about.”

Whites did not use courtesy titles of respect when referring to blacks – Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir, or Ma’am was never used. Instead, blacks were called by their first names. However, blacks had to use courtesy titles when referring to whites, and were not allowed to call them by their first names.

If a black person rode in a car driven by a white person, the black person sat in the back seat, or the back of a truck.

White motorists had the right-of-way at all intersections.

In conversing with whites, Black people were to follow these simple rules:

Never assert or even intimate that a white person is lying.

Never impute dishonorable intentions to a white person.

Never suggest that a white person is from an inferior class.

Never lay claim to, or overly demonstrate, superior knowledge or intelligence.

Never curse a white person.

Never laugh derisively at a white person.

Never comment upon the appearance of a white female.

In 1890, Louisiana passed the “Separate Car Law,” which purported to aid passenger comfort by creating “equal but separate” cars for blacks and whites. This was a ruse. No public accommodations, including railway travel, provided blacks with equal facilities. The Louisiana law made it illegal for blacks to sit in coach seats reserved for whites, and whites could not sit in seats reserved for blacks. In 1891, a group of blacks decided to test the Jim Crow law. They had Homer A. Plessy, who was seven-eighths white and one-eighth black (therefore, black), sit in the white-only railroad coach. He was arrested. Plessy’s lawyer argued that Louisiana did not have the right to label one citizen as white and another black for the purposes of restricting their rights and privileges. The Supreme Court stated that so long as state governments provided legal process and legal freedoms for blacks, equal to those of whites, they could maintain separate institutions to facilitate these rights. The Court, by a 7-2 vote, upheld the Louisiana law, declaring that racial separation did not necessarily mean an abrogation of equality.

In practice, the tragic process that came to be known as Plessy, represented the legitimization of two societies: one white, and advantaged; the other, black, disadvantaged and despised.

Blacks were denied the right to vote by grandfather clauses – laws that restricted the right to vote to people whose ancestors had voted before the Civil War – by poll taxes – fees charged to poor blacks who desired to vote – white primaries – only Democrats could vote; only whites could be Democrats – and literacy tests in which you could only vote if you could name all the Vice Presidents and Supreme Court Justices throughout America’s history.

Vote 7Jim Crow states passed statutes severely regulating social interactions between the races. Jim Crow signs were placed above water fountains, door entrances and exits, and in front of public facilities. There were separate hospitals for blacks and whites, separate prisons, separate public and private schools, separate churches, separate cemeteries, separate public restrooms, and separate public accommodations. In most instances, the black facilities were grossly inferior — generally, older, less-well-kept. In other cases, there were no black facilities — no Colored public restroom, no public beach, no place to sit or eat. Plessy gave Jim Crow states a legal way to ignore their constitutional obligations to their black citizens.

Blacks who violated Jim Crow norms – such as drinking from the white water fountain or trying to vote – risked their homes, jobs and even their lives. Whites could physically beat blacks with impunity. Blacks had little legal recourse against these assaults because the Jim Crow criminal justice system – the police, prosecutors, judges, juries, and prison officials – was all white.

Vote 5Violence was instrumental for Jim Crow. It was a method of social control. The most extreme forms of Jim Crow violence were lynchings.

Lynchings were public murders carried out by mobs. Between 1882, when the first reliable data were collected, and 1968, when lynchings had become rare, there were 4,730 known lynchings; 3,440 of those were of black men and women. Most of the victims of these lynchings were hanged or shot, but many were burned at the stake, castrated, beaten with clubs, or dismembered.

In the mid-1800s, whites constituted the majority of victims, as well as perpetrators, of lynching. However, by the period of Reconstruction, blacks became the most frequent lynching victims. This is an early indication that lynching was used as an intimidation tool to keep the newly freed blacks, “in their places.”

The great majority of lynchings occurred in Southern and Border States, where the resentment against blacks ran deepest. The southern states accounted for nine-tenths of lynchings. More than two thirds of the remaining one-tenth occurred in the six states which immediately border the South.

Under Jim Crow any and all sexual interactions between black men and white women was illegal, illicit, socially repugnant, and within the Jim Crow definition of rape. Although only 19.2 percent of the lynching victims between 1882 and 1951 were even accused of rape, lynching was often supported by the popular belief that such sadistic murder was necessary to protect white women from black rapists. In fact, most blacks were lynched for demanding civil rights, violating Jim Crow etiquette or laws, or in the aftermath of race riots.

Lynchings were most common in small and middle-sized towns where blacks often were economic competitors to local whites. These whites resented any economic and political gains made by blacks. Members of lynch mobs were seldom arrested, and if arrested, rarely convicted, as at least one-half of the lynchings were carried out with police officers participating in them, and in nine-tenths of the others, the officers condoned the mob action.

Vote 3Lynching served many purposes: it was cheap entertainment; it served as a rallying, uniting point for whites; it functioned as an ego-boost for low-income, low-status whites; it was a method of defending white domination and it helped stop or retard the fledgling social equality movement.

Many blacks resisted the indignities of Jim Crow, and, far too often, we paid for our bravery with our lives.

Today, we are able to vote without fear of reprisal; without the looming shadow of death that stood at our flanks during the Age of Steam.

Thus, I enjoin you to exercise your right to vote – for me – for my re-examination and re-imagining of the Age of Steam, as I am nominated for Best Blog and for Best Multicultural Steampunk in the 2013 Steampunk Chronicle Readers’ Choice Awards.

Let’s bring some funk to the SPC Awards in 2013!

Vote 1

 


THE UNMASKING OF AUNT TAMMY

THE UNMASKING OF AUNT TAMMY

tammy 1Amy closed her eyes and whispered a prayer as the great, stone mansion drew closer.

The ivory Rolls Royce Phantom crept along the winding road towards the immense structure, which loomed on the horizon.

“Fifteen years.” Amy said.  Her perfect, white teeth reflected the shine from her gloss-moistened lips as she smiled.

“What?”  The chauffeur peered at Amy through the rearview mirror.

tammy 2“Fifteen years, Tosu,” Amy answered.  “Fifteen years of my fellow Senior Executives’ racist, sexist, bullshit.  Fifteen years of the black employees calling me ‘Aunt Tammy’ behind my back.  It all ends tonight.”

Tosu’s broad shoulders danced back and forth as he chuckled. “Aunt Tammy?”

“Yes, Aunt Tammy, Amy replied.  “A female ‘Uncle Tom’ – and that’s not funny, Tosu!”

“Of course, you are not an ‘Aunt Tammy’, little sister,” Tosu said.  “Just because you prefer Frank Sinatra to Fifty-Cent…or because you prefer quinoa to cornbread…or because you prefer Steampunk to Street Lit does not mean you are an Uncle Tom or an Aunt Tammy…It does mean, however, that you have poor taste!”

tammy 3Tosu and Amy laughed.

The driver looked over his shoulder at his little sister.  “Today, all that you have endured pays off.”

Amy took a deep breath.  “Yes, today it does…for us…”

“And for Malomo,” Tosu whispered, as he fought back the tears that threatened to pour from under his eyelids.

The Rolls Royce Phantom crept into the circular carport on the side of the mansion.

tammy 6A short, lean, Asian woman – dressed in a blue, silk kimono  – opened the door of the Rolls Royce for Amy.  “Good afternoon, Ms. Cross,” The Asian woman said, smiling warmly.  “My name is Yuriko Sakuraba.  Mr. Emilianenko is eager to see you.  Follow me please.”

Amy shuffled behind Yuriko, who escorted her to a pair of double doors within the mansion.  The doors were carved from heavy African ironwood and inlaid with gold.  “This is the dining room,” Yuriko began. “There are a few rules I must go over with you before you enter, but first, a quick search.”

Yuriko perused Amy’s face.  Her expression told Amy that the security expert could see the fearlessness in her eyes.  Fearlessness…and ferocity.  Amy searched Yuriko’s eyes and saw the same.

Yuriko glided her lithe fingers across Amy’s athletic frame.  Her skilled hands did not leave even the slightest wrinkle on Amy’s black shark-skin business suit. The search confirmed that Amy was unarmed.

“Now, the rules,” Yuriko began.  “First, once you are seated, please remain so, unless you need to go to the restroom.  If that is the case, please inform Mr. Emilianenko.  He will call me on the radio and I will escort you.”

Amy nodded and Yuriko continued.

“Second, please refrain from any sudden gestures, or talking excessively with your hands.”

Amy smiled and nodded again.  Yuriko nodded back at Amy and went on.

“Finally, just remember, I will be right outside this door if any assistance is needed.”

Amy nodded and held her smile.  She knew that the final rule was actually a warning that if she tried to harm Mr. Emilianenko, she would have to deal with Yuriko.  “I understand.”

tammy 10Yuriko smiled and then pushed the double doors open.  Amy stepped into the huge dining room behind Yuriko.  The room was illuminated by a crystal chandelier, which hovered above a ten-foot long, mahogany table, which Amy figured to be over a hundred years old, judging by the hand-carved craftsmanship.  Aside from the dining table and chairs, which sat in the middle of the room, the dining room was pretty bare, except for tropical plants, which sat in each corner and gave the room a fresh, pleasant smell that reminded Amy of cantaloupe, sprinkled with black pepper.

At the far end of the table sat Vasiliev Emilianenko, Amy’s boss.  CEO of Biochem, Incorporated.

“Please, be seated.” Yuriko whispered.

Amy sat at the end of the table opposite Vasiliev.

Vasiliev waved a well-manicured hand as if swatting flies with the back of it.  “You are dismissed, Ms. Sakuraba.”

Yuriko bowed and exited the dining room.  Vasiliev turned his gaze toward Amy and grinned.  “Good evening, Ms. Cross.”

“Good evening, Mr. Emilianenko.”

Vasiliev shook his head.  His curly, black hair bounced slightly as his head moved from side to side.  “Please, call me Vasiliev.  May I call you Amy?”

Amy nodded.  “Of course.”

Vasiliev smiled even wider.  “So, Amy, let’s chat while we wait for our meal, yes?”

“Yes, Vasiliev.”

tammy 11Vasiliev leaned forward in his chair and placed his arms upon the table.  His massive arms strained against the sleeves of his soft, burgundy, silk smoking jacket.  “So, you are my Vice President of International Affairs, yes?”

Amy nodded.  “Yes.”

“And now, you are here to put in your bid for President, now that Radcliff Delmont has retired, yes?”

Amy swallowed and then nodded.  “Yes, sir.”

“Well, Amy, I do not dine with V-Ps…only Presidents.”  Vasiliev grinned and the light from the chandelier danced across his perfectly veneered teeth.

Amy patted her chest.  “What?!  You mean the position is mine?”

“Yes,” Vasiliev said.  “You’ve earned it.  I would be a fool not to promote the person responsible for a two-hundred and twelve percent increase in our international profits.  If I do not promote you, my rivals will steal you away from me.”

tammy 12Vasiliev laughed and then reached under the table and brought up a long white box.  “Amy, I understand that you are quite the collector of masks.”

“Yes, Vasiliev,” Amy replied.  “I’ve been collecting masks from all over Africa for the past two decades.”

“And I hear there has been one mask, in particular, that you desire, but it has eluded you, yes?”

“Yes, it is called ‘Oya’s Beard’.  It is a rare Yoruba mask that depicts the Goddess Oya with a conical beard.  “It represents women who possess the power of man, as well as woman.”

Vasiliev shoved the box down the table towards Amy.  “I see…open the box, please.”

Amy caught the box as it slid over the edge of the table.  She opened the box and peeked inside.  “Oh, my God!  Vasiliev…I don’t know how to thank you!”

tammy 4She picked up the mask, sighing as she caressed its long, spike-like beard and dark, mahogany face.

Vasiliev pounded his fists on his broad chest.  “That is my thanks to you!  You have done so much for Biochem.  This is just a small token of my appreciation…but, please, tell me…why such a fascination with masks, Amy?”

Amy stared into Vasiliev’s grey eyes.  The time had finally come.  “Paul Lawrence Dunbar said: ‘We wear the mask that grins and lies.’  I collect masks to remind me that there are many masks that we wear and I must never allow one of them to become my face.”

Vasiliev leaned forward again.  “Explain, please.”

“We all wear masks and, many times, we wear them so long and so often that the mask becomes indistinguishable from the person.  The mask has become the face.  Thankfully, mine has not.”

Vasiliev smiled.  “So, what mask do you wear, Amy?”

Amy patted her chest and then ran her hands across her face.  “This is my mask.  Amy Cross.  Conservative…capitalist…loyal to the establishment…an Aunt Tammy.”

Vasiliev’s right hand crept closer to the two-way radio that sat at the corner of the table.  “Continue, please.”

“But my face, Vasiliev, is Esusanya Ogunlana.  Former operative of the OPC – Ododuwa People’s Congress…aunt of Malomo Ogunlana, who was a victim of the Atlanta Child Murders…remember those!?”

Vasiliev grabbed the two-way radio.  Amy hurled the Oya’s Beard mask towards him.  The spiked chin of the mask tore through his esophagus, piercing his spine.

tammy 7The tip of the mask’s chin protruded from the back of Vasiliev’s neck.  His shoulders bounced up and down involuntarily and his legs jerked back and forth in a sardonic tap-dance.  The two-way radio was frozen in Vasiliev’s right hand.  His eyes stared, unblinking, at Amy’s – or Esusanya’s – chest.

Esusanya was a blur as she sprung from her chair and darted across the room until she was directly behind Vasiliev.  She placed her full lips to Vasiliev’s ear and whispered:  “Within the next ninety seconds, you will be dead, so let’s make this brief.  I know you were responsible for the death of my nephew and all those other boys.  I know that you had those boys kidnapped and murdered in order to harvest their melanin and sell it to the highest bidder to use in their tanning lotions, sunblockers and contact lenses.  I know you, Vasiliev Emilianenko…your mask has been removed!”

tammy 9Vasiliev’s eyes rolled back in his head, his body spasmed once…twice…and then slumped forward until his head rested on the dining table.

Esusanya sauntered to the double doors and placed her hands upon the handles.  “I’ll have to soak in Epsom salts after this.”

She then opened the doors to face Yuriko Sakuraba…and a life with no masks.


BECAUSE IT’S TASTIER THAN BACON AND THICKER THAN THREE-DAY OLD GRITS!

BECAUSE IT’S TASTIER THAN BACON AND THICKER THAN THREE-DAY OLD GRITS!

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That’s “Why should you read Steamfunk?” for a thousand dollars, Alex!

While some might argue that nothing is tastier than bacon – Steamfunk is certainly tastier than turkey bacon and, without a doubt, is thicker than three-day old grits.Steamfunk Release 3

See?

Now, I would argue that Steamfunk is much tastier than bacon. Whether you agree or not, however, you must agree that Steamfunk and bacon share some uncanny similarities.

Let’s explore the worldwide love affair with bacon and how it is indicative of the success of Steamfunk:

Why do we love bacon?

According to a recent scientific study, it is due to the Maillard Reaction, a form of nonenzymatic browning, which results from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar. This reaction produces a wide range of molecules that vary in flavor and smell and is what gives us the flavor of toasted bread, roasted coffee, chocolate, caramel and – of course – bacon.

Bacon is made of mostly protein, water and fat. The protein is made up of the building blocks we call amino acids. The fat contains reducing sugars. Get that bacon really hot and the Maillard Reaction starts. And the smell of that sizzling bacon is enough to tempt even the staunchest of vegetarians.

And somehow you know, dear vegetarians…there is something deeper going on inside that sizzling meat. There’s some complex chemistry going on.

Well, the funky goodness that is Steamfunk occurs just like that bacon.

Milt Bal SepiaScientists refer to the phenomenon as the Davis-Ojetade Reaction, a form of creativity and determination born out of a desire to see great Steampunk stories told from an African and African-American perspective (that includes both North and South America, by the way).

After a conversation with other authors online, in which we decided to tell our stories in this fascinating subgenre of science fiction and fantasy called Steampunk and to call such stories Steamfunk, Milton Davis decided to produce an anthology of Steamfunk stories. I came to Milton and offered my services as Co-Editor, extolling my knowledge of Steampunk, my Steamfunk / Steampunk blog and my Steamfunk book. After about five minutes of contemplation, Milton sighed “Okay, you can be Co-Editor.” And followed this with a barely whispered “Damn!”

I think that “Damn!” Was Milton’s way of saying “Oh, happy day,” or something to that effect.

We then posted a call for submissions and received a surprising twenty-one – we didn’t know so many people were interested in telling Steamfunk stories. While all of the stories were incredible, we picked the twelve most funktastic ones and Milton and this author added a story each to this Blacknificent mix.

Marcellus Shane Jackson created some hot artwork and voila…Steamfunk was born.

And somehow you know, dear reader…there is something deeper going on inside that sizzling cover. With such a diverse and talented group of authors, there is some complex chemistry going on.

And the funk created by this thrilling anthology is enough to tempt the staunchest Steampunk and the most reluctant of readers.

But taste for yourself. Pick up a paperback copy of Steamfunk, or grab one for your Kindle or Nook.

You can thank me for all that funky goodness later.

bacon 1

You can also thank some of the other authors – who have graciously joined the blog tour of the anthology – while you’re at it. They are:

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

Ray Dean – Growing up in Hawaii, Ray Dean had the opportunity to enjoy nearly every culture under the sun. The Steamfunk Anthology was an inspiration she couldn’t pass up. Ray can be reached at http://www.raydean.net/.

Malon Edwards – Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Malon Edwards now lives in the Greater Toronto Area. Much of his speculative fiction features people of color and is set in his hometown. Malon can be reached at eastofmars.blogspot.com.

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

Rebecca M. Kyle – With a birthday on Friday 13, it’s only natural that the author is fascinated with myths, legends, and oddities of all kinds. Ms. Kyle lives with her husband, four cats, and more rocks and books than she cares to count between the Smokies and Cumberland mountains. Visit her at http://bexboox13.blogspot.com/.

Carole McDonnell – is a writer of Christian, supernatural, and ethnic stories. Her writings appear in various anthologies, including So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonialism in Science Fiction, edited by Nalo Hopkinson; Jigsaw Nation; and Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: Writings by Mature Women of Color among others. Her reviews appear in print and at various online sites. Her novels are the Christian speculative fiction, Wind Follower, and The Constant Tower. Her Bible study is called: Seeds of Bible Study.   Her website is http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/.

Balogun Ojetade – Author of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steamfunk); “Once Upon A Time in Afrika” (Sword and Soul); “Redeemer” (Urban Fantasy) and the film, “A Single Link” and “Rite of Passage”. Finally, he is Co-Author of “Ki-Khanga: The Anthology” and Co-Editor of “Steamfunk!” Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.

Hannibal Tabu – is a writer, a storyteller, and by god, a fan. He has written the novels, “The Crown: Ascenscion” and “Faraway” and the upcoming scifi political thriller “Rogue Nation.” He is currently the co-owner and editor-in-chief of Black geek website Komplicated at the Good Men Project, and uses his Operative Network website (www.operative.net) to publish his poetry, market what he’s doing, rant at the world and emit strangled cries for help.

Geoffrey Thorne – Geoffrey Thorne has written a lot of stuff in a lot of venues and will be writing more in more. It’s his distinct pleasure to take part in another of these groundbreaking anthologies. Thanks for letting me roll with you folks. For more (and God knows why you’d want more) check out http://www.geoffreythorne.com/.


STEAMFUNK DEBUTS AT ANACHROCON 2013!

STEAMFUNK DEBUTS AT ANACHROCON 2013!

Steamfunk Fly

This is an exciting week for me. The greatest cosmological event of all time, in my humble opinion – my bEARTHday – is February 21. You are all invited to join me in celebration. In honor of that august day (can it be august in February?), complimentary drinks are on me!

Immediately following the celebration of my 25th solar return – that’s right, I said 25th (I am a Fantasy writer, after all) – is the long-awaited release of the Steamfunk anthology!

We will debut Steamfunk at AnachroCon on February 22, 2013. For those who don’t know, AnachroCon is, by their own definition, “the premier place in the Southern United States for people to celebrate Historical Reenacting, Alternate History, Steampunk, Sciences, Horror, Etiquette & Indulgence, Fashion, Fabrication, Literature & Media, Costuming and socialize with people of like minds.” Sounds like fun…and this year, AnachroCon gets fun-ky, as thousands of Steamfunkateers converge upon the convention to witness the unveiling of an anthology chock-full-o’ steamy and funky goodness!

To help us celebrate, the good folks at AnachroCon have given Steamfunk Co-Editor, Milton Davis, a table, where contributing authors to Steamfunk will sign books and hand out free hugs and handshakes. They have also made me a Guest and I will have the pleasure of speaking on a panel or two.

So, come on by and let’s funk up AnachroCon!

Following is a list of Funkateers and their Funktastic contributions to the Steamfunk Anthology:

Ronald T. Jones – Benjamin’s Freedom Magic

Malon Edwards – Mud Holes and Mississippi Mules

Hannibal Tabu – The Sharp Knife of a Short Life

P. Djeli Clark – Men in Black

Geoffrey Thorne – The Tunnel at the End of Light

Ray Dean – A Will of Steel

Kochava Greene – The Refuge

Carole McDonnell – Oh, Western Wind

Rebecca McFarland Kyle – Once a Spider

Josh Reynolds – The Lion Hunters

Melvin Carter – Tough Night in Tommyville

Valjeanne Jeffers – The Switch

Balogun Ojetade – Rite of Passage: Blood and Iron

Milton Davis – The Delivery

Steamfunk Cover

 

 

 


THE STATE OF BLACK SCIENCE FICTION 2013: Countering Negative Images of Blacks in the Media!

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THE STATE OF BLACK SCIENCE FICTION 2013: Countering Negative Images of Blacks in the Media

 

film 18From posters that advertised slaves for sale in the 1500s, to the lumping of Zane’s erotica with Charles Saunders’ Sword and Soul on the same shelf in the bookstore today, there has been an unrelenting, powerfully persuasive and seeming purposeful, effort to promote black inferiority in the media. For every positive image of African-Americans, there are 100 negative stereotypes; sadly, many of them perpetrated by Black people.

Images and words combined are very powerful, and have been used, quite effectively, to convey this whole idea of African-Americans being “less than”; “not as good as”: the myth of Black inferiority.

And the concomitant myth of white superiority.

Black inferiority is a myth that had to be created in order to justify slavery within a democracy. These two contradictions – slavery and democracy – had to be reconciled, and the only thing the good old U.S. of A. could come up with was the declaration and substantiation that slaves were not human.

film 15We must realize that we are not talking about ancient history, either. We have slave narratives that were written in the 1930s. The tragedy and horror of chattel slavery happened only a few generations ago. And the inferiority that was drummed into us through the media – through propaganda – has passed down from generation to generation just like a favorite family recipe.

This sickness must be addressed.

 If you have a malignant tumor, you cannot just wait for it to dissipate. It will not just go away. It will spread. The disease of institutionalized racism in the media has been a cancer that we have hoped would just go into remission, but it has spread and now, the whole planet has bought into these myths.

We have become insensitive or desensitized to the point we are unconscious of what we see, hear and what is going into our minds. We have become a party to our own brainwashing. We have joined in and become our own victimizers.

In the old days, you had white comedians putting on black cork and basically humiliating and ridiculing Black people. Fast-forward a few years, when we were given this illusion called “progress”. Black comedians said to the white comedians “Hey, you don’t have to ridicule and humiliate us, we’ll do it. We’ll take it from here, boss.”

And they took it from there…and carried it straight to Hell.

Film 19Let’s take the use of the word “nigger”, for example; so talked about now because of its use 110 times in the movie Django Unchained. Black comedians took this wicked, destructive word and took ownership of it as if to call ourselves a nigger was empowering, as if it was a term of endearment and still vehemently defend its use to this very day. And no, saying “the N-word” is no better. It is just foolish.

The historian Carter G. Woodson said that African-Americans have been basically conditioned to go around to the back door, and if there is no back door, we will insist on one.

If you can get a Black comedian to show up on a late-night talk show and act the clown, it’s comforting to those people who say, “See they are a happy people. They aren’t angry with us for five hundred years of slavery and oppression.” It is like approaching a dog you have abused, neglected and chained up in your kitchen for a week, thinking “Boy, I sure hope it doesn’t bite.” And if, instead of tearing out your throat, the dog starts wagging its tail, you breathe a sigh of relief and say “Whew, good dog.”

It is a toxic mix – white supremacy, white superiority, and black inferiority.

Why we expect so little of ourselves and of each other

Film 20There are several reasons for this sad and unfortunate truth.

For starters, lower expectations mean fewer disappointments.

We have become comfortable with negative behavior; with poor performance.

Recently, my students and I met at a local, Black-owned vegetarian / vegan restaurant for a meeting. The restaurant, scheduled to open at 11:00am, was closed. It was noon when we arrived. This was not the first time this had happened and I suggested we go somewhere else, but everyone – except yours truly – was set on eating at this place.

Time crept on. 12:30pm…12:45pm…1:00pm.

Finally, at 1:15pm, the owners drove up, walked by us without even a “Hello”, let alone an apology for their extreme lateness, and entered the restaurant.

Film 23My students and I followed. I asked if they had anything already prepared that we could eat and they informed me that they prepare their food daily, so I would have to wait. I informed the owner that we had already been waiting for an hour and that they were supposed to be open at 11:00. The owner shrugged her shoulders and said “We have lives outside of this restaurant. Don’t you have a life outside of your job?”

As a business owner who goes above and beyond to satisfy my students and those who read my books and watch my films, I was shocked and furious. I told my students that I was leaving and would never spend another dime with those fools. My students all said that we need to give Black businesses second, third and forth chances. And that as “conscious” Black folks we must be even more forgiving.

I said “Consciousness has nothing to do with it! We have to demand excellence from Black businesses and cease this acceptance of Black mediocrity or we will remain mediocre!” I then hugged everyone and left. I have never returned to that restaurant. And never will.

Film 26From kindergarten through fourth grade, I attended Sol R. Crown Elementary School in a poor neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. At Crown, being smart and working hard was interpreted as acting white. Because to be smart, was also to be different. And to be different meant that you were trying to be better than those who were not striving.

When I was in kindergarten, one day my class was counting from one, through ten. My voice seemed to stick out from the rest of the group for some reason. The substitute teacher – a Caucasian woman who appeared to be in her early forties and mean as a junkyard dog fed a steady diet of gunpowder and guinea peppers – seemed to notice too and she singled me to count by myself. “Won…too…th-REE…for…” I said, pronouncing the words carefully and correctly, as my mother and sisters taught me. “…fiv…” The students laughed at the way I properly said five. They also laughed at my “nin” and my “tehn”, saying “It ain’t ‘fiv’, it’s ‘fahv’; it’s not ‘nin’, it’s ‘nahn’; and it shol’ ain’t ‘tehn’, it’s ‘tin’.”

I challenged them and said they were “talking country” (“talking country” means to speak in an unsophisticated manner, usually associated with the drawl of the rural American South) and asked the teacher who was right. The teacher told them I was wrong and that the “country” way they said the numbers was the “proper way for your people to say it.”

And no, this was not in Yazoo, Mississippi in the 1800s. It was 1972 in Chicago, Illinois.

In the test tube#4Even today, if a Black person is articulate and does not use slang, some of us will say that person is acting “white”.

The media is directly responsible for this. The perpetuation of stereotypes is always done through print, television, film, radio, music and, now, the internet.

Flip the channel or turn the page and there are the “baby mamas” and “baby daddies” so ubiquitous in common American culture that they become plot points or titles for mainstream comedies and movies.

The syndicated television program Maury, hosted by Maury Povich, is known for its “Who’s Your Daddy?” segments. Much of the content is based on issuing paternity tests to teens and young adults in hopes of determining fatherhood.

Many of Maury’s guests are black, and the sheer number of these cases is damning. Shows like these, along with court television shows that promote the same dysfunction, are very popular.

Millions of viewers are indoctrinated by these images of black family chaos. And we watch these programs like a gory highway car wreck because they involve so many people who look like us.

And we accept and share these perceptions without question, qualm or quarrel.

At a very young age, Black men and women are inundated with messages that they cannot trust or depend upon one other. Children see images of – and hear comments and jokes about – lazy, greedy, irresponsible, or otherwise flawed Black adults.

Black characters have appeared in American films since the beginning of the industry in 1888, but Black actors were not even hired to portray Black people in early works. Instead, white actors and actresses were hired to portray the characters while in “blackface.”

film 16In addition, Black people were purposely portrayed in films with negative stereotypes that reinforced white supremacy over Black people. Since motion pictures have had more of an impact on the public mind than any other entertainment medium in the last ninety years, this has had a tremendous effect on society’s view of Black people.

The media sets the tone for the morals, values, and images of our culture. Many people in this country believe that the degrading stereotypes of Black people are based on reality and not fiction. Everything they believe about us is determined by what they see on television. After over a century of movie making, these horrible stereotypes continue to plague us today, and until negative images of Black people are extinguished from the media, we will be regarded as second-class citizens.

The Solution

Film 22We have not come that far since 1914, when Sam Lucas was the first black actor to have a lead role in a movie for his performance in Uncle Tom’s Cabin

1915 is a significant date in motion picture history because D.W. Griffith released The Birth of a Nation, which supported the Ku Klux Klan and is possibly the most anti-Black film ever made.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) worked very hard to try to ban the film due to its vicious portrayal of Black people as subhuman compared to the glorified Ku Klux Klan. The Birth of a Nation was important because it led to the creation of a new industry that produced “race films” for African-Americans. These films portrayed us in a positive light and addressed many social concerns of the community.

Before “race films,” Black people were nothing more than shuffling, shiny-faced, head-scratching simpletons with bugged out eyes who leaned on brooms and spoke bad English, but after the introduction of “race films,” we were depicted with more dignity and respect.

In order for Black people to ensure that they would have positive roles and stop reinforcing negative stereotypes through film, we had to make our own movies. The same holds true today.

I am asked, quite often, if there is such a thing as a Black Science Fiction movie. Supposing by “Black Science Fiction movie”, they mean a science fiction or fantasy movie that features a Black protagonist and majority Black cast and deals with issues that strongly impact Black people, I tell them that Black Science Fiction movies began in 1939, with the release of Son of Ingagi and that filmmakers continue to make quality Black Science Fiction movies today.

On Thursday, February 7, 2013, we will explore this topic in-depth and present solutions at the Black Science Fiction Film Festival during the panel discussion entitled The State of Black Science Fiction: Countering Negative Images of Blacks in the Media.

This amazing discussion includes:

BALOGUN OJETADE, Co-Moderator

Film 12

film 11Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation.

Balogun 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 and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.

He is author of four novels – MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2) (Steampunk); Redeemer (Science Fiction); Once Upon A Time In Afrika (Sword & Soul) and the Sword and Soul anthology, Ki-Khanga. In February, 2013, Balogun – with Co-Editor Milton Davis – will release the Steamfunk anthology.

Balogun is Master Instructor of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Technical Director of Martial Ministries of America, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth.  He is also a traditional African priest, actor and conflict resolution specialist, who works and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, his seven daughters and his son.

MILTON J. DAVIS, Co-Moderator

film 9

film 10Milton Davis is a chemist by day and a writer/publisher by night and on the weekends. He writes and publishes uplifting science fiction and fantasy stories from an African-American perspective because he feels that there is a lack of positive black characters in the speculative fiction market.

Milton is the author of four novels: Meji Book OneMeji Book TwoChanga’s Safari Vol. 1Changa’s Safari Vol. 2 and two anthologies: Griots: A Sword & Soul Anthology, for which he is a contributing editor, along with sword and sorcery living legend – and founder of the fantasy subgenre, Sword and Soul – Charles R. Saunders and co-author – with Balogun Ojetade – of Ki-Khanga: The Anthology, a book based on Ki-Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game.

A man who wears many hats and wears them well, Milton is producer of the Steamfunk film, Rite of Passage: Initiation, which is based on his short story, Rite of Passage.

In February, 2013, Milton and Balogun team up again, releasing the highly anticipated Steamfunk anthology worldwide.

All of Milton’s works are self-published through his company, MVmedia, LLC.

DONNIE LEAPHEART

film 5

film 6Filmmaker extraordinaire Donnie Leapheart is the award-winning writer, director, producer and editor of the hit web series, Osiris, winner of the coveted Best Web Series award at the prestigious American Black Film Festival.

Osiris  is an independent science fiction thriller with gritty elements of crime fiction, espionage and the supernatural.

Donnie has also edited and / or produced several documentaries and films, including The Walk, starring Eva Marcille (Pigford); the Soul Train Awards; and Paul Mooney’s Jesus is Black-So was Cleopatra-Know Your History.

Donnie creates his films and web series through his production company, Pyramid Pictures.

TERÉSA DOWELL-VEST

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film4Terésa Dowell-Vest is a writer, director, and production designer for the stage and film.

She has taught acting and producing at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Hollywood and was the first Program Director of the African American Heritage Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia.

An accomplished professional photographer and author of poetry, stageplays and short stories, Terésa is the creator of the bestselling book of poetry and reflections, Hot Sauce & Honey and the coffee table book, The Box 69: A Photo Blog Series…a Photographic Chronicle in Verse, Song, and Crayons.

She is the writer, director and producer of Genesis: New American Superheroes, a feature film that is now in production and that is to soon cross-over into a series of novels and a video game.

Terésa can be reached at Diva Blue’s Blog.

TOMMY BOTTOMS

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film 2Tommy Bottoms, an Indiana native who now resides in Atlanta, GA, is a cultural and media critic as well as an HBO Def Poetry Jam alum. His 10 year career in spoken word and writing has garnered him critical acclaim in poetry and academia circles from Los Angeles to London. Because of Tommy’s ability to dissect complex topics in a witty and frank manner, he has been invited to speak at various universities around the country, including Penn State Law School and Harvard University.

His The Tommy Bottoms Report provides breaking news and in-depth analysis of politics and culture from an urban perspective.

Tommy is producer of the popular web series, Eternal, appropriately described as True Blood meets The Wire.

Tommy can be reached at tommy.bottoms.7@facebook.com or on Twitter @eternaltheshow.

LARON AUSTIN

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film 8LaRon Austin is the director of the acclaimed music documentary Beat Makers and the hit feature film Step Off, from Lionsgate Films.

LaRon’s feature film, blackhats – an action-packed science fiction thriller, already described by many as “an indie mini-blockbuster” – is slated for an early 2013 release.

LaRon can be reached at http://blackhatsmovie.blogspot.com/.

 

So, walk, crawl, bicycle, or rent a blimp…whatever it takes to make it out to the Black Science Fiction Film Festival at GA-Tech. You do not want to miss this!

 

 


IT’S STILL DARK AT TWILIGHT: Scrubbing off the Whitewash of Urban Fantasy!

whitewash 9

IT’S STILL DARK AT TWILIGHT: Scrubbing off the Whitewash of Urban Fantasy!

whitewash 2Whitewashing is the practice in which an author, filmmaker, artist or fan takes a character who is originally of color in literature and / or film and replaces them with a white character, actor, or model, or a person who looks “more white”, in order to appeal to the white masses.

Whitewashing is also used to describe the entertainment industry’s erasure of People of Color from history and / or specific locales.

This practice is extremely prevalent in Urban Fantasy.

Fans of Urban Fantasy often give the excuse that because most Urban Fantasy is set in a rural town, the percentage of People of Color who populate those towns is so insignificant that inclusion of them is pointless and even unrealistic.

This would almost make sense if the problematic subgenre was Rural Fantasy. The issue at hand, however, is Urban Fantasy.

Human settlements are classified as rural or urban depending on the density of human-created structures and resident people in a particular area. Urban areas can include towns and cities while rural areas include villages and hamlets.

whitewash 3Rural areas are settled places outside towns and cities, that often develop randomly on the basis of natural vegetation and fauna available in a region. They can have an agricultural feel to them – think the village in Children of the Corn, or Mayberry, with Andy, Otis, Opie, Barney and Gomer Pyle all gathered at Floyd Lawson’s Barbershop enjoying Aunt Bee’s apple pie.

whitewash 4Unlike rural areas, urban settlements are defined by their advanced civic amenities, opportunities for education, facilities for transport, business and social interaction and overall better standard of living. Socio-cultural statistics are usually based on an urban population – think Chicago, Atlanta and New York City.

So, why in the hell would Urban Fantasy be chiefly set in a Mayberry, when it clearly should be set in Chi-Town? We should change the subgenre of these stories to Rural Fantasy. Believe me; the complaints of whitewashing would end then; especially from me, because I would never bother to pick one of those books up.

Now before one of you fanboys rants about Jim Butcher setting his Harry Dresden books in Chicago, let’s explore this fact a bit deeper.

Yes, both Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden Series and Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires, are set in “Chicago”. This is obviously a very different Windy City from where I grew up and spent most of my life, however, because my Chicago is only 40% white. Yet Butcher’s and Neill’s Chicago’s are about 99% white. It’s like they took big bottles of White-Out and went berserk. Their works are, most certainly, about as fantastical as writing can get, perhaps even farcical. But Urban? Nah.

whitewash 6Speculative fiction author Maurice Broaddus, in his article entitled Putting the Urban in Urban Fantasy, says:

“About a year ago, Jim Butcher’s Twitter feed erupted into a bit of a kerfuffle about the whitewashing of urban fantasy.  Apparently folks were bent out of shape by his depiction of Chicago, essentially whitewashing it as his Chicago comes up a bit short on the amount of black folks (or other people of color) living there.  Frankly, I wasn’t too bent out of shape over this as somehow every week people used to tune into Friends who lived in a New York remarkably bereft of black folks.  It’s to the point where I go into an urban fantasy expecting not to encounter minority characters other than in a ‘magical Negro’-type capacity.”

He goes on to say:

“There are more stories to tell in urban fiction than Boyz N the Hood or Menace II Society or baby mama dramas.  Just as there are more characters to write about in urban fantasy whose stories aren’t as often told or voices always expressed.  With the legends of the Green Knight, Red Knight, and Black Knight (in each of the books, respectively), Tristan and Isolde, trolls, zombies, a dragon, elven assassins, Red Caps, griffins, gangstas, and thug life tossed in, I guess I’m putting the “urban” in urban fantasy.  This isn’t your father’s King Arthur tale, but it is mine.”

No Rural Fantasy with Maurice Broaddus’ Knights of Breton Court series. This magnificent series is pure Urban Fantasy at its very best.

whitewash 7Come on, y’all…if you write a story and set it in a place like Broaddus’ Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, London, or Las Vegas, basic demographic research will indicate the presence of People of Color.  To read and enjoy Urban Fantasy, I am expected to just accept that Black people don’t exist? You get the side-eye for that one.

Whether or not you like Urban Fantasy, the fact of the matter is that this subgenre of Fantasy has had an immense and global impact on people through literature, television and film. 

It is because of this impact that we cannot ignore the messages that Urban Fantasy brings. Each time an author of this subgenre decides to tell a story, instead of working so hard to erase People of Color out of existence, they should work just as hard to erase the problems that plague our society. And fanboys…do not say that writers should not have to be political; that they should be free to write merely to entertain. Every statement we make is political. Every sentence we write is potentially life-changing for someone. Such is the power of the word.

You cannot truly change culture without literature. We can pass a thousand laws saying that racism and sexism are wrong. We can make a thousand impassioned speeches to rouse the marginalized masses; but if everyone returns home after those speeches and sits down to read the latest installment of Twilight, or watch the next episode of The Vampire Diaries and their fictional worlds in which those same marginalized masses barely even exist – then how much change can truly be affected?

It is within the pages of books and under the light of the TV screen where we will reach people and change the world for the better…or worse.

whitewash 8Over and over again, we are told that our stories aren’t worth being told. We do not get to be the heroes. We are never “the one destined to come since man was young upon the earth”. If we are lucky, we get to be the “magical negro”; the “noble savage”; the sidekick; the Black person who doesn’t die in the first ten minutes of the film.

This is damaging to the psyches of People of Color. And a devastating blow to the self-esteem of our babies.

So, don’t tell me writers just write to merely entertain, when entertainment has such a powerful, deep and lasting impression on the minds of us all.

RedeemerThis is why Black speculative fiction is so important. In my own work of Urban Fantasy, Redeemer, the hero, Ezekiel Cross, is a Black man from an Atlanta of the future who is used in an experiment that transports him to an Atlanta of the past – our present. This Atlanta is a gritty, real Atlanta in which intelligent and powerful Black people – both good and bad – exist.

Redeemer is witty, thrilling and, sometimes, frightening Urban Fantasy that I have always wanted to read; with heroes I have always wanted to see.

Will it change the world? Maybe…give it a read and let me know.


THE STATE OF STEAMFUNK!

State of Steamfunk

State of Steamfunk 1The coming launch of the Steamfunk! anthology in February is causing quite a stir worldwide. With over 100,000 words of Steamy goodness, this anthology is sure to live up to – and exceed – everyone’s expectations.

We were fortunate enough to sit down with one of the contributing authors and one of the Co-Editors of the Steamfunk! anthology recently and discuss the state of the book, other exciting upcoming Steamfunk projects, Steamfunk’s relationship to – and differences from – Steampunk and much more.

So, grab a cup of chai, a shot of absinthe, or a .40 ounce of “Olde E.” and then sit back, relax and enjoy as we discuss…

The State of Steamfunk!

AUTHOR VALJEANNE JEFFERS DISCUSSES THE STATE OF STEAMFUNK!

State of Steamfunk 3Valjeanne Jeffers, author of the erotic horror series, Immortal and the Steamfunk novel, The Switch II: Clockwork, sat down with us and gave us her thoughts on the present state of Steampunk and Steamfunk and where she sees the Steamfunk movement headed.

Valjeanne’s fiction has appeared in Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Possibilties, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, Griots II: Sisters of the Spear (in press), and Steamfunk! (releases February, 2013). She works as an editor for Mocha Memoirs Press and is also co-owner of Q and V Affordable editing.

She blogs regularly at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com. 

Let’s get right to it, Sister Valjeanne. What is Steampunk? What is Steamfunk? Do they differ in any way other than Steamfunk having Black heroes?

State of Steamfunk 2Steampunk is a SF sub-genre that usually features steam-powered machinery and is often set in the 19th century, such as the British Victorian era, American Wild West, or post-apocalyptic future worlds. Think Jules Vern and H.G. Wells, and the flicks Time After Time and Sherlock Holmes. Steamfunk features many of these same settings but it comes out of the Black experience. This may seem like a small divergence, but it entails a great deal more than simply sticking People of Color between the pages. It is Earth shaking… or perhaps I should say Earth building.

Is there a need for a subgenre separate from Steampunk?

Most definitely! Within this new genre we are witnessing the birth of worlds in which Black folks and that which moves us reign supreme. In short, Steamfunk is just as different from Steampunk as Black Science Fiction is from White science fiction. Imagine a Steamfunk hood, an antebellum South in which abolitionists fly airships. Or, as in my novel, Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds, folks living in a post-apocalyptic, steam-world with meta-humans…policed by androids. Now imagine each of these worlds predominated by folks of color: worlds in which Black, Native American, Latino, and Asian folks are not sidekicks but heroines, heroes and villains. That’s what Steamfunk is.

Well said! So, tell us a bit about the Steamfunk anthology. What is it? What was your involvement in it? And when and where can we get it?

Valjeanne 1The Steamfunk! Anthology is an exciting collection of stories written by authors with a Black and/or POC cultural worldview. My short story, The Switch (which is actually included in The Switch II: Clockwork) has been published in Steamfunk!. The Switch is an erotic, futuristic thriller set in “Tyrol,” a world divided into two realms: an ultra-modern, wealthy upper-city and an oppressed steam-powered underground.

The Switch has been very well-received. It just got an outstanding review in The Spelman Messenger, Fall 2012 Issue. I’m thrilled to also be a part in this dynamite anthology! Steamfunk! hasn’t hit the shelves yet, but it will be released [during AnachroCon on February 22, 2013 and] at The Steamfunk Mystery Dinner Party on February 23, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. Readers can pick up the first copies of Steamfunk! at this release party.

These are very exciting times for Steamfunk! Have there been any Steamfunk events you have participated in, or that you can tell us about? Are any events coming soon?

As of yet, I haven’t attended any Steamfunk events. But I do plan to attend the Steamfunk Mystery Dinner Party in full-steam attire! I’m also one of the contributing authors of the Alabama Phoenix Festival, a celebration of SF art, films, comics and novels. This event is scheduled for May 2013.

After the highly anticipated release of the Steamfunk anthology, where do you see Steamfunk going in 2013? What other Steamfunk projects do you have in the works?

This is a fresh new genre, and there’s so much speculative ground that can be tapped into! I envision many more SF offerings emerging from this groovy space. I have another novel in the works, Mona Livelong, set in an alternate 1970s steam-world. I plan to drop Mona Livelong later this year, but I’ll be posting sneak peeks right up until its release. In closing, I’d like to thank the extraordinary author Balogun Ojetade for interviewing me. Long live Steamfunk!

Thank you, Valjeanne Jeffers, for a Blacktastic interview! Long live Steamfunk, indeed!

 

DISCUSSING THE STATE OF STEAMFUNK WITH AUTHOR MILTON J. DAVIS!

Author Milton J. DavisA regular contributor to Chronicles of Harriet, author Milton J. Davis sat down with us once again and gave us his insight on the present state of Steampunk and Steamfunk and the future of both magnificent movements.

Milton is CEO of MVmedia, producer of the Steamfunk film, Rite of Passage: Initiation and author / publisher of six books of Black Speculative Fiction.

Milton is a chemist by day and a writer / publisher by night and on the weekends. All of his works are self-published through his company, MVmedia, LLC.

Let’s get right into this informative and engaging interview with Milton J. Davis, author, publisher, scientist, historian and educator.

Inquiring minds want to know, Milton…what is Steampunk and just what is Steamfunk? Do they differ in any way other than Steamfunk having Black heroes?

I’m still trying to answer the first question. I look at steampunk from a technical and historical aspect. Technically it’s imaging a past and a future where the major technology is steam based. From a historical standpoint its culture, morals and customs are based on Victorian sensibilities. Steamfunk is dealing with the same era and technology in terms of the experiences of people of color, mainly African and those of the African Diaspora. The way it differs from just having black heroes is that a steamfunk story centers on the experiences of our ancestors who lived during the Victorian Age.

Is there a need for a subgenre separate from Steampunk?

RITE OF PASSAGE POSTER 1I think so. I believe in order to give free expression to our viewpoint you need a genre that allows it. Knowing who your audience is frees you to tell stories that may not be accepted by others in the broader genre.

Tell us a bit about the Steamfunk anthology. What is it? What was your involvement in it? And when and where can we get it?

The idea for the Steamfunk! anthology sprang from a conversation I was involved in with a number of other writers. We were discussing steampunk and how people of African descent were under-represented.  Many of the writers were interested in doing steampunk stories based on our culture and traditions so I said, let’s do an anthology. Balogun Ojetade agreed to join me as co-editor so here we are. Steamfunk! will make its debut February 22, 2013 at AnachroCon. It will be available afterwards on my website, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online book sources.

Have there been any Steamfunk events you have participated in, or that you can tell us about? Are any events coming soon?

STEAMFUNK PANEL.wmv_000107841I participated in the Mahogany Masquerade Film Festival and panel discussion during Alien Encounters, which was a well-received event. As mentioned earlier, I’ll be participating at AnachroCon in February as well. In addition to AnachroCon I’ll also be participating at the Steamfunk Mystery Dinner Party on February 23rd.

After the highly anticipated release of the Steamfunk anthology, where do you see Steamfunk going in 2013? What other Steamfunk projects do you have in the works?

I hope to see it expand. Hopefully other writers and readers will see the possibilities and share their own interpretations. As for me, I have a couple of novel projects planned that are set in my alternate history steampunk country of Freedonia: From Here to Timbuktu, an action adventure novel and Unrequited, an action romance series. After that, who knows?

We thank you, Milton Davis, for another great interview and we look forward to all of those great works of Steamfunk on the horizon!

 

 


REDEEMER: Glitch Part 3

glitch 36

Redeemer

We now continue the celebration of the release of my latest Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, with Part 3 of Redeemer: Glitch, the episodic short story based on the book. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.

So, sit back and enjoy the finale (perhaps) of Redeemer: Glitch!

REDEEMER: Glitch Part 3

Glitch: A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag

glitch 33Z strolled down Abernathy Boulevard, past the old men hanging out in front of the West End Mall to ogle scantily clad girls as they passed by; past the men and women selling incense, fragrant oils and books on the Prison Industrial Complex or the Mayan Apocalypse. He strolled past them all, seen, but unnoticed, just as Norm had taught him to be.

Unnoticed, that is, except by one. One who remained unnoticed and unseen by all, stepping in and out of shadow as he traced Z’s every step.

Z stopped at the door of a three-story office building nestled between a swanky vegetarian restaurant and a natural hair salon. The sign on the door read ‘Carver Recording & Film Studios’.

Z stepped through the door, drawing his pistol from inside his Enyce vest. The pitol’s silencer reflected the light from the chandelier which hung over the security desk. He squeezed the trigger twice.

The first guard slumped in his chair.  A torrent of blood rushed gushed from a hole in his neck. Within seconds, his starched, white uniform shirt was a deep burgundy.

glitch 38The second guard collapsed to the floor as blood and tissue erupted from his back. A wisp of smoke rose from the hole in his black security officer’s shirt as he convulsed erratically. A moment later, he lay still.

Z sauntered to the elevator, pressed the button and waited.

The elevator door slid open. Z turned his back to the elevator, admiring his handiwork as he stepped into it. The elevator came to a smooth stop on the third floor. The door opened and Z stepped out of it into the hallway. The skylights that ran the length of the hallway’s ceiling bathed the corridor in the warmth and light of the noonday sun.

Z perused the numbers on the studio and office doors, stopping at ‘Studio 9’, from which emanated the din of southern gangster rap music, laughter and firm commands. Z recognized one of the commands belonging to the voice of Virginia Carver. He had found at least one of his targets.

Z raised his pistol before him. He then took half a step back from the door, inhaled deeply and then drove the heel of his foot toward the doorknob.

His heel crashed into the door, just below the knob. The door frame shattered and the door flew open. Z rushed in, squeezing off a volley of rounds from his pistol.

glitch 44The Carver Twins’ bodyguards, Manny and Steve, threw their bodies in front of their bosses, as Z had hoped – he did not want to have to face these two killers and the twins – and were caught in a hail storm of searing lead. Round after round tore into their flesh, rending tissue, bone and vital organs. The big men fell, soiling the hardwood flooring with entrails and gore.

The rapper Point Blank dropped to his haunches in the recording booth, thrusting his head between his legs.

Virginia Carver darted forward, closing on Z with fearsome speed and ferocity. Her hands wrapped around his pistol, as she pushed her arms high above her head. A round exploded from the gun, lodging in the ceiling.

Z tried to pull the trigger again, but Virginia held the pistol’s slide firmly in place and the gun would not fire.

Virginia jerked the weapon downward.

Z’s index finger, caught in the trigger guard, made a sickening snap as it bent sideways at an impossible angle. Z dropped to his knees, releasing the pistol.

Virginia thrust her knee forward, driving the air out of Z’s lungs as the powerful knee strike collided with his solar plexus.

Z tried to crawl away, but a heavy, leather boot came crashing down on his left hand, crushing the small bones and pinning it to the floor.

Z screamed in agony as he looked up into Virgil’s smiling face.

“Where are you running to, boy?” Virgil snickered. “”Don’t you have some killing to do?”

“This is one of Sweet’s boys,” Virginia said.

The hammer of Z’s pistol clicked as Virginia cocked it. “We’re gonna send what’s left of your head to Sweet. The rest of you, I’m gonna keep on display in pickle jars in my pool-house.”

Virginia aimed the pistol at Z’s forehead. A loud boom rocked the studio.

Blood and brain splashed onto Z’s face.

A second boom. More blood and brain rained on the floor before the teen.

Z scurried across the floor, slipping in blood and bits of flesh.

The headless bodies of the twins collapsed onto the floor with dull thuds.

Z reached out toward his pistol. With shaky fingers, he snatched it off the floor and raised it toward the entrance. There was no one there.

“Put the gun down, Z.”

glitch 45Z leapt to his feet, aiming his pistol toward the source of the rich, baritone voice. Standing before him was a tall, athletically built man holding a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun on his shoulder. Although Z had never seen him before, the man looked strangely familiar.

“Who the hell are you?” Z inquired. “How do you know my name?”

“You’re welcome,” the man replied.

“Thanks,” Z said, keeping his gun aimed at the man. “Now, who the hell are you?”

“My name’s Ezekiel,” the man answered. “Ezekiel Cross.”

“Bullshit!” Z shouted, struggling to ignore the intense pain gnawing at both hands.

“Naw, boy, that’s real shit,” the man said. “As real as the shock you’re gonna go into if we don’t get those hands taken care of.”

A wave of nausea washed over Z. The pistol fell from his shaky fingers and he collapsed against the mixing board. Ezekiel ran to Z and placed a powerful arm around the boy’s waist. “We have to get out of here. I’ll explain everything later.

Z nodded. Ezekiel sat Z in a chair and retrieved the boy’s gun. He tucked the weapon into the holster sewn into the interior of Z’s vest and then helped him to his feet. The duo crept out of the office and into the sunlit hallway.

“I can walk now,” Z said.

“You sure?” Ezekiel asked.

“Positive,” Z answered.

Ezekiel let him go. Z stood wide-legged, remaining still until he was sure that his balance would not fail him. He then sauntered down the hall toward the elevator with Ezekiel on his heels.

A low “ding” came from the elevator and the door slowly slid open.

Ezekiel raised his shotgun, holding it at the ready. Z took a few steps backward until he was standing a couple of feet behind Ezekiel.

glitch 41An immaculately dressed, elderly man stepped off the elevator and stood before the elevator door, offering only his profile to Z and Ezekiel. The man was tall, but his spiky, grey afro made him appear even taller. His full, grey beard seemed to glow against his mahogany skin and his frame, though covered in a tailored grey suit, was obviously athletic, despite his age.

“Oh, no,” Ezekiel gasped.

“What? Who is that?” Z asked.

“He’s called Paradox,” Ezekiel whispered. When a time traveler changes history, Paradox comes and fixes it back.”

“Man…what? Paradox?” Z said, shaking his head.

“That’s Grandfather Paradox to you,” the elderly man said. “Always respect your elders, boy.”

“What do you want, old man?” Z inquired.

“You,” Paradox replied. He turned his head slowly toward Z, revealing a wide grin.

Fire erupted from the muzzle of Ezekiel’s shotgun.

Paradox was thrown onto his back as a sabot shotgun slug blew a chasm in his chest.

“Run!” Ezekiel shouted.

Z did not move. “Run? You just ghosted that old nigga!”

“Damn, I do not recall being this stupid!” Ezekiel spat. “Now, we’ve got to fight this thing.”

“Man, I appreciate you saving me and all,” Z said, approaching Paradox’s body. “But you are straight cray-cray, for real!”

“Cray-cray?” Ezekiel asked.

“That means you take crazy to a whole ‘nother level,” Z said. If you really believe you’re…”

The words grew heavy in Z’s throat as he watched Paradox sit up on his haunches. “The hell?” The teen gasped.

glitch 43Paradox rose to its feet. It raised its head toward the ceiling and let loose a roar that sent a chill clawing its way up Z’s spine. The creature shifted…changed. Tendon, sinew and bone popped and crackled as they changed shape and function.  The Grandfather Paradox was no longer a sophisticated, athletic elderly gentleman; it was now gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin was pulled tautly over its bones and its complexion was now the pallid, ash-gray of death. Strange runes and raised patterns traversed the creature’s flesh. Its eyes were pushed back deep into their sockets, what lips remained were tattered and bloody and the monster gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition; of death and destruction; of disease, sickness and shit.

Z whirled on his heels and took off. The Grandfather Paradox exploded forward, sprinting on all fours, hot on Z’s heels.

Now, you run?” Ezekiel sighed.

Ezekiel squeezed the trigger of his shotgun.

The creature fell over on its side as its forearm was blown from its elbow.

Ezekiel squeezed the trigger once more. The shotgun roared.

Paradox’s head exploded, its oily, black ichor painting the walls and floor.

glitch 46Z darted out of the emergency door. Ezekiel followed.

“Keep going,” Ezekiel shouted. “That thing will be back at us in a few minutes!”

Ezekiel and Z reached the main floor. They ran through the door and into the lobby, continuing on, sprinting past the corpses of the pair of security guards.

“My car is parked around the corner…to your left,” Ezekiel said.

The duo ran out of the building and onto Abernathy Boulevard. Almost in unison, they reduced their speed to a brisk walk, so as to not attract too much attention.

“Time travelers…old men turning into monsters…what the hell is really going on, shawty?” Z inquired.

“Welcome to my world, kid,” Z sighed. “Welcome to my world.”


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