Steamfunk * Steampunk * Sword & Soul

Fantasy

THE BUTLER / BANKS BOOK TOUR, AKA THE FRESH FEST OF AFROFUTURISM PRESENTS CAROLE MCDONNELL!

Wind Follower

The Butler / Banks Book Tour, aka the Fresh Fest of Afrofuturism, is now in its second week and still going strong!

Carole McDonnellToday’s featured author on the tour is none other than the renowned Carole McDonnell.

Carole is a book and film reviewer, whose reviews have appeared in some of the following: The Peekskill Herald, The Quarterly Black Review of Books, Christian Spotlight on the Movies, Christian Spotlight on Video Games, http://www.blogcritics.com, curledup.com, compulsivereader.com, and the fantastic stories website.

Her short stories have appeared in various anthologies, such as So Long Been Dreaming; Fantastical Visions III; Jigsaw Nation; Fantastic Stories of the Imagination; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Griots: Sisters of the Spear and the Steamfunk! anthology. Her stories have placed in contests such as New Mass Media, Westchester Weekly and the Annual Contemporary Western Fiction Contest.

Wind Follower Her novels include The Constant Tower and Wind Follower. She is also author of the bestselling collection of short stories, Spirit Fruit.

Carole moved from Jamaica to the United States when she was eleven and lived in Brooklyn until she was seventeen, she then attended SUNY Purchase, graduating in 1981. She is married with two children.

 

Below is one of her short stories. Enjoy!

This is How You Make a World

To the left was a small planet, gray, apparently lifeless, about one eighth the size of the destroyed, forsaken earth. To the right, about three million kilometers from Searcher 871, was a large planet, green, blue and gold, reminiscent of the old earth — but eight time its size— populated by humans with various stages of civilization development.  The Searcher had stopped in between both planets, equidistant from both. Inside, its aging inhabitant debated the pros and cons of the terraforming the smaller planet or sending their children into the populated world.

Terraforming would take six months. Not long, considering the ship’s inhabitants had been in space for eight years, since the blighted earth had died.

But the artificially created air, food, light, was already taking its toll on the children. The damaged children, children born with limited mental and emotional and physical abilities because of the tainted foods, pharmas, and air of the old earth. Their parents too were fading, on their last legs — as the old earth maxim went.

But the other planet, the one that shone like a big aqua marble in the dark sky presented other problems. True, its inhabitants had their share of petty wars. But, as far as the aged navigators could tell, chances of atomic bombs and other damages wrought by science were not little. The planet was large, resources varied and many, and tribes — who were as varied as those in the craft— were scattered across the planet. The travelers of Searcher 871 could place their damaged children in a small wood — a natural Eden, if possible— and the children and their future descendants would not be found for hundreds of years to come.  But there were fears and questions, especially among the darker-skinned inhabitants of the craft, about conquest and racial discrimination. The humanoid inhabitants of the planet had features the earthers did not have, and vice versa.

Both planets were the first they had encountered that could take on human life, their shared sun life-giving and rare for human life.

“I choose to terraform the asteroid,” Lily, the African-American woman navigator said.

“Why put our children in a world that will challenge them? We have the skill to make the asteroid suitable for them and their needs.”

“A whole year?” Denny, the Irish Captain replied. “Can they survive? Can any of us survive that long? And if we terra-form, won’t we be using up our resources even more? Our ability to recycle the air, the food, will be taxed.”

There were eighteen adults of all races, of pleasant enough dispositions. They knew how to accommodate themselves to others and to the world. Before the earth died, most parents — those who were actually fertile— had children who were “damaged” and labeled as mentally “limited” or “developmentally slow.” Yet, these children were viewed as a blessing because children themselves were so rare. The year the earth died, ten thousand ships had departed the earth, each with about five hundred crew members. Over the years, most of the crew of 871 had died, or gone stir crazy and suicidal (another American earth phrase.)  It had been difficult to explain the deaths to the children — who were both young and “limited.” But the crew had managed, telling the children that the dead crew members had really gone to worlds along the way. The children — if they missed the dead at all— believed the crew’s protective lies. But now, as the remaining elders looked at each other’s wrinkled faces and at the faces of their children, they knew their limits. Death would come soon. Puberty would appear.

Lily often wondered if puberty would be natural. Would the children “know” what to do? Would “nature” take its course? Some of the children were astute enough to understand many things. They would share their knowledge no doubt. Others could barely feed themselves. But these are the last of Earth humanoids, Lily thought. Unless some others have survived,  we are all that’s left. And even if others have survived, aren’t their children as wounded and “limited” as ours?

As the old travelers looked on their children, they could only come to the decision that terraforming might take a year, but their children would not survive in a world that was not specifically meant for them. Terraforming it had to be. The year went by. No longer did they see the stars passing past them (or vice versa.) No longer did they use the great craft’s power to move forward. All its energies were used to create a perfect land for their children. During that year, five of the eighteen parents died. But their children lived and were taken care of by the others. And each day, the planet took on its form.

A great dome was built around the planet — the laser technology creating a new atmosphere. The ice at the poles farthest from the sun were melted and pushed toward the equator where lakes —not deeper than a man’s foot, not wider than a mile—were built. The seeds of non-genetically-modified non-poisonous plants, the frozen larvae of insects and embryos of animals that would bow to humans were planted in green forests, cold artic poles, and deserts.

At last, the day came when the parents landed their craft on the new world. Some eighty children exited the craft. Lame, halt, mute, mentally limited — a joyous kind new breed of humans, incapable of hatred or pettiness. It was not known if the damage to their bodies and minds was mutagenic. Nor was Lily sure how long she and the old ones would live in that world. The children sat on the grass in front of her — their minds not really focused on the sex video she was showing them. But how could they focus? They had never seen a lake before, or little bunny rabbits, or sheep or bees before.

But Lily stood there and pointed to the dolls, then at the sex video. “This,” she said, hoping some would understand and would teach the others, “This is how you make a world.”

THE END

You can find more of Carole’s work in the following spots:

Her Website: http://www.carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/

Her Author’s Page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Carole-McDonnell/e/B0034Q3BWG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

At her publisher’s website: http://www.wildsidebooks.com/The-Constant-Tower-by-Carole-McDonnell-trade-pb_p_10772.html


RETURN OF THE TWINJAS! Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa: Diversify Your Steampunk

DIeselfunk

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

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

Now, the Twinjas have returned with their brilliant Diversify Your Steampunk series. I’m a participant in the series, reppin’ Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa and there are others before me with some fantastic stuff, too, so after you read this post, hop on over to the Twinja’s website and indulge.

Thank me later.

I have reposted my contribution to the series below for your reading pleasure:

 

Diversify Your Steampunk Day 5: Welcome Back Balogun Ojetade

During our month of highlighting diversity back in December of 2013, we introduced our audience to Balogun Ojetade for the first time. Clearly with his followong he doesnt need to be introduced, but we couldnt think of a more deserving candidate to end our first week of Diversifying our Steampunk. 


1. You’ve been here before, so while we don’t require an introduction, our new followers do! What can you tell us about yourself the person, the author and the steampunk innovator?

Balogun OjetadeMy name is Balogun Ojetade. Although my name  is Yoruba, I am descended from the Ateke people of Gabon and the Seminole Nation of the Southeastern United States. I am a husband, father of eight children – seven girls and one boy – and I am also a grandfather twice over.

I am author of six novels, one non-fiction book, several articles and short stories I wrote are in anthologies and magazines and I am contributing co-editor of two anthologies. I am also a filmmaker and fight choreographer and I have created two short films and two feature films and choreographed three films, thus far.

As far as Steampunk innovation goes, I am one of the founders of the Steamfunk Movement. Steamfunk is Black / African-inspired Steampunk. We tell the stories that had previously gone untold – the stories about the Black heroes in the Age of Steam. We have done the same with Dieselpunk, which we call Dieselfunk and with Rococo, which we call Rococoa.

2. Since we’re asking everyone involved, we have to know. Why Steampunk? Was there something that drew you to this particular sub genre of science fiction? Have you always been a fan of steampunk? What draws you to steampunk? How do you define steampunk?

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet TubmanStarting at the age of two, I was sat at the foot of my mother and encouraged to watch one of her favorite television shows – The Wild, Wild West. For those familiar with the show, you know that it was Steampunk before the word Steampunk existed. I fell in love with that show and its anachronisms and I vowed that one day I would write something in that genre, but with heroes who looked like me.

I have always been a fan of retrofuturism, however, when I wrote Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, which is recognized as the first Steamfunk novel, I had never heard of Steampunk. When my publisher wrote me and said I had written a great Steampunk story, I Googled it and discovered what Steampunk is. I turned to my wife and said “Finally, I have a name for what I have been writing all my life.”

It’s funny you called Steampunk ‘Science Fiction’ – and for many people, that is what it is, However, my expression of Steampunk would be closer to Science Fantasy. I include strong elements of magic, African spirituality and the supernatural in my works of Steamfunk. 

I define Steamfunk as retrofuturistic Science Fiction or Fantasy set in the Age of Steam. This age could be set in the Victorian Period of 1837 to 1901, or in Ancient Africa. It doesn’t matter when or where to me, as long as the dominant technology is steam power, or perhaps, the Lumineferous Aether.

3. Steampunk over the years has become so synonymous with the Victorian era, many will not wrap their heads around a non-European setting. You’re pretty much one of the innovators of a sub genre you crafted yourself. “SteamFunk.” What was the story behind Steamfunk? Why did you deem it necessary to the steampunk world?

Harriet TubmanThe Steamfunk Movement started as a conversation on a social media website in which several Black authors expressed their appreciation for Steampunk, but were disappointed in its lack of stories featuring Black heroes and its near-absence of Black people involved in Steampunk cosplay or any other aspects of the genre. I had already been writing Steampunk, as had another author Maurice Broaddus, who had written a short story entitled Pimp My Airship, but we all came to the conclusion that we would all begin to write Steampunk from a Black perspective. Maurice said “well I call the Steampunk that I write Steamfunk.” We all agreed that was the perfect name for our brand of Steampunk and that is how we came to call our work Steamfunk. 

As far as the Steamfunk Movement is concerned, I decided that we needed to bring Steamfunk to the forefront of speculative fiction and to make Steampunk known to the general Black population, who knew very little of the genre if anything at all, so I started my Chronicles of Harriet blog and began educating Black people about Steampunk and educating the world about Steamfunk.

Steamfunk is necessary because our stories deserve to be told; our voices need to be heard. And honestly, before Steamfunk, very few Black people had any interest in Steampunk. Most Black people thought it was a “whites only” thing, or that it was just corny. We showed them that you can get funky with it; that Steamfunk is exciting, fun and cool.

4. What music puts you in the mood to write for SteamFunk? If you had a soundtrack for “The Chronicles of Harriet” what would make the cut?

I have very eclectic tastes in music. I listen to everything from classical music to Zydeco to Jazz to Hip-Hop. When I write Steamfunk, however, I usually listen to the music of Ennio Morricone, who is famous for scoring spaghetti westerns such as The Good, the Bad and the UglyHigh Plains Drifter and A Fist Full of Dollars

If I had a Soundtrack for Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, it would include: Bound to Ride and Till My Last Shot by Gangstagrass; Snowden’s Jig, by Carolina Chocolate Drops; the Prison song Early in the Mornin’; Ennio Morricone’s L’Estasi Dell’oro (“The Ecstasy of Gold”) and Il Buono, Il Cattivo, Il Bruto (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”); and the Buck and the Preacher Theme, by Benny Carter.

5. What is the future of SteamFunk for you? Do you have other SteamFunk works in your head? Do you plan on making any other historically famous women of color leading ladies? 

The future of Steamfunk for me is in film and the final novel in the Chronicles of Harriet series. I will be releasing the Rococoa novel, Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises at the end of this year and I have already released the Dieselfunk novel, The Scythe this year. Stagecoach Mary Fields is already a co-star in the Chronicles of Harriet series and I have been contemplating writing a novel with her as the lead protagonist. We’ll see.

As far as film and Steamfunk, Rite of Passage, the first Steamfunk feature film, premieres May 8th in Los Angeles. I am also writing a Steamfunk film based on my short story Nandi that I hope to get major backing for.

6. You’ve made many appearances throughout the steampunk junket. Do you have any favorite conventions? Who are some of the most interesting people you’ve met through diversifying SteamPunk?

Balogun OjetadeOne of my favorite conventions is AnachroCon, which is an Atlanta-based Alternate History convention held every February. It is loads of fun and the people who put on the event – the Directors and their staff – have treated my family and me very well at the Con and have been very supportive of Steamfunk.

Some of the most interesting people I have met have become friends of mine – Diana Pho, aka Ay-Leen, the Peacemaker, an editor at Tor and founder of the brilliant Beyond Victoriana website; Mark Curtis, a genius Steampunk tinkerer and cosplayer, who cosplays Steampunk John Henry and Steampunk Lando Calrissian; Mark’s wife, Theresa Curtis, another genius, who is an expert fabricator and who cosplays a Steampunk vampire, just to name a few.

7. You also have a sub genre of fantasy known as “Sword&Soul.” What is that exactly? Any upcoming projects in that genre to come our way in the near future?

Once Upon A Time in AfrikaSword and Soul, which is African-inspired Epic and Heroic Fantasy, is actually a phrase coined by the subgenre’s founder and father, Charles R, Saunders. I wrote the novel Once Upon A Time In Afrika, which is published by another big name in Sword and Soul, Milton J. Davis, the owner and CEO of MVmedia, which publishes most of the Sword and Soul out there.

I am working on Once Upon A Time In Afrika, Book II, which I plan to release early next year.

8. It was awesome to have you back! We’re already following, but where can people just tuning in go to check up the latest updates on your work?

They can check out my website: Roaring Lions Productions , or my blog: Chronicles Of Harriet

You can reach me on Facebook ; and on Twitter @ Baba_Balogun

Oh, and please, please, PLEASE go to the Steampunk Chronicle website, register, if you haven’t already (it’s quick, easy and painless), scroll waaaay down to STEAMLIFE and then vote for me for Best Multicultural Steampunk and Best Politically Minded Steampunk, too!

Yep, it’s important. Thanks, y’all!

 


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

Amber and the Hidden City

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

Sword and Soul(ful).

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

Check him out, y’all!

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

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

 

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

Amber synopsis:

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

 

Amber excerpt:

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

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

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

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

              “Yes, that is what I mean.”

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

              “Merci, sir! Merci!”

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

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

              “Aisha.”

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

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

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

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

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

              “The embassy, fool!” she spat.

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

              “Thank you for the ride,” she whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              “Yes, monsieur.”

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

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

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

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

              The guard studied her a few moments before answering.

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

              “Merci, monsieur. Merci.”

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

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

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

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

              “What do you want?” he barked.

              “Something to eat,” she replied.

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

              “Just a little something,” she persisted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              “Time to end this!”

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

              “Damn you, girl. I’ll…”

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

              “No you don’t!” Aisha yelled.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Milton’s links:

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

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

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

 

 


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

Black Science Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Jones

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

He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.

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

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

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

Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

Carole McDonnell

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

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

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

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

Colby R. Rice

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

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

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

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

Crystal Connor

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

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

DaVaun Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff Carroll

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

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

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

K Ceres Wright

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

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

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

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

Kai Leakes

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

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

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

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

Keith Gaston

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

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

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

Milton Davis

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

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

 

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

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

Valjeanne Jeffers

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

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

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

Zig Zag Claybourne


CHRIS CRAZYHOUSE: Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Sword and Soul Artist

Ki Khanga

Chris Crazyhouse 1

As an author, I have been privileged to meet and work with some amazing artists.

The ScytheRecently, I worked with artist, Christopher Miller, also known as Chris Crazyhouse, on my Dieselfunk novel, The Scythe. While my cover art was created by Stanley J. Weaver, Jr, I needed interior art and I knew that Chris would give me that 1920s Dieselfunk look I wanted. From working with Chris before on art for Ki-Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game, I also knew he is a master of creating creatures and I needed a vampire and a monstrous race of fowls called the Lougarou illustrated.

Chris – who is as professional as he is talented – went to work and had three beautiful illustrations back to me in less than two weeks.

Cast Iron by Chris Miller.

Cast Iron by Chris Miller.

Today, while watching Chris’ Sketch Blog – a weekly blog he does on Youtube, which I follow faithfully – I realized that, besides Stan Weaver, Chris is the only other artist who has created artwork in the Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Sword and Soul subgenres. In fact, Chris created his own Steamfunk superhero, Cast Iron after receiving inspiration from the Steamfunk anthology. I hope that Chris will one day allow a certain Steamfunk author to write the script for the Cast Iron graphic novel, which he illustrates (hint).

Chris is also co-creator and illustrator of the Sword and Soul comic book series and graphic novel, Chronicles of Piye.

I am commissioning Chris for the Choose Your Own Adventure book I plan to release during the latter part of this year.

So, here’s some of Chris’ work. Much more can be found on his website and on his DeviantArt page:

Ki Khanga

Ki Khanga Ki Khanga Ki Khanga Ki Khanga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


THE FRESH FEST OF AFROFUTURISM! 13 Authors Rock the Mic in Honor of Octavia Butler and L.A. Banks!

Butler Banks Book Tour

THE FRESH FEST OF AFROFUTURISM!

13 Authors Rock the Mic in Honor of Octavia Butler and L.A. Banks!

 

Book TourThe State of Black Science Fiction Authors and Artists Collective decided it is time to do a tour to let the world know that we’re here; that great Black books, written by, for and about Black people do exist (yes, there are many who still don’t know).

Hmm. Which would be best to do – a virtual book tour, or a blog tour?

A virtual book tour is much like a traditional book tour but instead of the author flying from city to city, they are featured on a wide variety of blogs and websites as a guest blogger or author.

A blog tour is a group of writers – not necessarily authors – who get together and, on specific dates, they all blog on similar themes. For example, on May 3rd, 2014, this group of writers might blog on why they love a specific genre of speculative fiction. John Q. might blog on why he loves Paranormal Fantasy; Suzy Q. might blog on why she loves Steamfunk and so on.

We wanted to do something different from a typical virtual book tour and from a traditional blog tour. I decided to let the idea present itself when it was ready. I sat down to do my daily writing, turned on my YA Writing Playlist on Spotify – I am working on a YA Novel / Graphic Novel entitled The Keys – and the first song to play was Run-D.M.C.’s Rockbox.

Book TourYeah, I know, Rockbox isn’t exactly jumping out of teens’ Ipods nowadays – damn, they’re missing out – but back in my teen days, it was always found screeching out of my Walkman…and no, not the digital one launched in 2007; I’m talking the 1982 Sony Walkman cassette player, baby…with Dolby C noise reduction and everythang!

And that’s when it hit me…

“We’ll do this like Fresh Fest!” I shouted with glee.

“What is Fresh Fest?” My son, Oluade, who is eleven years old, inquired from the balcony of my office (well, it was actually the breakfast nook he shouted from, but it is above my office and all my children watch me work from there – whether I want them to, or not – so it feels like a balcony, to me).

Now, while many of you probably know what the Fresh Fest is, most of you probably have no clue, so let me break it down for you:

Book TourThe Fresh Fest concert tour, which began in 1984, was headlined by Run-D.M.C., and featured Kurtis Blow, Whodini, the Fat Boys, and Newcleus. It was hip-hop’s first big moneymaking tour (3.5 million on 27 dates).

It was followed by Fresh Fest II, which included the same acts, with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five replacing Newcleus.

This was hip-hop at its best. A stage of superstars – brought this revolutionary, still fairly new form of music, to the world.

One after another, these stars left their blood, sweat and a portion of their spirit on stage. And we – the fans – gave spirit back. Hell, in Chicago, at Fresh Fest II, they even had a linoleum floor set up for any b-boys and b-girls who felt the urge to breakdance or pop-lock (which thousands did, without one incidence of violence; I miss those days).

So, the tour formed in my mind – each day, a “superstar” (author), would take the stage and step to the mic. They would write a blog about their book, or books and the rest of the superstars on the tour would post that blog as a guest blog and shout that blog out all over social media. We would bring the best in Black Speculative Fiction to the world. Yep. That’s what we were going to do.

And we would name – and do – this tour in honor of two of the biggest superstars in literature. Two superstars whose names are synonymous with Black Speculative Fiction and whose works have inspired most of the Black authors who write Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror: Octavia Butler and L.A. Banks.

Octavia ButlerOctavia Estelle Butler, who shared a birthday with my father (June 22), was an internationally acclaimed science fiction writer. A recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards (two of each, actually), her evocative novels explore far-reaching issues of race, sex, power and, ultimately, what it means to be human. Butler was one of the best-known women and Black authors in the field. In 1995, she became the first Science Fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship.

Set in time periods ranging from the historical past to the distant future, Ms. Butler’s books are known for their controlled economy of language and for their strong, believable protagonists, many of them Black women. She wrote a dozen novels, including Kindred, Parable of the Sower; Parable of the Talents; and, Fledgling.

LA BanksLeslie Esdaile Banks – who wrote under the pennames of Leslie Esdaile, Leslie E. Banks, Leslie Banks, Leslie Esdaile Banks and L. A. Banks – wrote in various genres, including African-American Literature, Romance, Women’s Fiction, Crime, Suspense, Dark Fantasy, Horror and Non-Fiction for five publishing companies.

Best known for The Vampire Huntress Legend Series, Ms. Banks won several literary awards, including the 2008 Essence Literary Awards Storyteller of the Year.

On April 14, the Butler / Banks Book Tour begins. Thirteen authors of Black Speculative Fiction are ready to rock the mic.

So, readers around the world, get ready. The literary Fresh Fest is coming!

Book Tour Promo 1


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

Fist of Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is Damballa?” She emailed me back.

I replied thusly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scythe

Dieselfunk

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

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

The two vampires sitting on post leapt from their seats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scythe vanished.

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

The vampire wailed.

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

The Scythe slammed the vampire onto his face.

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

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

The vampire gasped and then released a weak moan.

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

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

The vampire cried weakly as it convulsed.

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

Fist of Afrika

Fight Fiction

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

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

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

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

The giant stood still and in silence.

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

Nick nodded.

“Are you ready, Agbu Tochi?”

Agbu Tochi tapped his chest twice with his fist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!

Anachrocon

Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!

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

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

AnachroconOluade gave a lot of thought to his cosplay as well. Since this year’s theme for Anachrocon was Dieselpunk, which is set in the Diesel Era of the 1920s through the end of WWII, and he knew, through reading my blogs and my latest novel, The Scythe, that Pulp magazines were popular during most of that era, Oluade decided he wanted to be a two-fisted masked pulp hero. Thus, the Auburn Avenger was born!

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

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

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

Why?

Because they do not suffer from stereotype threat.

“What is stereotype threat,” you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.     Decreased performance

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

 2.     Internal Attributions for Failure

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

   3.     Self-handicapping

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

 4.     Discounting the task

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

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

 5.     Distancing yourself from the stereotyped group

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

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

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

1.     Reframing the task

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

 2.     Deemphasizing threatened social identities

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

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

 3.     Encouraging self-affirmation

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

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

 4.     Providing role models

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

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

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

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

Oriyemi engaging in her first National Tea Duel.

Oriyemi engaging in her first National Tea Duel.

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

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


ARE STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK and SWORD & SOUL NECESSARY? Countering Negative Images of Black People in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Countering Negative Images

ARE STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK and SWORD & SOUL NECESSARY?

Countering Negative Images of Black People in Science Fiction and Fantasy

 

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

We have become so insensitive or desensitized to our own negative typecasting and even dehumanization that we are no longer conscious 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, white comedians put on black cork and made a living humiliating and ridiculing Black people. A few years later, their senses dulled by 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.

Let’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 and strangely, makes us even less human than our use of nigger does.

“Man, you my N-Word!”

Or Kanye West and Jay-Z’s popular Niggas In Paris, now the politically correct N-Words In Paris:

“What’s Gucci my N-Word?
What’s Louis my killa?
What’s drugs my deala?
What’s that jacket, Margiela?
Doctors say I’m the illest
Cause I’m suffering from realness
Got my N-Words in Paris
And they goin’ gorillas, heh?”

Yeah…that shit cray.

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

RacismIf 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.”

We have been conditioned to expect little of ourselves and of each other.

Many Black authors lament that they create great content, but Black people pass by their table at geek conventions and head straight to Jim Butcher’s table to purchase his Dresden Files novels, or to the Marvel Comics booth to pick up the latest X-Man graphic novel.

Don’t lament, Black author. Remember, we have been conditioned to expect little of ourselves and of each other, so most Black people will assume, without any evidence, that your work is wack. You have to reach out and educate them; show them that your work is just as good as – or better than, what they are used to. Most will still flock to the Marvel booth. They love – and have faith in – good ol’ Stan Lee. To chastise them for that will gain you enemies, not friends and certainly not fans.

Now, outside the Black geek community is where I have found my greatest support. There is a hunger among “regular” Black people – those who do not identify as geeks, nerds, or science fiction fans – for speculative fiction written by and about Black people.

Black People ReadAt the Westview Festival last year – a neighborhood festival in the predominantly Black, lower-to-middle-class area near Atlanta’s West End – I sold out all of my books in less than a half hour. Mind you, my table was next to a table that sold – at less than half price – mainstream fiction and science fiction and fantasy by authors such as Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert and George R.R. Martin.

At the recent 3rd Annual Ujamaafest – a festival celebrating Kwanzaa’s principle of Collective Economics – Milton Davis and I shared a table. Once again, Black Speculative Fiction sold like hotcakes. At this festival, the participants were mainly culturally conscious Black people from all walks of life.

At both festivals, most of the people who purchased books said that if Black authors were writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, with Black heroes, when they were young, they would have been into it, but they were eager to get their children and grandchildren into Black Speculative Fiction.

Are Steamfunk, Dieselfunk, Sword & Soul and other Black Speculative Fiction necessary? Damn right, they are.

While many of us want to see ourselves as the heroes and sheroes and recognize the need for Black Speculative Fiction, many of us cannot fathom ourselves as star-spanning, evil-crushing, saving-the-world heroes. The horse wrangler for the Steamfunk feature film Rite of Passage told me he never imagined we could be the heroes in a Fantasy or Science Fiction story, or that such a movie would ever be created.

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.

Even Black millionaire housewives, doctors and business moguls are portrayed as argumentative, catty, incapable of being unified and downright ig’nant.

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.”

In addition, Black people have, for nearly a hundred years, been purposely portrayed in films with negative stereotypes that reinforce white supremacy over us. 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.

RacismThe 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 and will regard ourselves as such.

We 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 Birth of a Nation – with its vicious portrayal of Black people as subhuman compared to the glorified Ku Klux Klan – was important because it led to the creation of a new industry that produced “race films” for Black People. These films portrayed us in a positive light and addressed many social concerns of the community.

Before “race films,” Black people in films 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.

Countering Negative ImagesWe learn a great deal about human nature by comparing ourselves to others; and by comparing ourselves to fictional heroes…and villains. 

Contemplating fictional characters helps us examine the nature of heroism and villainy. Through fiction, film and television, we develop our view of the ideal person; we learn what to expect from good guys and bad guys, even in real life.

What distinguishes a superhero from a supervillain? How do their basic personalities differ — and how has the media affected our perception of ourselves and heroism?

Most people see themselves as being close in personality to their favorite superheroes and mimic their heroes’ characteristics in an effort to live up to that perception.

However, if the fiction you read or see consistently portrays those who look like you as less than heroic; as savage – whether noble, or not – as the eternal sidekick; as the first to die; as the one to sacrifice him or herself so that the real heroes can save the world; as the thug; the pimp; the whore, then how do you see yourself?

In Blueprint for Negro Literature, Richard Wright discussed the problem of Black literature:

“They [Black authors] entered the Court of American Public Opinion dressed in the knee-pants of servility, curtsying to show that the Negro was not inferior, that he was human, and that he had a life comparable to that of other people. These were received as poodle dogs, who have learned clever tricks. … In short, Negro writing on the whole has been the voice of the educated Negro pleading with white America.”

Wright went on to say that every story Black people write “should carry within its lines, implied or explicit, a sense of the oppression of the Negro people, the danger of war, of fascism, of the threatened destruction of culture and civilization; and, too, the faith and necessity to build a new world.”

While such pleading – such curtsying to show that we are not inferior” – may have been the goal of Black writers during Wright’s time, it is certainly not my goal or the goal of my colleagues.

On the contrary, I seek to show Black people, in general – teens and tweens, in particular – that we are not inferior; that we are heroic; that we are beautiful, courageous, brilliant and strong.

Furthermore, while I appreciate a good story that deals with the ills of racism, sexism, classism and the destruction and rebuilding of Black civilization, I do not feel that every story must, or even should, deal with such issues.

The ScytheWhat I do feel Black Speculative Fiction should do is tell our stories, because they have gone untold in Speculative fiction for so damned long. And I feel those stories should feature Black heroes and an occasional Black villain, too…a criminal mastermind, that is; not a damned street thug, or other walking stereotype.

And please, no more Black heroes who begin as gangsters, prostitutes, drug dealers, or dope fiends. Thanks.

If you are seeking a list of works of great Black Speculative Fiction, check it out here. For a list of great Black authors of Speculative Fiction, you can find that here. For a list of Black Speculative events in Atlanta in celebration of Black History Month, look here.

So, do you feel Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Sword & Soul are necessary? Is there a type of Black Speculative Fiction you’d like to see created or more of? Horror? Dystopian? Young Adult glittery vampires?

Comment and let your opinion be known!


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

Black Speculative Fiction

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

 

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

Sword and Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUNG ADULT (Ages 15+)

A Single Link, by Balogun Ojetade

A Single Link“A Single Link NEVER Breaks!” 

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

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

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

Damballa, by Charles R. Saunders

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

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

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

Devil’s Wake, by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

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

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

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

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

Dillon and the Voice of Odin, by Derrick Ferguson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Ki Khanga?

The answer lies in the pages of this amazing anthology.

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

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

Prepare yourself for Ki Khanga.

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

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

But is anyone who, or what, they seem?

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

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

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

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

Steamfunk, Edited by Balogun Ojetade and Milton J. Davis

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

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

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

Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter, by Keith Gaston

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

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

 YOUNG ADULT (Ages 13+)

Changa’s Safari, by Milton J. Davis

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

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

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

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

Let the safari begin!

Fist of Africa, by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

Once Upon A Time In Afrika, by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

Will the warriors band together against this evil?

The Scythe, by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

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

The Seedbearing Prince, by DaVaun Sanders

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

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

Woman of the Woods, by Milton J. Davis

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

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

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

MIDDLE GRADE (Ages 10+)

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor

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

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

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

Amber and the Hidden City, by Milton J. Davis

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Make sure to clean up your messes. 

Keep the cat in the house.

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

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

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

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


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

Fist of Africa

FIST OF AFRICA

Pulp meets the African Martial Arts!

Fist of Africa

Yep, that's me. :)

Yep, that’s me. :)

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

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

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

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

What is Fight Fiction. You ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a brief synopsis: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sword and Soul

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

Oya

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

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

Why?

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

Sigh.

Nzinga was never a queen people!

No African woman ever was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, let’s examine the term.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amina – or Aminatu – of Zazzau (Zaria)

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

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

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

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

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

Moremi Ajasoro, Olori of Ile Ife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hatshepsut

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

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

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

Ngola Nzinga Mbandi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goddess.

Sword and Soul


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

Lance Spearman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they were entertaining as hell!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editor: J. Singh

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

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

In fact, it is just beginning.

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

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

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

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

Get ready for The Siafu.

Get ready for Revolution.

 

 


SISTERS OF THE SPEAR: Black Sheroes In Speculative Fiction

'Ayen and Bull' by artist Jason Reeves

SISTERS OF THE SPEAR: Black Sheroes In Speculative Fiction

 Women Warriors 1

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

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

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

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

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

Art by Andrea Rushing.

Art by Andrea Rushing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A SINGLE LINK IS HERE!

A Single Link

A SINGLE LINK IS HERE!

A Single Link

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

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

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

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


A Steamfunkateer encounters Twinjas!

Sword and Soul

A Steamfunkateer encounters Twinjas!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I live and work in Atlanta, Georgia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steamfunk is a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the Steampunk philosophy and / or Steampunk fiction.

I am one of the founders of the Steamfunk Movement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of these new writings will be published next year.

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

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

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

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

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

 


Make it a REAL “Black” Friday!

Black Friday

Make it a REAL “Black” Friday!

Buy Black Speculative Fiction!

Black Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BLACK PULP: Fight Fiction with Funk!

Black Pulp

BLACK PULP: Fight Fiction with Funk!

Black PulpI am a writer.

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

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

What is Fight Fiction. You ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t argue with the wisdom of XP.

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

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

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

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

Fight Scene Plan

1.      Show, don’t tell

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

Here is an example of telling:

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

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

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

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

2.      Show sequence, not simultaneity

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

Why?

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

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

For example:

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

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

3.      Enforce causality

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

Case in point:

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

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

4.      Show the fastest action first

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

Do not write the passage this way:

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

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

Showing the slower action before the faster one? Wack.

5.      For every action, show a reaction

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

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

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

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

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

The steambot exploded forward with a powerful uppercut.

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

Or

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

6.      Make it happen in Real Time

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

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

This should be written this way:

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

7.      Control the pace

Pace is important in a fight scene.

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

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

A cinematic fight has ebbs and flows in the pacing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or

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

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

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

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

To do otherwise? Wack.

8.      Favor completed verbs over continuing action verbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for A Single Link December, 2013.

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


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

A Single Link

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

Luke Cage Noir from Marvel Comics.

Luke Cage Noir from Marvel Comics.

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

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

What is Pulp?

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

What is Pulp?

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

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

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

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

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

Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aubrey Knight

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

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

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

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

Damballa

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

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

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

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

Dillon

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

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

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

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

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

Taurus Moon

Artwork by Winston Blakely.

Artwork by Winston Blakely.

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

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

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

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

2014 will see the premiere of at least three more pulp heroes.

A promo poster for Fight Card MMA: A-Town Throwdown by Balogun Ojetade!

A promo poster for Fight Card MMA: A-Town Throwdown by Balogun Ojetade!

In early 2014, my character Nick ‘New Breed’ Steed, the indigenous African martial arts expert turned MMA fighter will enter the world with a bang in my novella, which is part of the Fight Card Series, Fight Card MMA: A-Town Throwdown. A second novella starring Nick Steed, Fight Card MMA: Circle of Blood is likely to follow shortly behind it.

2014 will see another MMA fighter, Remi Fasina [ray-MEE fah-SHEE-nah] – a woman – battle men and women fighters – and her inner demons – on her quest to defeat the MMA champion who sexually assaulted her seven years in her past in my Pulp action novel, A Single Link.

Promo Poster for MMA Pulp novel, "A Single Link" by Balogun Ojetade

Promo Poster for MMA Pulp novel, “A Single Link” by Balogun Ojetade

Finally, the Pulp hero Black Caesar – a former slave, imbued with enhanced intelligence, strength, endurance and agility by dark forces run amok upon a stone slave ship – debuts in the first Rococoa novel, Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises.

I have also created the Pulp hero The Scythe, the resurrected Dr. A.C. Jackson, who was murdered in the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 and returns to reap vengeance upon his murderers and their kin. It is likely that I will expand his story into a novel in 2015.

What other Black Pulp heroes and sheroes do you know of? What Pulp heroes or sheroes are you in the process of developing or creating?


STEAMPUNK & STEAMFUNK WRITERS, GET READY! Seeking your stories for a new anthology!

Steamfunk Bass Reeves

STEAMPUNK & STEAMFUNK WRITERS, GET READY! Seeking your stories for a new anthology!

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

MVmedia, publisher of Sword & Soul, Steamfunk and Science Fiction, today announced that submissions are now being taken for the second Steamfunk anthology the multimedia company will publish – Rite of Passage: Road to Nicodemus.

Based on the feature film, Rite of Passage – which is set in a world conceived by authors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade, based on a short story by Milton Davis of the same name – Rite of Passage: Road to Nicodemus will contain a collection of short stories inspired by this exciting alternate history Steamfunk world.

The release of Road to Nicodemus will coincide with the release of the movie in February 2014.

MVmedia is seeking completed stories between 2,000 and 10,000 words.

Writers will be paid $25.00 upon release of the anthology.

The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2013

Initial release will be in e-book format. Paperback release will occur at a later date.

Here are the Submission Guidelines and a breakdown of the world of Rite of Passage:

GUIDELINES

  1. Submissions must be set during the era of reconstruction (1865 – 1877). The story can begin at any time in the past, but the bulk of the story (roughly 75%) should take place during reconstruction.
  2. The story can begin anywhere in the world, but will end up in – or on the road to – Nicodemus, KS.
  3. Main characters – be they Guardians or Emissaries (see below) – should be in possession of an artifact – a special item that grants the user incredible powers. This artifact will have been bestowed upon the Guardian by a Mentor. Artifacts can be anything: a book; a gun; a sword; the saliva of a werewolf; a drum; etc. and the method of bestowal is up to the author. All artifacts are linked to some African deity.
  4. Technology is a combination of mundane technology of the era and retrofuturistic Steam technology.
  5. Magic, psionics and the like are acceptable, as long as they are linked to some artifact.
  6. The main character should be of African descent / Black.

MENTORS / GUARDIANS / ARTIFACTS

Steamfunk Bass Reeves Harriet Tubman – the living embodiment of the power of the artifacts – had a vision that told her Jedediah Green – a powerful and dark entity whose power comes from the consumption of the artifacts’ power through consumption of the wielders of the artifacts’ souls – would descend upon the thriving Black-owned town of Nicodemus and from there, gather the ability to subjugate the world.

Harriet – whose power is fueled by the use of the artifacts (whether used for good or evil) – travelled the world, gathering the original bearers of the artifacts and convincing them to pass on the items and how to use them (which eventually bring about a severe depression and longing for release from the responsibility of bearing the artifact) to new bearers who would help her oppose Jedediah Green and his Emissaries.

The original bearers thus became Mentors and the new bearers of the artifacts became known as Guardians.

Harriet has called for all the Guardians to take up residence in Nicodemus, KS and has personally bought a few there herself.

The known Guardians thus far, their Mentors and their artifacts are:

Harriet Tubman – Mentor: Akingbe; Artifact: She is an artifact.

Dorothy Wright – Mentor: Akingbe / Harriet Tubman; Artifact: Shango’s necklace.

Bass Reeves – Mentor: Unknown; Artifact: Carbine and revolver/shotgun hybrid (Deity unknown)

John Henry – Mentor: Ogunlana (“Lana”); Artifact: Twin hammers of Ogun.

Jake Jessup – Mentor: Tara Malloy; Artifact: Shapeshifter’s blood, a gift from Eshu.

Henry Turnipseed / John D. Konkeroo (Mayor of Nicodemus) – Mentor: Mr. Giggles; Artifact: Baron Samedi’s top-hat.

Osho Adewale / The Dentist of Westminster – Mentor: Falana; Artifact: Tome of Obatala.

James and Corliss Riley (“the twins”) – Mentor(s): Grandma and Grandpa Riley; Artifacts: James uses goofa dust, black cat bones and other “conjure” tools; Corliss uses a fiddle. Both artifacts are from the Ibeji twin spirits.

JEDEDIAH GREEN’S EMISSARIES

Mark Curtis - Steampunk and Cosplayer - portrays vampire leader, Greasy Grant in the feature film, Rite of Passage.

Mark Curtis – Steampunk and Cosplayer – portrays vampire leader, Greasy Grant in the feature film, Rite of Passage.

Jedediah Green is the living embodiment of the dark energy that gave birth to vampires, ghasts, ghouls, lichs and other undead and evil. As such, these creatures do his bidding. Also, Jedediah maintains several Emissaries, who he is the sole Mentor of and to whom he grants an artifact forged by unknown dark deities.

The known Emissaries are:

The Piper / Tillman (once helped to escape to freedom by Harriet Tubman) – Artifact: Flute

P.T. Barnum – Artifact: Money clip

Peter Pan – Artifact: None; Peter is one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in the world who loyally serves Jedediah Green, who he narcissistically believes is his shadow self.

So, there you have it. If you feel you have a compelling story to tell – one that will enhance and / or expand the Rite of Passage universe – please, submit it to mv_media@bellsouth.net.

Now, hop offline (after you read a few more of my posts if you’re new here) and get to writing; and most of all…have fun!

 


DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Manga and Anime

Amber; cover by James Eugene; from the YA novel by Milton Davis

DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Manga and Anime

Amber; cover by James Eugene; from the YA novel by Milton Davis

Amber; cover by James Eugene; from the YA novel by Milton Davis

Yesterday, it was announced that author Milton Davis, Yours Truly and artist Sarah Bowman (Macklin) – known worldwide as S-Sama – will collaborate to create the manga version of Amber, a YA novel penned by Milton Davis.

Milton will publish; I will write the graphic script and Sarah will illustrate the work.

For those who are scratching their heads, wondering just what the heck ‘manga’ is, ask any teenager in the world and they can tell you. If no teenager is nearby, read on.

‘Manga’ is the Japanese word commonly used as the name of the genre for all comic books or graphic novels published in Japan. Manga has a certain style, recognizable in its artwork and in its literary tropes.

While manga is typically read by teenagers outside of Japan, there are publications aimed at both children and adults.

Bob Makihara, from the manga "Tenjou Tenge" by Oh! great (Ito Ogure).

Bob Makihara, from the manga “Tenjou Tenge” by Oh! great (Ito Ogure).

In Japan, however, all ages read manga, which is considered literature rather than “just a comic book”. In Japan, manga is so popular its yearly sales reach the billions.

Manga is often adapted into animated television programs and films called ‘anime’. Examples include Pokémon, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh! and my personal favorite, Death Note.

Krag of Kragmire, "The First Steampunk".

Krag of Kragmire, “The First Steampunk”.

Like most people born in America, my introduction to the Japanese style of graphic storytelling began with anime. As a four year old, I would sit in awe as I witnessed the adventures of Prince Planet – known in Japan as Planet Boy Papi – which tells the story of Prince Planet – a member of the Universal Peace Corps – from the planet Radion, who is sent to Earth to determine if our world meets standards for membership in the Galactic Union of Worlds and to assist its inhabitants during his stay. While on this mission, Prince Planet adopts the identity of an Earth boy named Bobby (‘Papi’) who, along with a band of human comrades, fights the forces of evil, both alien and terrestrial. In fact, my favorite villain of all time, who I call the “first Steampunk”, is Krag of Kragmire, Prince Planet’s greatest nemesis.

A couple of decades later, I introduced my children to the anime film Princess Mononoke and thus began their love of the art form. I later got them hooked on Death Note – the anime and the manga. Now, one of my daughters is so into manga and anime, she has become fluent in Japanese and Korean and plans to write manga of her own.

Miyuki Ayukawa, from the anime / manga, "Basquash" by Tetsuya Hayashi.

Miyuki Ayukawa, from the anime / manga, “Basquash” by Tetsuya Hayashi.

Black people in the United States – like nearly everyone else – have been heavily into anime since the early 70s and into manga since the early 90s. The well-plotted stories, incredible technology, fearsome creatures, cool characters, over-the-top comedy and eye-popping action are masterfully combined to make science fiction and fantasy palatable for all.

Most fans of the genre are unaware, however, that the visual approach and concepts of manga was introduced to the Western world by a Black man – Vernon Ethelbert Grant.

Vernon E. Grant, father of  Western manga / anime.

Vernon E. Grant, father of Western manga / anime.

Grant, known for his digest-sized comic book series, The Love Rangers, was born February 14, 1935. Always artistically inclined, Grant earned money as a child by drawing cartoons for birthday cards. After graduating from Ridge Technical High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he studied for a year in Boston at the Vesper George School of Art and then joined the Army in 1958 at the age of 23.

While in Europe as an airborne and air assault sergeant, Grant studied Japanese and French.

Grant was eventually sent to Tokyo, where he worked as a regular cartoonist for Stars and Stripes – the official newspaper of the Unites States Army. It was in Tokyo that he developed a strong fascination with Japanese comics. He also wrote and drew for Japan’s English-language newspapers, including the Mainichi Daily News.

In the late 1960s, while in Vietnam, Grant became interested in comic books. As he recalled: “When I purchased a French comic magazine in Saigon in 1967, it was the first comic book contact that I had in more than ten years. It reminded me of my early experiments with drawing color comics in grammar school…In 1968 I was discharged from the United States Army in Japan and began studies in Japanese history and culture at Sophia University in Tokyo…In 1972, while still in school, I saw and read my first issue of an underground comic book, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.  This publication was quite an interesting item for me. I had heard of underground comic books but had, until that time, never seen one. I was very impressed.

During the years he lived in Japan, Grant wrote and drew several graphic novels, including the two-volume military satire, Point-Man Palmer and A Monster is Loose in Tokyo (Tuttle, 1972) about the life of a foreigner in Japan.

The Love Rangers, by Vernon E. Grant.

The Love Rangers, by Vernon E. Grant.

When he returned to Cambridge, he created The Love Rangers, his science-fiction comic book series about a racially mixed space crew traveling the universe. Between 1977 and 1988, Grant published seven issues of The Love Rangers in a 36-page, 5½”x8½” format.

The series follows the lives and adventures of a number of officers, robots and members of a squad of genetically engineered Love Rangers that live on the spaceship called “Home”. It is an immense structure, housing 35,000 individuals on its seven levels. While some of the action in the stories takes place on board, many of the episodes in his comic books take place on planets they visit. The ship is commanded by a male and female Shipmaster who share equally in all responsibilities. One of the dominant characters is Princess Tomi, who single-handedly leads her Mice People in their battle against the Owls for survival. There are robots and devices in the ship that the U.S. military incorporated some ten to 15 years after Vernon had already incorporated them into his series. The fuel that powers the ship is the feelings of discord and hate that emanates from different parts of the universe. At times the Love Rangers have to use weapons to control the warring inhabitants of the different planets they visit, but they attempt to first use their “love gas” to change the path of history. In the first book, the love gas helps change the consciousness of Count Ratalus from having a killing drive to flooding his mind with an understanding of history as well as nature’s instinctive patterns. When this happens, a well of human compassion overrides his coded savagery. He stops himself from killing Prince Tug, and they go off to work together peacefully for the betterment of the mice people and toward peaceful co-existence with their enemies, the Owls.

On July 7, 2006, Grant suffered a heart attack while on a daily run, injuring his head when he fell. He went into a coma and died two weeks later on July 23.

Grant’s work is included in Michigan State University‘s Comic Art Collection.

 

Manga / anime facial study by Setor Fiadzibey.

Manga / anime facial study by Setor Fiadzibey.

There are several Black mangaka, or manga creators – most unpublished, unfortunately – who are doing incredible work. Most popular among these are our own Sarah Bowman / S-Sama, the talented Latif-Saeed and the brilliant sister, Nashya.

Finally, from Ghana, is visual storyteller extraordinaire, Setor Fiadzibey, author / artist of the graphic novel Adinkra, the Legend of the Bearers, which is about a group of people, separated by tribes but united by a divine being known as the Great Weaver, an autocratic king and a common enemy known as the Shadow.

Having wrestled with the Shadow through countless generations, the Great Weaver shares his immense power with certain individuals, known as Bearers, who would deliver the people from his dark nemesis. Each Bearer is born with an adinkra symbol that grants them great power and compels them to do the bidding of the Great Weaver.

Adinkra is the tale of those Bearers, their struggles with the Shadow, their struggles with their humanity – even though they have divinity in them – and their pursuit of victory over both.

Amber will soon join Adinkra in delivering an amazing manga that is sure to entertain and inspire fans of anime, manga and fantasy of all ages. Look for it in Spring, 2014.

HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

 

 


ENROLLING IN A NEW INSTITUTION: The Solution to Racism in Fandom

Alien Encounters IV

ENROLLING IN A NEW INSTITUTION: The Solution to Racism in Fandom

Popular cosplayer and blogger, Chaka Cumberbatch.

Popular cosplayer and blogger, Chaka Cumberbatch.

I read a brilliant – and heart-wrenching article today in which cosplayer, Chaka Cumberbatch demanded better representation for Black women characters in popular geek media, because frankly, the lack of a Black presence in fandom has her fatigued.

“I’m tired of not seeing faces like mine in my comics. I’m sick of the notion that a black female character is a rare treat, a special occasion.”

“I’m getting really tired of just accepting whatever scraps are thrown our way.”

“I’m tired of not seeing faces like mine in my comics.”

“…faces like mine in my comics.That was the beginning of my heartbreak for this brilliant sister truly believes those comics are hers.

Alien Encounters IVAnd they should be. They should be written with her – a serious and long-standing fan of comics and other forms of geek fandom – in mind; but they aren’t.

They should feature more Black women – and men, for that matter – as superheroes because Black women are, well…extraordinary; but they don’t.

They won’t.

Why?

Because mainstream geekdom is not concerned with us. A Black hero is “different”; is “risky”; and no form of media in the mainstream is in the business of taking risks.

Now, watch someone pull Storm, Luke Cage, the Black Panther or Aqualad out of the bag and shout “We have given you these cool superheroes and yet, you still complain.”

Shut up!

Those characters were not written with us in mind.

As renowned veteran comic book creator, author and screenwriter Geoffrey Thorne says: “There can be no Black consciousness in comics unless there are Black creators in comics.”

Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself and we are acutely more aware of self than of anything external.

So, to put it bluntly, we are not part of the consciousness of the creators of fandom, who are mainly white men…white men are.

Black SuperheroWhen these men write a Black character in a comic book, it is not to appease Black people; it is not to fill some status quo; we are not part of the conversation, contemplation or consciousness.

We are the only people who believe that if we write about a Black hero or shero, they must have a white sidekick or mentor in order for the book to be accepted. We are the only people who cry “I live in a multicultural world, so I write what I see.” White people live in that same world. If they decide to write a multicultural tale, the hero is, more often than not, a white man. If they are “really hip”, they might have a white woman as the protagonist, but a person of color as the protagonist is a rarity, indeed.

And we should not complain about that. People can write what they want to.

We should not demand more representation from the mainstream. The mainstream does not care about the Black demographic at best and is a racist institution at worst.

The institution of geek fandom is old and has been allowed to keep running with our support and our hope for a brighter and better day for women and people of color. However, this institutional racism within fandom will continue as a pattern of racial exclusion simply by virtue of folks doing things the way they have always been done.

Think not?

Recently, Worldcon – the biggest convention in fandom – planned to screen the spectacularly racist film, Song of the South.

Black comixYep; that Song of the South.

When called out on this madness, Worldcon fans – mostly white men, of course, were swift to defend their beloved con. One fan summed up the sentiment of fans nicely: “Going to cons–and Worldcon moreso–is a luxury activity. The truth is that most POC don’t have the disposable income [to attend fan conventions]. They’re a noticeable minority at airports, on cruises, and other luxury activities”.

I wonder if he received a free guest pass.

Geoffrey Thorne broke it down for us like this: “Marvel says they can’t make a Black Panther film because it’s too far fetched to present Wakanda as a real place while at the same time dropping both the new Thor film and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.  Wakanda is more farfetched than Asgard?”

See? We need to transfer out of the racist institution called mainstream geek media and enroll in a new institution; an institution of our creation.

Chronicles of Harriet TubmanAn institution in which Samuel Delaney is President; Octavia Butler and Charles R. Saunders are the Deans; Walter Mosley, Nisi Shawl, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due are Department Heads; and Milton Davis, Nnedi Okorafor, Geoffrey Thorne, Valjeanne Jeffers and Balogun Ojetade are Professors; an institution in which veteran, up-and-coming and aspiring creators and fans of Black Speculative Fiction, Film and Art walk its hallowed halls.

My dear sister, Chaka – and every other sister out there who feels marginalized and underrepresented, check out works by the aforementioned creators and you will have plenty powerful, beautiful  and extraordinary Black sheroes to cosplay – from a Steamfunk Harriet Tubman to a spear-wielding demon-hunter whose sisters are a pair of lionesses and more.

HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

Keep this conversation going and join artist and Curator of OnyxCon, Joseph Wheeler III; comic book store owner, collector and publisher, Tony Cade; comic book author, collector and critic, Hannibal Tabu; and renowned comic book and animation creator and illustrator, Dawud Anyabwile, for Aint No Such Thing As Superman, a discussion on the influence of the conscious community on Black comic books and graphic novels and the impact of Black comic books and graphic novels on the conscious community.

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS IV

Sunday, October 27, 2013

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Alien Encounters IV


“IT’S LIKE STEAMPUNK BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER…WITH BLACK FOLKS!”

John Henry receives instructions from his teacher, the fearsome Lana.

“IT’S LIKE STEAMPUNK BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER…WITH BLACK FOLKS!”

Steampunk Fabricator and Cosplayer Mark Curtis plays Vampire King Grant in "Rite of Passage"

Steampunk Fabricator and Cosplayer Mark Curtis plays Vampire King Grant in “Rite of Passage”

Well, that is sort of paraphrasing a description of Rite of Passage, the Steamfunk feature film, by Professor Lisa Yaszek, Director of Undergraduate Studies. School of Literature, Media and Communication and one of the Associate Producers of the film. Her actual description: “When people ask what Rite of Passage is about, I tell them to think Buffy the Vampire Slayer, set in Victorian times, with Black superheroes.”

Cool, huh?

And accurate.

Jadon Ben Israel, filmmaker and veteran actor of such films as Fast Five and Champion Road: Arena – who plays Vampire-Lord and martial arts master, Joe in Rite of Passage – describes the film as a “Black Steampunk Avengers.”

Cool, huh?

And accurate.

Author, Publisher and Executive Producer of "Rite of Passage" in his Steamfunk persona, Zeke.

Author, Publisher and Executive Producer of “Rite of Passage” in his Steamfunk persona, Zeke.

Milton Davis, author, publisher, Executive Producer of Rite of Passage and writer of the original story upon which the film is based, describes the film as “A Steamfunk movie collaboration destined to change the perception of historical fantasy. It’s the tale of the city of Nicodemus, Kansas and the special souls that have gathered to protect it. Rite of Passage blends history, fantasy and Steamfunk into an exciting action movie that gives a glimpse of the adventure yet to come.”

Cool, huh?

And, of course, accurate.

In the Rite of Passage universe, the Orisa (oh-REE-sha) – forces of nature that serve and guide humans and animals alike – have given several powerful artifacts to Oluwo (“Master Teachers; possessors of secret powers”), who are to keep those artifacts until their rightful possessors – known as Guardians – come along. The Oluwo are to help their Guardian transform, so that they are worthy to possess the artifact.

In the film, the Guardians are Dorothy Wright, Black Dispatch, Conductor on the Underground Railroad and pupil of Harriet Tubman; famed lawman, Bass Reeves; and John Henry, the legendary “steel drivin’ man.”

 

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

Harriet Tubman – who is an artifact, given to the world to protect it – gathers the Guardians around the globe to prepare them for the coming of a powerful entity she calls Jedidiah Green, an ancient and dark being who feeds on the power of the artifacts and is drawn to their possessors.

We also learn a bit about the other Guardians, such as the brutal – and somewhat insane – Dentist of Westminster and Sherlock Holmes.

Jedidiah Green also has his team of “supervillains”, if you will: the Piper, the Blood-Kin (vampires) and the Night-Kin (zombies, ghouls, ghasts, Night Howlers and other undead).

African American rodeo owner, Nat (pronounced “Nate”) Love flees to Nicodemus, Kansas – the small town destined to be the final battlefield in the war against Jedidiah Green and home to the Guardians – after his business rival, P.T. Barnum, tries to have him murdered.

Four of the five assassins sent to destroy the town of Nicodemus.

Four of the five assassins sent to destroy the town of Nicodemus.

Barnum dispatches a special team of assassins to Nicodemus to retrieve Nat Love by any means and to kill the Guardians if necessary.

And thus begins the film.

We have been in production since August 18, following the production of the tie-in, Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster.

Production is going very well, although filming on a budget of fumes has proved very challenging and we had to forgo shooting once because we just did not have the money to purchase the costumes for that scene. This of course, is our biggest obstacle, so please donate and help us out. Steampunks, we would definitely appreciate any donations of old costumes and or props…oh, and we have great perks, too!

The actors are phenomenal, really bringing their characters to life.

John Henry receives instructions from his teacher, the fearsome Lana.

John Henry receives instructions from his teacher, the fearsome Lana.

Recently, actor Maurice Johnson, who portrays – no, who isJohn Henry, received a call from E. Roger Mitchell, who has had starring roles in Flight, alongside Denzel Washington, Battle Los Angeles, S.W.A.T. and The Crazies – and who portrayed John Henry in the short masterpiece, John Henry and the Railroad. Mitchell told Maurice that he has been following what is going on with Rite of Passage and told him “Now, you are the real John Henry!”

Cool, huh?

And accurate.

The crew is amazing and makes my job easy. Director of Photography, John Thornton, who is also Professor of Film Production at GA-Tech, brings his experience as a Director and Cinematographer for several independent and Disney films to Rite of Passage. Imed “Kunle” Patman, Cinematographer, brings his experience and artistic genius to the film, as does Assistant Director and Editor, Brandon Davis.

“We have really been blessed to have such talented and intelligent people working with us,” Akin Danny Donaldson, Producer of Rite of Passage, said. “We are making history as we make a film about our history.”

Cool, huh?

And, yep…accurate.

 


UNAPOLOGETICALLY BLACK: Lack of #DiversityInSFF is NOT a Victimless Crime!

UNAPOLOGETICALLY BLACK: Lack of #DiversityInSFF is NOT a Victimless Crime!

Steamfunk Harriet Tubman, the cover for the third installment of Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. Artwork by Stanley Weaver.

Steamfunk Harriet Tubman, the cover for the third installment of Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. Artwork by Stanley Weaver.

With all the talk about #DiversityinSFF breaking Twitter and all the following blogs demanding to see more main characters – particularly heroes and sheroes – who are well, less of the old straight, white male default, you would think that authors everywhere would stand up, join hands, sing a little kum ba yah and then sit down to write some real kick-ass stories with some non-default heroes.

And in most communities they are.

However, author Milton Davis, who has been writing and publishing books about Black heroes and sheroes for the past five years and now – in partnership with Yours Truly – is bringing those protagonists to the Silver Screen, recently ranted about an issue that many of we writers in the Black community still wrestle with.

Here is what he posted in the State of Black Science Fiction group on Facebook:

“My fellow writers, this may not matter to you but it’s a big pet peeve of mine. I hate it when black writers say, ‘my character just happens to be black.’ It’s like you’re apologizing for your character’s ethnicity or culture, like you’re apologizing in advance for something that your reader might find upsetting.

If you’re going to do us, then do us with pride and no apologies. How many white writers have you heard say their characters ‘just happen to be white?’ I think I said this before; my characters don’t ‘just happen’ to be anything. If we’re going to make a difference we’ll do it without making excuses or apologizing for disturbing someone’s narrow perception. Let’s do what we do fearlessly.”

Several authors chimed in. Here are a few of our responses.

Balogun Ojetade“Difficult to do something fearlessly when you operate from a position of fear, not power. Apologists operate from fear: ‘What will ‘they’ say if I write this Black hero?’ ‘Will anyone buy my book if I write about a hero who is a dark-skinned Black woman?’ Fear.”

Phillip Kirby: “I have read where black writers have intentionally not written stories with black protagonists because they do not want to get pigeonholed or labeled as a “Black Writer.” I have read interviews where black writers have been angry when their scifi / fantasy novel gets placed in the African American section in book stores.

They are afraid that mainstream, or white, America will not read their novels, thinking that their stories are “just black stories.” The publishing industry follows that way of thinking too. How many novels have you read where the black protagonist is shown in silhouette on the cover? Neil Gaiman’s “Anansi Boys” and Ben Aaronovitch’s “Midnight Riot” & “Moon over Soho” novel covers are examples of this.

Now I know tons of black people who favorite heroes are Batman, Superman, Spidey, and Wonder Woman. The question is whether White, Asian, and Native American people can see a black hero/protagonist as their hero. That will only happen if seeing a black hero/protagonist happens so much in stories, novels, and films that it becomes normalized. That it becomes common. But that has to begin with Black Writers, since most writers will write what that know.

And if Black Writers do not write about Black heroes/protagonist, then who will?”

Afua Richardson: “Its a loaded topic. I think it speaks to the implications of being black. Does being black or having a black character mean you automatically have to write a character about Africa, the hood, the Egyptian dynasty, or Hip Hop?

Where those things are an important part of black culture ( and awesome things at that), there are more dimensions to what black people are and what they’ve contributed to the world. We break stereotypes when we push boundaries, even the ones of ourselves.

We must make our own. No one else will tell my story correctly. Can’t expect them to.”

Tade Thompson: “You can place a black character in ancient Egypt, on a ship looping the Horn, in Wall Street, in a submarine, in a hospital, in a nuclear power plant, at the moment of creation and witnessing the heat-death of the universe. We’re vampires, we’re sorcerers, we’re fighters. Tell the story with your whole heart and don’t bother about who exactly will read it.”

Valjeanne Jeffers: “Awesome comments fam! My characters are vampires, werewolves daemons, queens and kings  They’re also multicultural because that’s the world I grew up in. That’s the world we live in. But you best to believe that the Black folks in my series are not stereotypes or sidekicks.”

Ds Brown: “A shift in perspective in how you say it allows you to embolden yourself if you happen to be one of us straddling the line between righteous self-expression and marketing desire.

However, I will say the best of us will write with passion without thought for book placement or monetary gain. The art is the art is the art irrespective of the market. You write because you must, not because you want to make money. And in this, the perspective on your sentence may change and provide strength, Milt. Not, ‘My character just happens to be black.’ But rather, ‘My characters are black.’ No explanation, no apology. They are fully formed in the dimension of my mind and occupy a relevant place in my universe. It is not to be questioned.

And oh, ‘Yes, that other character is white. You can tell from the characterization. In fact, he’s Czech. Just in case you wanted to know.’

Geoffrey Thorne: “Personally, I don’t care what any writer says about how they feel about their characters or how they describe their process or any of that. Couldn’t care less. How *I* feel, as the reader is the only thing that matters and it should be the only thing that matters to the writer.

All I care about is the actual story they’re telling and how well or poorly they tell it.

It’s about the story, not the writer.

Neither passion nor politics is an excuse to avoid having to tell a story well and at professional standard and neither passion nor politics will help to make the mechanics of a story better.”

Taken on the set of Rite of Passage, the Steamfunk feature film. Photo courtesy of Iyalogun Ojetade

Taken on the set of Rite of Passage, the Steamfunk feature film. Photo courtesy of Iyalogun Ojetade

I believe that the source of Milton’s upset comes from the realization that the lack of Diversity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Steampunk and Horror has damaged many Black people, who have been forced to make excuses for why we love speculative fiction so; why we eagerly read it; why we are compelled to write it. We have always felt the need to apologize for daring to walk into the “good ol’ boys club” and take a seat. We apologize for our very existence in the world of Tolkien and Asimov and Lovecraft. Some of us promise not to make waves and write only non-Black characters; and then, we justify that.

Think I’m exaggerating? Here are a few words from one such author, who recently spoke on the matter of race in genre fiction on a friend’s blog:

#DiversityinSFF“When I began my career as an independent author, I did not think overmuch about the outer appearances of the characters in my books. I simply write the character as he or she appears in my mind with no thought to race, unless that race plays a role in that person’s personality (accent, attitudes toward others outside of a particular race, etc.).

“For me, connection with a character in a book is not based on race in the least. I have read several books with black heroines and felt no connection, while often being able to connect better with a white or Hispanic character in another book. I have always looked for the common thread between myself and a book hero or heroine. I can identify with the heroine of a book because she is a woman, regardless of her race. Perhaps a white girl from the suburbs speaks to me a bit better than a black girl from Park Avenue. For me, it has never been about race when it comes to reading. So, when I decided to tackle writing, how could I have let it be any different?

 I have encountered many black authors that will only write characters of their own race because they feel they have something to prove, or because they feel that there are too many books flooding the market about white folks, and not enough about black. I have to say that I find it disconcerting, to say the least. To many who maintain this view, I pose this question: How would those words sound to you if they were coming from a white author instead of a black author?

I have witnessed this time and time again, people of a certain race speaking of being true to ‘our people’ and ‘our culture’. If a white author were to conduct an interview and confess to having no intention of writing about characters that were not Caucasian, they would be accused of being narrow-minded, racist, and behind the times. Honestly, it makes me sad that we think this way. 

I feel that this divisive attitude has no place in the literary world…on either side. This is the beauty of America, the melting pot that is our culture as Americans. That I, a black girl from the suburbs, might be able to identify on some level with a white girl from the projects, or an Asian girl from the top of the hill is very powerful. It points to the joint culture that we share as a country, as well as the potential for cross cultural unity. If we can live this way in the real world, why not in the literary world?”

Sigh.

We African Americans have been conditioned to go around to the back door; and if there is no back door, we will insist on one.

Diversity 4The media – and that includes literature, folks (and yes, science fiction and fantasy is literature) –is directly responsible for this. The perpetuation of stereotypes is always done through print, television, film, radio, music and, now, the internet.

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, read in books and watch on the big screen.

After over a century of movie making; after nearly a century of degradation in the speculative writings of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft; after all this time of seeing no Black men or women of righteous and heroic stature, it is no wonder we don’t feel a Black hero is something people want to see.

An example of what the cover for a novel collabo with Milton Davis will look like. Artwork by Moises Martins.

An example of what the cover for a novel collabo with Milton Davis will look like. Artwork by Moises Martins.

Hell, we don’t want to see such a hero because, even in a world with fire-breathing dragons and mechanical men and faster-than-light travel, a dark-skinned woman who saves the world seems preposterous.

Lack of diversity in SFF is not a victimless crime.

I will continue to unapologetically give you Black heroes and sheroes in the books and in the films I create. I will continue to push the Steamfunk and Sword & Soul movements – and Black speculative fiction, in general – with fellow authors, artists and filmmakers, such as Milton Davis, Charles Saunders, Valjeanne Jeffers, Hannibal Tabu, R.L. Scott, Richard Tyler, Mshindo Kuumba, James Eugene, Jadon Ben Israel, Bree Newsome and Kia T. Barbee…those who have chosen to be victor; not victim.

Those who are unapologetically Black.


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