Steamfunk * Steampunk * Sword & Soul

Panel Discussion

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

Black Science Fiction Youth Symposium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the schedule of events:

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

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

Date: Saturday, April 26, 2014

Time: 10:00am – 5:00pm

Cost: Free and open to the public

Age Suitability : 8 – 14


Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!

Anachrocon

Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

Because they do not suffer from stereotype threat.

“What is stereotype threat,” you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.     Decreased performance

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

 2.     Internal Attributions for Failure

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

   3.     Self-handicapping

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

 4.     Discounting the task

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

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

 5.     Distancing yourself from the stereotyped group

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

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

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

1.     Reframing the task

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

 2.     Deemphasizing threatened social identities

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

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

 3.     Encouraging self-affirmation

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

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

 4.     Providing role models

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

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

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

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

Oriyemi engaging in her first National Tea Duel.

Oriyemi engaging in her first National Tea Duel.

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

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


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

Countering Negative Images

ARE STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK and SWORD & SOUL NECESSARY?

Countering Negative Images of Black People in Science Fiction and Fantasy

 

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

We have become so insensitive or desensitized to our own negative typecasting and even dehumanization that we are no longer conscious of what we see, hear and what is going into our minds. We have become a party to our own brainwashing. We have joined in and become our own victimizers.

In the old days, white comedians put on black cork and made a living humiliating and ridiculing Black people. A few years later, their senses dulled by this illusion called “progress”, Black comedians said to the white comedians “Hey, you don’t have to ridicule and humiliate us, we’ll do it. We’ll take it from here, boss.”

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

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

“Man, you my N-Word!”

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

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

Yeah…that shit cray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment and let your opinion be known!


BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION DURING THESE 28 DAYS OF BLACK HISTORY

Ki Khanga

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION DURING THESE 28 DAYS OF BLACK HISTORY

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

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

Anachrocon

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

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

Anachrocon happens February 14-16.

WREK Sci Fi Lab

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase books and have them signed by the writers.

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

This is a great event for people of all ages!

Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis teach Steamfunk at GA-Tech

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

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

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

Steamfunk in academia…who’da thunk it?

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

Enjoy this Black History Month!


MORE TROLLS THAN A MID-LEVEL DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS CAMPAIGN

troll 3

MORE TROLLS THAN A MID-LEVEL DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS CAMPAIGN

troll 2I have been the victim of trolling.

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

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

Silly rabbit.

No, not rabbit…troll.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The State of Steamfunk, Part II!

Mahogany Masquerade

The State of Steamfunk, Part II!

Mahogany MasqueradeIt has been exactly ten months since our last State of Steamfunk address.

We are now broadcasting from the Airship Sweet Chariot to bring you news of the Funktastic happenings in the world of Steamfunk!

Milton Davis’ MVmedia, LLC, Balogun Ojetade’s Roaring Lions Productions and Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media and Communication wrap shooting the Steamfunk feature film, Rite Of Passage, November 17, 2013.

This amazing film – about the four Guardians of Nicodemus: Harriet Tubman; Harriet’s student, Dorothy Wright; famed lawman, U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves; and the steel drivin’ man, John Henry  and their battle against the supernatural and technological forces of oppression and evil – premieres in late February, 2014 at the 2nd Annual Black Science Fiction Film Festival.

A tie-in to Rite Of Passage, the short film, Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster – about a Guardian from “across the Pond” – premiered worldwide September 1, 2013.

A tie-in anthology, Rite of Passage: Road to Nicodemus, is now accepting submissions and will launch in 2014 as well.

STEAMFUNK Cover2013 also saw the launch of the wildly popular Steamfunk! anthology, an incredible book of fifteen stories by fifteen amazing authors from diverse backgrounds that has become the defining work of the Steamfunk Movement.

The Steamfunk Movement is growing by leaps and bounds and gaining, well…steam.

During Black Speculative Fiction Month in October, the Auburn Avenue Research Library, in partnership with Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade, hosted The Mahogany Masquerade and the Retrofuturistic Worlds of Steam and Diesel Funk panel discussion. Both events were very well-attended and fun was had by all.

SaintsAt Stan Lee’s Comikaze convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center, tens of thousands gathered November 1-3, 2013, to enjoy all manner of geek-pop culture. Among them was author MD Marie, who unveiled her stunning Saints of Winter Valley 2014 Calendar, a spectacular calendar featuring beautiful photographs of the characters from the world of her soon-to-be released Steamfunk novel, The Saints of Winter Valley, Volume 1.

The graphic novel The Amazing Adventures of David Walker Blackstone, written and illustrated by artistic genius Kevin Sipp, is now crowdfunding through Kickstarter and the releases of the Steamfunk novels Mona Livelong, by Steamfunk, horror and erotica author Valjeanne Jeffers and Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises, by Balogun Ojetade, are forthcoming.

Finally, you know you’re growing when people are enraged by your work. Recently, an individual who represents a prominent Dieselpunk group, expressed on that group’s website how the use of the terms Steamfunk and Dieselfunk caused him to “get a little pissed off”:

“What upsets me the most about this though is the emergence of Steamfunk and Dieselfunk. To me this goes back to so many other aspects of society and culture that I won’t even begin to reference…The point is your right hand is saying that you want to be included, and treated equal. While your left hand is creating a situation where you are being exclusive and segregating every other race out.
Dieselpunk is in no way racist, exclusive, or prejudiced against any group of people. Except perhaps those who support Nazis…we don’t really want to have anything to do with them. Dieselfunk though…by the very name of it you’re basically saying this can only be black people. Why would you create something that excludes you from the rest of society? Why make a subset of a culture exclusive to your own race instead of just joining into what’s already established? No one is excluding you, you clearly just don’t want to be involved.
This is why I can’t stand it when people say: “I don’t support this because its racist.” “We want to be treated the same.” etc… And then you go out and support something that is racist, just racist in your favor, that excludes you from being treated as the same since you are separating yourself from the rest of the races in the world.”

I’ll let you good people reading this dismantle that foolishness. I don’t even waste my time responding to this rubbish anymore, but I do post it and make mention of it to make others aware that such ignorance still exists and you can decide if you want to deal with it or not.

Balogun and Iyalogun MasqueradeMe?

I’m too old; too busy being productive; and too not giving a damn.

Anywho…check back often; I will keep you updated on all the exciting happenings in the world of Steamfunk as the movement continues to grow.

This is Balogun Ojetade, from the Airship Sweet Chariot, signing off Steamfunkateers.

Until next time…keep it funky!


ENROLLING IN A NEW INSTITUTION: The Solution to Racism in Fandom

Alien Encounters IV

ENROLLING IN A NEW INSTITUTION: The Solution to Racism in Fandom

Popular cosplayer and blogger, Chaka Cumberbatch.

Popular cosplayer and blogger, Chaka Cumberbatch.

I read a brilliant – and heart-wrenching article today in which cosplayer, Chaka Cumberbatch demanded better representation for Black women characters in popular geek media, because frankly, the lack of a Black presence in fandom has her fatigued.

“I’m tired of not seeing faces like mine in my comics. I’m sick of the notion that a black female character is a rare treat, a special occasion.”

“I’m getting really tired of just accepting whatever scraps are thrown our way.”

“I’m tired of not seeing faces like mine in my comics.”

“…faces like mine in my comics.That was the beginning of my heartbreak for this brilliant sister truly believes those comics are hers.

Alien Encounters IVAnd they should be. They should be written with her – a serious and long-standing fan of comics and other forms of geek fandom – in mind; but they aren’t.

They should feature more Black women – and men, for that matter – as superheroes because Black women are, well…extraordinary; but they don’t.

They won’t.

Why?

Because mainstream geekdom is not concerned with us. A Black hero is “different”; is “risky”; and no form of media in the mainstream is in the business of taking risks.

Now, watch someone pull Storm, Luke Cage, the Black Panther or Aqualad out of the bag and shout “We have given you these cool superheroes and yet, you still complain.”

Shut up!

Those characters were not written with us in mind.

As renowned veteran comic book creator, author and screenwriter Geoffrey Thorne says: “There can be no Black consciousness in comics unless there are Black creators in comics.”

Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself and we are acutely more aware of self than of anything external.

So, to put it bluntly, we are not part of the consciousness of the creators of fandom, who are mainly white men…white men are.

Black SuperheroWhen these men write a Black character in a comic book, it is not to appease Black people; it is not to fill some status quo; we are not part of the conversation, contemplation or consciousness.

We are the only people who believe that if we write about a Black hero or shero, they must have a white sidekick or mentor in order for the book to be accepted. We are the only people who cry “I live in a multicultural world, so I write what I see.” White people live in that same world. If they decide to write a multicultural tale, the hero is, more often than not, a white man. If they are “really hip”, they might have a white woman as the protagonist, but a person of color as the protagonist is a rarity, indeed.

And we should not complain about that. People can write what they want to.

We should not demand more representation from the mainstream. The mainstream does not care about the Black demographic at best and is a racist institution at worst.

The institution of geek fandom is old and has been allowed to keep running with our support and our hope for a brighter and better day for women and people of color. However, this institutional racism within fandom will continue as a pattern of racial exclusion simply by virtue of folks doing things the way they have always been done.

Think not?

Recently, Worldcon – the biggest convention in fandom – planned to screen the spectacularly racist film, Song of the South.

Black comixYep; that Song of the South.

When called out on this madness, Worldcon fans – mostly white men, of course, were swift to defend their beloved con. One fan summed up the sentiment of fans nicely: “Going to cons–and Worldcon moreso–is a luxury activity. The truth is that most POC don’t have the disposable income [to attend fan conventions]. They’re a noticeable minority at airports, on cruises, and other luxury activities”.

I wonder if he received a free guest pass.

Geoffrey Thorne broke it down for us like this: “Marvel says they can’t make a Black Panther film because it’s too far fetched to present Wakanda as a real place while at the same time dropping both the new Thor film and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.  Wakanda is more farfetched than Asgard?”

See? We need to transfer out of the racist institution called mainstream geek media and enroll in a new institution; an institution of our creation.

Chronicles of Harriet TubmanAn institution in which Samuel Delaney is President; Octavia Butler and Charles R. Saunders are the Deans; Walter Mosley, Nisi Shawl, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due are Department Heads; and Milton Davis, Nnedi Okorafor, Geoffrey Thorne, Valjeanne Jeffers and Balogun Ojetade are Professors; an institution in which veteran, up-and-coming and aspiring creators and fans of Black Speculative Fiction, Film and Art walk its hallowed halls.

My dear sister, Chaka – and every other sister out there who feels marginalized and underrepresented, check out works by the aforementioned creators and you will have plenty powerful, beautiful  and extraordinary Black sheroes to cosplay – from a Steamfunk Harriet Tubman to a spear-wielding demon-hunter whose sisters are a pair of lionesses and more.

HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

Keep this conversation going and join artist and Curator of OnyxCon, Joseph Wheeler III; comic book store owner, collector and publisher, Tony Cade; comic book author, collector and critic, Hannibal Tabu; and renowned comic book and animation creator and illustrator, Dawud Anyabwile, for Aint No Such Thing As Superman, a discussion on the influence of the conscious community on Black comic books and graphic novels and the impact of Black comic books and graphic novels on the conscious community.

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS IV

Sunday, October 27, 2013

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Alien Encounters IV


HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month

HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conventions

Black Age of Comics Convention

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

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

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

East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

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

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

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

Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention

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

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

OnyxCon

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

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

Conferences

Alien Encounters

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

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

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

Here is the schedule for 2013:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2013

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

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

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

9:00 pm until – Mahogany Masquerade After-Party

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

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRE-CONFERENCE EVENTS

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! Avoiding Cultural Appropriation in Steampunk

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! Avoiding Cultural Appropriation in Steampunk

appro 8

This past Sunday, at Dragon*Con, I had the pleasure of being a panelist on the Around the World in 80 Minutes: Steampunk Multiculturalism panel, moderated brilliantly by Diana Pho, founding editor of Beyond Victoriana. My esteemed (eSTEAMed?) co-panelists were Cherie Priest, bestselling author of the Clockwork Century Series, which includes the wildly popular Steampunk novel, Boneshaker; Marina Gurland, Kimono historian and collector and Steampunk afficianado; and Kathryn Hinds, Steampunk, Fantasy and YA novelist, poet, editor, author of over fifty nonfiction books for adults and children and teacher of Middle Eastern Dance.

The conversation was powerful, engaging and interactive and had the feel of a bunch of highly intelligent, well-informed, but really cool and down-to-earth- people getting together to discuss – and find solutions to – some serious issues.

The theme of the day? Research!

From the infamous "African Queen photoshoot. The model is 16 year old, blond-haired, blue-eyed North Carolinian, Ondria Hardin.

From the infamous “African Queen photoshoot. The model is 16 year old, blond-haired, blue-eyed North Carolinian, Ondria Hardin.

Eventually, the conversation got around to cultural appropriation – a topic discussed often amongst Steampunks, as it happens often.

This is a deep issue and had to be addressed. I won’t tell you what the other panelists said, as Diana Pho has sworn us to secrecy in that regard – there will be a video of it released soon, as Alan Braden, known amongst Steampunks as Professor Upsidasium, recorded it and awaits the green light from Ms. Pho – however, I will share my take on the matter.

A working definition of “cultural appropriation” for me is the taking of some aspect, artifact or stereotype of a particular culture – usually something we consider cool – and using it as you please without an understanding and / or respect for what you have taken.

If you wear a Yoruba crown because you think it fits your Steampunk persona of Sir Richard Asshat, the Great White Leopard Hunter, but you know nothing of Yoruba culture (in fact, you probably pronounce it yoh-ROO-bah, when it is YOH-roo-BAH) or the fact that wearing a crown when you are not a chief or oba (“king”) is a capital offense in Yorubaland (even wearing a crown above or below your station is an offense), then you have committed cultural appropriation.

Someone said "He really looks British!" I replied "That's because he really IS British." Akin Danny Donaldson, Producer / Actor / Steamfunkateer.

Someone said “He really looks British!” I replied “That’s because he really IS British.” Akin Danny Donaldson, Producer / Actor / Steamfunkateer.

I am a master instructor of Yoruba, Mandinka and Wolof martial arts, an awo – or, initiate (“priest”) – of Ifa and Obatala  and War Chief (“Balogun”) in the Yoruba traditional culture. I live as a Yoruba, am well-versed in Yoruba history, sociology, psychology and cosmology and have respect and reverence for the traditional culture and for my teachers. I am also highly knowledgeable of Akan and Fon culture and sociology, thus I would cosplay an Akan, a Yoruba or a Fon.

I would not, however, cosplay as a Zulu. Though I am a man of African descent, Africa is not a country and African people are not homogenous. I know a bit about the Zulu and respect their culture, but I do not have a deep enough understanding of the culture to cosplay as Shaka Zulu’s right hand man, ‘Bandelezi, the Steam-Bearer,’ without committing cultural appropriation.

Am I being overly sensitive? Nope. Turning someone’s cultural identity into a caricature should be avoided, so the issue of cultural appropriation warrants caution and examination and deserves, well, sensitivity.

Everyday experiences of identity reflect people’s creativity in the way they express themselves as individuals. Stereotypes erase (“white-out?”) the personal experiences of identity and replace them with generalizations.

Django...chained?

Django…chained?

And cultural appropriation is not simply a “little mistake” or a “victimless crime”. The visceral reaction to having an identity that one associates with as an experience, yet disassociates with as a stereotype, is felt in the body and in the mind as an ache; a sickness. As Kristina Bui, a columnist for the Arizona Daily Wildcat says, “It’s a feeling I’ve always struggled to articulate –a discomfort that sort of just sits in the place between your heart and your stomach, quietly nagging.”

Cultural appropriation, at its root, is about power – power to name; power to define; power to appropriate someone’s cultural identity; and power to dictate how painful the resulting stereotype perpetuated by that appropriation should be.

Cosplaying a character from another culture without understanding of that culture and without experiencing any of the daily discriminations faced by that culture is ignorant, at best;  racist, at worst; and an act of privilege.

appro 7However, Steampunk is about changing, or, at least, twisting history right? It is about “how the Age of Steam should have been”, correct? Then it is necessary that we know history; that we understand how the Age of Steam was, so that we can determine how it should have been. If we cosplay a “Steampunk Squaw”, we should research how First Nation women lived during the Age of Steam; we should study First Nation cultures and choose in which we are going to gain historical and sociological expertise; we should research the word “squaw”, understand it is an offensive term to First Nation women and change the name…if you give a damn. If you don’t, you are a racist. Just own up to it and move on.

Am I ruining your plans for the Mahogany Masquerade, Halloween, or AnachroCon?  Well, cultural appropriation and the resultant stereotyping ruins whole groups of people’s fun every day of their lives,

Steampunk Cultural Appropriation“Well, I cosplay as an Egyptian Princess of Icelandic descent because I want to show the absurdities of a blond-haired, blue-eyed Egyptian,” you say. Well, unless your costume includes a billboard that reads “I am cosplaying as an Egyptian Princess of Icelandic descent because I want to show the absurdities of a blond-haired, blue-eyed Egyptian,” strangers will have no clue of your intentions and your costume will be just as hurtful.

The “punk” in Steampunk enjoins us to challenge the status quo. Please, let’s do so and be more thoughtful, knowledgeable and sensitive in our cosplay.

And remember…

Research equals giving a shit; so, do it.

A lot.


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

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

Art by James Eugene.

Art by James Eugene.

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

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

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

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

The schedule for Aliens Encounters IV is as follows:

Friday, October 25, 2013

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

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

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

9:00 pm until – Mahogany Masquerade After-Party

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

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

Steampunk and Dieselpunk cosplayers, Mark & Theresa Curtis.

Steampunk and Dieselpunk cosplayers, Mark & Theresa Curtis.

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

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

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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you there!

Art by LewisKF22

Art by LewisKF22


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

9:00 pm until: Mahogany Masquerade After-Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balogun transports you to Harriet Tubmans world: a world of wonder…of horror…of amazing inventions, captivating locales and extraordinary people. In this novel – the first ever book in the subgenre known as Steamfunk – Harriet Tubman must match wits and power with the sardonic John Wilkes Booth and a team of hunters with powers beyond this world in order to save herself, her teenaged nephew, Ben and a little girl in her care – Margaret. But is anyone who, or what, they seem?

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

A witch, more machine than human, judges the character of the wicked and hands out justice in a ravaged Chicago. John Henry wields his mighty hammers in a war against machines and the undead. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman rule a country of freed slaves that rivals – and often bests – England and France in power and technology. You will find all this – and much more – between the pages of Steamfunk, an anthology of incredible stories by some of today’s greatest authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Steamfunk – African and African American-inspired Steampunk.

Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have put together a masterful work guaranteed to transport you to new worlds; worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam.

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

 

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

October is gonna be hotter than fish grease!

I’ll be celebrating all month.

Come party with me!

 

 


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

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

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

I now offer you We’re Here, part II.

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

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

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

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

We’re here, theblackauthOrity.

We’re here.

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

Charles R. Saunders

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

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

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

Ah, the blissful ignorance of youth.

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

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

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

Reginald Hudlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milton Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R.L. Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rasheedah Phillips

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Tribbles

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

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

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

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

Until then, happy reading and watching!

here 4


WE’RE HERE: Ending the Search for Black Fandom

WE’RE HERE: Ending the Search for Black Fandom

Black Cosplay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re here my dear sister.

We’re here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THE 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

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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

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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!

 

 


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

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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).


The State of Black Science Fiction: Filled with Possibilities!

While many are concerned with the state of the Union on this election day, my concern is with the state of Black science fiction…and fantasy…and horror.

In early 2012, author Alicia Mccalla spearheaded a blog tour called The State of Black Science Fiction 2012 to educate people on the wealth of speculative fiction written by and about Black people available for us to enjoy. This blog tour has since grown into a movement. A movement that has spawned many Blacktacular events, starting with The State of Black Science Fiction Panel at Georgia Tech to the most recent Alien Encounters III convention, which featured The Mahogany Masquerade and other State of Black Science Fiction-hosted panels, book signings and film screenings.

In fact, the State of Black Science Fiction 2012 blog tour and Steampunk activist and journalist, Jaymee Goh, were the inspirations for me to start this Chronicles of Harriet website.

When we decided to form a collective of authors called State of Black Science Fiction, we chose to do a collective story, called Possibilities that we would read at our presentations. Since that time, other authors have added stories and Possibilities has grown into a book, which is now available – for free – on Smashwords!

So, join artist Winston Blakely and authors LM Davis, Milton Davis, Margaret Fieland, Edward Austin Hall, Valjeanne Jeffers, Alan Jones, Alicia McCalla, Balogun Ojetade, Rasheedah Phillips, Wendy Raven McNair, and Nicole Sconiers as we explore the possibilities in the broad ranges of Science Fiction from Paranormal to Steampunk!


STEAMFUNK REFORMERS: Black Activists in the Age of Steam!

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STEAMFUNK REFORMERS: Black Activists in the Age of Steam

Every month, in The League of Extraordinary Black People Series, we feature members of the League of Extraordinary Black People who fit specific Steampunk Archetypes. This month, we examine Reformers – the suffragettes; the revolutionaries; the protesters and abolitionists.

As always, your feedback is welcomed and encouraged.

Nat Turner

Although Nat Turner led his rebellion a bit before the beginning of the Steampunk / Victorian Era (1837 – 1901), it did happen during the Age of Steam, the period of industrialization, which actually takes place between roughly 1797 and 1914. Besides, Nat Turner’s rebellion fueled the abolitionist movement, thus he certainly deserves a place within ‘The League’.

By far the most notorious and successful slave rebellion was led by Turner in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831.

Born in Southampton County on October 2, 1800, Turner, who was the slave of Joseph Travis, was a preacher who had visions and felt divinely inspired to lead his people to freedom. He plotted his revolt for six months, sharing his plan with only four others.

On the day the revolt took place, Turner and his men gathered in the woods and then began what is known by many as the “Turner Insurrection” by attacking the Travis plantation and killing the entire family. Turner’s group, which had grown to 60, then stormed the county, killing at least 57 whites. As the revolt progressed, the ranks of Turner’s army continued to swell, rising to the hundreds within hours.

Finally, on their way to Jerusalem, Virginia, the county seat, where they had hoped to gain additional support and replenish their ammunition, most of Turner’s forces were caught and subdued. Thirteen slaves and three free Blacks were hanged, but Turner was not captured until two months later, after returning from hiding to free more of slaves.

Turner was hanged on November 11, 1831.

Harriet Tubman

Probably the most iconic of all Reformers, Tubman gained international acclaim as an Underground Railroad operator, abolitionist, Civil War spy and nurse, suffragist, and humanitarian.

After escaping enslavement in 1849, Tubman dedicated her life to fighting for freedom, equality, and justice.

Born Araminta (“Minty”) Ross in early 1822 on the plantation of Anthony Thompson, south of Madison in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman was the fifth of nine children of Harriet “Rit” Green and Benjamin Ross, both slaves.

From early childhood, Tubman was often hired out to temporary masters, many who were cruel and negligent.

One day, while working as a field hand, Tubman was nearly killed by a blow to her head from an iron weight, thrown by an angry overseer. The severe injury left her suffering from headaches, seizures and sleeping spells that plagued her for the rest of her life. They also left her with powerful and accurate visions.

In the late fall of 1849, Tubman took her own liberty. She tapped into the Underground Railroad, which was already functioning well on the Eastern Shore. Traveling by night, using the North Star as her guide, Tubman found her way to Philadelphia, where she sought work as a domestic, saving her money to help the rest of her family escape.

From 1850 to 1860, Tubman conducted approximately thirteen escape missions, freeing – by her own account – “thousands of slaves”. Among those she freed were her brothers, parents, and other family and friends.

Tubman brought many of her charges to St. Catharines, Ontario, where they settled into a growing community. Her dangerous missions won the admiration of abolitionists throughout the North who provided her with funds to continue her activities.

In early 1862, Tubman joined Northern abolitionists in support of Union activities at Port Royal, South Carolina. Throughout the Civil War she provided badly needed nursing care to black soldiers and hundreds of newly liberated slaves who crowded Union camps. Tubman’s military service expanded to include spying and scouting behind Confederate lines and she went on to become the most famous among the revered and feared Black Dispatches.

In early June 1863, Tubman became the first woman to command an armed military raid when she guided Col. James Montgomery and his 2nd South Carolina black regiment up the Combahee River, routing out Confederate outposts, destroying stockpiles of cotton, food and weapons, and liberating over 700 slaves.

After the war, Tubman returned to Auburn, New York. There she rose even higher as a community activist, humanitarian, and suffragist, her humanitarian work triumphing with the opening of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, located on her own property in Auburn, New York, which she eventually transferred to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1903.

Tubman remained active in the suffrage movement, appearing at local and national suffrage conventions, until the early 1900s. She died at the age of 91 on March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was a prominent American abolitionist, author and orator.

Born a slave, Douglass escaped at the age of twenty and went on to become a world-renowned anti-slavery activist.

Douglass’ work as a reformer ranged from his abolitionist activities in the early 1840s to his attacks on Jim Crow and lynching in the 1890s. For sixteen years, he edited an influential black newspaper and achieved international fame as an inspiring and persuasive speaker and writer. In thousands of speeches and editorials, he levied a powerful indictment against slavery and racism, providing an indomitable voice of hope for his people and preacheing his own brand of American ideals.

Douglass welcomed the Civil War in 1861 and portrayed it as a moral crusade against slavery.

During the war, he labored as a propagandist of the Union cause, a recruiter of black troops, and an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln.

After the war, he continued to travel widely and lecture on racial issues, national politics, and women’s rights. In the 1870s Douglass moved to Washington, D.C., where he edited a newspaper and became president of Freedman’s Bank. As a stalwart Republican, Douglass was appointed marshal and recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia, chargé d’affaires for Santo Domingo and minister to Haiti.

Douglass died in 1895 after half a century of activism.

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in 1797 in Ulster County, a Dutch settlement in upstate New York.

Truth spoke only Dutch until around the age of nine when she was forced to speak English by John Neely, a cruel and brutal slave master, but she spoke with a Dutch accent for the rest of her life.

In 1799, the state of New York began to legislate the gradual abolition of slaves, which was to be put into full effect on July 4, 1827. Truth’s slave master had promised her freedom a year before the state emancipation, “if she would do well and be faithful.”  However, he reneged on his promise, claiming an injury to her hand had made her less productive.

Infuriated, Truth escaped with her infant daughter, Sophia, later saying “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.”

Truth then immediately set to work freeing her five year old son Peter. With the assistance of Quakers, Truth made an official complaint in court. After months of legal proceedings, Peter returned to her, scarred and abused.

During this time, Truth had a life-changing religious experience, becoming “overwhelmed with the greatness of the Divine presence” and inspired to preach. She quickly became known as a remarkable preacher and soon changed her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth, telling friends, “The Spirit calls me East, and I must go.” She wandered in relative obscurity, depending on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter. She eventually met and worked with abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles, giving her most famous speech at the Ohio Woman’s Rights Covention in Akron, Ohio, the legendary “Ain’t I a Woman?

During the Civil War, Truth spoke on the Union’s behalf and helped enlist Black troops for the freeing of slaves. After the Civil War ended, she continued working to help the newly freed slaves through the Freedman’s Relief Association and the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

In 1870, Truth began campaigning for the federal government to provide former slaves with land in the “new West.” She spent a year in Kansas, helping Black refugees and speaking in white and Black churches to gain support for the “Exodusters” as they tried to build new lives for themselves.

On November 26, 1883, Sojourner Truth died in Battle Creek, Michigan at the age of 86.

Maria W. Stewart

Maria Stewart was a black abolitionist, feminist, author and educator.

Stewart was born in Hartford, Connecticut, as Maria Miller.

Orphaned by age five, she became an indentured servant, serving a clergyman. Using the clergyman’s extensive library, she taught herself how to read and comprehend. When she was fifteen, left the clergyman and went on to work for herself as a servant.

In 1826 she married James W. Stewart, taking not only his last name but also his middle initial. With her marriage to a shipping agent, she became part of Boston’s small free Black middle class. Stewart became involved in some of the institutions founded by that Black community, including the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which worked for immediate abolition of slavery.

Upon the death of her husband in 1829, she became convinced that God was calling her to become a “warrior” “for God and for freedom and “for the cause of oppressed Africa.”

In 1831, abolitionist publisher, William Lloyd Garrison published Stewart’s first essay, Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, as a pamphlet. She also began public speaking, at a time when religious bans against women teaching prohibited women from speaking in public, especially to mixed audiences that included men.

In her first address, in 1832, Stewart spoke before an audience of only women at the African American Female Intelligence Society, an institution founded by the free Black community of Boston. She used the Bible to defend her right to speak, and spoke on both religion and justice, advocating activism for equality. The text of the talk was published in Garrison’s newspaper on April 28, 1832.

On September 21, 1832, Stewart delivered a second lecture, this time to an audience that also included men. She spoke at Franklin Hall, the site of the New England Anti-Slavery Society meetings. In her speech, she questioned whether free Blacks were much more free than slaves, given the lack of opportunity and equality. She also questioned the move to send free blacks back to Africa. Garrison published more of her writings in The Liberator and, in 1832, published a second pamphlet of her writings as Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart.

Stewart eventually made a move to New York, New York, where she remained an activist, supporting herself by teaching in public schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn, eventually becoming an assistant to the principle of the Williamsburg School. She was also active in a Black women’s literary group and supported Frederick Douglass’ newspaper, The North Star, but did not write for it. Stewart moved to Baltimore in 1853, where she taught privately.

In 1861, she moved to Washington, DC, where she taught school again during the Civil War. During that time Stewart was appointed to head housekeeping at the Freedman’s Hospital and Asylum in the 1870s. A predecessor in this position was Sojourner Truth. On December 17, 1879, Stewart died in the hospital in which she worked. She is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

I hope you enjoyed the latest in the League of Extraordinary Black People Series. Be sure to join us next month when we examine Aviators…yep…Aviators!

 

 

 


GREAT BLACK AUTHORS OF SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY: Past & Present

GREAT BLACK AUTHORS OF SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY: Past & Present

Ask people to name Black authors of science fiction and fantasy and only a few names will be repeated, if any names are known at all: Octavia Butler…Tananarive Due…L. A. Banks…Walter Mosley. While, most certainly, these brilliant authors should be in everyone’s library, you are cheating yourself if you do not know of – or explore – the many other great Black authors of speculative fiction.

The Black presence and impact on the world of speculative fiction is a vast and powerful one. Some of these authors you may have heard of; some you may not have. Some will absolutely surprise you. All of them tell Blacknificent stories.

Let’s dive in and see just how deep this well of creativity is.

Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932)

Chesnutt published The Conjure Woman in 1899.  The book, a series of loosely associated short stories, focuses on Uncle Julius McAdoo’s efforts to manipulate and dupe his northern-born, white employers, with hilarious results.

Like the famed trickster of the antebellum and postbellum-eras in America – High John the Conqueror – Uncle Julius overcomes an oppressive society through cunning, veiled courage and humor and his tales offer coded commentary on the psychological and social impact of slavery and racial inequality.

The stories Of Uncle Julius combine a good bit of magic – “cunjuhring,” “root wuk,”  “goophering” – and creatures of the supernatural, placing it firmly in the realm of Fantasy. 

Pauline Hopkins (1859-1930)

Pauline Hopkins  was a prominent novelist, journalist, playwright, historian, and editor. She is considered a pioneer in her use of the romantic novel to explore social and racial themes.

Her novel, Of One Blood – also known as The Hidden Self – was published in a serialized version in The Colored American Magazine, beginning in 1902 and ending in 1903.  The novel begins on a bitter Boston night, in the living quarters of Reuel Briggs, a Black scholar of mysticism. Hopkins goes on to concoct an intricate and engrossing tale of Asian mesmerism, ancient and mysterious African kingdoms, and metaphysical globetrotting.  This book has all of the action, adventure and romance that you would find in a modern Fantasy bestseller.

Harry Potter? Twilight?

Nah, give me Of One Blood!

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963)

Yes the W.E.B. Du Bois.

While most people know who W.E.B. Du Bois is – and if you don’t, you really need to brush up on your history – most do not know that Du Bois frequently wrote speculative fiction.

A couple of Du Bois’ speculative works include The Comet (1920) – which imagines what would happen if there were only two people left on the planet (a black man and a white woman) and Jesus Christ in Texas (1920) – in which Jesus returns as an enslaved African in Texas to set the enslaved free. 

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

A literary powerhouse of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston is probably most well-known for her Blacktastic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.  Also a cultural anthropologist and Mambo (diviner / spiritual leader) in the Haitian tradion of Vodoun, Hurston published two collections of African American and Caribbean folklore, Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938) respectively, that include extensive sections on Vodoun (“voodoo”) and Hoodoo – a form of African-American traditional folk magic.

Hurston’s experiences with such folklore and spiritual tradition found its way into much of her work. In the novel Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939), for example, Hurston recasts the biblical figure Moses as a powerful Hoodoo man, with a great command over the forces of magic.

Hurston challenges and subverts the predominant stereotypes of Vodoun and Hoodoo as “primitive magic” and “witchcraft”, giving us what she believed to be an authentic, African spiritual path to empowerment for those without power.

The result is a narrative of mythic status and import. Just as myths transcend the limitations of common life and imbue daily actions with universal significance, Hurston uses Vodoun and Hoodoo imagery and symbolism to create a modern American myth, grounded in the African diasporic traditions.

George S. Schuyler (1895-1977)

Schuyler was a satirist, and like many satirists, he created fantastical, alternate realities in order to deliver his social and political commentary. 

In his 1931 novel, Black No More, The protagonist, Max Disher, becomes white after strapping himself into the revolutionary “E-Race-O-Later” machine (invented by Dr. Crookman) and begins to understand what it is like to live on the other side of the color line.

Henry Dumas (1934-1968)

A man of many hats, Dumas was a  writer, a poet, did a stint in the military, was a teacher, and even worked a year at IBM.    A poet of the highest order, poetic rhythms and structures infuse his prose.   As a lover of all things Black, Dumas’ writing reflects his lifelong love of African American and African Diasporic folklore and musical traditions.

Echo Tree, an amazing collection of Dumas’ short, speculative works, features such stories as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a fantasy story, with elements of horror, set in an underground jazz club.  The protagonist, Probe, tests a legendary instrument of immense power on a few unwelcome guests.

In Dumas’ works, magic offers a way of giving power to the powerless – to exact a kind of decisive justice, as when, in “Fon,” flaming arrows whiz from the sky and dispatch a group of would-be lynchers. 

This is my favorite author and one of my greatest influences. After you read Echo Tree, I am sure he will be one of your favorites, too. 

Virginia Hamilton (1934-2002)

Virginia Hamilton’s first novel, Zeely, was about two children who encounter a “Watusi” (Tutsi) queen on their uncle’s farm.   She received numerous honors for her writing throughout her career, including the Coretta Scott King Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award and a MacArthur Genius Grant, publishing more than 40 books in various genres for children, middle grade, and young adult audiences.

Though Hamilton’s works range in theme and content, much of it is, most certainly, speculative fiction.  Hamilton deftly handles topics as diverse as aliens – Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed – and African goddesses – The Adventures of Pretty Pearl.

In one of my favorite works by Hamilton – the Justice Trilogy – a girl, Justice, and her twin brothers – all of whom possess incredible powers – are thrust into a desolate, post-apocalyptic world a million years in the future.

Samuel R. Delaney

One of the most prolific science fiction authors of the 20th century, Delaney’s body of work includes more than twenty novels, several novellas, and countless short stories. 

Publishing his first novel, The Jewels of Aptor, in 1962 at the age of 19, Delaney has since gone on to win countless prestigious awards including the coveted Nebula and Hugo awards.

His science fiction novels include Babel-17The Einstein IntersectionNova, Dhalgren, and the Return to Neveryon series.

After winning four Nebula awards and two Hugo awards over the course of his career, Delany was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2002.

Delaney is currently a professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he is Director of the Graduate Creative Writing Program.

Charles R. Saunders

An African-American author and journalist currently living in Canada, Saunders is best known as the founder of the subgenre of Fantasy called Sword & Soul, which is described by Saunders thusly, 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.”

Saunders has inspired several generations of writers with his work, beginning with the four-volume Imaro series of Sword & Soul novels – about a skilled, fearless, wandering warrior who rivals (exceeds?) Conan – and continuing with the two-volume Dossouye series about a fierce woman warrior from Dahomey and her mighty war-bull, Gbo.

Saunders has also created a Blacktacular pulp fiction novel – and one of my favorites – Damballa, about a shadowy hero who fights evil in 1930s Harlem with unprecedented martial skills and a combination of African and Western science.

If you have not read any of Charles Saunders work, run, don’t walk, to your nearest computer and visit his website, http://www.charlessaunderswriter.com/!

Milton J. Davis

Author and publisher Milton J. Davis specializes in writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is the author of four Blacknificent Sword and Soul novels – Meji I, Meji II, Changa’s Safari, Changa’s Safari II – one alternate history novel – A Debt to Pay – contributing editor and publisher of Griots: A Sword & Soul Anthology and the long awaited, soon-to-be released Steamfunk! anthology.

His books, and the works he publishes, can be found at http://www.mvmediaatl.com/ and on Amazon.

Valjeanne Jeffers

Valjeanne Jeffers is best known as the author of the erotic horror / fantasy series, Immortal. She is also author of the Steamfunk novel, The Switch II: Clockwork (Books I and II) the short works, Grandmere’s Secret, and Colony. She has been published in numerous anthologies including Griots: A Sword & Soul Anthology and the upcoming Steamfunk!. Contact Valjeanne at http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com/.

Alan Jones

Alan Jones is a native Atlantan, a former columnist for the Atlanta Tribune, and a Wall Street consultant. 

Alan writes a brand of science fiction that blends fanciful characters and scenarios with generous doses of philosophy and social commentary. His book, To Wrestle with Darkness, is available at most major retailers.

Balogun Ojetade

A diverse writer and wearer of many hats, Balogun is the author of several short stories in the genres of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction and of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is also co-creator – with author, Milton Davis – of the soon-to-be-released role-playing game, Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG.

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

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

Wendy Raven McNair

Raven McNair is the author of  AsleepAwake, and the soon-to-be-released Ascend, a young adult fantasy trilogy about teen super-beings. McNair’s stories celebrate African American teen girls. Her novels are available at http://wendyravenmcnair.com/.

Alicia McCalla

Alicia McCalla is author of the Teen Dystopian, “Genetic Revolution” series of novels, which includes Breaking Free and Double Identity, which is scheduled for release in early 2013. Alicia’s work is available on amazon.com and through her website: http://aliciamccalla.com/.

Ronald T. Jones

Chicagoan, Ronald T. Jones, is considered by most to be a master of Military Science Fiction and his novels, Chronicle of the Liberator and Warriors of Four Worlds, are proof of that. His work is available on Amazon.

*NOTE: For more research on this subject, please check out the website of author L.M. Davis, who has done extensive research on authors of Black Speculative Fiction and is the author of the incredible Young Adult Fantasy Shifter Series of Novels: http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/.


THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE: Steamfunk in the ATL!

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE: Steamfunk in the ATL!

When asked in a recent study to describe their version of the “ideal” woman, black and white teens conjured up vastly different images.

The white teen ideal was a Barbie-like woman, 5’7”, between 100 and 110 pounds, with blue eyes and long flowing hair.

The black teens’ ideal American woman had nothing to do with physical characteristics. According to Sheila Parker, Ph.D., “They told us that the ideal Black woman has a personal sense of style, who ‘knows where she’s going’, has a nice personality, gets along well with other people, and has a good head on her shoulders.” Only if pushed did they name physical characteristics – fuller hips, ‘thick’ thighs, a ‘curvy butt’ and a small waist.

Nearly 90 percent of the white young women told the researchers they were dissatisfied with their weight, while 70 percent of the African-American young women were satisfied.

Cultural expectations, idealizations, and fixations mold the accepted definitions of beauty and the perceived ideal body-shape.

While this outlook among Black people is positive and much-needed, considering the lack of positive images of us in the media, it comes with risks. While I believe it is important for us to accept our curves and endowments – or lack thereof, it is of even greater importance that we realize when we are unhealthy and react properly to it. Obesity is an ever-growing epidemic among Black people in this country. Celebrating obesity can be a potential problem and can set a detrimental example as we improperly equate loving ourselves with accepting an unhealthy lifestyle.

Even though the African-American society promotes a curvier woman body-shape, more African-American girls are beginning to develop eating disorders as they become more exposed to traditional white ideals of beauty. Being too underweight also has serious health risks.

I have often contemplated – with such a healthy perception of body image – why so few of us cosplay, especially girls and women of African descent. Is it because we are not into science fiction or fantasy?

Nope. We are into speculative fiction, and in large numbers at that.

One reason why sisters shy away is the disdain for the fuller-figure that permeates fandom. Heavier people often feel too self-conscious to cosplay. Not only are there virtually no characters from anime, manga, film, science fiction, or fantasy who are already portrayed as fuller-figured, but fans can be very cruel to full-figured cosplayers who dare to cosplay “conventionally attractive” characters.

I have heard people laugh at the plus-sized Batgirls and Storms, or make rude comments about the guy with the beer-belly portraying a Spartan from 300.

On one forum, a full-figured girl asked who she could cosplay as at an upcoming convention. The only person who responded said, Princess Fiona, Shrek’s ogre wife.

On another forum, a curvaceous Black woman asked for suggestions for her television cosplay. Her answers? Sandra Clark – Jackee Harry’s character from the sitcom, 227 - or Mercedes Jones – the girl portrayed by actress Amber Riley on Glee. She was thinking she looked more like Lana Kane, the character from the animated series, Archer.

In an essay by journalist Kendra James called Race + Fandom: When Defaulting to White Isn’t an Option, James writes about facing ignorance when Black women cosplay. “when a non-white cosplayer colors outside the lines, there’s a risk of getting an awkward look because, instead of seeing the costume, no matter how perfect it might be, others see the color of your skin and you can see the confusion in their eyes: ‘Why is a black girl dressed as Zatanna?’ Worse are the ones who aren’t confused, but then think they’re being inoffensively clever. ‘You know there probably weren’t many Black USO Girls in the 1940s, right?’ Or, my personal favorite, ‘Wonder Woman? I thought you would’ve done Nubia.’ It’s an extension of the “default to white” privilege many fans still engage in on a regular basis.”

Ms. James goes on further to say “It often feels like a white cosplayer can not only dress as their favorite characters of color but also do so in the most offensive way  without comment.”

Yes, people are still that ignorant.

I will continue to fight such ignorance with education and inspiration.

On Friday, October 26, 2012, we came out in force – in all our myriad beauty – and brought the FUNK to Steampunk at The Mahogany Masquerade: A Night of Steamfunk and Film!

A video, with photos from this Blacknificent event, follows:


ALIEN ENCOUNTERS: Black Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Invade Atlanta!

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS: Black Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Invade Atlanta!

Alien Encounters is an annual convention for Black speculative and imaginative fiction, film and music that serves as a venue for both education and entertainment.

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

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

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

Join us, October 25-October 28, 2012 for our third year of four Blacktastic days of Black Speculative Fiction, Film and Steamfunk!

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS III

Black Speculative Fiction: What it is and why Black people should read it

Thursday, October 25

7:00pm-9:00pm

A dynamic discussion on Black Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in literature, film and other media with authors of African descent. The authors will showcase their involvement in their respective genres and subgenres of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Panelists Include:
Ed Hall (moderator): Author and Editor
Milton Davis: Author and Publisher
Wendy Raven McNair: Author
James Eugene: Visual Artist
Balogun Ojetade: Author and Filmmaker

The Mahogany Masquerade Masquerade: A Night of Steamfunk & Film

Friday, October 26

6:30pm-9:00pm

Come out in your (Steam)funkiest gear and enjoy The Mahogany Masquerade: An evening of Steamfunk and Film!

Enjoy the four short films that will be screened; engage authors, filmmakers and artists in a panel discussion on the Steamfunk Movement; shop for books and movies in our bazaar and meet and greet your fellow Steamfunks, Steampunks, and lovers of Science Fiction and Fantasy!

Wear your Steampunk / Steamfunk Clothing, Costumes, Gadgets and Gear and receive a Blacknificent Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel free!

Finding Black Faces within the Pages

Saturday, October 27

2:00pm-4:00pm

Fantasy and science fiction young adult authors will read excerpts from their books and discuss ideas and techniques in writing Sci-Fi literature for young adults of color.

The Last Angel of History: Film Screening

Saturday, October 27

4:00pm-6:00pm

Directed by John Akomfrah, this film is an engaging and searing examination of the hitherto unexplored relationships between Pan-African culture, science fiction, intergalactic travel, and rapidly progressing computer technology.

Devil’s Wake and My Soul to Take: Discussion and Book Signing with authors Tananarive Due & Steven Barnes

Sunday, October 28

3:00pm-5:00pm

The Auburn Avenue Research Library will host authors Steven Barnes and Spelman College Cosby Chair in the Humanities, Tananarive Due, who will discuss their latest publications, Devil’s Wake and My Soul to TakeDevil’s Wake is the tale of young people struggling to remain human-and humane-in a post-apocalyptic near future.  My Soul to Take is set in the year 2016 when governments are striving to keep terrorists at bay and plagues secret to reduce the threat of panic. 

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

See you there!


STEAMFUNK MUSIC!

STEAMFUNK MUSIC

 

Funk is a very distinct style of music based on R&B, soul and jazz which is characterized by a strong bassline – often in the percussive “slap bass” style of Larry Graham (originally of Sly & the Family Stone), complex rhythms and a simple song structure.

The name “Funk” originated in the 1950s, when “funk” and “funky” were used increasingly as adjectives in the context of soul music — the meaning being transformed from the original one of a strong, pungent odor to a strong, distinctive groove.

Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground. Funk songs are often based on an extended vamp on a single chord, distinguishing it from R&B and soul songs, which are centered on chord progressions.

Funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm instruments such as electric guitarelectric bass, Hammond organ, and drums playing interlocking rhythms. Funk bands sometimes have a horn section of several saxophonestrumpets, and in some cases, a trombone, which plays rhythmic “hits”.

In early jam sessions, musicians would encourage one another to “get down” by telling one another, “Now, put some stank on it!” At least as early as 1907, jazz songs carried titles such as Funky Butt.

Characteristics of Funk

Rhythm

A great deal of funk is rhythmically based on a two-celled onbeat / offbeat structure, which originated in sub-Saharan African music traditions. New Orleans appropriated the bifurcated structure from the Afro-Cuban mambo and conga in the late 1940s, and made it its own. New Orleans funk, as it was called, gained international acclaim largely because James Brown’s rhythm section used it to great effect.

Funk creates an intense groove by using strong guitar riffs and bass lines, using bass lines as the centerpiece of songs. Slap bass’s mixture of thumb-slapped low notes and finger “popped” (or plucked) high notes allowed the bass to have a drum-like rhythmic role, which became a distinctive element of funk.

In funk bands, guitarists typically play in a percussive style, often using the wah-wah sound effect and muting the notes in their riffs to create a percussive sound. Guitarist Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers and Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic were notably influenced by Jimi Hendrix’s improvised solos. Eddie Hazel, who worked with George Clinton, is one of the most notable guitar soloists in funk. Ernie Isley was tutored at an early age by Jimi Hendrix himself, when he was a part of The Isley Brothers backing band and lived in the attic temporarily at the Isleys’ household. Jimmy Nolen and Phelps Collins are famous funk rhythm guitarists who both worked with James Brown. On Brown’s Give it Up or Turn it Loose (1969), Jimmy Nolen uses his guitar like an African drum, pounding out a rhythm that moves the soul.

Some of the best known and most skillful soloists in funk have jazz backgrounds. Trombonist Fred Wesley and saxophonist Maceo Parker are among the most notable musicians in the funk music genre – both of them working with funk maestros, James BrownGeorge Clinton and Prince.

History

The distinctive characteristics of African-American musical expression are rooted in sub-Saharan African music traditions, and find their earliest expression in spirituals, work chants/songs, praise shouts, gospel, blues, and “body rhythms” (hambonepatting juba, and ring shout clapping and stomping patterns).

Famed and flamboyant singer and musician, Little Richard led a saxophone-studded, R&B road band in the mid-1950s, which was credited by James Brown and others as being the first to put the funk in the rock-and-roll beat. Following his temporary exit from secular music to become an evangelist in 1957, some of Little Richard’s band members joined Brown and The Famous Flames, beginning a long string of hits for them in 1958.

By the mid-1960s, James Brown had developed his signature groove that emphasized the downbeat – with heavy emphasis on the first beat of every measure to etch his distinctive sound, rather than the backbeat that typified African American music. Brown often cued his band with the command “On the one”, changing the percussion emphasis / accent from the one-two-three-four backbeat of traditional soul music to the one-two-three-four downbeat – and featuring a hard-driving, repetitive, brassy swing. This one-three beat launched the shift in Brown’s signature music style, starting with his 1964 hit single, Out of Sight and his 1965 hit, Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.

Brown’s innovations led to him and his band becoming the seminal funk act, pushing the funk music style further to the forefront with releases such as Cold Sweat (1967), Mother Popcorn (1969) and Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine (1970). Late 1960s – early 1970s

Also from the West Coast area, more specifically Oakland, California, came the band Tower of Power, which formed in 1968. Their debut album East Bay Grease, released in 1970, is considered by many as an important milestone in funk. Throughout the ‘70s, Tower of Power had many hits, and the band helped to make funk music a successful genre, with a broader audience.

In 1970, Sly & the Family Stone’s Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) reached #1 on the charts, as did Family Affair in 1971, afforded the group and – and funk – crossover success and greater recognition.

George Clinton, with his bands, Parliament and Funkadelic, produced a new kind of funk sound heavily influenced by jazz and psychedelic rock. The two groups shared members and are often referred to collectively as “Parliament-Funkadelic”.

The breakout popularity of Parliament-Funkadelic gave rise to the term “P-Funk”, which referred to the music by George Clinton’s bands, and defined a new subgenre. Clinton played a principal role in several other bands, including Parlet, the Horny Horns, and the Brides of Funkenstein, all part of the P-Funk conglomerate.

Funk music was also exported to Africa, and it melded with African singing and rhythms to form Afrobeat. Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, who was heavily influenced by James Brown’s music, is credited with creating the style and terming it “Afrobeat”.

Rick James was the first funk musician of the 1980s to assume the funk mantle dominated by P-Funk in the 1970s. His 1981 album Street Songs with the singles Give It To Me Baby and Super Freak resulted in James becoming a star, and paved the way for the future direction of explicitness in funk.

Beginning in the late 1970s, the artist Prince used a stripped-down, yet dynamic, instrumentation similar to James, combining eroticism, technology, an increasing musical complexity, and an outrageous image and stage show to ultimately create music as ambitious and imaginative as P-Funk.

Similar to Prince, other bands emerged during the P-Funk era and began to incorporate synthesizers and other electronic technologies to continue to craft funk hits. These included CameoZapp, The Gap Band, The Bar-Kays, and The Dazz Band.

 Influenced by the Japanese band, Yellow Magic Orchestra and the German band, Kraftwerk, the African-American musician Afrika Bambaataa developed electro-funk – a minimalist, machine-driven style of funk – with his single Planet Rock in 1982. Also known simply as electro, this style of funk was driven by synthesizers and the electronic rhythm of the TR-808 drum machine. The hit single Renegades of Funk followed in 1983.

After 1983, Funk saw a decline, with hip-hop taking over the spotlight.

However, with the growing popularity of Steampunk among Blacks worldwide, Steamfunk music had to happen. And it has happened in a big way! Today, the popularity of funk is seeing resurgence as artists of African descent in hip-hop, rock and even club dance music are bringing the funk to Steampunk – artists such as T-Pain, Alex Cuba, Props! And Nikki Minaj.

Join us at the Mahogany Masquerade on Friday, October 26, 2012 as we explore the Steamfunk Movement in music, cosplay, films, literature and more!

Come out in your (Steam)funkiest gear and enjoy The Mahogany Masquerade: An evening of Steamfunk and Film!

Enjoy the four short films that will be screened; engage authors, filmmakers and artists in a panel discussion on the Steamfunk Movement; shop for books and movies in our bazaar and meet and greet your fellow Steamfunks, Steampunks, and lovers of Science Fiction and Fantasy!

Presented by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture & History and the State of Black Science Fiction as

 part of “Alien Encounters III”, the four-day convention on Black Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy!

Friday, October 26, 2012
6:30pm – 9:00pm.

This event is FREE and open to the public!

Wear your Steampunk / Steamfunk Clothing, Costumes, Gadgets and Gear and receive a Blacknificent Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Cosplay and the building of a Black World

DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Cosplay and the building of a Black World

Last semester at the school I teach – and where my son, Ade, attends – the younger male students – ranging in age from six to ten and all of African descent (i.e. Black) – decided to fashion their own costumes based on characters they created. The boys created elaborate back-stories for their personas, developed comic books and transformed from being “themselves” into their personas at every break, during lunch and – for Ade, at least – on the ride home from school.

My son and his schoolmates had discovered the joys of cosplay.

Cosplay, thought by most to be short for “Costume Play” is, more accurately, short for “Paracosmic Play”. Paracosms are the fantasy worlds that many imaginative children invent.

Young people who engage in cosplay are developing creative skills that pay off later in “real life.” The famed trio of Brontë Sisters – best known for the novels, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre – and their Brother, Branwell, are a prime example of those who began writing early through creating and building upon imaginary worlds. As children, they concocted paracosms so elaborate that they documented them with meticulous maps, drawings, and hundreds of pages of encyclopedic writing.

Yes, cosplay involves wearing costumes and acting in the role of a favorite character from a novel, television program, comic book, movie or one’s own imagination; however, any good cosplayer knows that to cosplay well requires a knowledge of the world that character comes from. Those who cosplay characters from their own imaginations – such as my son and his schoolmates – usually create their character’s back-story, which includes the supporting characters and the setting from which that character comes.

It now appears that, like the Brontës, children who engage in cosplay are more likely to be creative as adults. A 2002 study shows that geniuses are twice as likely as “normal” non-geniuses to cosplay. Some fields were proven to be particularly rife with cosplayers: Fully 46 percent of the recipients polled in the social sciences were cosplayers in their youth.

Fandom and cosplay is not for every child – some are just genuinely more interested in football than they are in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles (note that on the covers of the Kane Chronicles, the protagonist’s face is never shown; the protagonist is Black, however, on the cover of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series of novels, the white protagonist’s face is always shown) – but we need to see a change in the media; more Black writers need to tell our stories so that more young, Black fans are encouraged to reap the benefits of participatory fandom and cosplay.

These young, Black cosplayers will go on to make a better world for us.

Why?

 Because cosplay requires practical creativity. Fleshing out a universe demands, not just imagination, but an attention to detail, consistency, rule sets, and logic. You have to grapple with constraints – just as when you are problem-solving at work.

The future belongs to those who can imagine it.

 

On October 26, 2012, join us for a night of adult cosplay and exciting short films at The Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film.

Come out in your (Steam)funkiest gear and enjoy the four short films that will be screened; engage authors, filmmakers and artists in a panel discussion on the Steamfunk Movement; shop for books and movies in our bazaar and meet and greet your fellow Steamfunks, Steampunks, and lovers of Science Fiction and Fantasy!

Presented by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture & History and the State of Black Science Fiction as part of Alien Encounters III, the four-day convention on Black Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy!

Friday, October 26, 2012
6:30pm – 9:00pm.

This event is FREE and open to the public!

Wear your Steampunk / Steamfunk Clothing, Costumes, Gadgets and Gear and receive a Blacknificent Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel free!

 


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).


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