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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. 


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

rape 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am happy I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pray I got it right.

Read the book and let me know.


SISTERS OF THE SPEAR: Black Sheroes In Speculative Fiction

'Ayen and Bull' by artist Jason Reeves

SISTERS OF THE SPEAR: Black Sheroes In Speculative Fiction

 Women Warriors 1

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

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

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

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

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

Art by Andrea Rushing.

Art by Andrea Rushing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A SINGLE LINK IS HERE!

A Single Link

A SINGLE LINK IS HERE!

A Single Link

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

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

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

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


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?


THE LOWDOWN ON THE THROWDOWN

THE LOWDOWN ON THE THROWDOWN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larnell Stovall

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

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

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

Chuck Jeffreys

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

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

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

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

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

R.L. Scott

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

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

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

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

Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE ROAD TO NICODEMUS: Black Towns in the Age of Steam!

THE ROAD TO NICODEMUS: Black Towns in the Age of Steam!

Black Americans have played a vital role in building this nation. Eager to live and prosper as free people, we have established our own towns since Colonial times. Many of these communities were destroyed by racial violence or injustice, while some just died out. Let’s explore a few of these symbols of freedom, courage, hard work and ingenuity a bit more in-depth.

Fort Mose, Florida

town 1Although this settlement was established well before the Age of Steam, it still merits mentioning, as it is a fascinating place with an even more fascinating history. Established in 1738, Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose – or Fort Mose – was the first free black settlement in what is now the United States and played an important role in the development of colonial North America.

Amid the fight for control of the New World, Great Britain, Spain and other European nations relied on African slave labor. Exploiting its proximity to plantations in the British colonies in North America and the West Indies, King Charles II, of Spain issued the Edict of 1693 which stated that any male slave on an English plantation who escaped to Spanish Florida would be granted freedom, provided he joined the Militia and became a Catholic. This edict became one of the New World’s earliest emancipation proclamations.

By 1738 there were 100 Black men, mostly runaways from the Carolinas, living in what became Fort Mose.  Many were skilled workers, blacksmiths, carpenters, cattlemen, boatmen, and farmers.  With accompanying women and children, they created a colony of freed people that ultimately attracted other fugitive slaves.

When war broke out in 1740 between England and Spain, the people of St. Augustine and nearby Fort Mose found themselves involved in a conflict that stretched across three continents. The English sent thousands of soldiers and dozens of ships to destroy St. Augustine and bring back any runaways.  They set up a blockade and bombarded the town for 27 consecutive days.  Hopelessly outnumbered, the diverse population of blacks, First Nation peoples and whites pulled together.  Fort Mose was one of the first places attacked.  Lead by Captain Francisco Menendez, the men of the Fort Mose Militia briefly lost the Fort but eventually recaptured it, repelling the English invasion force.  Florida remained in Spanish hands and for the next 80 years remained a haven for fugitive slaves from the British colonial possessions of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

The site was abandoned in 1763 when the British took possession of Florida. The residents of Mose evacuated to Cuba and formed a new town, Ceiba Mocha, Matanzas province, considered the hub of African spirituality in Cuba.

Rosewood, Florida

town 2Rosewood – taking its name from the abundant red cedar that grew in the area – was established in 1870.

The town prospered as the Florida Railroad established a small depot to handle the transport of cedar wood to the pencil factory in Cedar Key and the transportation of timber, turpentine rosin, citrus, vegetables, and cotton throughout the State. In 1890 the cedar depleted and many of the white families moved to Sumner, three miles west of Rosewood and worked at the newfound saw mill established by Cummer and Sons. By 1900 Rosewood had a black majority of citizens.

On the morning of January 1, 1923 Fannie Coleman Taylor of Sumner Florida, claimed she was assaulted by a Black man. Although she was supposedly knocked unconscious for several hours due to the shock of the incident, she was not seriously injured and was miraculously able to describe, in detail, what happened. No one disputed her account, of course and no questions were asked. It was assumed she was reporting the incident accurately.

Sarah Carrier a Black woman from Rosewood, who did the laundry for Fannie Taylor and was present on the morning of the incident, claimed the man that assaulted Fannie Taylor was her white lover. It was believed the two lovers quarreled and he abused Fannie and left. However, in 1923 no one questioned Fannie Taylor’s account and no one asked Sarah Carrier about the incident. The Black community claimed Fannie Taylor was only protecting herself from scandal.

A posse was summoned and tracking dogs were ordered by James Taylor, Fannie Taylor’s husband and the foreman at Cummer and Sons saw mill. The local white community became enraged at the alleged abuse of a white woman by a Black man – an unpardonable sin in a world in which it was punishable for black men back then to even look at a white woman.

James Taylor summoned help from Levy County and neighboring Alachua County, where a large number of KKK members had been rallying and marching in opposition of justice for Black people.

A telegraph sent to Gainesville in regards to Fannie Taylor’s allegations provoked four to five hundred Klansmen, who headed to Sumner at the appeal of James Taylor. They arrived enraged and combed the woods behind the Taylor’s home looking for a suspect. Suspicion soon fell on Jesse Hunter, a Black man who had allegedly recently escaped from a convict road gang. No proof of the escape was ever provided.

The posse confronted Sam Carter at his home and Carter allegedly admitted to helping Hunter escape. The posse forced Carter to take them to the place where he last saw Hunter. When no trace of Hunter could be found the posse turned into an out of control lynch mob, torturing Carter, riddling him with bullets and hanging him from a tree.

The posse continued their hunt in Rosewood. They found Aaron Carrier, cousin and friend to Sam Carter, in bed at his cousin, Sarah Carrier’s house. They yanked him out of bed, tied a rope around his neck and dragged him behind a Model –T Ford from Rosewood to Sumner. They tortured him, beat him with gun butts and kicked him until he lost consciousness they then shot him numerous times.

Levy County Sherriff Bob Walker halted the gunfire before a fatal shot could be delivered, however, when he yelled, “Don’t, I’ll finish the nigger off!” Confident that the sheriff would take care of Aaron Carrier, the posse returned to Rosewood to hunt and kill more Black people.

Sheriff Walker threw Aaron Carrier in his vehicle and took him to Gainesville, to the Alachua County jail, begging Sheriff James Ramsey to hide Carrier from the public and his family until tempers settled down. Sheriff Walker also suggested that Sheriff Ramsey get medical help for Carrier. Sheriff Ramsey brought in two local Black doctors – Dr. Parker and Dr. Ayers – to treat Carrier.  For six months, without any knowledge of the public or Carrier’s family, the doctors tending to Carrier’s wounds and returned him to health and strength.

Fuming with anger because they had not found the attacker James Taylor sent Sarah Carrier’s son, Sylvester Carrier, a message “We are coming to get you.”

Unbeknownst to the posse, Sylvester Carrier took heed to the threats and made contact with his Levy County friends who bravely traveled to Rosewood to help avert the planned ambush of its citizens.

After dark, the white posse traveled to Rosewood prepared to kill or be killed. The posse, intoxicated with moonshine and ignorance, was met head-on with resistance from Sylvester Carrier and his friends, however and several of them were killed or injured. The surviving posse members fled, returning to Sumner, leaving their guns behind at the order of Sylvester Carrier and his men. Other posse members lay dead and wounded in Sarah Carrier’s yard.

On January 3rd, many citizens of Rosewood fled into the swamp, hiding out and waiting for the train to come and take them to safety. Others fled to white store merchant John Wright’s home. He allowed them to wait there in hiding until they heard back from Sheriff Walker, who travelled back and forth to Cedar Key, Sumner, and Rosewood in an effort to move Rosewood’s citizens safely out of Rosewood on the 4 AM early morning train, which was conducted by the Bryce Brothers from Bryceville, Florida.

When the posse returned to Rosewood days later to make an assessment of the damages, they vengefully shot and killed anyone who remained in the town – mainly those too ill or too old to

Weeksville, New York

town 3What is now Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, NY, Weeksville was the second-largest community for free blacks prior to the Civil War. James Weeks, a freed slave, purchased a significant amount of land from Henry C. Thompson, another freed slave. Weeks sold property to new residents, who eventually named the community after him. The town thrived, becoming a free Black enclave of urban trades-people and property owners comprised of both Southern blacks fleeing slavery and Northern blacks escaping the racial violence and draft riots in New York and other cities. By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, Weeksville was already a thriving area with its own doctors, teachers, publishers, and social services.

My Steamfunk fable, Seeking Shelter, is set in Weeksville.

Freedmen’s Town, Texas: Houston’s ‘Little Harlem’

town 4Immediately following the Civil War, thousands of freed slaves purchased land and built their homes along the Buffalo Bayou, dubbing the area “Freedmen’s Town.”

Over a period of sixty years the town thrived, with churches, schools, stores, theaters and jazz spots lining the cobblestone roadways, earning Freedmen’s Town the nickname of “Little Harlem” by the 1920s.

Unfortunately, the Great Depression caused many residents of Freedmen’s Town to lose their homes. Most longtime residents were forced to move to other Houston neighborhoods, while others stayed in the town, only to watch the community deteriorate.

In 1984, Freedmen’s was designated a historic district.

Blackdom, New Mexico

town 5Dispatched from Ft. Leavenworth for the New Mexico Territory in 1846 to fight the Mexican-American War, General Stephen W. Kearny led a force of 2,500 soldiers in the invasion (yes, invasion – just ask the First Nations in the area).  One of those detailed to that force as a wagoneer was a Georgia freedman by the name of Henry Boyer.  Upon reaching New Mexico, Boyer fell in love with the vast desert expanses of sky and land, upon his return home, he told his wife and children tales of his adventures in New Mexico, emphasizing the awesome beauty of the land.

One of Boyer’s children, Francis Marion (“Frank”) Boyer, was captivated by his father’s stories.  Frank, a graduate of Morehouse College and a teacher, grew dissatisfied with his existence in Georgia and joined groups of other Black men who spoke out against the savageries of the Ku Klux Klan and other Southern atrocities.

Fearing for his son’s life, Henry Boyer suggested that Frank leave Georgia and move to New Mexico to seek a better life for himself and his family.  In 1896, Frank Boyer and his friend and student, Daniel Keyes, decided to set out for New Mexico.

Being Black, Mr. Boyer and Mr. Keyes could not travel by stagecoach or rail, nor could they get secure passage on a wagon train.  Undeterred, they set out on foot, and walked the entire distance from Pellum (nowadays known as “Pelham”), Georgia to Roswell, New Mexico – a distance of 1,200 miles.

Upon arrival, the two men worked multiple jobs while exercising their rights as freedmen under the Homestead Act, laying claim to acreage in the area of what is now Dexter.  The following year, Franks’s wife, Ella Louise and their children joined him, and he was able to secure a loan from a bank to begin homesteading.  He dug an artesian well, built a house, and began an active outreach campaign to other Black families in surrounding states, urging them to come to the beautiful desert land in the southeastern part of the Territory and help create the New Mexico Territory’s first Black community.

And they came…more than 300 people from across the country…despite the odds; despite the obstacles. Whites would not sell them train or stagecoach tickets and would not permit them to board in the event that they managed to secure tickets anyway; they would not sell wagons or horses to Black families, despite their ability to pay.

But they came…by cart; on horseback; on foot like the town’s founders…and in 1903, Frank Boyer filed the town of Blackdom’s articles of incorporation.

Unfortunately, in the 1920s, a severe drought led settlers to abandon the town.

Nicodemus, Kansas

town 6Nicodemus, Kansas is the only remaining western community established by African Americans after the Civil War. The town is now recognized as a National Historic Site.

In the late 1870’s, as the Reconstruction following the Civil War failed to bring the long awaited freedom, equality and prosperity promised to Black people, along came a white man by the name of W.R. Hill – to black families in the backwoods of Kentucky and Tennessee – who described a “Promise Land” in Kansas.   Hill told of a sparsely settled territory with abundant wild game, wild horses that could be tamed, and an opportunity to own land through the homesteading process in Nicodemus, Kansas.

The town site of Nicodemus was planned in 1877 by W.R. Hill, a land developer from Indiana, and Reverend W.H. Smith, a black man. Reverend Smith became the President of the Nicodemus Town Company and Hill, the treasurer. The two founders aggressively promoted the town to the Black refugees of the Deep South.  The Reverend Simon P. Roundtree was the first settler, arriving on June 18, 1877.  Zack T. Fletcher and his wife, Jenny Smith Fletcher, the daughter of Reverend W.H. Smith, arrived in July and Fletcher was named the Secretary of the Town Company. Smith, Roundtree, and the Fletchers made claims to their property and built temporary homes in dugouts along the prairie.

The Nicodemus Town Company produced numerous circulars to promote the town, inviting “Colored People of the United States” to come and settle in the “Great Solomon Valley.” The Reverend Roundtree became actively involved in the promotion, and worked with a man by the name of  Benjamin “Pap” Singleton , a black carpenter from Nashville, who traveled all over the United States distributing the circulars, which portrayed Nicodemus as a place for African-Americans to establish Black self-government. Singleton, who could not read or write, distributed so many circulars that he was sometimes called the “Moses of the Colored Exodus.” The Blacks who decided to emigrate soon acquired the name “Exodusters”.

At the same time, railroads, needing to populate the West to create markets for their services, exaggerated the quality of the soil and climate in this “Western Eden.”

The desperate families of the South listened with rapt attention and in the late summer of 1877, 308 railroad tickets were purchased to take them to the closest railroad point in Ellis, Kansas. The families then walked the remaining fifty-five miles to Nicodemus, arriving in September 1877.

Building homes along the Solomon River in dugouts, the original settlers found more disappointment and privation as they faced adverse weather conditions. In the Promised Land of Kansas, they initially lacked sufficient tools, seed, and money, but managed to survive the first winter by selling buffalo bones and by working for the Kansas Pacific Railroad at Ellis, the city fifty-five miles away where they originally arrived. Others survived with assistance from the Osage First Nation, who provided food, firewood and staples.

Though most stayed, many settlers were disillusioned by the lack of vegetation and the harsh land and made a hasty return to the green fields of Kentucky and Tennessee. Of those who stayed, the spring of 1878 brought hope and opportunity as new Exodusters, bearing horses, oxen and farming tools began to farm the soil.

A local government was established, headed by “President Smith.”

One woman arriving in the spring, Williana Hickman, said years later of arriving at Nicodemus: “When we got in sight of Nicodemus the men shouted, ‘There is Nicodemus!’ Being very sick, I hailed this news with gladness. I looked with all the eyes I had. I said, ‘Where is Nicodemus? I don’t see it.’ My husband pointed out various smokes coming out of the ground and said, ‘That is Nicodemus.’ The families lived in dugouts… the scenery was not at all inviting, and I began to cry.”

Despite the poor living conditions, Williana and her husband, Reverend Daniel Hickman, stayed, organizing the First Baptist Church in a dugout with a sod structure above it. By 1880, a small, one-room, stone sanctuary had been erected at the same site. This structure evolved from limestone to stucco, and in 1975, a new brick sanctuary was built. Today, the church still stands in Nicodemus.

Zachary Fletcher, one of the town’s first settlers, became the first postmaster and the first entrepreneur in Nicodemus, establishing the St. Francis Hotel and a livery stable in 1880. His wife, Jenny Smith Fletcher, became the first postmistress and schoolteacher and one of the original charter members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The complex that Fletcher built, which housed the post office, school, hotel and stable, later became known as the Fletcher-Switzer House and was an important focus of activity in the community. The building still stands in Nicodemus today.

By 1880, Nicodemus had a population of almost 500, boasting a bank, two hotels, three churches, a newspaper, a drug store, and three general stores – surrounded by twelve square miles of cultivated land.

Edward P. McCabe, who joined the colony in 1878, served two terms as state auditor, 1883-1887, the first African American to hold a major state office.

By 1887 Nicodemus had gained more churches, stores, a literary society, an ice cream parlor, a lawyer, another newspaper, a baseball team, a benefit society and a band. Hopes were high in the community when the railroad talked of an extension from Stockton to Nicodemus and in March of 1887, the voters of the Township approved the issuance of $16,000 in bonds to attract the Union Pacific Railroad to the community. Despite the bond issue, the town and the railroad could not agree on financial compensation and the railroad withdrew its offer.

In 1888, the railroad established the extension six miles away south of the Solomon River, leaving Nicodemus a stranded “island”.  Businesses fled to the other side of the river to the Union Pacific Railroad camp that later became known as the town of Bogue. With the businesses leaving, Nicodemus began a gradual decline.

Zachary Fletcher, the town’s first entrepreneur, sold his town lots to the original promoter, W. R. Hill, but continued to run his businesses. Eventually, the hotel reverted to Graham County for a time but was brought back into the family in the 1920′s by Fred Switzer, a great-nephew raised by the Fletchers. When Switzer married Ora Wellington in 1921, they made the hotel their home.

Despite all the hardships and calamities that Nicodemus faced, it survived…and thrived.

More than a half-dozen black settlements sprung up in Kansas after the Civil War but Nicodemus is the only one that still stands.

In the world that author Milton Davis and I have developed – the world you will experience in the upcoming Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage – the secret to Nicodemus’ survival lies in its four very powerful protectors – Harriet Tubman, Dorothy Wright, John Henry and Bass Reeves and the town’s President, “High” John Konker. Just as the Exodusters have been drawn by promises of self-government, freedom and economic success, the town’s protectors have been drawn by a mysterious and fearsome entity known only as Jedediah Green, who you will learn more of in the next phase of Rite of Passage stories.

The Rite of Passage movie is a pulse-pounding thrill-ride that introduces you to this dark and gritty world of steam, brass and iron and to the origins of its heroes.

With the might of our heroes – and with the imaginations of Milton Davis and Yours Truly – Nicodemus Town Company will never fall.


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

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

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

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

Or is casting the right actor most important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cast Harriet


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

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

 

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

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

And the concomitant myth of white superiority.

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

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

This sickness must be addressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why we expect so little of ourselves and of each other

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

For starters, lower expectations mean fewer disappointments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This amazing discussion includes:

BALOGUN OJETADE, Co-Moderator

Film 12

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

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

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

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

MILTON J. DAVIS, Co-Moderator

film 9

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

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

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

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

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

DONNIE LEAPHEART

film 5

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

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

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

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

TERÉSA DOWELL-VEST

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

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

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

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

Terésa can be reached at Diva Blue’s Blog.

TOMMY BOTTOMS

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

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

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

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

LARON AUSTIN

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

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

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

 

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

 

 


REDEEMER: Glitch Part 3

glitch 36

Redeemer

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

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

REDEEMER: Glitch Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia jerked the weapon downward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood and brain splashed onto Z’s face.

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

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

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

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

“Put the gun down, Z.”

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

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

“You’re welcome,” the man replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can walk now,” Z said.

“You sure?” Ezekiel asked.

“Positive,” Z answered.

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

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

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

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

“Oh, no,” Ezekiel gasped.

“What? Who is that?” Z asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Fire erupted from the muzzle of Ezekiel’s shotgun.

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

“Run!” Ezekiel shouted.

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

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

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

“Cray-cray?” Ezekiel asked.

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

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

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

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

Now, you run?” Ezekiel sighed.

Ezekiel squeezed the trigger of his shotgun.

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

Ezekiel squeezed the trigger once more. The shotgun roared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


REDEEMER: Glitch Part 2

Lala

Redeemer

We now continue the celebration of the release of my latest Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, with Part 2 of Redeemer: Glitch, the episodic short story based on the book. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.

So, sit back once more and enjoy part two of Redeemer: Glitch!

REDEEMER: Glitch Part 2

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

glitch 21Danny Sweet forced a smile as he sat across the table from Virginia and Virgil Carver – the notorious Carver Twins – the only threat and obstacle to Sweet’s total domination of rap and R&B music in the South and the Southeast.

Norm and Detective McGraw stood, menacingly, at Sweet’s back.

Z sat alone in an apartment across the street – one of Sweet’s safe-houses – monitoring the closed circuit cameras and microphones that he and Norm had planted in the restaurant the night before.

At the Carver Twins’ backs were two men who Z recognized as former Navy Seals, Manny and Steve. The duo had been securing the Twins since Old Man Carver was still alive and running the family business and the twins were in high school.

glitch 6“This is my favorite spot,” Sweet proclaimed, his voice crystal clear in the microphones hidden in the lamps, wall panels and power strips throughout the room.  “The food…the ambience…perfect!”

“My husband – God rest his soul – proposed to me here,” Virginia Carver said.  “Ah, the memories!”

“And I banged my first piece of ass here,” Virgil snickered.  “In the restroom.  Ah, the memories!”

Virginia punched Virgil in the arm.  Virgil winced from the pain.  “Ow!” he screamed, rubbing his aching bicep.

“Please, forgive my brother,” Virginia said.  “So, what exactly, did you want to discuss with us?  It sounded urgent on the phone.”

glitch 25Sweet took a bite of the steaming, fried catfish that lay on the plate before him.  He licked his lips and pointed at the fish with his fork.  “That is some good fish!”

Sweet then pointed the fork in the direction of the Carver Twins, shaking it as he spoke.  “For ten years, we’ve been rivals…”

Sweet sucked a piece of fish from between his teeth and spat it into a napkin.  “We first competed on these streets and now, in the music business.  Congrats on signing Point Blank, by the way…he’s sure to win Best New Artist at the Hip-Hop Awards.  Hell, he might even give my boy, Skinz, a run for his money for Best Album.”

“Thank you.  We’ll see,” Virginia replied.

“Well, we’ve been bitter rivals,” Sweet continued.  “But we’ve never broken the peace with each other.  There has been no violence between our families and we’ve all grown because of that.”

glitch 22Virgil glanced at his watch and then yawned.

Norm glanced at the young gangster.

Virginia shook her head.

“Look, Sweet,” Virgil began.  “I’ve got a date with a certain supermodel talk-show host in a couple of hours, so, if you don’t mind…”

“Virgil!”  Virginia shouted, as she placed a firm hand on her brother’s forearm.

“It’s okay, Virginia,” Sweet said, struggling to maintain his smile.  “You’re right, Virgil, I’ll get straight to the point.”

Sweet took a deep breath.  “Two nights ago, someone killed three of my best men.  One of them was a Lieutenant.  A reliable source describes the killer as some kind of Special Forces, ninja-type motherfucker.  Me!”

Virgil shrugged his narrow shoulders.  “So, what does that have to do with us?”

African american man shoutingNorm stepped to the table.  His face twisted into a manifestation of pure rage.  “We’d fuckin’ like to know if you set it up, you disrespectful little wanker!  That’s what!”

Virgil pounded his fist on the table.  Plates jumped and a few forks fell to the floor.  Virgil glared at Sweet, not once acknowledging Norm’s presence with his eyes.  “I am Co-Boss of the Carver Family, Sweet!  Since when do you allow your Captain to speak to a Boss at a sit-down?”

“Since when does a Co-Boss who rides the coattails of his sister – the real Boss of your family – disrespect the Boss of Bosses?”  Sweet spat.

“The Boss of Bosses?”  Virginia said, shaking her head.  “You go too far, Sweet.”

Sweet took another bite of catfish and spoke as he chewed.  “Look, we both know that there isn’t a Boss in the Southeast who will stand with you against me.

Sweet sprinkled hot sauce on his fish and took another bite.  “But, if you have broken the peace, Virginia, the other Bosses will side with me against you.  None of them like the idea of a female Boss, anyway.  Me?  I’m more progressive.”

Virginia scooted her chair away from the table and stood up.  Virgil rose almost in unison with her.

Manny and Steve stood at the Carver Twins’ flanks.

“This sit-down is over, Sweet!”  Virginia said.

glitch 19“Did you order the hit on my boys, Virginia?”  Sweet asked.

“Goodbye, Sweet,” Virginia said, as she walked away from the table.

The Carver Family sauntered out of the restaurant.

 “Fuckin’ wankers!  Norm shouted.

“What do we do now, Sweet?”  McGraw asked.

Sweet stared out of a large window, which ran from floor to ceiling in a wall near his table.  The Carver Twins were hopping into their limousine.

glitch 17His upper lip curled into a sneer.  “We prepare for war.”

“You should send Z’s crazy, little ass after them,” McGraw said.

“The Carvers are too dangerous,” Sweet said. “I can’t have my little experiment getting’ himself killed.”

“Your experiment?” McGraw inquired.

“I’m creating the perfect killer,” Sweet replied.

“I thought Norm, here, was the perfect killer,” McGraw said, slapping Norm on his massive bicep with the back of his hand.

“Norm is almost perfect, but he was a barrister before I showed him his true calling,” Sweet said.

glitch 29McGraw snapped his head toward Norm. The giant was busy eating a serving bowl of Kale salad. “Damn, Norm…I never pictured you wearing a tight ass apron, making espresso and shit.”

“That’s a bloody barista, fool! I was a barrister…an attorney.”

Sweet and McGraw laughed. Norm went back to devouring his bowl of kale.

“So, how are we handling the twins, Sweet?” McGraw asked.

“We’re gonna use an outsider,” Sweet answered.

“Anyone I know?” McGraw asked.

“Maybe,” Sweet replied. “Her name’s Lala.”

McGraw sat bolt upright in his chair. “Hold up…Lala is real? I thought she was just a friggin’ urban legend.”

glitch 31“Oh, she’s real,” Norm said, looking up from his now half empty bowl. “Real bonkers!”

“I heard she took out Preach, the Boss out of Cincinnati,” McGraw said. “And his gang, too, without ever firing a single shot. Man, I thought all that was bullshit, though.”

“No, that was really Lala,” Norm said. “She only uses silent weapons.  Knives and crossbows and other Lord of the Rings-type shit.  Sweet has used her a few times.”

“Yeah, she does good wet-work, but she’s fuckin’ expensive,” Sweet sighed. “And she’s crazy as a shithouse rat!  I don’t like fuckin’ with her unless absolutely necessary.  Unfortunately, it’s necessary. You’ll finally get to meet her, McGraw; she should be here any minute.”

“Any minute?” McGraw gasped. “What the hell is she…psychic or something? How did she know you’d be giving her this contract?”

“Ever hear of speed-dial, wanker?” Norm asked.

“The second the sit-down went south, I hit Lala up with a text.”

A woman sauntered into the dining room, her Dolce and Gabbana mini dress caressing every curve of her sensuous form with each graceful step.

glitch 32McGraw whistled in admiration as he perused the woman’s body from the top of her unkempt, reddish-brown afro, to her teal Gisele shoes.

“Gentlemen,” the woman said. She then nodded in McGraw’s direction. “Pervert.”

“Speak of the devil,” Sweet said, taking the woman’s hand.

“And the devil appears,” Lala said. “So, who are we killin’, sugar?”

Sweet kissed the back of her hand and extended his arm toward a chair. Lala took a seat.

“The Carver Twins,” Sweet said.

“Okay,” Lala said.  “Two-fifty…each.”

“Five hundred thousand dollars?” Sweet hissed. “Are you fuckin’ serious?”

“I’m the World Serious of seriousness, baby,” Lala replied. “These are two crime bosses we’re talkin’ about, not some mayor or fuckin’ police chief!”

“Two hundred each,” Sweet said.

“Two-twenty-five,” Lala responded.

“Done,” Sweet said.

McGraw exploded forward.

glitch 30Z’s eyes widened and he leaned closer to the monitors as he watched McGraw place a knife to Lala’s throat. 

Sweet lit a stogie and took a few quick puffs.

“McGraw, what the bloody hell are you doin’?” Norm spat.

“I’m disappointed,” McGraw said. “The legendary Lala, huh?  It was easy to get the ups on your sexy, little ass. I could have slit your throat and you’d have been dead before you knew who did you.”

“I’ll tell you what I do know, Perv,” Lala said. “After you slit my throat, I’d try to cauterize and sew up the wound. Hell, it’s worth a shot.  I still might die, but not before you.”

“How’s that?” McGraw asked.

McGraw winced. He looked down toward the source of his pain. Lala held the tip of a knife at his inner thigh.

“Femoral artery laceration,” Lala said. “You’ll bleed out in eleven seconds. Still disappointed?”

McGraw sheathed his knife on his belt. “Not at all.”

Tammy slipped hers back in a hidden sheath on the outside of her clutch bag. She then slammed the back of her head into McGraw’s groin.

The detective collapsed onto his knees.

Tammy leapt from the chair and darted behind McGraw. She coiled her arms around his neck and squeezed.

McGraw’s eyes turned a bright pink as the constriction on his neck grew tighter.

“That’ll be another twenty thousand, or the pervert dies,” Lala demanded.

Sweet answered with a nod.

Lala released the choke.

glitch 28McGraw fell onto all fours, struggling to catch his breath.

“I swear to God, McGraw, if you weren’t so damned valuable, I’d kill you myself!” Sweet said.

“Alright gents,” Lala said, walking toward the door. She nodded toward McGraw, who was now resting on his knees. “Pervert…gotta get home, The Walking Dead marathon is coming on and I love me some T-Dog.”

Lala glided out of the dining room.

Z slipped his Sig Sauer nine millimeter pistol into the waistband of his jeans and then tossed the bottom of his t-shirt over it. “Sorry Lala,” he whispered as he shut the door to the apartment. “The Carvers are mine!”

Join us in a few days as we continue our thrilling tale with Redeemer: Glitch, Part 2!

And, as always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.


REDEEMER: Glitch Part 1

glitch 12

Redeemer

To celebrate the release of my latest Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, I will share an episodic short story based on the book for the next three posts. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.

So, grab a cup of chai tea, or your favorite brew, sit back and enjoy part one of Redeemer: Glitch!

REDEEMER: Glitch Part 1

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

 

glitch 6The din of raucous laughter echoed throughout the private dining room of Sayles’ Lobster Bar. “Sweet” Danny Sweet had just told one of his anecdotes, which were always entertaining and, usually, quite funny.

Sweet’s charisma and “favorite uncle” demeanor was in stark contrast to his brutality; his ruthlessness. Those same qualities made him one of the most powerful record industry moguls in the world and the most powerful criminal in the Southeastern United States.

Z loved Sweet. When his father was brutally murdered, it was Sweet who stepped in to give him and his mother support; it was Sweet who found the man responsible for his father’s death; and it was Sweet who gave him the opportunity – and the will – to kill that man.

glitch 5Next to Sweet sat the giant, “Nigerian Norm” – the man responsible for Sweet’s safety and for Z’s training. Norm, too, was a man of contrasts – massively muscled; brutish; a master of murder, mayhem and pain. But he was also a graduate of the prestigious Oxford Law school, well-traveled, fluent in five languages and one of the most formidable attorneys on the planet.

Norm was Z’s instructor in the ways of death and, in that role, as all the others he played, he had done exceptionally well. At fifteen years of age, Z was already an experienced and respected assassin-for-hire and was determined to one day be the absolute best.

Z thrust his fork into a mound of spaghetti gamberetto and then twirled it, wrapping the platinum utensil in a cocoon of pasta and shrimp. He shoved the pasta into his mouth, savoring the spicy-sweet flavor.

The smell of stale cigarettes and coffee assaulted Z’s nostrils. “McGraw,” he whispered.

glitch 7Homicide Detective Terry McGraw sauntered into the dining room. His thick, brown fingers fumbled with the buttons of his tweed blazer as he approached the dining table. Behind him shuffled a stout, fireplug of a man, his plump belly jiggling with each step.

“McGraw, what’s the good word?” Sweet inquired.

“I’ve got good news, Sweet,” McGraw replied, reaching across the table to shake Sweet’s hand.

“Good,” Sweet said. His eyes shifted to the clammy-skinned, beer-bellied man beside McGraw and then back to the detective. “Who’s the J? And why is he at my table?”

“He witnessed the robbery-homicide at Frankie’s spot,” McGraw answered. “His name’s…”

“Chuck Alexander Etheridge,” the fireplug of a man said, extending his plump fingers toward Sweet. “But, everyone calls me ‘Shakespeare’.”

“Okay. Have a seat McGraw,” Sweet said, ignoring Shakespeare’s hand. “…Spear-Chucker.”

The corners of Shakespeare’s mouth curled into a weak smile. “That’s Shake…”

glitch 8McGraw placed a hand on Shakespeare’s shoulder and shook his head. Shakespeare wisely shut his mouth and both men sat across from Sweet.

“Hey, Norm,” McGraw said, nodding toward the giant.

Hey, John Hop,” Norm said, leaning forward in his chair. “You had best brought some good Brad Pitt for this Buster Keaton.”

McGraw shook his head. “Damn, I’ve known you for, what? Eleven…twelve years? And I still can’t understand a friggin’ word when you talk that Cockney shit.”

“Well, if you cleaned the wax outta your sighs and had any eighteen in your loaf, understandin’ me would be lemon squeezy,” Norm said.

“It’s British Ebonics,” Sweet snickered. “You catch on after a while.”

Sweet turned his gaze toward Shakespeare. “So, what you got for me, Shake-n-Bake?”

“It’s…ahem…well, I was at Frankie’s spot when it happened,” Shakespeare replied. “It must have been around eleven, because I arrived at my regularly appointed time of ten-fifteen and had already taken my nightly dosage of opiate.”

“Opiate?” Sweet cut his eyes toward Detective McGraw.

“H,” McGraw answered.

“Oh,” Sweet said. “Go on, Salt-Shaker.”

glitch 9“He came out of the darkness,” Shakespeare said, with a sweep of his stubby arms. “Swift; silent…like Death, on gossamer wings.”

Shakespeare leapt from the table and paced the floor. He hung his head and closed his eyes. “Frankie and his henchmen did not stand a chance. Their guns meant nothing in the face of that creature of wind and shadow.

“And why are you alive to tell the tale?” Z asked.

“He left all of the patrons alive,” Shakespeare answered.

“And just what did this bloke look like?” Norm inquired.

“He was tall, but not nearly as tall as you, or Detective McGraw,” Shakespeare replied. “He was, perhaps, five-eleven, or six feet. He was athletically built, with short, well-groomed hair and his skin was a smooth caramel…”

“Damn,” McGraw shouted, interrupting him. “Did you get the motherfucker’s phone number?”

“Absolutely not,” Shakespeare said, turning up his nose. “I am…

glitch 10“Well, it looks like a new player is in town,” Sweet cut in. “He might belong to the Carver Twins; they like hiring them gossamer wing, spirit of the wind-type motherfuckers.”

“You thinkin’ a sit-down?” Norm asked.

“Definitely,” Sweet replied.

Sweet raised his glass of cognac and extended it toward Shakespeare. “Good work, Shakespeare!”

A broad smile spread across Shakespeare’s face.

Sweet withdrew a money clip from the inner pocket of his sharkskin suit coat and thrust two crisp hundred dollar bills toward Shakespeare. “Here; there’s a lot more in it for you if your information leads to us catching this bastard. Now, order yourself some food; it’s on me.”

Sweet held up a golden brown french fry. “Hey, Norm, tell Shakespeare what you call these in England.”

“Chips,” Norm said.

“Freakin’ chips!  Can you believe that?” Sweet asked.  “A chip is a thinly sliced, flat piece of potato.  Comes in different flavors, like plain – that’s my favorite – barbecue; , salt and vinegar – we call ‘em ‘salt and sour’ back home; , hot; , dill pickle – I don’t like them shits, though – anyway, that’s a friggin’ chip!”

Sweet snickered as he shook his head.  “You English are some weird motherfuckers!”

“First of all, I’m Nigerian,” Norm began.

Sweet rolled his eyes.  “Here we go…”

“Second of all, no brother would ever call himself ‘English’, he’d say he’s ‘British’, and third…”

“Hold that thought,” Sweet said, interrupting Norm.  “I gotta take a piss.”

“You’re already takin’ the piss, aren’t ya’?” Norm replied.

“See…weird!” Sweet said.

Shakespeare smiled wider.

Sweet rose from his chair.  Norm followed suit.

glitch 2“I want in on the sit-down,” Z said, dropping his fork onto his plate.

 Sweet wiped the corners of his mouth with his napkin. “What?”

“I want in on the sit-down, in case the Carvers get froggy,” Z replied.

“What the hell do you think me and Norm are gonna be doing there, little nigga?”  Norm spat. “Playing with our dicks? It don’t get no better than me and Norm having Sweet’s back.”

“The Carvers have some tight security and I hear that the twins are pretty dangerous themselves,” Z said. “You can use my help.”

“You’re fifteen, Z,” McGraw sighed. “Leave this shit to the big boys.”

McGraw turned his gaze toward Sweet. “Little nigga kills two or three motherfuckers and thinks he’s Dirty Harry, or some shit!”

Z pointed toward the silver police detective badge, encased in leather, hanging from McGraw’s neck. “Without that badge and gun, you’re just a really tall asshole who fights like a sissy with bad feet.”

Norm slapped the table with his fingertips. Plates rattled as silverware tap-danced against them. “Ezekiel…enough!”

“Yes, Sensei,” Z said, lowering his gaze.

“Bloody hell,” Norm shouted. “McGraw is your elder, Z. Apologize!”

“Yes, Sensei.” Z turned toward McGraw and pressed his palms together with his hands before his chest as if he was about to pray. “Detective McGraw, I apologize. I was wrong.”

McGraw smiled warmly. “It’s okay, Z. I accept your…”

“You are a really tall asshole who fights like a sissy,” Z said, cutting McGraw off. “But you don’t have bad feet.”

The room erupted in laughter.

McGraw thrust his middle finger toward Z.

“That’s better,” Norm said. “Gotta show the geezers their respect.”

glitch 11“Y’all motherfuckers are crazy!” Sweet chuckled. “Look Z, this game’s political. If someone your age attends a sit-down, it’ll be taken as disrespect. I know your father – God rest his soul – gave you a soldier’s heart and Norm is teaching you to kill like a pro, but you gotta be patient.”

“The Carver Twins hired Greg Blake to merc my dad,” Zeke sighed.

“And they’ll pay for that,” Sweet said. “Just like Greg Blake did. You’ll have your revenge, little man; we just gotta be smart about it.”

“Yes, sir,” Z said.

Sweet pulled the brim of his homburg over his right eyebrow. “That’s my boy! Be right back, fellas; nature calls.”

Join us in a few days as we continue our thrilling tale with Redeemer: Glitch, Part 2!

And, as always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.


BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY? Urban Fiction’s Impact on Black Literacy!

By Any Means Necessary?

BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY? Urban Fiction’s Impact on Black Literacy!

 

Review 6My introduction to Urban Fiction in literature began with Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which I read when I was eight or nine years old. A few years after going nuts over the film version, which released in 1972 and The Godfather II, which released in 1974.

My love for The Godfather, led me to seek out gangster films and books with Black people as the heroes, thus became a lifelong (not so) secret love affair with Blaxploitation films and Urban Literature. I could quote every line from Shaft, The Mack, Coffee, and my favorite, Gordon’s War and Donald Goines’ Cry Revenge had an honored place in the trunk that held my most prized comic books.

The youth have always loved Urban Fiction. And not just tweens and teens from the inner city. Teens in rural communities also crave these gritty, action-packed stories.  Leading authority on Urban Fiction, Dr. Vanessa Irvin Morris, claims that 93 percent of libraries across the country – both urban and rural – carry Urban Fiction in their collections.

Review 3Librarians actively use Urban Fiction as a tool to create relationships with teens. “Street Lit” is bringing teens who normally do not read into the public library.

And it is bringing adults who normally do not read to the brick-and-mortar and online bookstores. According to Dr. Morris, writers such as Teri Woods, Miasha Coleman, K’wan and Shannon Holmes not only outsell such renowned authors as Alice Walker,Toni Morrison, Richard Wright and other authors of classic literature, but even more mainstream authors, such as Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) (Morris, V. J., Agosto, D.P., Hughes-Hassell, S., & Cottman, D.T.; 2006; Street Lit: Flying off teen fiction bookshelves in Philadelphia public libraries. Journal of Young Adult Library Service, 5(1): 16-23)

And the readers of Urban Fiction are loyal customers, quick to make a purchase and insatiable in their desire for more stories.

Even with its popularity, however, Urban Literature still has its detractors – mainly African-American writers of contemporary and speculative fiction.

Review 5While the authors of Urban Fiction may not possess a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, or may not have a clue what the Lumineferous Aether is, they do have a gripping story, interesting characters, a do-it-yourself attitude and extraordinary hustle and heart. And that is why Urban Fiction outsells every other genre of fiction on the shelf. So don’t hate; congratulate…and get your hustle up!

While many of us moisten at the thought of recognition from some mainstream publishing company, the authors of Urban Fiction are possessed by an entrepreneurial spirit that enables them to self-publish and sell hundreds of thousands of copies of their books at bus stops, barber shops, beauty salons and street festivals. They don’t seek out mainstream publishers; mainstream publishers seek them out.

And – more than any other genre – Urban Fiction inspires people to read and write.

“But Street Lit glorifies drug dealing, murder and misogyny,” you say.  Some does. So does some science fiction; so does some horror; so does some fantasy, romance and even some of the classics.

However, there is Urban Fiction that gives the reader strong, independent and competent women, healthy, loving relationships, and characters with high moral standards.

Furthermore, reading Urban Fiction can evoke necessary discussion on issues that plague us all.

According to Vanessa Irvin Morris, author of The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature and owner of the website, streetliterature.com, in Philadelphia, a group of librarians worked with hundreds of teens to determine Urban Fiction’s impact on our youth. They found that the relationships between the men and women characters in the books spurred much discussion. The girls, for the most part, originally thought that the male characters “were good to their women” because “they bought them name brand stuff”, but as they analyzed the books, they came to understand that most of the relationships in them involved verbal abuse and domestic violence.

Teens Discussing Urban Science FictionThe most significant discovery for the librarians was that it was analyzing the books that brought about the teens’ awareness of abuse, which was not originally apparent to them. The students read the books and then came together to talk about what they had read and in doing so, developed a greater understanding of the dynamics of relationships and the tragedy of domestic violence.

It is interesting that we reject Street Lit for its presumed misogyny and abusive relationships – which we most certainly should – yet we ignore the misogyny in such classics as Catcher in the Rye, or the abusive relationship in the Twilight Saga. We must make a stand against the abuse of women wherever we find it. If writers truly want to see a change in Urban Fiction, shouldn’t we create that change by contributing our own works?

My mother has always taught my siblings and me, by example, that if you have a problem with something, don’t complain, do your part to fix it. I like to grow a scraggly beard sometimes – I just do, okay? – and my mother hates it. She’ll say the same thing every time she sees my beard – “How much does a shave cost?” She will then proceed to reach into her purse, pull out the exact amount for the shave and hand me the money.

Now, she could easily say “You look like a hobo, son. A shave is only six dollars…go get one!” Instead, she pulls out her money – and pulling out the exact amount tells me she was prepared to act if I sported that hateful, unkempt beard – and hands it to me. No complaining; just action.

It’s her way…and it’s one of the many great things I love about her. Ironically, it is also the way of the authors of Urban Fiction. They are warriors; not worriers.

 Urban Fiction has been called “the most appealing form of Black literature.” It appeals to youth and adults for many reasons. Why? How? Here are a few reasons readers gave in a recent study (Morris, V.J.;2010; Street Lit: Before you recommend it, you have to understand it. Agosto, D. & Hughes-Hassell, S. (eds.). IN Urban Teens in the Library: Research and Practice. (pp. 53-66). Chicago: American Library Association):

  • Stories are fast-paced and action-packed, often with elements of romance.
  • The style is straight forward and cinematic – like a movie in your head.
  • The protagonists are usually anti-heroes.
  • Readers relate to the story, setting and characters.
  • While readers tend to be African-American women, ages 18 – 35, Urban Fiction also attracts more male readers than any other genre – many readers feel that if something can get men and boys to read, it is powerful indeed.
  • There are many parallels between Urban Fiction and Hip-Hop.

Below are two reviews of my Urban Science Fiction novel, Redeemer, a mash-up of Urban Fiction and Science Fiction. Redeemer is a thrilling read and appeals to both science fiction and urban fiction readers alike for all the reasons cited above and more. But don’t just take my word for it; read on…

Redeemer” by Balogun Ojetade

Author, Milton J. DavisEzekiel Cross is a cold blooded killer. He works for ‘Sweet’ Danny Sweet, owner of Sweet South Records, the second wealthiest music label in the country. For most of his life Ezekiel has been a killer, trained from a young age to enforce the whims of his boss. But Ezekiel is tired. He longs for the day that he can hang up his guns and live a normal life with his wife Mali. But the life of a killer is never his own. Ezekiel is called to do another hit, but instead of closing the deal he finds himself the target of a different kind of hit. He’s sent back into time and finds himself in a situation that could change his life forever…or end it.

Redeemer is the latest novel by Balogun Ojetade, author of the Steamfunk novel, Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, the Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon a Time in Afrika, and my Sword and Soul brother. I had the privilege to read Redeemer earlier this year in manuscript form and was immediately blown away. The book is filled with action, drama and humor as only Balogun can write, but with Redeemer he takes his penchant of mashing genres to another level. For months I’ve read different manuscripts attempting to mesh urban fiction and science fiction in an attempt to capture a piece of the urban fiction market. None of those I perused had of a  much chance of success in my opinion. The authors either kept too much urban or too much science fiction or too little of both. After reading the last page of Redeemer I smiled and said to myself, ‘this is it right here.’ A story with a touch of science fiction, a dose of urban fiction and a wallop of great action and great character development.  If there was any book that would combine the two genres, Redeemer is it.

Now I know a few of you are saying, ‘doesn’t this plot remind you of Looper?’ Well, let me clear that up as well. Balogun first shared Redeemer to me as a script almost two years ago. Unfortunately for me I didn’t read it. He passed it along to me again as a novel later and the rest is history. Even if you persist in that thought mode, I urge you to put those thoughts aside and read this book. It takes a different journey, one that is as much heartfelt as it is action packed. And it comes with an ending that will make you smile.

Now, that’s all I can reveal without spoiling all the fun. I give Redeemer 5 out of 5 stars. Balogun once again shows his skills as a writer that can take different genres and make them something fresh and new. You can purchase Redeemer here and here. You won’t be disappointed.

-          Milton J. Davis, author and publisher

“Redeemer” – One of the best reads ever!

Playwright / Educator, Terri ReneeI am a teacher.

I teach drama and creative movement at a private school in Boston. I am also the sponsor of the Avid Readers Club at the school, which I enjoy because I have always loved to read and I have books that I love from EVERY genre.

Though I have literally (pun intended) read thousands of books in my lifetime – I average about a hundred a year – I have never written a review of one. Until now.

I just read the latest book, “Redeemer”, from Balogun Ojetade, one of my favorite authors. 

Redeemer is unique in that it successfully combines the best of urban fiction with the best of science fiction into a story that is nothing short of incredible.

I intended to devote a couple of weeks to Redeemer – to read it between grading papers and doing laundry on my weekend afternoons. I ended up reading it in one sitting, with breaks to answer the call of nature, or to briefly hop on Facebook to tell folks how great Redeemer is. 

Urban Science Fiction at its best!

Redeemer truly elevates urban fiction; not only because it is well-edited, original and does not degrade women – qualities sorely lacking in the genre – but because it is a heartfelt tale of fatherhood. Particularly how a father’s relationship with his son can have powerful consequences, for better or worse.

This gritty and exciting story is the tale of Ezekiel Cross, a hit-man who wants out of the game. He resigns from a life of organized crime and killing with the permission and blessings of his crime boss, “Sweet” Danny Sweet. Or so it seems.

Danny Sweet actually sets Ezekiel up and uses him in an experiment in time travel. Ezekiel is sent back thirty years in time. Initially distraught, he decides to change his fate by saving himself and his family from the events that led him to a lifetime of crime. Along the way, he meets some of the coolest, sexiest, deadliest and craziest characters to ever grace the pages of a book. Besides Ezekiel Cross, one of my favorite characters is Norm, a giant Black Cockney attorney and master assassin. Another is Lala, legendary contract killer and fashionista.

Redeemer is going to go down (or rise up) in history as the novel that finally got it right. That took two wildly popular, and sometimes opposing, genres of fiction and married them. And oh, what a matchmaker Balogun Ojetade is! With such masterful matchmaking skill, maybe he can hook me up with my future husband, Idris Elba! It’s in the cards, Idris. It’s in the cards.

Many fans of urban literature don’t read science fiction because they don’t see themselves in those stories and many science fiction fans don’t read urban fiction because they believe urban fiction to be poorly written, poorly edited and full of cliché. Neither side has done enough research. Great books can be found in both genres. 

Redeemer is such a book and is the best mash-up of both genres. EVER. 

I won’t reveal anymore. You’ll have to read the book. You’ll be glad you did.

-          Terri Renee, educator and playwright / director

The author would like to thank the reviewers of the novel, Redeemer and a special thanks goes out to Dr. Vanessa Irvin Morris, who provided the bulk of the research for this article.


HITMEN & HEROES: A taste of Urban Science Fiction and Sword & Soul!

HIT 2

HITMEN & HEROES: A taste of Urban Science Fiction and Sword & Soul

 

HIT 1“Hitmen and Heroes”. Sounds like an early 80s knock-off of the Dungeons and Dragons and Gangbusters role-playing games.

Actually, Redeemer (Mocha Memoirs Press) and Once Upon A Time In Afrika (MVmedia) are my latest releases.

I think of Redeemer as a sci-fi gangster epic. Some say I have created “the perfect bridge” between urban fiction and science fiction and call it “Urban Science Fiction”. And some simply call it Science Fiction.

I dunno. You tell me what it is after you read it.

Think American Gangster or Goodfellas meets The Time Machine.

Here is an excerpt:

Lit 2The assassin slid out of his vehicle and assessed his surroundings.  Satisfied that no one was watching, Ezekiel sprinted toward the largest warehouse, at the end of the cul-de-sac.

His movement was swift…silent.

He found himself thanking God again – this time, for Chagga Mutwa, patriarch of the Tokoloshe guild of assassins and expert in the arts of invisibility and quiescence.

Ezekiel had spent two years of harsh training, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, under the tutelage of the sapient old master.

In those two years, he had learned much.

Ezekiel tested the front door.  The steel entryway creaked open.  No surprise.  Engineers’ Row – or, ‘The Twilight Zone’, as the youth called it – was patrolled and protected by fearsome and efficient Nano-Drones.

Swarming an intruder by the thousands, these nearly microscopic, cybernetic organisms invaded a victim’s body through his orifices.  The minuscule drones would then connect to the victim’s nervous system and shut the intruder down, rendering him comatose until the arrival of the police.

Of course, when your boss is Danny Sweet – owner of the company that created the Drones – the little terrors presented no problem at all.

Ezekiel crept into the warehouse.  Through the dim light, he could see rows of crates, filled with wires, computer parts, electronic gadgets, rods, gears and motors of various sizes.  The hangar-sized warehouse reeked with the smell of copper and axle grease.

Suddenly, voices came – low and in a staccato rhythm.  Ezekiel crouched low and tilted his head toward the sound, as if to bring his right ear closer to it.  No, not voices, Ezekiel realized.  A voice.  A woman’s voice…rapping a tune from his early childhood.

His father would play the song and talk about the rapper performing it as if the man was a god.  “Biggie is a genius!”  His father would proclaim.  “The mad scientist of hip-hop!”

The name of the song came to Ezekiel – ‘Warning’.

The assassin moved across the warehouse in a quick, zigzagging shuffle.

The woman’s voice grew louder.

“…I got the Calico with the black talons loaded in the clip.”

The voice was coming from a small office at the rear of the warehouse.  Ezekiel rushed toward the office door, aimed his pistol and snatched the door wide open.

He rolled into the room, quickly popping up to a kneeling position, with his pistol at the ready.

The room, however, was empty, save a large plasma television in the corner of the room.  On top of the television sat what appeared to be a gold watch.

Suddenly, the door slammed shut.  Ezekiel whirled around to face it.

The low click that followed told him that the door had locked.

Ezekiel aimed his pistol at the doorknob.

The television came to life with a soft hum.  “I wouldn’t do that if I was you.”

Once Upon A Time In Afrika is Sword & Soul.

Here is an excerpt:

Afrika Cover CompleteTayewo sailed through the air, thrashing like a mackerel on the floor of a fisherman’s boat.  He landed on a row of large, wooden bata drums – his buttocks, elbows and the back of his head pounding out a thunderous tune before he slid to the floor.  Tayewo grunted as his ebony-toned back smacked the cold marble.

Ṣeeke smiled.  It was the first time she had thrown someone with a wheel kick and she had executed it perfectly.  “Mistress Oyabakin would be proud,” she thought.

Ṣeeke’s smile faded as she found herself hoisted into the air by her brother, Kehinde, who had trapped her in a powerful bear-hug from behind.

Though identical in size and appearance to Tayewo, Kehinde was nearly twice as strong and knew how to use his strength to do damage.

Ṣeeke hooked her left foot around Kehinde’s left ankle and then reached behind her, pressing her palm into the middle of Kehinde’s back.

Try as he might, Kehinde could not throw his sister, who seemed to be stuck to him like palm oil to white cloth.

Suddenly, Ṣeeke bent forward, grabbing Kehinde’s right ankle with both hands.  She continued her forward momentum, rolling over into a seated position, which sent Kehinde careening over Ṣeeke and onto his back, beside his sister, with his right leg trapped between both of hers.

Ṣeeke held Kehinde’s foot tightly to her chest as she propelled herself backward, until she lay beside her brother.  She then thrust her pelvis upward, against Kehinde’s knee, as she arched her back and expanded her chest.

Kehinde screamed in agony as his knee hyper-extended and the ligaments stretched to their limits.

Release him Ṣeeke!  Now!

Ṣeeke immediately recognized the bellowing, baritone voice.  “Yes, Baba.”

Ṣeeke released her grip on her brother’s ankle.

Kehinde rolled onto his side, massaging his aching knee.

“Is Kehinde’s knee dislocated?”  The Alaafin asked.

“No, father,” Ṣeeke said, as she sprang to her feet.  “He should be fine in a day or two.”

“How does the knee feel?” The Alaafin asked Kehinde.

“It hurts when I do this, Baba,” Kehinde replied, extending and then bending his knee in a stiff, choppy rhythm.

“Then, don’t do that,” the Alaafin said.

Redeemer is available for Kindle and Nook and will soon be available in paperback.

Once Upon A Time In Afrika is available for Kindle  and Nook and is also available in paperback.

After you read these novels, please, give me feedback and honest critique. I want your experience, when reading my books, to be nothing short of Blacknificent!


WHEN KEEPIN’ IT REAL GOES WRONG: Is Fiction More Powerful than Nonfiction?

REAL5

WHEN KEEPIN’ IT REAL GOES WRONG: Is Fiction More Powerful than Nonfiction?

I am a “Conscious Brother”.

What is that, you ask?

“A Conscious Brother” is a Black man who possesses a knowledge of – and love for – his history, culture and people. He knows that, because of the color of his skin, he is – by law, or tradition – politically, economically and socially discriminated against and he works – in a myriad of ways – to fight against said discrimination. Of course, there are also “Conscious Sisters”.

I hang out with Brothers and Sisters who are both “conscious” and not-so-“conscious”.

Now, talk to most “conscious” people and they are intelligent and very well read. Most of us can quote Chancellor Williams’ Destruction of Black Civilization from cover-to-cover. I have read everything from Soledad Brother to Flash of the Spirit. Our shelves are filled with great works of nonfiction.

I love to read nonfiction. Hell, I even wrote a nonfiction book – Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within.

I also love to read – and write – fiction.

After forty years of voracious reading and after nearly three decades of studying the workings of the brain and the mind, I have come to the realization that fiction is a more powerful tool – for learning and delivering truth; for shaping opinions and for affecting change – than nonfiction.

Recently, I asked one of my “conscious” friends why – out of over a thousand books – not one is a work of fiction and why he doesn’t allow his children to read fiction.

His answer?

“All that Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, Steampunk shit ain’t real, bruh. I keeps it real, son…for myself and definitely for my seeds (“children”). I got no interest in those ‘escapist’ hobbies, yo.”

Sadly, many Black people – particularly those who consider themselves to be “conscious” –  feel that Science Fiction, Fantasy and role-playing games are pointless; useless; a waste of time; and maybe even harmful. 

But they’re wrong.

My time spent playing role-playing games, reading comic books and storytelling during my childhood and teen years were crucial, formative experiences that were as real and memorable as my time spent running track, competing in the Academic Olympics or grappling on the sparring mat.

Once an event has passed into memory, it is the feeling of accomplishment, reward, mutual achievement and victory that is important. How I feel these feelings is irrelevant. The triggering event does not matter.

To fully understand this, let’s examine what the brain is – and how it functions – a bit deeper.

The Human Brain is the Most Complex Entity in the Known Universe

Our brains are organs of staggering complexity, having approximately 100,000 miles of capillaries…and it can grow more.  Your brain has 100,000,000,000 cells.  It also has 100,000,000,000,000 to 500,000,000,000,000 connections between those cells and no matter where you are at in your own brain development, you do not even use a fraction of 1% of your brain’s capacity.

Your Non-Conscious Thinking is 5 Times Stronger Than Your Conscious Thinking

Your brain thinks in six different areas at the same time.  You have six parallel processes going on at once.  Only one of these is your conscious process.  The other areas of your brain are not accessible by your conscious brain.  You have a different set of neurons that comprise your conscious thinking and you cannot directly access your non-conscious thoughts.

You have a powerful friend or foe in your non-conscious brain.  It is 5/6 of your thinking power.  Because you cannot directly control or access your non-conscious brain, you have to work at some techniques that will help you control it.

Your Non-Conscious Brain Sees, Hears, Smells, and Touches.

I am sure you have all heard of subliminal pictures.  Your conscious mind cannot perceive a picture that lasts for less than about 1/50,000 of a second.  However it is proven that your non-conscious brain does see and remember it.  Scientists monitoring your brain activity can tell what picture your non-conscious brain saw by observing the firing patterns in your brain when one of these pictures is flashed in front of you. Your non-conscious brain is aware of everything that is going on around you.  It is drinking in the world to a much higher degree than your conscious mind.  Just because you are not aware of it at the conscious level, does not mean that you are not thinking about – and reacting to – it.

Your Non-Conscious Brain Treats Everything as Real

Notice how when you are watching a scary movie, you actually get scared?  You react emotionally even though your conscious brain knows it is not real.  The same thing is true for fiction. 

You experience fear, happiness, sadness and other emotions when you watch a movie or read a book because your non-conscious brain is watching the movie too and it does not know the difference between fantasy and reality.

Your non-conscious brain believes that everything it thinks, sees, hears and feels is real.  It cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy or between the truth and a lie.

The Power of Fiction

Is fiction good for us? We spend huge chunks of our lives immersed in novels, films, TV shows, comic books and other forms of fiction. Some see this as a positive thing, arguing that imaginative stories cultivate our mental and moral development. However, others argue that fiction is mentally and ethically corrosive. That it is a bundle of lies, while nonfiction is the truth.

This controversy has been flaring up ever since Plato tried to ban fiction from his ideal republic.

In 1961, FCC chairman Newton Minow said that television was not working in “the public interest” because its “formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons” amounted to a “vast wasteland.”

What Minow said of television has also been said – over the centuries – of novels, theater, comic books, and films: They are not in the public interest.

Fiction does, indeed, mold us. The more deeply we get into a story, the more potent its influence.

In fact, fiction is more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally and this makes us malleable – easy to shape.

Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds. More peculiarly, fiction’s happy endings make us believe that the world can be more just than it is right now.

Fiction giving birth to the belief that a better world is attainable may even help explain why humans tell stories in the first place.

As the psychologist Raymond Mar writes, “Researchers have repeatedly found that reader attitudes shift to become more congruent with the ideas expressed in a [fictional] narrative.” For example, studies reliably show that when we read a book that treats white men as the default heroes, our own views on white men are likely to move in the same direction – we view them as heroes. History, too, reveals fiction’s ability to change our values at the societal level, for better and worse. For example, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped bring about the Civil War by convincing huge numbers of Americans that Black people are…people, and that enslaving us is a crime against God and man. On the other hand, the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation inflamed racist sentiments and helped resurrect an all but defunct Ku Klux Klan.

Fiction can, indeed be dangerous in the wrong hands because it has the power to modify the principles of individuals and whole societies.

However, virtually all storytelling, regardless of genre, increases society’s empathy and reinforces an ethic of decency that is deeper than politics.

Psychologists have found that heavy fiction readers outperform heavy nonfiction readers on tests of empathy, even after the psychologists controlled for the possibility that people who already had high empathy might naturally gravitate to fiction.

One study showed that children ages 4-6, who were exposed to a large number of children’s books and films, had a significantly stronger ability to read the mental and emotional states of other people. Similarly, psychologists recently had people read a short story that was specifically written to induce compassion in the reader. They wanted to see not only if fiction increased empathy, but whether it would lead to actual helping behavior. They found that the more absorbed subjects were in the story, the more empathy they felt, and the more empathy they felt, the more likely the subjects were to help when the experimenters “accidentally” dropped a handful of pens.  Highly absorbed readers were twice as likely to help out.

It appears that ‘curling up with a good book’ may do more than provide relaxation and entertainment. Reading fiction allows us to learn about our social world and as a result fosters empathic growth and appropriate social behavior.

While fiction sometimes dwells on lewdness, depravity, and simple selfishness, storytellers virtually always put us in a position to judge wrongdoing. More often than not, goodness is endorsed and rewarded and badness is condemned and punished. Fiction generally teaches us that it is profitable to be good.

Furthermore, traditional tales – from heroic epics to sacred myths – perform the essential work of defining group identity and reinforcing cultural values, acting as a kind of social glue that binds fractious individuals together around common values.

On the continent of Africa, history, culture, the sciences, social norms and religious practices are imparted through storytelling and the storytellers – Babalawo, Iyanifa, Sanusi, Djeli – are held in the highest regard and are figures of great power, authority and respect.

The traditional African man and woman have long understood the workings of the brain. Indeed, the study, state and function of the three levels of the brain and mind – or “Ori” – are of the utmost importance in traditional Yoruba society. The more stories – called Ese (sounds, ironically, like “essay”) – a Yoruba knows, the more knowledgeable, wise and understanding he or she is considered to be.

The Yoruba “keeps it real, son.”

And so should you.

Read your nonfiction…then get “real” and pick up a novel.

Preferably, one written by me (just keeping it real).


ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA

Recently, several reviews of my novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika, have been released. I would like to share a couple here and I will share more (eventually all) in future posts.

Once Upon A Time In Afrika is written in the subgenre of Sword & Soul. For those unfamiliar with what Sword & Soul is, here are definitions from several authors who contributed to Griots, the critically acclaimed, first Sword & Soul anthology and from fans of the subgenre:

Diop Malvi“The expansion of a subject once locked into one room without a window but a funhouse mirror.”

Sean Howard Mcintosh: “Sword and Soul is edutainment. Sword and Soul provides the readers a source of a fun filled escape to brand new worlds, while opening up minds to wholly unexplored cultures with real world basis.”

Milton Davis: “Sword and Soul is a celebration of our past with positive implications for our present and future. It represents us in a heroic, positive light and builds a bridge between us and our precolonial past. When done at its best, it inspires, enlightens and encourage. Sword and Soul Forever!”

Keith Gaston: “Sword fighting against evil – clang, clang, clang; blasting magical bolts at malevolent wizards, whose evil lair falls apart after you defeat them.”

Hannibal Tabu: “Many forms of western literature have done a good job at trying to pretend we don’t exist in the future, the past, and sometimes the present. Sword and soul is a part of putting on corrective lenses, seeing even the fantasy world as it is, as it has to be. Or, in the words of KRS-ONE: ‘We will be here forever. Get what I’m saying to you. Forever. Forever and ever, and ever and ever. We will be here.’

Valjeanne Jeffers: “Dark sorcerers with silver tongues, Magical Sisters with swords at their sides, Black knights with preternatural powers, lots and lots of monsters and villains LOL!”

And, finally, a definition of Sword & Soul from the subgenre’s founder, Charles R. Saunders: “Sword-and-soul is the name I’ve given to the type of fiction I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years.  The best definition I can think of for the term is ‘African-inspired heroic fantasy’.  Its roots are in sword-and-sorcery, but its scope is likely to expand as time passes.”

Thanks to all those who have taken the time to give me feedback on the book and for those who have supported me by purchasing it. I look forward to hearing from you all.

So, here goes…

 

RECOMMENDED

“Every now and then, a novel comes along that simply must not be missed. Balogun Ojetade’s Once Upon a Time In Afrika, published by Milton Davis’s MV Media, is such a novel. Full disclosure: I wrote the book’s Introduction.

Balogun is deeply imbued in African history, culture, and folklore. He is also a martial-arts instructor – one of many hats he wears. This eclectic range of knowledge and expertise has enabled him to tell a tale that is richly textured — and also a rip-roaring adventure yarn. Sword and Soul doesn’t get any better than this.

Once Upon a Time in Afrika is set in Onile, a mythical alternate Africa along the lines of the Nyumbani of my Imaro novels and the Uhuru that is the background for Milton Davis’s Meji duology. However, Onile is fully distinguishable from Uhuru and Nyumbani, and so is the story Balogun tells.

And what an epic story it is. It is a story of sword-crossed lovers: a princess named Seeke (full name Esuseeke) and a warrior named Akin. Their perilous relationship unfolds within a context of events that threaten the future of their vast and variegated continent. The focal point of the plot is a grand fighting tournament in which the prize is not some Olympics-type medal, but the hand of Seeke in marriage. For only the greatest warrior of all is worthy to be her husband.

Akin enters the tournament under a false identity. As Akin progresses through its various – and potentially lethal – stages, Balogun reveals a variety of African martial-arts styles. The reader never knows which form will come up next.

The richness of cultural and mythic detail in Once Upon a lime is astounding. Here’s an example:

A sound, like distant thunder, joined the chanting of the young warriors. The ground shook and the scent of iron filled the air.

Master Gboyega leapt to his feet “Horses approach! The riders are armed! Form ranks!”

The warriors placed their training swords on the ground around the Warriors’ Circle and then quickly retrieved their iron swords from a row of racks nearby.

Akin kept the twin, ironwood swords he carried on his back. The wooden weapons were given to Akin by his maternal grandmother, Efunlade. The swords had been used by Efunlade’s father, Damilola, in slaying the last iron dragon, Garugu — a powerful and ancient malevolence that terrorized the citizens of Oyo for centuries. Garugu ate iron and breathed the digested metal as a cloud of molten shrapnel, thus Damilola wisely chose to forgo the use of an iron sword and shield in favor of two swords carved from incredibly hard ironwood. The blood of Garugu was said to be soaked into the wooden swords, giving them nigh indestructibility and the power to pierce and cut through iron as easily as a lion’s teeth pierces the flesh of a gazelle fawn.

Even as the tournament reaches its culmination, external events menace the kingdoms of Onile. The people of another continent are conspiring to conquer (Mile, exploit its riches, and enslave its inhabitants (sound familiar?). The outcome of the tournament will affect the larger course of Onile’s future.

Will the disguised Akin prevail in the tournament and win the hand of Seeke, who is a formidable fighter in her own right? Will Onile be able to overcome the forces arrayed against it? Will the continent’s gods and spirits intervene on the mortals’ behalf?

Hey, I don’t do “spoilers.” You’ve got to get hold of copy of the book and find out for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.” – Charles R. Saunders, Father of Sword & Soul and author of the Imaro series of novels, the Dossouye series and the pulp novel, Damballa

Balogun Ojetade’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA

“‘Sword and Soul’ is a sub-genre I had yet to explore – had yet even to have heard of – before my good friend and fellow book freak EssJay mentioned it, and this book, to me. Ever ready to try something new, especially if it’s cheap, I decided to take a chance on Once Upon a Time in Afrika

I’m very glad I did.

Written like a fairy tale, densely plotted like the conventional epic fantasies it’s riffing on, Once Upon a Time in Afrika is a hell of a lot of fun to read. Set in an alternate pre-white-contact version of Africa in which the magic and the gods and demigods of folk tale and legend are real and part of everyday life, the story of badass Princess Esuseeke and her equally badass suitors is packed with action, combat, empowerment and intrigue. Ojetade is a student of African martial arts and it shows; his fight scenes are intricate, plausible, visceral and absolutely breathtaking, but he’s writer enough to keep the reader’s attention between battles.*

Refreshingly for this reader, Esuseeke is not rebelling when she takes up a sword or drops into an unarmed combat stance, but partaking fully of a culture that expects women to be able to defend themselves and boasts of a proud tradition of women warriors who often outshine the men. Her gender is important only because of her royalty; someone’s got to breed successors to the crown, and for that she needs, at some point, a husband.

But her husband can’t just be any old blue-blood type; he has to be her equal. And there aren’t many of those.

Enter the time-honored device of the tournament. The winner gets to marry Esuseeke — all nice and straightforward. But it isn’t; Esuseeke’s father, a politician rather than a warrior, doesn’t trust the mechanism to produce a satisfactory result. He has someone in mind for her that will probably win, but daddy wants to be sure, you see. In other words, daddy starts gaming the system even before the system is in place, just to make sure that his daughter marries the right guy.

Of course the right guy is kind a jerk. More than a jerk, actually, a terrifying warlord whose fixation on the Law brings him to commit acts of extreme cruelty towards those less fortunate than he, rather than bend the rules a little.

But wait, there’s more! Chiefly one Akin, the son of the unspeakably badass warrior woman who trained Esuseeke, but whom the princess somehow never met. He is the best student at his parents’ school but has yet to prove himself anywhere else, but oh is he ready. Packing a pair of wooden swords that once slew a dragon and sporting a bristling mohawk, he is every inch a hero-in-waiting, but the way he finds himself fighting for Esuseeke’s hand isn’t quite what he might expect.

There’s also a magician of intimidating power and wiliness, who just happens to be the sworn enemy of the Jerk. And a vast and skeletal monster only half of which, the left side, exists in our world. And a freaky witch that tricks her way into Akin’s stomach. And a giant, pasty warrior who rides an armored albino rhinoceros into battle. And much, much more.

I haven’t had this much sheer fun with a book since the first Crown of the Blood novel, if you couldn’t tell.

So if you love pulp fantasy but don’t love the racism, or the sexism, this may be your new favorite novel, or perhaps novella, for my one complaint about Once Upon a Time in Afrika, it’s that it’s just too short! But like they say, you want to leave ‘em hankering for more.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Ojetade.

*Although there is a bit of tedium in the middle as he sends the kingdom’s Prime Minister on a tour of the continent, recruiting warriors for the tournament. It’s only a bit tedious, though, because Ojetade’s considerable imagination gets free reign on the journey. And he does like a badass warrior-woman, does Ojetade. Oh, yes.” – Kate Sherrod, author of Suppertime Sonnets

Undercover Review: ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA

Sword and Soul“Since the advent of Sword & Soul, a subgenre focusing primarily on African mythology, we’ve seen many wonderful anthologies and novels come along that are breathing new life and welcomed vigor into fantasy literature.  The two biggest proponents, creators if you will, of this new classification are authors Charles Saunders and Milton Davis.  Saunders is known for his lifelong achievements in authoring some of the finest black fantasy fiction ever put to paper to include his marvelous heroes, Imaro and Dossouye.  Whereas Davis, beside his own amazing fiction, has been the driving force behind MV media, LLC, a publishing brand devoted to Sword & Soul.
Now, from that house, we have ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA by Balgum Ojetade; a sprawling, colorful and fast moving adventure that defines the best of Sword & Soul.  It is a tale of whimsy, love, magic and war told with such comfortable ease as to pull the reader along effortlessly.  Now in all fairness, this reviewer was challenged to keep the many characters separate due to their exotic foreign names that twists one’s mental tongue in a variety of unique vowels and consonants.  Thankfully Ojetade does provide a glossary of names at the book’s conclusion which was most helpful.  Despite this minor annoyance, he does distinguish each figure in unique ways that did allow us to enjoy the action without getting overly concerned about proper pronunciations along the way.
Alaafin, the Emperor of the Empire of Oyo wishes to marry off his beautiful but mischievous daughter, Princess Esuseeke.  Seeke, as she is referred to, is very much a “tomboy” who prefers studying martial arts rather than learning sewing or poetry in the royal palace.  It is Alaafin’s prime minister, Temileke who suggest Alaafin sponsor a Grand Tournament to feature the best fighters in all the land brought together to battle for the hand of the princess.  The emperor approves of the idea and dispatches Temileke to the furthest corners of Oyo to recruit only the greatest warriors in the kingdom to participate.
Meanwhile, Seeke, frustrated by her role as the prize in such a contest, accidently encounters her father’s chief general, Aare Ona Kakanfo.  Or so she believes. In reality the person she meets wearing the general’s combat mask is actually Akinkugbe; a young warrior wishing to enter the contest disguised as the general.  When Akin manages to win Seeke’s heart, things start to get complicated.  All the while the real Kakanfo is commanding the forces of Oyo in the south against their enemies the Urabi, desert people whose singular goal is to conquer Oyo.
As the day of the tournament fast approaches, Akin is trapped having to maintain his disguise and somehow figure a way to defeat the other fighters to win the hand of the woman he loves.  While at the same time, the Urabi, unable to defeat Kakanfo’s troops, desperately recruit the services of a brutal demon and a deadly female assassin to help turn the tide of battle in their favor.
All these various plot elements converge dramatically at the book’s conclusion wherein Akin and Seeke not only must overcome overwhelming odds to be together but at the same time rally their people to withstand the calamitous assault of their fiendish enemies and save the empire.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRIKA is a rousing, old fashion adventure tale that had me wishing Hollywood would pick it up and film it; it is that captivating an epic.  Ojetade is a writer worth taking note of, he delivers on all fronts and this reviewer has become an instant fan.” – Ron Fortier, Publisher, through his company, Airship 27 and Author of the comic books The Terminator and The Green Hornet.

Once Upon a Time In Afrika is available in both e-book and print form at http://www.mvmediaatl.com/ and on Amazon.


Revenge of the Nerds? Steve Urkel demands your lunch money!

Revenge of the Nerds?

Steve Urkel demands your lunch money!

While I am a professed “Jocky Blerd” (“Blerd” = Black Nerd) – an athletic and fairly charismatic person who, nevertheless, is into things considered nerdy, like Dungeons and Dragons, video games, science, science fiction, fantasy literature and / or comic books – I have found nerd culture to be chock full of arrogant little racists and sexists who are quick to launch mean-spirited verbal assaults – because, God knows, they would not dare to launch a physical one – upon those they feel to be less intelligent, less nerdy, or who they think has screwed up their fandom by not engaging in or representing what they are into “just right”.

For example – the movie The Hunger Games had nerds up in arms because some of their favorite characters were Black – which they were in the books, too, but while a reader can change the look of a character in a book in their mind’s eye, that is not so easily achieved with the physical eye and, in The Hunger Games, the Blackness of the characters were in their zit-riddled faces and the scrawny little bastards went berserk, saying some of the craziest crap since 20th Century Fox took legal action against Warner Brothers over the rights to the Watchmen movie.

There is a misconception that all nerds are nice; that all nerds are victims of bullying and classism; that all nerds are super-intelligent, innocent, harmless and adorable and are fodder for bullies.

Think again.

Bullies in Taped-Up Glasses

A study tracking nearly 2,000 children reveals that bullies and their victims share similar personal histories and traits, such as aggressive behavior in early childhood, overly stern parents, and low socioeconomic status.

Both bullies and nerds have poor problem-solving skills within social situations, have negative attitudes toward others, feel badly about themselves, and most likely grew up in a home with conflict.

The only significant difference between bullies and the nerds they victimize is that bullies dislike school and tend to perform worse academically than their geeky counterparts.

Aggressive behavior in early childhood  is the strongest determinant of later victimhood, which means that poor little nerdy high school student getting pushed around in the school cafeteria was probably giving other children hell in Head-start.

To be fair, the aggression found in nerds is not the more cold-blooded aggression you find in bullies. Nerd aggression is more of a hostile hyper-reactivity, which has been linked, through other studies with unpopularity, a likely antecedent to being bullied.

An earlier study, from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education found that between 1974 and 2000, in 37 school shootings, 71 percent of the shooters had “felt bullied , threatened, attacked or persecuted.” These oppressed nerds went on vicious killing sprees. Why? Because the aggression was already there; already a part of the nerd’s personality.

Further proof of the similarity between the bully and victims of bullying is that the solution for both is the same.

As a master instructor of indigenous African martial arts and conflict resolution specialist, I have found that learning African martial arts, in particular (and other martial arts, too, I would imagine) is one of the most effective ways of bringing an end to bullying.

The major responsibility of the practitioners of African martial arts is to understand conflict, both internal and external.

Destructive conditioning of the brain and nervous system leads to an inappropriate reaction to conflict called the “fight-or-flight response.”

The student of African martial arts must learn to break this destructive conditioning. When we give in to the fight-or-flight response, the only options we have in the face of conflict are to fight or to run.

The first step in breaking the destructive conditioning we have been subjected to by our families, friends, teachers, clergy, the media and others, is to work on the major weakness in self: the internal enemy called “fear.”

There is an old Yoruba saying: “Those who conquer the enemy within, have nothing to fear from the enemy without.” The student of African martial arts learns that the path to self-mastery and mastery of the martial arts (or anything else, for that matter) is rooted in the process of overcoming fear.

Fear is overcome by courage. Every confrontation with fear must involve action in spite of that fear. The aforementioned proverb teaches us that once the inner fears are conquered, those frightening situations in the outside world become insignificant.

Another Yoruba proverb states that “Fear is the parent of premature death.” This proverb expresses how devastating fear can be to a person’s mental and physical health. Not living one’s life to its full term is considered by most African cultures to be a result of resistance to living in harmony with Nature. Such resistance is believed to be rooted in the fear of self-understanding, self-transformation and self-discovery. It is through training in African martial arts that a person gains the focus, self-confidence and courage to overcome fear.

When faced with conflict, the ori inu (inner self) of the African martial arts student says: “This is a threat, but I can handle it.” The ori inu of an untrained person says: “I have to run away” or, “I have to hurt this person.”

The student of indigenous African martial arts knows he has the ability to fight effectively, so he does not have to resort to flight and he is confident enough to use verbal, non-violent alternatives, because he knows that if those alternatives do not resolve the conflict, he can defend himself physically if necessary.

An untrained, socially inept person, however, will rely not only upon the fight-or-flight response, but also on what I call “small townism”.

Small Townism
Though not exclusive to nerds, “small townism” is a defensive device in which a person limits him or herself to one type of fellowship. It’s similar to small towns, wherein the lack of exposure to people who look differently, think differently and behave differently from you can cause you to have a narrow scope on tolerance.

Nerds who were – or are – outcasts find solace and comfort either to themselves or with other people who have been treated the way they have. They will hang out with people who “get them” or share their strange sense of humor. So out of a group of outcast, introverted people who dress similarly, act similarly and feel similarly, you are bound to get some opinions that do not vibe well with those outside of that community. Small townism, while making nerds feel comfortable, develops a tremendous level of ignorance and lack of empathy.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Curse of the Black Spider-Man

The death, origin and intricate conflicts of superheroes have long portrayed many truths about ourselves that we can only metaphorically grasp; just a cornball in a spandex suit? Not quite.

Comic books affect their readers on a visceral level. So, when Marvel Comics killed of Peter Parker and Miles Morales – a Black Hispanic boy – took up the mantle of Spider-Man, nerds across the globe snapped, spitting such vitriol as: 

“So, why now come out with homie the spider man? Wonder if he (President Obama) wasn’t elected Marvel would do this. But at least the comic book character will HELP better than the real life comic elected.”

“Peter Parker could not be whiter. A black boy under the mask just don’t look right. This opens up a whole new story line with a whole new set of problems. Who is going to believe a black man in a mask is out for the good of man kind?”

“Why not make him a dyslexic homosexual too, and cover all the politically correct bases, then we will really be “enlightened”

“Shame on Marvel Comics! This is not diversity; this is a disgrace! Spiderman was Peter Parker, and Peter Parker was white. Create a new character if you want to prove that Marvel Comics is ‘diverse’. Minorities are typically less than 18% of the population, but they seem to get nearly 100% of the history. Why should white children not have a comic book hero that they can identify with?”

“What will he say when he runs into a criminal? ‘Sup Foo? Dis is MY ‘hood!’”

“That’s just dangerous. With spider powers, just think how much stuff he could steal, if he was not so lazy.”

And those were all mild comments in relation to the others!

A similar uproar happened when it was announced that Idris Elba was going to play Heimdall in the movie Thor.

Nerds dislike change; when faced with it, out comes their inner bullies.

Irony & Intellect as excuses for racism. 
Often, nerds are racist, but are either clueless that they are behaving in a racist manner, or feigning cluelessness. To the typical nerd, racists are the loud, confederate flag waving nutjobs in the movies, lynching Black people and calling us niggers, shines and coons at every turn.

A nerd’s snarky remarks – filled with much irony and intellect – are meant to show their enlightened viewpoint and, since they are enlightened, they can’t possibly be racist.

 At least that’s what they think. 

Many white nerds bemoan being white and oppressed and attribute any kind of complaint by a Black person as having no basis or just cause.

While many nerds can be quite obvious in their racist and sexist insults, quite a few have learned to insult you in the nicest ways. Take heed – niceness is a strategy of social interaction; niceness does not equal goodness.

So, the next time a good friend or family member tells you there is this nice man or woman they would like you to meet, RUN!  

Just kidding (sort of).

Just as niceness does not equal goodness, nor does shyness equate to docility, or nerdy equate to intelligent, gentle and meek. Nerds ain’t Bambi; they’re Chuck Norris…with a chip on his shoulder.

‘Nuff said…Excelsior…Sweet Christmas…and other nerdy adages to drive my point home.

Hopefully, this won’t be my last post. Hopefully, a horde of enraged nerds, screaming ‘It’s clobberin’ time!’ won’t find me at Dragon*Con this weekend and pummel me with pocket protectors, leaving me in a quivering heap in the lobby of the Westin Hotel (which is where the Alternate History Track – my favorite  – is held).

If they do, then damn it, so be it!

Somebody has to stand up against nerd tyranny. Somebody has to stand up for the jocks, the cheerleaders and other popular kids with IQs of less than three digits, but SQs (Social Intelligence Quotients) above 185.

Somebody has to stand up!

Damn the peril!

Damn being labeled a traitor by my Blerd peers!

Should I meet my end at the frail hands of a nerd, know that I left here fighting the good fight!

Sincerely,

Milton J. Davis

Guest Blogger

 

This was all (mostly) in fun. I – Balogun Ojetade – wrote this article and posted it to my blog. Milton Davis (shown in the above photo with Wolverine) had nothing to do with the writing of it, so don’t go hunting him down!

 I, myself, am a Blerd – Black Nerd – and wear the title – and my taped up glasses and pocket protectors – proudly.

However, I am also a writer and writers – like all artists – render the truth as they see it. The aforementioned study that shows nerds and bullies sharing the same traits is true. Bullying is wrong and must be addressed, no matter who the perpetrator is. Racism and sexism are wrong and we must stand against these societal ills…unless, of course, you are the perpetrator.

P.S. No nerds were harmed during the writing of this blog post (although some might be harmed after).


The Father of Sword & Soul and an Elated Author talk Steamfunk, Sword & Soul and Racism in Role-Playing: Charles Saunders Interviews Balogun!

 The Father of Sword & Soul and an Elated Author talk Sword & Soul, Steamfunk and Racism in Role-Playing: Charles Saunders Interviews Balogun!

Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed by one of my idols – Charles R. Saunders – the father of Sword and Soul and creator of the Imaro and Dossouye series of novels, as well as the incredible Pulp novel, Damballa.

The interview – along with other awesome blog posts, interviews, book reviews and other Blacknificence – was originally posted on Charles’ website at http://www.charlessaunderswriter.com/.

 

Balogun Ojetade is the Master Instructor and Technical Director of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute, a school that teaches indigenous, West African martial arts. Born and raised in Chicago, he was educated at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Columbia College in Chicago.

At Columbia, he majored in Film, with a concentration in screenwriting. Balogun wears many hats, besides his career as a martial-arts instructor: freelance journalist, screenwriter, film director, film producer, fight choreographer and actor. And he is excellent at all these endeavors.

During the short time I’ve known him, Balogun has made a great impression on me. He could be considered a Renaissance man, but given his love for all things African, “Blackaissance Man” is a better tag. As you read the interview below, you’ll see what I mean.

Q: When and how did you become interested in fantasy and science fiction?

I became interested in fantasy and science fiction as a little boy of no more than five years old at the feet of my mother. My mother was – and still is – a huge fan of the television shows Get Smart and The Wild, Wild West. Get Smart was an American comedy television series that satirized the secret agent genre. It was a great science fiction show that I enjoyed. The Wild, Wild West – which incorporated classic Western elements with elements of the espionage thriller, science fiction/alternate history,  a bit of  horror and plenty of humor – is one of my favorite shows and greatly influenced my writing. The Wild, Wild West would be classified as Steampunk today – one of the genres I enjoy writing.

Q: Speaking of another genre, you’ve got a Sword and Soul novel coming out very soon called Once Upon A Time In Afrika. Where did the idea for the novel come from, and what’s it about? (Full disclosure: I was privileged to write the Introduction to this novel.)

Once Upon A Time In Afrika is about Akinkugbe – a young man from the Oyo Empire – who enters a martial arts tournament to fight for the hand of the woman he loves. The best warriors from across the continent of Onile (“Afrika”) have gathered to do battle, unaware that a threat to the entire continent is heading their way.

The idea came from my study of – and initiation into – the traditional priesthoods and warrior societies of the Yoruba. The customs intrigue me. How certain chiefs and warriors wear certain clothing and carry certain weapons and other trappings of status and those things carry deep meaning. Traditional people do not just throw on any old garment or wear a random headpiece. Their gear tells a story. That is what sparked the idea for “Once Upon A Time In Afrika” and the story just grew from there.

Q: Is the title a play on Once Upon A Time In The West?

The title is not only a play on “Once Upon A Time in the West”, but also on “Once Upon A Time in Mexico” and “Once Upon A Time in China”. I am a fan of all three films and figured it was time to tell the “Once Upon A Time in Afrika” story, which I hope to one day produce and direct as a feature film. In fact, the script is already written.

Q: When you first started reading fantasy and science fiction, were you already aware there were at least a few black writers in the field? Did you feel alone as a black person in reading this type of fiction, or were some of your black friends also into it?

I knew there had to be Black writers out there. It’s funny; I read an article you wrote in 1987 in Dragon Magazine #122. The article – which I still have – is entitled “Out of Africa” and is about creatures from African Folklore. When I read it, I said, “Man, this white dude has done his research, but one day, I am going to write about Africa and it wondrous creatures, history and artifacts so my people can get it from a brother.” It’s funny now…and kind of sad that I had no clue you were a Black man until about four years ago. And I did not know Samuel Delaney was Black until about two years ago.

I never felt alone in reading science fiction and fantasy as my friends were also into fantasy, science fiction and horror. Ninety-percent of my friends collected comic books and played role-playing games and ninety-nine percent of them were Black, so I felt right at home.

Q: Whoa, I almost had an identity crisis for a minute there. Moving on … from your viewpoint, what is the current state of Sword and Soul?

I see Sword and Soul growing tremendously in popularity this year and especially in 2013, with the release of Griots II: Sisters of the Spear. A lot of people – authors and readers alike – are very excited about its release.

Also, when I posted the cover art for “Once Upon A Time in Afrika” people loved it. The positive reaction and eagerness for the release of the book is incredible.

Finally, as a former teacher of English and Creative Writing, I turned my students on to your work and the work of Milton Davis and the students – many who were reluctant readers – fell in love with Sword and Soul, a testament to the power of the genre and to your – and Milton’s – Blacknificent talent.

Q: Thanks for the kind words, Balogun. Moving on …a new subgenre has sprung up over the past few years. It’s called “steamfunk,” and it’s a black variation of “steampunk,” which is itself a recent development. Is steamfunk to steampunk what Sword and Soul is to sword and sorcery?

Yes, 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.

Like Sword and Soul, Steamfunk has a rhythm; an aesthetic; a spirituality that differs enough from the genre from which it sprang to be its own genre, or at a minimum, a subgenre. Sword and Soul is not Sword and Sorcery in Black-face. It has a different feel to it, as does Steamfunk in relation to Steampunk.

Q: You’ve made your own contribution to steamfunk: “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman,” based on the black woman who helped more than 300 slaves escape from the South in the years before the Civil War. How did this idea come to you, and how does your version of Tubman’s exploits differ from what happened in real-life history?

Harriet Tubman is one of my idols and represents the epitome of a freedom fighter. I originally researched Harriet Tubman’s history for a poem I wrote about her and found out some incredible things about her, such as the fact that not one of the people after her head ever gave the same description of her as someone else. She seemed to be able to change her size and appearance.

She was also incredibly strong. Once, as an elderly woman, she refused to leave her seat on a train. It took five men – after breaking her arm – to remove her. And it is well known that she had psychic abilities.

These stories sparked my imagination and I decided to write a story about Harriet Tubman as a person who possessed abilities beyond normal human beings and that there were others like her – some good; some not so good. I then began to research the time period and the characters and story came to me.

In “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman”, Harriet battles and bonds with famous – and infamous figures in history. I have combined real events and twisted them with the paranormal and anachronistic technology. Harriet Tubman is still a freedom fighter, but she is also an expert in hand-to-hand combat and possesses powers that make her one of the greatest – and deadliest – opponents of those who would oppress, subjugate and destroy those weaker than themselves.

Q: Do you have any other steamfunk projects on the go? I know you’ll have a story in the upcoming steamfunk anthology that you and Milton Davis are co-editing.

I have written several Steamfunk stories, including “Nandi”, a story about a woman who is a detective in an America in which Africans purchased California and set up a free state for Blacks, First Nation / Native Americans and the oppressed Chinese. Steam technology is not discovered until the mid 1900s. The story takes place in the 70s and combines elements of Blaxploitation films with Steampunk.

Other stories include “Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises”, which takes place on the high seas; “The Hand of Sa-Seti”, a Sword and Soul / Steamfunk mash-up and “Rite of Passage: Blood & Iron”, a tale of the legendary John Henry.

As co-editor of the “Steamfunk” anthology, I am contributing a story in which Harriet Tubman does battle with Peter Pan.

Finally, Milton and I co-produced “Rite of Passage: Initiation” a short film I wrote based on his short story, “Rite of Passage”. We plan to use the short film to generate interest and funding to make the larger project, which is a television or webseries, also based on the “Rite of Passage” story. “Rite of Passage: Initiation”, which is about Harriet Tubman initiating her pupil as a Conductor on the Underground Railroad, is complete and will premiere August 4, 2012 at the Black Science Fiction Film Festival.

Q: You, Milton, and several others are in the process of developing an African-inspired fantasy role-playing game called Ki-Khanga. When did the inspiration for this venture hit you, and how is the game coming?

I have wanted to create an African-inspired role-playing game since I was twelve years old. I finally came up with a system for the game about six years ago, which I presented to Milton Davis last year and we have been developing it together ever since.

Ki-Khanga is coming along well. Milton and I have developed the countries on the continent of Ki-Khanga, an alternate Africa, and we are writing stories set in each country to make players more familiar with the world and to spark ideas for game-play.

We have play-tested the game and have gotten positive feedback, which we are using to further develop the game into a fun and unique experience that fans of role-playing games, fantasy and Sword and Soul, as well as African history will love. After one more local play-test, we will play-test the game a few times in other cities before we prepare for the game’s release.

Q: How did you and your group develop the Ki-Khanga setting? How much of it is derived from real-life sources, and how much came from your imaginations?

Milton and I have met several times over the course of a year to discuss – and work on – building the Ki-Khanga world. We took the continent of Africa as our foundation and then made things quite a bit more fantastic. Ki-Khanga is a bit smaller than real-life Africa and only has sixteen countries.

After naming the countries and creating their governments, economic systems, religious systems and the like, we created a history for the continent itself and how the fantastic creatures, fearsome monsters and powerful magic all came to be as a result of the wrath of the Creator. How He struck the continent with His axe and how the destruction in his wake was given life by His wrath and by the nurturing of his equally powerful wife.

Q: Who, besides Milton, are the others involved in the development of Ki-Khanga?

A: The other people working on Ki-Khanga are Stanley J. Weaver (“Standingo”), an extraordinary artist whose works have graced the covers and interiors of several novels and comic books; and Eugene Randolph Young (“Eurayo”), another Blacktastic artist who is an art instructor and artist for role-playing games and comic books. Stan is creating the visuals for the cultures in Ki-Khanga and Eugene is creating the creatures and further developing the maps, which are drawn by Milton. Milton is co-producer, co-creator and publisher of the game.

Q: For the record, Stan did the cover art for Once Upon A Time in Afrika. Meanwhile, I know the Ki-Khanga concept will ultimately involve more than just the game. What sort of spin-offs are in the works?

We will release an anthology before the game is released to build interest in the Ki-Khanga world. This anthology will be interwoven into the game itself also.

As a screenwriter and director, I am always looking at things and seeing how they can be developed into a film, so I have been working on a screenplay for Ki-Khanga as well. I believe that the release of a Sword and Soul role-playing game, followed by a Sword and Soul movie will send the popularity of Sword and Soul into the stratosphere.

Q: About 10 years ago, there was an African-based game out called Nyambe. Would you regard Nyambe as a predecessor to Ki-Khanga?

“Nyambe” wasn’t actually a role-playing game. It was a supplement for Dungeons and Dragons. Ki-Khanga is a stand-alone role-playing game with its own unique system of play and a unique random generation system that utilizes playing cards instead of dice.

Q: Martial arts are associated with almost every place on the planet, except Africa. There’s karate and kung-fu from Asia; modern boxing, which originated in England; mixed martial arts, which comes from North America; Greco-Roman wrestling (origin obvious) and so on. But Africa has indigenous martial-arts traditions of its own, which you have studied and Incorporated into your work. What are some of those traditions, and what can be done to make the rest of the world more aware of them?

If you go to Africa and ask for the local African martial arts school, they will send you to a Tae Kwon Do or Judo school because in Africa, the martial arts are referred to as “wrestling”. To wrestle – by African standards – means to put someone on their back, belly or side, thus rendering them more susceptible to a finishing technique. This is achieved by any means, thus, if I shoot my opponent in the neck with my long-bow and he falls, I have wrestled him by African standards.

Some of the names of these systems, which all operate on the same principles, with slight variations in strategy and / or application, include:

Laamb (Senegal) – also called Lutte Senegalaise avec frappe (Senegalese fighting with strikes); Ijakadi (Nigeria / Yorubaland); Nsanga (Angola) – also called Sanguar; and Mgba (Nigeria / Igboland).

Q: Are African martial arts in danger of becoming extinct in Africa itself? If so, what can be done to prevent that from happening?

A: No, African martial arts are not in danger of becoming extinct in Africa. They are an intrinsic part of the traditions of the people. In Senegal, Laamb is the number one sport, followed by soccer. The real danger is that Africans in the Diaspora (i.e. African-Americans, Black Brits, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Cubans and the like) are forgetting, or have already forgotten the martial arts of their ancestors and feel Asian martial arts are the ultimate expression of martial arts. This can be prevented by making more African martial arts movies.

People believe in what they see on television and in film. When Steven Seagal — a master of the Japanese art of Aikido — came out with his Above the Law movie, Aikido schools around the world increased in membership by 400%1 Similar growth happened in Kung-Fu schools in the ’70s; Ninjitsu schools in the ’80s; and now in Mixed Martial Arts schools — all because of television shows and movies like Kung-Fu, Enter Wm Dragon, Enter the Nina, The Octagon, and The Ultimate Fighter.

A couple of African martial arts films would inspire many of our people to train. Of course, making films is expensive, which is why, until my production company produced A Single Link, there weren’t any such films made. A Sword and Soul film would be the best setting in which to showcase the African martial arts.

Q: As we can see from the above, you’re into a lot of projects, all of which are valuable and worthwhile. How do you manage to spread yourself out without spreading yourself thin?

A: Being the father of eight children, ranging in age from 25 – 4, has made me very efficient with time. I have a strong work ethic and I love the creative process, so I enjoy what I do. I also have a very patient and understanding wife, who is an artist herself – a photographer – so she allows me the time and space to do what I do. Of course, she knows that when I blow up, she will be sitting pretty, so her allowance is a wise move.

Q: How do you envision future participation of blacks in science fiction and fantasy? I’m old enough to remember when the only visible presence in the field was Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek series. We’ve come a long way since then. Do we still have a long way to go?

A: Participation of Blacks in science fiction and fantasy is growing rapidly. There are over 2000 members on the Black Science Fiction Society website and our Facebook group, State of Black Science Fiction 2012, has nearly 400 members and has only existed since February, 2012.

We have many authors, animators, film directors and artists.  Of course, we have a long way to go; however, most of us have stopped waiting for Hollywood to discover us, which is a step in the right direction.

For those that still think we cannot make it without Hollywood (I include major publishing companies in this), Street Lit and Nollywood prove otherwise. Admittedly, a lot of the work coming from these outlets is not the best, however, if we take the same hustle and grind mentality that they have and combine that with our superior work, we will be just as successful or more so.

It’s pretty obvious that we will be seeing a lot of multi-media creative output in the future from the Blackaissance Man. For more information on Balogun’s endeavors, check out his website: http://chroniclesofharriet.com, and his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ Afrikan.Martial.Arts. To see his seminal essay about the role of race in role-playing games, go to: http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/01/19/racism-in-role-playing!

Balogun Ojetade


WERE AMOS & ANDY SCI-FI GEEKS? Spencer Williams and the Son of Ingagi

WERE AMOS & ANDY SCI-FI GEEKS? Spencer Williams and the Son of Ingagi

 

Were Amos and Andy Sci-Fi Geeks?

Well, if not, Spencer Williams – the man who portrayed the dreamer, Andrew “Andy” Hogg Brown – certainly was.

For those of you too young to remember the show, or with parents too young to remember it…or for those who have chosen to forget just what Amos n Andy is, it started as a radio comedy series set in the African-American community of first, Chicago, then Harlem. It was written and voiced by Caucasian comedians, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll and originated from station WMAQ in Chicago.

After the program was first broadcast in 1928, it grew to become a huge influence on all the radio series that followed it. The show ran as a nightly radio serial from 1928 until 1943, as a weekly situation comedy from 1943 until 1955, and as a nightly disc-jockey program from 1954 until 1960.

The television adaptation ran on CBS-TV from 1951 until 1953, and continued in syndicated reruns from 1954 until 1966.

Considered by many to be the most offensive television program of all time, Amos n Andy was also one of first TV shows to have a predominantly black cast. Stories mostly centered on the titular characters’ Mystic Knights of the Sea Lodge leader, George “The Kingfish” Stevens and his schemes to get rich, which often included duping his brothers in the Mystic Knights of the Sea Lodge. Andy was particularly dupable. Amos mostly narrated the goings on.

Determined to realize improved images of ourselves in popular culture, the characters in Amos ‘n Andy – including rude, aggressive women and weak black men – were offensive.

Most of the characters – especially, the Kingfish and his wife, Sapphire Stevens – could not engage in a conversation without peppering their speech with faulty grammar and mispronunciations.

The NAACP, bolstered by its 1951 summer convention, mandated an official protest of the program. The organization outlined a list of specific items it felt were objectionable, for example, how “every character is either a clown or a crook,” “Negro doctors are shown as quacks,” and “Negro lawyers are shown as crooks.” As the series aired in June 1951, the NAACP appeared in federal court seeking an injunction against its premiere.

In 1953, CBS reluctantly removed the program from the air.

The Amos ‘n Andy show, however, remained in syndication well into the 1960s and is currently available on DVD. 

 

Spencer Williams

Before Spencer Williams became known to the nation as Andy Brown of Amos n’ Andy, he wrote, directed and starred in numerous “race” films – a film genre which existed in the United States between about 1915 and 1950, consisting of films produced for an all-black audience and featuring black casts.

Approximately five hundred race films were produced. Of these, fewer than one hundred are available for public view. Because race films were produced outside the Hollywood studio system, they have been largely ignored by mainstream film historians.

As a director, Spencer Williams brought the technique of montage, the superimposing of scenes, to race films and is the writer of the first black science fiction movie, Son of Ingagi (1940).

Alfred N. Sack, whose Dallas, Texas-based company, Sack Amusement Enterprises, produced and distributed race films, was impressed with Williams’ screenplay for Son of Ingagi and offered him the opportunity to write and direct a feature film. 

At that time, the only African American filmmaker was the self-financing writer/director/producer Oscar Micheaux.

With his own film projector, Williams began traveling in the southern US, showing his films to audiences. During this time, he met William H. Kier, who was also traveling the same circuit showing films. The two formed a partnership and produced some motion pictures, training films for the Army Air Forces, as well as a film for the Catholic diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Williams’ resulting film, The Blood of Jesus (1941), was produced by his own company, Amnegro (I swear I did not make that up), on a $5,000 budget using non-professional actors for his cast. The film, a religious fantasy about the struggle for a dying’ Christian woman’s soul, was a major commercial success. 

With the success of The Blood of Jesus, Williams was invited to direct additional films for Sack Amusement Enterprises. In the next six years, Williams directed Brother Martin: Servant of Jesus (1942), Marching On! (1943), Go Down Death (1944), Of One Blood (1944), Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946), The Girl in Room 20 (1946), Beale Street Mama (1947), Juke Joint (1947) and Jesus versus Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny (1948) (Okay, I did make that one up).

Following the production of Juke Joint, Williams relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he joined Amos T. Hall in founding the American Business and Industrial College.

Spencer Williams becomes “Andy”

In 1948, U.S. radio comedians Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were planning to take their long-running comedy program Amos ‘n Andy to television. The program focused on the misadventures of a group of African Americans in the Harlem section of New York City. Gosden and Correll were white, but played the black lead characters using racially stereotypical speech patterns. They had previously played the roles in blackface make-up for the 1930 film Check and Double Check, but for the television version they opted to use an African American cast.

Gosden and Correll conducted an extensive national talent search to cast the television version of Amos ‘n Andy. News of the search reached Tulsa, where Williams was sought out by a local radio station that was aware of his previous work in race films.

Williams successfully auditioned for Gosden and Correll, and he was cast as Andrew H. Brown. Williams was joined in the cast by New York theater actor Alvin Childress, who was cast as Amos, and vaudeville comedian Tim Moore, who was cast as their lodge leader, George “Kingfish” Stevens.

After the removal of Amos n Andy from the air, Williams, along with television show cast members Tim Moore, Alvin Childress, and Lillian Randolph and her choir, began a US tour as “The TV Stars of Amos ‘n’ Andy” in 1956. CBS considered this a violation of their exclusivity rights for the show and its characters and the tour was brought to a premature end.

Williams returned to work in stage productions. In 1958, he had a role in the Los Angeles production of Simply Heavenly; the play had a successful New York run. His last credited role was as a hospital orderly in the 1962 Italian horror production L’Orribile Segreto del Dottor Hitchcock.

Williams died of a kidney ailment on December 13, 1969, at the Sawtelle Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles, California. He was survived by his wife, Eula. At the time of his death, news coverage focused solely on his work as a television actor, since few white filmgoers knew of his race films. The New York Times obituary for Williams cited Amos ‘n Andy but made no mention of his work as a film director. A World War I veteran, he is buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Recognition for Williams’ work as a film director came years after his death, when film historians began to rediscover the race films. Some of Williams’ films were considered lost until they were located in a Tyler, Texas, warehouse in 1983. His 1942 feature, Brother Martin: Servant of Jesus, is still considered lost.

Most film historians consider The Blood of Jesus to be Williams’ crowning achievement as a filmmaker. Dave Kehr of The New York Times called the film “magnificent” and Time magazine counted it among its “25 Most Important Films on Race.” In 1991, The Blood of Jesus became the first race film to be added to the U.S. National Film Registry.

Film critic, Armond White, named both The Blood of Jesus and Go Down Death as being “among the most spiritually adventurous movies ever made. They conveyed the moral crisis of the urban/country, blues/spiritual musical dichotomies through their documentary style and fable-like narratives.”

Son of Ingagi

Son of Ingagi is about Eleanor and Bob Lindsay inheriting the house of a doctor Helen Jackson, who had just returned from her trip to Africa with gold and a missing link-type creature named N’Gina.

When N’Gina drinks a potion created by Doctor Jackson, it sends him into a murderous rage and he kills the doctor.

The Lindsay family inherits Dr. Jackson’s house – and, unbeknownst to them – the monstrous, murderous N’Gina along with it. 

For what happens next, watch the film. I have embedded it below for your viewing pleasure.

 

Spencer Williams was a multitalented man whose genius and unwavering determination have earned him a place in the League of Extraordinary Black People!

Learn more about Spencer Williams – and other great people and events in Black Science Fiction and Fantasy films – at the Black Science Fiction Film Festival.

 


THE BURNING QUESTION:Is there really such a thing as a Black Science Fiction Movie?

THE BURNING QUESTION:Is there really such a thing as a Black Science Fiction Movie?

On August 4, 2012, the State of Black Science Fiction author’s collective and the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture will host the Black Science Fiction Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.

Recently, someone in the State of Black Science Fiction group on Facebook asked “Is there really such a thing as a ‘Black’ Science Fiction movie?”

The film festival will answer that question in a big way, so don’t miss it!

In the meantime, I would like to share my list of the ten most Blacktastic actors in Science Fiction and Fantasy films and television programs. As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix trilogy.

Laurence Fishburne’s portrayal of Morpheus in The Matrix films was absolutely brilliant, bringing to life an iconic master martial artist / father figure who is cooler than Yoda and Mister Miyagi put together.

“I was really attracted to the piece because of the dual reality thing,” Laurence Fishburne said, in regard to the role. “I was fascinated by the idea that there was a real world and then another world that was just inside your head. That was the thing that really drew me towards this. The character was wonderful because he didn’t die. I die a lot in movies. Here it was, I got to play this character that is a major force and I didn’t have to snuff it.”

Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in Star Wars.

People talk as if Star Wars made Billy Dee Williams, however, when the original three Star Wars films hit the big screen, Billy Dee Williams was a big name actor and a sex symbol. He actually brought more name recognition to Star Wars. It’s a fact, fanboys; so sit down, relax and have a Colt 45.

Avery Brooks as Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Avery Brooks took this role and ran with it, creating the most badass of all “the Captains”.

On playing Ben Sisko, Avery Brooks had this to say: “Certainly the fact you have a black man in a command position is very important. That is something that goes far beyond just having black people working on a show, which itself is also very important. It goes to children being able to see themselves on screen and visualize that in the future they will be doing something of importance to the world at large. It addresses the situation of having all kinds of people interacting and cooperating for the mutual survival of the planet. The writing was exceptional, and the funny thing is I initially said no to Star Trek. My wife convinced me to go to the audition. She was the one who said, ‘You can’t say no to this.’”

Thanks, Mrs. Brooks. I – and millions of other fans – am forever grateful.

Will Smith as Steven Hiller in Independence Day, J in the Men In Black series of films, Del Spooner in I, Robot, Robert Neville in I Am Legend and John Hancock in Hancock.

The undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the science fiction film! He is the reason I could not present this list as a top ten, as he would – in all fairness – hold at least five of those positions. A Blacknificent actor!

Joe Morton as The Brother in The Brother from Another Planet, Miles Dyson in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Henry Deacon in Eureka.

Joe Morton always gives great performances and while most people recognize him as Miles Dyson in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and as Henry Deacon – the multi-talented super-genius on Eureka, I first became a fan of his work in The Brother From Another Planet, in which he sold the character through facial expressions and body language, as The Brother was “mute”.

Wesley Snipes as Blade in the Blade trilogy and Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man.

Wesley Snipes is one of the greatest action film stars ever!  As Simon Phoenix, he brought an edge and skill to the action of Demolition Man that made what would have been an okay film a good one. Blade, on the other hand, was groundbreaking.

Bullet Time – a special effect / film technique often credited to The Matrix – was actually first seen in Blade. But besides this technological breakthrough, Snipes brought the first serious superhero of African descent to the big screen. Before Blade, our heroes were not characters, they were caricatures. Blank Man and Meteor Man, while interesting, were not embraced as heroes in the Black community. We had enough clowns and buffoons on screen; we had enough “in the hood” movies. We were looking for a hero we could be proud of. Someone we could root for. Blade is that hero. Thanks, Wesley!

Denzel Washington as Eli in The Book of Eli, Doug Carlin in Déjà vu and Ben Marco in The Manchurian Candidate.

Denzel Washington is such a great dramatic actor, that we often forget he has starred in several science fiction films and even starred in an excellent horror film (Fallen).

Denzel Washington is my favorite actor and when I wrote the soon-to-be-released sword and soul novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika, I envisioned him as Alaafin Rogba, ruler of the Oyo Empire. One day, that vision will become reality. You hear that Denzel? One day, that vision will become reality.

James Earl Jones as Darth Vader in Star Wars and Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian.

Although I am a fan of several actors, I only consider one to be an idol of mine. That actor is James Earl Jones. For more on why he is one of my idols check out http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/02/18/state-of-black-scifi-2012-my-tribute-to-science-fiction-and-fantasy-icon-james-earl-jones/.

Who could possibly forget the haunting voice behind the mask in Star Wars? And James Earl Jones portrayed one of the most menacing – and popular – villains in film – Thulsa Doom.

Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura in Star Trek.

Often underrated as just a futuristic secretary in a short skirt, we forget how important Nichelle Nichols is to Black fandom, women’s fandom and, indeed, fandom in general.

Nichols’ role as Uhura was unprecedented – a lead character of African descent who was not a servant.

However, feeling that the character was not as fully developed as those of her peers, Nichols planned to leave after the first season to return to Broadway. She reconsidered when a fan of the show approached her at an NAACP function where she was speaking. That fan was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When she told him of her plans, Dr. King replied, “Stop! You cannot! You cannot leave this show! Do you not understand what you are doing? You are the first non-stereotypical role in television. Nichelle, for the first time, not only our little children and people can look on and see themselves, but people who don’t look like us, from all over the world…for the first time on television, they can see us, as we should be – as intelligent, brilliant, people! People in roles other than slick tap dancers, and maids, which are all wonderful in their own ways, but for the first time we have a woman, a woman, who represents us and not in menial jobs, and you prove it.”

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in Avatar and Uhura in Star Trek (2009).

To create the aliens in Avatar, the cast acted on a bare stage while wired into performance-capture suits and headgear. We never see Zoe Saldana’s real face, but through her incredible acting, she brought the 10’ tall, blue-skinned Neytiri to life and we related to her.

Avatar represented a great leap forward for film technology and the viewer’s experience and an even greater one for the career of this great actress, who got her first shot at stardom in the movie Drumline.

The actress learned martial arts, archery and horseback riding for her role and was the first of the cast to master the Na’vi “language”. According to director James Cameron, “Zoe was the first one to really have to learn the language. As she owned the language, then everyone else had to match her accent and her pronunciation.”

Saldana admits that the idea of her own face and body never appearing in Avatar did bother her, but only for “about two nanoseconds,” the actress said. “It is a human condition for us to be prone to vanity – especially actors; but I feel this role has been the best role ever to cross my path. When I see Neytiri, I actually see me, in its entirety.”

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here is Wake, a short horror film from up-and-coming director, Bree Newsome. A great work of Black Speculative Fiction. Enjoy!


DOING AWAY WITH TRADITION: The Savior of Black Entertainment!

DOING AWAY WITH TRADITION: The Savior of Black Entertainment!

Now, before some “traditionalist” catches me coming out of Whole Foods and busts my head to the white meat with a ball-peen hammer, let me explain.

Calling something “traditional”, or oneself a “traditionalist”, or referring to “traditions” is often an implication of Right and Wrong. However, a tradition, in actuality, is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past.

I am an African traditionalist. For me, that means I practice a spirituality that predates Judeo-Christian religion on the African continent and has been passed down, for eons within Yoruba society. Although I do consider my spirituality to be right and exact (or else, why practice it?), I do not consider someone else’s to be wrong. However, for many, the term traditional is used to say “Hey, what I do is the right way and your way is bullshit.

Filmmaking is full of “traditions”. These traditions are “the way things are done”, they are “industry standard”, they are “what is expected and accepted”, implying that there is a correct way to do things and deviations from that way are incorrect and unacceptable.

One such long-standing and entrenched tradition is the significance of the Short Film.

The Short Film is generally accepted to be significant to the emerging and aspiring filmmaker primarily, as learning experience and secondly, as a calling card. The short film allows you to gain experience without the overhead. Similarly, as a calling card, the short film serves as a demonstration of your abilities as a filmmaker in order to convince potential investors to trust you with the responsibility – and budget – to make a longer project.

The theory is that a good short film allows you to proclaim “If this is what I can do in 10 minutes of screen time, on a shoestring budget, just imagine what I could do with 90 minutes and millions of dollars!”

Learning experience; calling card. If this is what short films are for they have epically failed on both accounts.

Learning Experience

The short film fails as a learning experience because making a short film only really teaches you about making short films. The structures, patterns and conventions of short film have little to no relationship to feature films.

A short film is not just a feature film shoved into a tiny house. A short film, simply by its duration, cannot fully expand your understanding of the elements of story, character, theme, myth and metaphor.

Furthermore, a short film will not prompt you to ask who your audience is; what they expect; what they want; what excites and challenges them; or how they will respond.

Ironically, film schools all over the globe make short films the fundamental learning experience, but spend nearly 100% of their class time discussing and analyzing feature films. That is like going to a karate school, studying day after day, month after month, year after how to snatch a man’s torso off and then, for your black belt exam, having to run like hell from some 126 pound orange belt. While running is sometimes the best strategy and a hasty retreat can be an art in itself, it really proves nothing about competence in the snatch-off-a-torso technique.

Now, if you are happy making short films as a mode of artistic expression, more power to you. However, I would wager that most of you aspiring filmmakers want to make feature films and will do so as soon as the budget allows.

Calling Card

No matter how dope / raw / funky / cold / hot your short film is, if your intention is to make bigger, longer dramatic works, it will largely fail to serve your intent. Short films do not demonstrate the crucial things that fill financiers with confidence. A short film, regardless of how “good” it is, can’t effectively demonstrate you can sustain character arcs and it doesn’t show you understand narrative structure.

A short film does not prove you know how to develop a story over time, or construct consistent dramatic tension and release. A short film doesn’t demonstrate you understand genre and know how to attract an audience.

Without these things there is no real evidence you can effectively make a viable feature film.

Well, if not short films, then what?  Is there something better?

Lacking time and resources to make a feature film or a TV pilot, the answer is the web series, or webisode.

What is a Webisode?

A webisode – also known as web originals, web shows, web series, and online series – is a show in episodic form released online, or in some cases, across various mobile platforms. The series is created to live on the web and individual shows within a web series tend to run between 3 minutes and 6 minutes, with an entire season, from beginning to end, averaging an hour to an hour and a half.

When making a web show, the question is what kind of web show will you make? While web series take many forms, typical categories include sci-fi/fantasy (The Silent City; Osiris: the Series), comedies (Awkward Black Girl; 12 Steps to Recovery) and dramas (Touye Pwen: Kill Point; Celeste Bright).

Advantages of the Web Series
While most producers and financiers may currently ask to see your short film and inquire what festivals it has been in, many are now asking where your web series website is and how much traffic you webseries gets.

The advantages of the web series, as both learning experience and calling card, are myriad and obvious.

The web series is resource-viable. It takes no more money, technology or logistics to make an episodic online series than it does to make a short film.

The web series can easily find a far larger international audience than a short film on the festival circuit ever could. In doing so the web series proves the ability of the filmmaker to create for, gather, keep and motivate viewers.

While webisodes are generally short, the nature of their spacing and structure connects very well to feature film narrative turning points, and television episodes and seasons.

The web series may be small scale but the core structure is tangibly applicable and demonstrable, unlike most short films which – like running away, in relation to snatching off a man’s torso – offer little direct overlap.

In regard to the web series, transmedia – the development of stories across multiple forms of media in order to deliver unique pieces of content over multiple channels – is part and parcel of what a web series is. Where short and feature film projects the world over are being asked to add these elements (websites, trailers, games, etc), the web series is integrated tightly to this model from the start.

A good short film can be a great work of art but emerging and aspiring filmmakers need much more than a short work of art to build a career. The short-format, online, episodic webseries is the most dynamic, audience-driven, self-publicizing, learning vehicle independent filmmakers have ever had access to.

Find Your Audience

No matter how good your story is…if you can’t find someone to watch it, then you’re not likely to get much traction from your work.

If you can’t sit down and easily identify what kind of person will like your show and name five places that person might go to on the internet to hype your series, you will have a hard time getting the word out about your masterpiece.

As much as you may dread the idea, you’ll have to put in major work in order to alert the masses to your series. You have to market and promote. Even if your series is the best ever, you may have to work just as hard to convince people to watch as you did to make it.

However, within the last year more money has been devoted to original web content than at any time in the past. Youtube recently committed $100 million to nurturing new web-based talent. And Hulu has earmarked a half billion dollars for original content. Yep, $500 million.

Much of this interest comes from web series demonstrating their ability to reach larger groups of people and generate revenue. Most successful web shows appeal to very specific niche audiences and then grow from there.

That growth, or course, is a function of perseverance. If you can produce a series, find an audience and keep it, then the industry might just catch up to you with sponsors.

Five Keys to Success

  1. Have Something to Say – With the cost of filmmaking dropping all the time, creating your own series can be enticing, but you have to have something to say. Have a story to tell. No matter what your topic, the story needs to be compelling.
  2. Manage Your Imagination – Scale down your vision into something that’s shootable; something that you can make without waiting for approval or money. The greatest advantage of a producing a web series is that you do not need anyone’s okay to make it, and you don’t need anyone’s funding. You can shoot something compelling and engaging without lots money as long as you remain realistic about your ability to shoot it within the confines of your resources.
  3. Use The Resources at Hand – There are many people around you that can help you produce your project. There are actors, editors, sound people, hair and make-up people, wardrobe experts and camera operators who will work with you for little to no money because, like you, they seek to build experience and their portfolio. Also recruit talented friends and family members. Hiring your cool uncle Rollo to be your cinematographer might not be a great idea unless he has some training in film and experience as a director of photography and camera operator.
  4. Be a Leader – If it is your web series, then you are the leader. Everyone is looking to you as the captain of the ship. And trust me, you will be held responsible for everything – from your assistant director showing up drunk to an actor’s costume being a size too small because they chose to binge on Big Macs the night before a shoot. Have a plan. If not, then you are in for a world of grief and your project will probably go nowhere.
  5. If You Build It, Money Will Come – This might sound unrealistic, but it has been proven time and again that if you do good work consistently, the money will come – whether someone wants to buy your web series, or buy your talent and have you put the same effort into a television show or a feature film. Do not limit yourself to being a writer or a web-series producer – you are a creator. Create!

The Webseries: Savior of Black Entertainment?

A rapidly increasing number of directors, producers and writers are looking to the Web to make black shows on our own terms.

New series that target the Black community are popping up every month.

Savior or not, this emergence of original Web programming is, indeed, good news for black art and expression.

In regard to our project, Rite of Passage, co-producer, Milton Davis and I are deciding whether to produce and pitch the show as a television series for independent television networks that celebrate the Black experience, such as Bounce TV (http://www.bouncetv.com/) and ASPiRE TV (http://www.aspire.tv/) or produce it as a web series.

Which do you think we should do?


Do Black People Really Read This Stuff? High Fantasy, Low Fantasy & A “Racist” Publisher named Milton

Do Black People Really Read This Stuff?

High Fantasy, Low Fantasy & A “Racist” Publisher named Milton

“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.” – Rod Serling

The words ‘Fantasy Fiction’, more often than not, evoke images of faraway 14th Century (or earlier) kingdoms. Misty lands of green shires, towering castles, fire-breathing dragons, unicorns, orcs and busty wenches in chainmail bras. These images become even more powerful when played out in the mind in a Pen & Paper Role-Playing Game (for more on role-playing games, please check out http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/06/10/the-psychology-of-role-playing-games-and-the-crazy-folks-who-play-them/ and http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/01/19/racism-in-role-playing/).

We are attracted to fantasy fiction and role-playing games because role-playing adventure, imagining yourself the hero in a great fantasy story and storytelling are crucial, formative experiences that are as real and memorable as any heroic feats on the bidding floor, basketball court or football field.

In a fantasy role-playing game, you conquer dragons, grow in power and save the day.

Once an event has passed into memory, it’s the feeling of accomplishment, reward, mutual achievement and victory that lingers. Why or how you feel these feelings is irrelevant. The triggering event no longer matters. What remains is how that memory resonates and the lessons that stay with us – how to strategize and think on your feet; how to use your imagination to solve problems; how to be part of something bigger than yourself.

Real or “true” stories that occur in non-fiction may sometimes be interesting, but in many cases, the plot is “alien” to our mind and we do not get any learning experience from it because we cannot relate to it.

Non-fiction  informs without enriching, whereas fantasy stories have basic themes and plots that express deep experiences, problems, and challenges we all face in our growth and development.

The role of the unconscious in our development and the notion of an unconscious that is formed by our inherited experiences embodied in the images of art, suggests something further about why reading matters so much to us and about how it influences us. Our identity – the way we perceive ourselves and relate to the world – can be shaped through the fantasy literature we read.

Engaging in the simulative experiences of fantasy literature can facilitate the understanding of others who are different from ourselves and can augment our capacity for empathy and social inference.

As we become immersed in the lives of the characters in fantasy stories, we develop para-social relationships with those characters and have strong emotional responses to the stories.

These responses suggest that frequent readers of fiction will improve their social skills through reading, an idea contrary to the common “bookworm” stereotype, which portrays “bookworms” as lonely, shy, depressed and friendless. However, studies suggest that the more fiction a person reads, the better socially adapted they are.

Fantasy – and its subgenres – allows the author to explore aspects of the world around the reader and its problems, thus offering the reader an experience of intellectual as well as emotional adventure. Fantasy books provide the opportunity for us to connect to – and sympathize with – our heroes and heroines.

Sub-Genres of Fantasy

Contemporary Fantasy

Stories set in the “real world” in contemporary times, in which, it is revealed, magic and magical creatures secretly exist, either living in the interstices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds. Fantasy stories in which magic is not a secret kept from the masses does not fit into this sub-genre.

Dark Fantasy                                                      

Stories that focus on elements usually found in the horror genre but which take place in a sword and sorcery or high fantasy setting. Dark fantasy is occasionally used as a synonym for supernatural horror, to distinguish horror stories that contain elements of the supernatural from those that do not. For example, a story about a werewolf or demi-lich could be described as dark fantasy, while a story about a serial killer who eats his victims would simply be horror.

Heroic Fantasy

Heroic fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy literature which chronicles the tales of heroes and their conquests in imaginary lands. Stories tend to be intricate in plot, often involving many peoples, nations and lands. Grand battles and the fate of the world are common themes, and there is typically some emphasis on a universal conflict between good and evil.

High Fantasy

The term high fantasy (also epic fantasy) generally refers to fantasy that depicts an epic struggle between good and evil. The world in high fantasy is usually set in an alternative, entirely fictional (“secondary”) world, rather than the real, or “primary” world.

Low Fantasy

Low Fantasy stresses realistic themes in a fantasy setting. It sometimes refers to stories that don’t emphasise magic overtly, or stories that contain a cynical world view. The effect of the fantastic infringing on real life in low fantasy fiction is usually either humorous or horrific – a supernatural onslaught against reason; or comedic or nonsensical plots that can result from the introduction of fantastic features.

Magical Realism

Magical Realism presents fantastic and mundane elements side-by-side as if there is no conflict between the two. Magical elements blend with the real world and the story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the “real” and the “fantastic” in the same stream of thought.

Superhero Fantasy

The Superhero Fantasy has, at its heart, characters with super powers and / or unusual abilities. The heroes and villains are very much like those you would find in a comic book, they just exist in a fantasy setting.

Sword and Sorcery

These types of stories usually include (with a few notable exceptions) sword-play, magic, and a medieval setting. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of the supernatural. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters.

Sword and Soul

Sword and Soul  – like Sword and Sorcery – includes sword-play and magic. The adventures, however, are usually set in non-medieval, non-Eurocentric settings and the main characters are of African-descent. These stories are usually more spiritual than Sword and Sorcery and are more diverse in their styles of storytelling.

Now, do people of African descent – i.e. Black folks – read fantasy stories? Well this person of African descent does and so do my close friends, my siblings and my children. The Black people I know who do not read fantasy fiction certainly watch it, with Game of Thrones and period martial arts movies, like Hero and Kung-Fu Hustle being favorites and said they would read fantasy if the books had Black heroes.

Why do the same people who watch fantasy movies and television shows that feature few, if any, Black people – and none as the hero – refuse to read fantasy stories unless the hero is Black? Because a book – and often even a story – requires a greater investment of time, contemplation and emotions than a film or television show.

If you are going to invest so much of yourself, you have to relate to the character and Black people have grown weary of seeing themselves as the sidekick, noble savage, or the guy-who-dies-by-page-thirty-five. We do not relate to that and after years of such treatment in fantasy novels, we no longer trust those novels to show us in a positive light.

Now how, unless at some point we read those novels, would we know we receive such treatment in fantasy? So, Black folks do – or rather, did – read fantasy…and will again…

When we get it right.

Several authors – yours truly included – are getting it right. We write fantasy with Black protagonists – heroes who look like us. A few of these authors and their novels include:

Milton J. Davis

  • Meji, Book 1 & Meji, Book 2 – Sword & Soul
  • Changa’s Safari, Book 1 & Changa’s Safari, Book 2 – Sword & Soul
  • Griots: A Sword & Soul Anthology (Editor / Publisher; Contributing Author)– Sword & Soul
  • Sword and Soul Adventures – Sword & Soul (Graphic Novel)

Valjeanne Jeffers

  • Immortal, Books 1 – 4 – Dark Fantasy

L.M. Davis

  • Interlopers – YA Contemporary Fantasy
  • Posers – YA Contemporary Fantasy

Wendy Raven McNair

  • Asleep – YA Superhero Fantasy
  • Awake – YA Superhero Fantasy

Balogun Ojetade

Charles R. Saunders (the father of Sword & Soul)

  • Imaro, Books 1 – 4 – Sword & Soul
  • Dossouye, Books 1 & 2 – Sword & Soul

Recently, author Milton Davis, who is also the owner of MVmedia, which publishes his own works, as well as the works of others – including my novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika – was accused of being a racist because in his submission guidelines for the upcoming Steamfunk anthology, he seeks stories with main characters of African descent. In Griots and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear, this was also a requirement for submission.

Other authors came forward and blasted the accuser, showing how ignorant it is to accuse someone of racism because they desire to see someone that looks like themselves – someone long erased from fantasy stories – in the stories they read and invest their money into publishing.

When I told Milton of the accusation, he simply said “Then, I must be getting it right.”

Yep, Milton, you are.

For a few short stories in the fantasy genre, check out:

How Adjoa Became King: http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/07/12/how-adjoa-became-king-a-sword-soul-tale/ by Balogun Ojetade

The Hand of Sa-Seti: http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/02/23/the-hand-of-sa-seti-a-short-story-of-steampunk-and-sword-soul-by-balogun/ by Balogun Ojetade

Old Hunter: http://www.scribd.com/doc/99387520/Old-Hunter by Milton Davis

 


STEAMPUNK, SUPERHEROES & SOFT SCI-FI: Kickass Women Warriors, African Superheroes & A Mystical Box Take Atlanta by Storm this August!

STEAMPUNK, SUPERHEROES & SOFT SCI-FI:

Kickass Women Warriors, African Superheroes & A Mystical Box Take Atlanta by Storm this August!

 Science Fiction, Fantasy and Steampunk fans; fans of independent films; and fans of Black cinema, take note: The State of Black Science Fiction authors’ collective and the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture has a festival just for you.

On Saturday, August 4, 2012, the Auburn Avenue Research Library will be host to the State of Black Science Fiction Film Festival (for more on the festival, check out http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/05/31/adapting-stories-into-screenplays-and-a-brief-history-of-the-first-steamfunk-movie-video/ and http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/06/27/harriet-tubman-honest-abe-and-thomas-alva-edison-movies-and-the-age-of-steam/).

This festival is screening four amazing short films:

1.      Afro-Man & the Protectors of the Book of Knowledge by Kofi Michael Johnson

In this animated masterpiece, Afro-Man and The Protectors of the Book of Knowledge unite to combat the diabolical Ultra-Igno, who plans to dominate the world by means of bringing in to existence the New World Order of Ignorance.

 2.      The Becoming Box by Monique Walton

A Science Fiction short film that follows a family of three siblings, who must deal with the mysterious appearance of a portal in their backyard, following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In the vein of Octavia Butler, the Becoming Box deals with recovery, rebirth, and reinvention.

 3.      Rite of Passage: Initiation by Balogun Ojetade; based on a story by Milton Davis

In this Steampunk short film, Freedom fighter, Dorothy, must overcome hardship – and survive a brutal battle with her iron-fisted mentor, Harriet Tubman – in order to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

 4.      A Single Link by Balogun Ojetade

After suffering a brutal rape at the hands of a martial arts champion, Remi Fasina decides to gain closure and empowerment by fighting her attacker in the first professional fight between a man and a woman. 

Join Remi in her powerful and touching journey as she grows to fight, not just for herself, but for all women and girls who have suffered abuse at someone’s cruel hands.

Do not miss the world premiere of this magnificent film!

Two of the filmmakers and one actress, who is a star of two of the films being screened, were kind enough to provide this author with insight into their Blacknificent film projects. I would now like to share their thoughts.

 

KOFI MICHAEL JOHNSON

Kofi Michael Johnson – a native of Rochester, New York – has worked extensively in the multimedia field for over 10 years. His love for visual art was developed during his studies at the famed School of the Arts High School, based in Rochester, New York; The Art Institute of Atlanta; and Westwood College, as an animation major.

Kofi was one of the first to produce and self publish a comic book that features an African-American super hero, even going on to produce a special series in conjunction with the American Cancer Society to promote non-tobacco use among the urban youth.

Kofi has been featured in several newspapers and magazines, including About Time, Rochester Magazine, Reality Magazine, The Sentinel, The Democrat & Chronicle, City Paper, and Creative Loafing.

To his credit, Kofi has directed 10 music videos, including two filmed in Africa. He has also worked as a story board artist, comic book illustrator, camera operator, and video editor.

Finally, Kofi is the founder of Afrikom Media Group and Afro-Man Kids Space, a positive social network targeting youth of African descent.

Kofi can be reached at http://www.afrikommediagroup.com/Our%20Focus.html and http://www.afromankidsspace.com/.

What is Afro-Man and the Protectors of the Book of Knowledge about?

Afro-Man & The Protectors chronicles the stories of a young band of super powered teens who were given the task of protecting the book of knowledge – a mystical book that holds all ancestral knowledge. Many want this book, especially Ultra-Igno, for if they do get their hands on it they will have the power to rule the world. Kofi – aka Afro-Man – recruits his friends, who make up The Protectors.

What is your role in the making of the series and how did you become a part of this project?

I created Afro-Man back in high school. I started with T-shirts, hats, and water bottles. From there, I started circulating my very first black and white issue (comic book). Since then, we have grown to what you see today.

What were your experiences in the creation of Afro-Man and the Protectors of the Book of Knowledge?

The experience has been great. The children really appreciate a super hero that reflects them. This was a void in my life as well. I grew up with a love of comic books and cartoons but I was left hanging because there were never any characters that look like me. The appreciation of the children is the only thing that keeps me going.

What upcoming film projects or animated series are you planning?

We have the 3rd episode coming in the fall, plus we are now looking for child-friendly content to broadcast on our website: www.afromankidsspace.com .

What advice can you give to someone who also wants to make an independent film or animated series?

My advice is to never give up; be receptive to advice, but at the end of the day, rely on your own opinion; not all advice is good advice. Also stay true to your brand; don’t be swayed from who you are.

 

MILTON DAVIS

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

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

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

What is Rite of Passage: Initiation about?

Rite of Passage: Initiation is an excerpt from a larger project, Rite of Passage.

What is your role in the making of the film and how did you become a part of this project?

I wrote the original story on which Rite of Passage is based. Balogun Ojetade read the story and loved it, so he decided to take it on as a movie project. He adapted the storyline to his love of Harriet Tubman and changed the lead character from a man to a woman by the name of Dorothy. Balogun and I are working together promoting the project and securing funding for it.

What were your experiences in the creation of Rite of Passage: Initiation?

This was my first time watching a movie being created and it was fascinating to say the least. Everyone was very professional and Balogun was very open and active with the camera people and actors.

What upcoming film projects are you planning?

Right now, Rite of Passage is the only project on my horizon. I hope to be involved with many more in the future, at least from a storyline standpoint.

What advice can you give to someone who also wants to make an independent film?

I can’t give much advice since I don’t have a lot of experience. The best advice I can give is to have fun. In the end that’s what it’s all about.

 

IYALOGUN-OSUN OJETADE

Iyalogun-Osun Ojetade is a photographer by profession and works part-time as an actress and stunt-person in action and martial arts films. She has had supporting roles in the independent films Black Panther: Blood Ties and Reynolds’ War; and has lead roles in the films Rite of Passage: Initiation and A Single Link, which she also co-produced.

Iyalogun-Osun is a martial arts expert, an initiated traditional African priest and a Doula, who assists mid-wives and mothers through the birthing process and post-natal care.

Iyalogun-Osun can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/iyalogun.osun.

You are the star in two of the films screening at the State of Black Science Fiction Film Festival – Rite of Passage: Initiation and A Single Link. What are these films about?

Rite of Passage: Initiation is about Harriet Tubman and her student, Dorothy, who one day will become the recipient of incredible power. Rite of Passage: Initiation is an introduction to Rite of Passage, a film that we intend to be the pilot for an ongoing television series. It will be the first Steamfunk series on television and Rite of Passage: Initiation will be the first Steamfunk film ever made.

A Single Link is a martial arts drama about a woman who is raped by a man who becomes lightweight champion of the world in mixed martial arts fighting. For closure and empowerment, Remi wants to fight him. She strives to become the first woman to fight a man professionally while keeping her family together through trying times. Remi becomes a symbol for the downtrodden and the oppressed as her fight becomes public.

What is your role in the making of these films and how did you become a part of these projects?

I play Harriet Tubman in Rite of Passage: Initiation. When I heard that my husband, Balogun Ojetade – the writer and director of the film – was casting, I told him that I wanted the role. Knowing that I could pull it off after proving myself during the shooting of A Single Link, he gave me the role.

With A Single Link, I was already one of the producers of the film. After reading the script, I decided that I wanted to play the lead role of Remi Fasina. Knowing that the role would require shooting hours of grueling fight scene footage, my husband – the writer and director – promised he would give me the role if I worked out every day for twelve weeks. If I missed a day, he would cast someone else. I agreed to his terms and won the role. There was obviously a method to his madness because one day, I had to shoot five fight scenes back-to-back in one-hundred degree temperature in a sweaty, musty boxing gym. Had I not been training, I probably would have passed out or suffered a heat-stroke.

What were your experiences in the creation of Rite of Passage: Initiation and A Single Link?

My experiences on both films were great. The cast and crew on both films were professional, motivated, dedicated to the project and highly creative. The crew has been working together for quite some time, which makes the shoots run smoothly and everyone – with the exception of Associate Producer and Assistant to the Director, Danny “Akin” Donaldson, who keeps us on schedule – is a comedian, so we laugh a lot during breaks and when someone flubs a line. A relaxed set gets better results.

What upcoming film projects are you planning?

I am always seeking to audition for roles that show women of African-descent in a positive light. As I stated earlier, we also plan to shoot a pilot and several episodes of Rite of Passage. Finally, I am trying to convince my husband to make a Nollywood film. I believe we can raise the standard of films coming out of Africa and I have many contacts there that can help facilitate this process.

What advice can you give to someone who also wants to act in, or produce, an independent film?

Do it! Don’t be a dreamer, be a visionary. Dreamers are asleep; visionaries are awake. Focus on your vision and then bring that vision into fruition through hard work, patience and a never give up attitude.

 

Another highlight of the State of Black Science Fiction Film Festival is the Art at War: Countering Negative Images of Blacks in the Media panel. Moderated by internationally renowned activist and artist, Kalonji Jama Changa and featuring a panel of powerhouses in film, radio, television and fashion, this panel promises to be an unforgettable experience for all!

Be sure to join us August 4th at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture for this unique, exciting and inspiring film festival wherein the state of Black speculative fiction and Black independent film will be forever elevated beyond your wildest imagination!

Kickass Warrior Women? African Superheroes? A mysterious magic box washed ashore by Hurricane Katrina? The state of Black speculative fiction and Black independent film is about to be forever elevated beyond our wildest imaginations. Atlanta will never be the same!


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