Steamfunk * Steampunk * Sword & Soul

Steampunk

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

DIeselfunk

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

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

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

Thank me later.

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

 

Diversify Your Steampunk Day 5: Welcome Back Balogun Ojetade

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yep, it’s important. Thanks, y’all!

 


DAY 3 OF THE BUTLER / BANKS BOOK TOUR! Balogun Ojetade Transports Readers to the Roaring 20s in the Two-Fisted Dieselfunk novel, “The Scythe”

The Scythe

Balogun OjetadeBalogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single LinkRite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster.

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

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

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

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

 

The Scythe

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

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

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

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

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

 

Excerpt from The Scythe

“He who sleeps with an itching anus wakes up with smelly fingers.”

Ikukulu opened his eyes. Anesusu stood over him smiling. A horde of Agu stood behind him.

“Only a madman would go to sleep with his roof on fire,” Ikukulu replied, hopping to his feet.

“This is the sigil, then?” Anesusu inquired, pointing at the carving on the kuka tree.

Ikukulu nodded. “It is. It will require all of our blood to activate it.”

“Let’s get to it, then,” Anesusu said, drawing his knife.

Anesusu held his obsidian blade high above his head.

Hundreds of similar obsidian knives, with gazelle antler handles, were thrust into the air.

Ikukulu drew his coral knife. He slid the blade across his palm, rending his flesh and then pressed the leaking gash to the sigil for a few moments.

Anesusu followed him and then each warrior from amongst the Agu did the same until the sigil was covered in gore.

“The sigil is now activated and well-fed,” Anesusu said to his brethren. “The Jugu will be upon us in a few hours and we will send them to their doom. So drink; make love – preferably not with your own wife or husband, for you married warriors – and rest up…for at midday, we usher in a new era…a new world!”

A cheer erupted from the army of Agu.

Ikukulu turned away and sauntered toward the river. The ways of the Agu disgusted him, but the refusal of his own brothers and sisters to work with the Agu had forced him to ally with them alone – a dangerous undertaking, indeed, but one most necessary. He prayed that his punishment would not be too harsh and that the Abo would one day come to realize his level of sacrifice.

###

Ikukulu and Anesusu stood at the edge of the Ogun River with three hundred armored Agu behind them.

The dawn air was cool; crisp; and carried the scent of sulfur and putrid flesh.

“The Jugu are close,” Ikukulu shouted, drawing his knife.

“Swords!” Anesusu commanded.

The Agu drew their knives and pointed them skyward. A white energy, like a bolt of lightning, coursed through the obsidian blades, from base to point. A moment later, the knives expanded into broadswords.

Ikukulu knelt, slamming the pommel of his knife into the soft earth. The knife twisted; shifted; stretched. Ikukulu stood, a razor sharp, coral scythe now gripped tightly between his fists.

A muddy, marsh- green mass thundered toward them.

Ikukulu charged toward the mass, his scythe, held low, cutting a swath in the red dirt behind him.

“Forward!” Anesusu ordered, pointing his sword toward the fast approaching mass.

The army of Agu followed their leader, keeping pace with his loping gait.

As Ikukulu came closer to the mass, the monstrous forms of the Jugu became clear. Their brawny, grey-green bodies stood upon seven foot tall frames and their thick skin was scaled and ridged like that of a crocodile. Their facial features were human, but their mouths were extended, tapering into a ‘v’, like the maw of a crocodile.

The creatures roared in unison, exposing their dagger-like teeth. They raised their arms shoulder-high, baring their razor-sharp claws.

The Jugu had no one leading them, for their Mistress, Kielgek, commanded her warriors – with whom she was psychically linked – from the Abysmal Plane.

Ikukulu leapt into the fray, his scythe slashing furiously. The coral blade met scale-armored flesh and Jugu fell.

With each death of a Jugu, Kielgek cried out in agony upon her dark throne.

However, with each death of an Agu, of which there were many, she roared in ecstasy. Her warriors fighting on the Terrestrial Plane roared with her.

“Fall back!” Anesusu bellowed, turning on his heels.

The army of Agu about-faced and retreated from the battle, sprinting along the edge of the Ogun River.

Ikukulu whirled about and took off, running closely behind Anesusu.

Ikukulu could hear the Jugu galloping behind him, hot on his heels. He felt their foul breath on the back of his neck.

The Agu ran a few yards past the tree bearing the sigil and then turned to face their enemy.

Ikukulu dived forward, rolling past the tree.

The Jugu stampeded toward Ikukulu and the Agu.

Suddenly, as if the air had devoured them, the Jugu vanished.

Ikukulu turned toward the Agu. “The Jugu have been sucked back into their abhorrent world. You have done well, warriors! Now, quickly, we must fell the tree to seal the portal forever. Anesusu and I will beat back any Jugu who try to pass through until you bring the tree down.”

“Work swiftly, my brothers and sisters!” Anesusu ordered.

Ikukulu stood a few feet in front of the tree. Anesusu stood beside him.

A vertical sliver of darkness rent the air. A scaly, grey-green head emerged from it, roaring.

Ikukulu severed the Jugu’s head with an upward slash of his scythe.

Something slammed into Ikukulu’s back with the force of a battering ram. He stumbled forward, his left arm, which held his scythe, disappearing into the black sliver. Something on the other side of the sliver grabbed a hold of him, piercing the skin of his forearm in several places.

“They have my arm,” Ikukulu gasped. Cut it off, Anesusu!”

“I promised you that no harm would come to the Abo from the Agu, my friend,” Anesusu said. “I must honor the truce.”

“If you don’t sever my arm, the Jugu will pull me into their world!” Ikukulu shouted.

“I keep my promises, Ikukulu,” Anesusu replied. “I will not do you any harm.”

A strong yank pulled Ikukulu’s shoulder and half of his face into the darkness.

“You have betrayed me!” Ikukulu spat.

“To betray, you must first belong,” Anesusu snickered. “You cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Goodbye, Ikukulu.”

Ikukulu vanished from the Terrestrial World and the foul world of the Jugu welcomed him.

 

You can purchase The Scythe and other works by Balogun Ojetade at https://www.roaringlionsproductions.com/. All of his works are also available on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Scythe-Balogun-Ojetade/dp/099140730X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0.

 

 


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

Black Science Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Jones

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

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

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

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

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

Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

Carole McDonnell

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

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

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

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

Colby R. Rice

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

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

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

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

Crystal Connor

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

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

DaVaun Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff Carroll

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

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

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

K Ceres Wright

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

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

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

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

Kai Leakes

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

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

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

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

Keith Gaston

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

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

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

Milton Davis

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

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

 

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

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

Valjeanne Jeffers

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

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

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

Zig Zag Claybourne


CHRIS CRAZYHOUSE: Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Sword and Soul Artist

Ki Khanga

Chris Crazyhouse 1

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

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

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

Cast Iron by Chris Miller.

Cast Iron by Chris Miller.

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

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

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

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

Ki Khanga

Ki Khanga Ki Khanga Ki Khanga Ki Khanga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

Fist of Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is Damballa?” She emailed me back.

I replied thusly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scythe

Dieselfunk

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

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

The two vampires sitting on post leapt from their seats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scythe vanished.

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

The vampire wailed.

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

The Scythe slammed the vampire onto his face.

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

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

The vampire gasped and then released a weak moan.

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

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

The vampire cried weakly as it convulsed.

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

Fist of Afrika

Fight Fiction

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

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

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

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

The giant stood still and in silence.

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

Nick nodded.

“Are you ready, Agbu Tochi?”

Agbu Tochi tapped his chest twice with his fist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Punks Want the Funk! A Guest Blog by Jack Philpott

Dieselfunk

Greetings and salutations good people of Planet Earth. I am – once again – on board the Good Ship Sweet Chariot, traversing the aether in search of new Steamfunkateers to accompany me on a funktastic journey across the cosmos. So, this time around, I offer – without comment – a guest blog from world renowned Dieselpunk afficianado, Jack Philpott. He and a few other Dieselpunks have something to say about Dieselfunk and Steamfunk, so please, check it out.

And while I post this guest blog without comment, I ask that you, dear readers, comment away!

Punks Want the Funk!

A Guest Blog by Jack Philpott

Renowned Dieselpunk, Jack Philpott.

Renowned Dieselpunk, Jack Philpott.

The ScytheOn Valentine’s Day weekend 2014 Dieselfunk was brought officially to the world amid much fanfare, bringing a new element to the Retrofuturist spectrum, much as Steamfunk had before.

Yet this unveiling was not without controversy, as anyone who reads this blog is well aware. Accusations of “racism” were made by a couple of prominent names in the Dieselpunk community, and arguments began on what *funk’s role was within the Retrofuturist movement and culture. Looking on the surface one might be led to believe that *punk and *funk were opposed, mutually antagonistic communities.  But is this true?

To answer this, let us look at the Dieselpunk community itself, who we are, and what the Dieselpunks (and Steampunks) think of their Afrofuturist brothers and sisters.

First, who are the Dieselpunks?  Just a bunch of suburban white guys dressing up like Nazis?

Punks 2Au contraire, mon ami. Dieselpunk is a diverse, international community. The global Dieselpunk community has members on every continent save Antarctica (and who knows if one of the polar scientists living there isn’t sporting a fedora between studies?) with major centers of Dieselpunk activity in Argentina, Australia, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States, to name a few. The Dieselpunks themselves are ethnically, racially, culturally, religiously, gender, and politically diverse and we pride ourselves on our devotion to diversity and equality. We don’t shy away from the wrongs of the Diesel Era or try to whitewash them. To the contrary, the “Punk” side of it is very much grounded in its original meaning of the outsider, the outcast, the voice not heard under the meta-narrative. In this way Dieselfunk is a natural extension of that Punk attitude and commitment.

So what do the Punks think of the Funkateers? Obviously some have spoken out in the negative, but fish below the surface and you find a very receptive community.

A poll asking the (weighted and leading) question of if a subgenre devoted to “empowering a specific race” should be considered “racist” was running continuously towards “no” with at least a plurality up to a supermajority at times, until its premature demise due to vote hacking. The associated comments to that poll were overwhelmingly positive towards and open to the Funk.

Let’s take a comment from Sky Marshal Jonny B. Goode, a prominent member, promoter, and leader within the Southern California Steampunk and Dieselpunk culture and a high ranking member of the Army of Toy Soldiers. A man whose word carries a lot of weight in the Diesel- and Steampunk cultures:

Punks 1“I actually like the fresh air that steamfunk brings into steampunk. I think it’s cool to see 1890s and 1970s all mixed up. Very creative. And I’ve always been a fan of funk music. Also, keep in mind that in the real Victorian age, minorities were very poorly treated. If we’re going to rewrite that era in our own style, let’s have a better showing for the minorities this time around.”

Another telling comment came from Steam- and Dieselpunk Thomas E. Delfi, who said:

“Most Steamfunk and Dieselfunk I’ve read and seen isn’t about empowerment, it’s about presence. Steampunk and Dieselpunk has been accused of being an exclusive because of the perceived lack of minorities at events and in literature that suffered during the Victorian Period, which isn’t a fair assumption. That’s me speaking as the Puerto Rican with a Dieselpunk Rough Rider Costume.

“So, someone coins the term Steamfunk to highlight something different, a new perspective, not to specifically empower or segregate. To me, the term Steamfunk has been adopted because there’s so much written material by Steampunks that stories featuring black or Latino leads can be lost and the assumption that we are an exclusive, Anglo-philic genre will continue. If anything, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk is trying to prove Steampunk is an inclusive culture.”

He later added specifically for this blog entry: “I didn’t come into the Steampunk community to make points or represent beliefs. I came here for the same reason many people do; I wanted to have fun. I wanted to enjoy myself in the company of the eccentric, the creative, and the wide eyed maniacs that make up this wonderful community. So to me it’s not about under representation or making a stance. To me, anything that is Steampunk derived, be that Dieselpunk, Dieselfunk, or Steamfunk, must be conducive to fun and enjoyment. If we entertain a new perspective or outlook along the way, all the better. But I and many others didn’t come to this community and this fantasy to divide it. So in short, let’s just have fun.”

These voices were far from alone, as prominent Dieselpunks came out in loud support of Dieselfunk. In Episode 38 of the Diesel Powered Podcast, the premier radio outlet of the Dieselpunk community, hosts Johnny “Big Daddy Cool” Dellaroca, Larry Aymett, Ava Dahl, and John Wofford defended Dieselfunk and Steamfunk, rejecting any claims of “racism” in *Funk as misguided and ignorant, and openly welcoming *Funk into the Retrofuture community [http://bigdaddycoolshows.podomatic.com/entry/2014-02-10T12_02_24-08_00].

And Larry Aymett, a man so central to the Dieselpunk culture, its promotion, and its philosophical foundations that he was declared the “Dieselpope”, went even further in a special message for this blog entry:

“Dieselpunk needs dieselfunk because of the way it explores the African-American experience during the 1920s – 40s. This exploration is vital for the –punk suffix in dieselpunk always points to the outsider. The ‘punk’ is the one marginalized by society. I’m grateful for the existence of dieselfunk and the way it uses Afrofuturism to explore the issues of race and class.”

In short, it is obvious: Punks want the Funk!

We see what you’re doing here and we love it. We want more of it. Our punk roots demand that the unheard voices be heard and that the oppressed be given the chance to stand up for themselves. Steamfunk and Dieselfunk are the epitome of that Punk attitude. Nothing could be less punk in my mind than to think otherwise.

Cosplayers / Makers / Designers, Mark & Theresa Curtis.

Cosplayers / Makers / Designers, Mark & Theresa Curtis.

African American contributions in the Diesel era aren’t just “worth including”, they’re central to the Dieselpunk narrative: the Harlem Renaissance, the birth and spread of Jazz and Blues, the struggles of right-thinking folk against the growing, hateful tyranny of Jim Crow, the KKK, or the NSDAP. What is the Diesel Era without Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Zora Neale Hurston, Cab Calloway, Langston Hughes, Jack Johnson, Eugene Bullard, or Bessie Coleman (to name but a fraction)? These are more than “just” the African American voices of the era, they are some of the essential voices of the era. Without the African voice…or the Asian voice, the Latin voice, the woman’s voice, the homosexual voice…there is no Diesel era. What is the era without the struggles of the Nisei or the Mexican American “zoot suiter” punks in California, or without the belle epoch of Rio de Jainero, or without the “we can do it” attitude of Rosie the Riveter or the artistic achievements of Cole Porter? That such voices are not always obviously present in Dieselpunk is more than just an omission, it is a heartfelt loss.

So to deny a place for Dieselfunk is to deny a critical part of what made the Diesel Era the time we Dieselpunks love, and is to deny a critical, essential part of what Dieselpunk is.

So please allow me the honor of being the Dieselpunk to formally welcome you, the Funkateers, into the Retrofuturist society.

Respectfully,

Jack “Cap’n Tony” Philpott…

Jack Philpott is a born writer and artist who somehow ended up as an Electrical Engineer. Whether he’s enjoying a chilled Vermouth on the streets of Geneva, being catapault-launched off of a perfectly good aircraft carrier, or digging in the sand box with his son, Jack tries to appreciate the sublime nature of the moment.

 


Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!

Anachrocon

Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

Because they do not suffer from stereotype threat.

“What is stereotype threat,” you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.     Decreased performance

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

 2.     Internal Attributions for Failure

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

   3.     Self-handicapping

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

 4.     Discounting the task

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

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

 5.     Distancing yourself from the stereotyped group

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

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

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

1.     Reframing the task

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

 2.     Deemphasizing threatened social identities

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

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

 3.     Encouraging self-affirmation

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

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

 4.     Providing role models

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

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

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

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

Oriyemi engaging in her first National Tea Duel.

Oriyemi engaging in her first National Tea Duel.

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

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


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

Countering Negative Images

ARE STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK and SWORD & SOUL NECESSARY?

Countering Negative Images of Black People in Science Fiction and Fantasy

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Man, you my N-Word!”

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

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

Yeah…that shit cray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment and let your opinion be known!


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

Black Speculative Fiction

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

 

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

Sword and Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUNG ADULT (Ages 15+)

A Single Link, by Balogun Ojetade

A Single Link“A Single Link NEVER Breaks!” 

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

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

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

Damballa, by Charles R. Saunders

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

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

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

Devil’s Wake, by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

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

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

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

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

Dillon and the Voice of Odin, by Derrick Ferguson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Ki Khanga?

The answer lies in the pages of this amazing anthology.

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

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

Prepare yourself for Ki Khanga.

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

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

But is anyone who, or what, they seem?

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

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

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

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

Steamfunk, Edited by Balogun Ojetade and Milton J. Davis

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

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

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

Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter, by Keith Gaston

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

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

 YOUNG ADULT (Ages 13+)

Changa’s Safari, by Milton J. Davis

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

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

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

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

Let the safari begin!

Fist of Africa, by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

Once Upon A Time In Afrika, by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

Will the warriors band together against this evil?

The Scythe, by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

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

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

The Seedbearing Prince, by DaVaun Sanders

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

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

Woman of the Woods, by Milton J. Davis

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

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

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

MIDDLE GRADE (Ages 10+)

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor

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

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

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

Amber and the Hidden City, by Milton J. Davis

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Make sure to clean up your messes. 

Keep the cat in the house.

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

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

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

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


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!


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

The Scythe

THE SCYTHE HAS RISEN!

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

 

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

Here’s a peek at what it’s about:

 

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

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

He is…THE SCYTHE!

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

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

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

 

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

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


I KNOW YOU ARE, BUT WHAT AM I? Steamfunk and Dieselfunk are Racist!

Dieselfunk

I KNOW YOU ARE, BUT WHAT AM I?

Steamfunk and Dieselfunk is Racist!

LEROY_LOTUS_HQTwo days ago, I posted an article about my Dieselfunk novel, The Scythe, premiering at AnachroCon in February. I also mentioned that this year, AnachroCon’s theme is Dieselpunk.

Yesterday, this was all brought up by author and Dieselpunk, Jack Philpott, who inquired if the founder of Dieselpunks.org – the premier Dieselpunk social website – knew of AnachroCon’s Dieselpunk theme.

Here is the inquiry:

Tome, Larry, Johnny, 

I just heard that Anachrocon in Atlanta 14-16 Feb (http://www.anachrocon.org/) is having a Dieselpunk theme this year. Balogun Ojetade (CC) is even releasing a Dieselfunk book there.  Had any of you heard of that? Anyone have plans to be there (aside from Balogun)?

Jack…

Racist 3Here is the answer from the Creator / Editor of Dieselpunks.org, Tome Wilson (the bold emphasis is mine; the words, however, are all Tome’s):

Hi Jack, This is the first I’m hearing of it. Granted, I don’t pay much attention to “dieselfunk,” because it’s racist, but I didn’t even see the event across the wire. Things are bad at work in February due to the Olympics and SuperBowl, so I won’t be able to make it to Atlanta. All of the projects that have been put on hold will be lava hot emergencies once the big events are over. I probably won’t see daylight again until March. –Tome

Hell, I didn’t know Dieselfunk was racist, but if Tome Wilson, the Creator and Editor of Dieselpunks, says so, it – and by default, I – must be, right?

But wait…there is more proof that Dieselfunk – and Steamfunk, by the way – is racist. This time, Dieselfunk and Steamfunk are exposed by – horror of horrors – Lt. Condor of Dragonfly Armory. Check it out. Oh…and once again, the bold emphasis is mine, but not the words:

Dragonfly Armory from JC Barger Photography.

Dragonfly Armory
from JC Barger Photography.

It is kinda crappy that the rest of the world is not represented in most Dieselpunk media. I haven’t seen many of the films or TV shows but I get the point just from looking at the previews and posters. There should be more representation for the other nations that participated in these wars and all of the people who fought.

On the same page though, you have to factor another point in. What if there is just a lack of interest among minorities? The Dragonfly Armory is a private organized group that is nothing but white people, but that isn’t because we’re excluding someone who’s asian, latino, black, or middle eastern. In fact I’m sure we would welcome that diversity. We, as far as I know, have never had anyone show interest before. I don’t think it’s too much of an assumption either to say that it’s not that the writers/directors are making these films such that minorities can’t be in them. Rather it is more that there isn’t an interest among prominent actors, who are minorities, to have a part in these films.

I could be completely off base in this assumption, there may be many actors who wish they could be a part of something like this. I feel that if that were the case though, there would be a larger presence of minorities in both the culture, and the con scene.

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.

Racism and segregation will continue to persist in this world as long as there are people who buy into the idea that the exclusion of the majority and other minorities is okay as long as you accept your own minority.

All that said I really did enjoy the rest of the article. It was very well written and included a TON of links to other blogs and sources. I think it is definitely worth the read.

- Lt. Condor

Come on, Tome; come on, Lt. Condor…you can’t just call a subgenre and a movement racist all willy-nilly.

Only racists do that.

DIeselpunkFirst, let’s define racism. I mean the accepted sociological definition, not the willy-nilly one.

The proper definition of racism, which is commonly used in academic research, and has been the accepted definition by sociologists and social psychologists for more than a decade is: “racism is prejudice plus power”.

Anyone can carry positive or negative stereotypes of others based on racial or cultural characteristics. Anyone can be prejudiced – can judge others based on preconceived notions about their ethnicity or race.

People of any race can commit acts of violence, mistreatment or ostracizing based on these stereotypes. A Chinese boy might beat up a Black boy because he doesn’t like Black boys. A Black person might refuse to associate with Latinos.

These two scenarios might be negative; they might be terrible…however, to be racist – rather than simply prejudiced – requires having institutional power. In North America, white people have the institutional power.

“White” is presented as the norm; the default, because white people have institutional power.

Notice how Tome and Lt. Condor can just label Steamfunk and Dieselfunk – and, by default, Milton Davis, Valjeanne Jeffers, Maurice Broaddus, Yours Truly and all the other Steamfunkateers – racist with no explanation; no evidence; without study or experience.

Just…willy-nilly.

Because racism is systematic, they get to label things willy-nilly. They get to have no real argument for their anger. They get to feel justified without justification. They get to say dumb shit without being regarded as dumb.

They are really just acting out because they can…and because they feel threatened.

They feel threatened because we aren’t just getting along to get along. We are challenging the racism, classism and sexism found in Dieselpunk and Steampunk; we are telling the stories that, until we came along, went untold.

They feel threatened because, contrary to the lie that our “right hand is saying that we want to be included, and treated equal”, we are practicing Dieselpunk and Steampunk on our own terms. We are not seeking inclusion in any Airships or Armories not of our own making. We are not saying we want to be treated equal; we are equal, damn how you treat us. Our work is proof of that.

If you do not feel threatened, why utilize the classic – and oh, so obvious – defense mechanism of projection? We only defend ourselves when we feel threatened.

What is projection, you ask?

ProjectionProjection is the psychological phenomenon where someone denies some aspect of their behavior or attitudes and assumes instead that someone else is acting out this behavior or attitude. Projection also extends to philosophies and knowledge.

I am sure you have heard the old adage, “When you point one finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”

We see in other people the very things we do not want to see in ourselves.

Thanks to the power of our unconscious minds, we can manipulate our picture of reality and see it as we wish to see it – usually in a way that initially makes us feel more comfortable.

By means of projection, we get rid of unwanted feelings and relocate them in someone else.

Sounds pretty cool, huh?  Like some old Matrix-meets-Inception-meets Cloud Atlas-type s**t.

But, by their very nature, the projections we put out want to come back to us.  They want to come home where they belong.  And I’m packing their bags and sending their racist asses back to Tome and Lt. Condor and to all the other Dieselpunks and Steampunks who, instead of dealing with the racism in fandom, want to project it on to those who are actually working hard to make a difference; to those who have introduced Steampunk and Dieselpunk to People of Color all over the world as Steamfunk and Dieselfunk and have inspired them to take part in the cosplay and the cons; to purchase not only our books, but yours as well.

Steampunk and Dieselpunk have benefitted from our work and will continue to and we have done so without discriminating against anyone and certainly without being racist.

The fact is projection is one of the most destructive ways of handling our difficulties.  We fare better in life when we take responsibility for ourselves – when we own the good, the bad, and the ugly that belongs to us.

Generally speaking, projection alienates others and says far more about our own insecurities than any real truths about other people.

People of Color – and many white people – in Steampunk and Dieselpunk have cried out for, and even demanded, a re-imagining of the XYZ-Punk genres and subgenres that highlights lesser known struggles and gives voice to underrepresented groups in Steam – and Diesel – punk. And we Steamfunkateers are delivering…in a big way.

Why So Serious“It’s all just fun,” you say. “Why so serious?”

Shut up, Joker (the Heath Ledger version)!

Dieselpunk and Steampunk have great social, intellectual, artistic and political value, so, while cosplaying, reading your favorite XYZ-Punk novel, or engaging in a Bartitsu sparring match might, indeed, be fun, we won’t dismiss, or shy away from, any controversy, we will engage in intelligent discourse and action that raises awareness and appreciation of Steamfunk and Dieselfunk and we will continue to tell the stories that must be told.

If that makes you uncomfortable; if it causes you to project onto Dieselfunk and Steamfunk exactly what Dieselpunk and Steampunk still struggle with, so be it.

You’ll just give me more to blog about.


DIESELFUNK DEBUTS DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH & AT ANACHROCON!

Dieselfunk

DIESELFUNK DEBUTS DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH & AT ANACHROCON!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What, exactly, is Dieselfunk, you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AnachroCon

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

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

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

.


A GREAT Year for Steamfunk, Sword & Soul and Black Speculative Fiction! 2013 in review

Steamfunk

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 94,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


SISTERS OF THE SPEAR: Black Sheroes In Speculative Fiction

'Ayen and Bull' by artist Jason Reeves

SISTERS OF THE SPEAR: Black Sheroes In Speculative Fiction

 Women Warriors 1

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

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

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

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

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

Art by Andrea Rushing.

Art by Andrea Rushing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Steamfunkateer encounters Twinjas!

Sword and Soul

A Steamfunkateer encounters Twinjas!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I live and work in Atlanta, Georgia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am one of the founders of the Steamfunk Movement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of these new writings will be published next year.

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

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

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

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

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

 


Make it a REAL “Black” Friday!

Black Friday

Make it a REAL “Black” Friday!

Buy Black Speculative Fiction!

Black Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!


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

Steamfunk Bass Reeves

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

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

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

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

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

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

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

The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2013

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

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

GUIDELINES

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

MENTORS / GUARDIANS / ARTIFACTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JEDEDIAH GREEN’S EMISSARIES

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

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

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

The known Emissaries are:

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

P.T. Barnum – Artifact: Money clip

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

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

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

 


DIESELFUNK POETS: History of the Open Mic

Mahogany Masquerade

DIESELFUNK POETS: History of the Open Mic

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

And yeah, it’s “Mic”, not “Mike”.

Actress Michael Michele

Actress Michael Michele

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

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

And just who performs at an Open Mic?

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

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

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

How – and when did the Open Mic begin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is one rule:

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

Why is that the rule, you ask?

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

No more rules, right?

Well…

Content should be in some speculative genre.

That’s it. I promise.

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

BQE Restaurant & Lounge
262 Edgewood Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

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

Mahogany Masquerade


HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month

HAPPY BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month


STEAMFUNK AIRSHIP PILOTS: Black Aviators in the Diesel Age

Ahmet-Ali-Celikten

STEAMFUNK AIRSHIP PILOTS: Black Aviators in the Diesel Age

Dieselfunk Pilot In this instance of the League of Extraordinary Black People Series, Steamfunk would actually be a misnomer as the first known Black pilots of an airship flew during the Diesel Age, thus these are actually Dieselfunk Airship Pilots, but I figured with Steamfunk picking up…well…steam and Rococoa on the cusp of becoming a movement – especially with the upcoming Mahogany Masquerade, which will feature Steamfunk and Rococoa and the Black Caesar graphic novel, coming in 2014 from Yours Truly and the brilliant artist, Kristopher Mosby – I figured I would wait to start pushing Dieselfunk until we open submissions to the Steamfunk II: Dieselfunk anthology, so Steamfunk Airship Pilots it is.

Airmen 1Many people know of the Tuskegee Airmen – especially since George Lucas’ Red Tails soared onto the silver screen – and their long list of accomplishments over the skies of Europe during the second World War.

The Tuskegee Airmen flew in the segregated 99th Pursuit Squadron and successfully completed several high-risk missions. By the end of WWII, they were the most requested squadron for bomber escort and when the United States Air Force became its own separate entity after World War II, segregation in the Armed forces had completely ended and fighter pilots of all races flew in the same squadrons.

But the Tuskegee Airmen were not the first Black fighter pilots and most certainly not the first Black aviators. There were a few Black fighter pilots in The Great War, now also known as World War I.

So grab your goggles, throw on that bomber jacket and climb into the cockpit of the airship Sweet Chariot with me as we get a bird’s-eye view of those pilots – and other great Black aviators – below:

Eugene J. Bullard

Eugene James BullardOften touted as the first Black fighter pilot, Eugene J. Bullard – who hailed from Columbus, Georgia – was a fighter pilot for the French in The Great War.

Born in 1894, in the rural South, Bullard grew tired of the racist and oppressive treatment he suffered at the hands of whites and in 1913, at the age of 19, he caught a boat going to Scotland, and then later took up residence in Paris, France.

Bullard made a good life for himself as a boxer and as a musician before joining the French Foreign Legion at the start of WWI.

Bullard did well in the Legion and served with distinction. He later transferred to the Service Aeronautique and eventually came to serve as a Spad pilot in Escadrille SPA 93 and SPA 85. His accomplishments in the Lafayette Flying Corps – the name given to the American volunteer pilots who flew for the French during World War I – include flying over 20 combat missions and two confirmed kills.
The United States, who entered the war in 1917, sought to recruit some of the Americans that were already flying for the Lafayette Flying Corps. Bullard passed the medical examination, but was denied the opportunity to fly for the United States Army Air Corps because he was Black.

When The Great War ended, Bullard returned to France and enjoyed life as a Paris socialite.

When Nazi Germany invaded France, Bullard found himself on the run. He managed to escape France and returned to the United States.  Unfortunately, shortly after his arrival, he was subjected to an even more brutal brutal system of oppression than the one he had escaped.

Bullard was never given the respect and admiration in the United States that he had in Europe and he grew ill from the stress. In 1961, he died of stomach cancer.

Marcel Pliat

Marcel PliatMarcel Pliat – also known as Marseille Plage, or Marseille Plya – was a Black airman who served in the Russian Air Force as a gunner-engine mechanic on the huge Sikorsky Il’ya Muromets bombers.

He is credited with one confirmed victory and two probables in 1916. According to the book, The Imperial Russian Air Service by Durkota, Darcey and Kulikov, this made him a two-time recipient of The Order of St. George for his actions and the first Black aviator credited with shooting down an aircraft in combat, as his victory precedes Bullard’s.

Pliat, born in 1890, was born in Tahiti – known, at the time, as French Polynesia – but at the age of seventeen, moved to Russia with his mother, a nurse, and became a volunteer in the Russian Air Force.

Originally, Pliat served in the Russian Army as a driver, but was soon transferred to the Imperial Air Force, where he performed dual responsibilities as motor mechanic and gunner.

On April 13, 1916, Pliat took part in an air raid on the fortified German flak station, Daudzevas. The aircraft and crew of the Sikorsky Il’ya Muromets took major damage from bullets and shrapnel. Knowing the plane would soon crash, Pliat climbed out of the plane and onto the wing, remained there for nearly an hour, repairing the plane’s damaged engines.

Due to Pliat’s actions, the Ilya Muromets was able to land, despite suffering seventy bullet holes in its body, wings and engines. Pliat was awarded the title of senior non-commissioned officer.

In early November of 1916, Pliat, regarded as an experienced and skilled marksman, requested – and was rewarded – the tail gunner position upon the sophisticated Muromtsev bomber. During a mission in that same month, Pliat proved his skill by shooting down a reported three German fighter planes.

Unfortunately, the fate of Marcel Pliat after November 1916, is unknown as most records of the Imperial Air Force were destroyed when the Bolsheviks came into power in 1917.

Ahmet Ali Celikten

Ahmet-Ali-CeliktenNaval Pilot Engineer, Lieutenant Ahmet Ali Celikten, of the Naval Flying School at Yesilkoy, was a Black airman who flew for the Central Powers in the Turkish Navy.

Born in 1883 in Smyrna (present day İzmir), Celikten’s mother Zenciye Emine Hanım, was of Yoruba ancestry and his father, Ali Bey, of Afro-Arab ancestry.

Celikten aimed to become a naval sailor and entered the Naval Technical School, Haddehâne Mektebi in 1904.

In 1908, he graduated as a First Lieutenant (“Mülâzım-ı evvel”) and then went to aviation courses in the Naval Flight School (“Deniz Tayyare Mektebi”),  earning his wings in 1914 at Yeşilköy, which makes Celikten the first Black military pilot in aviation history.

 

Bessie Coleman

Personalities AE  96Born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, Bessie Coleman was one of 13 children to Susan and George Coleman, who both worked as sharecroppers.

At twelve years old, Coleman began attending the Missionary Baptist Church in Texas and, after graduating, embarked on a journey to Oklahoma to attend the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University (Langston University), where she completed only one term due to financial constraints.

In 1915, at 23 years of age, Coleman moved to Chicago, where she lived with her brothers and worked as a manicurist.

Not long after her move to Chicago, Coleman began listening to and reading stories of World War I pilots, which sparked her interest in aviation.

Because flying schools in the United States denied her entry, she taught herself French, moved to France and enrolled in the well-known Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation.

In 1922, After just seven months of training, Coleman broke barriers and became the world’s first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license.

Desiring to start a flying school for African Americans when she returned to the U.S., Coleman used her aerial skills to earn money, entertaining crowds with her amazing stunt flying, parachuting, barnstorming and aerial tricks. Also in 1922, Coleman broke yet another barrier, performing the first public flight by an African-American woman in the United States.

Tragically, on April 30, 1926, Coleman was killed in an accident during a rehearsal for an aerial show. She was only 33 years old.

Black flyers founded the Bessie Coleman Aero Clubs, right after her death and the famed The Bessie Aviators organization was founded by Black women pilots in 1975.

In 1990, Chicago renamed a road near O’Hare International Airport for Bessie Coleman. That same year, St. Louis’ International Airport unveiled a mural honoring Black Americans in Flight, including Bessie Coleman.

In 1995, the U.S. Postal Service honored Bessie Coleman with a commemorative stamp.

In October, 2002, Bessie Coleman was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in New York.

J. Herman Banning 

James Herman BanningBorn in 1899 in Oklahoma, the son of Riley and Cora Banning, James Banning felt in his heart of hearts that he would one day be the first licensed Black pilot.

And he was right.

Banning studied electrical engineering at Iowa State College for a little more than a year after which he became “air-minded.” He took up lessons, learning to fly at Raymond Fisher’s Flying Field in Des Moines, Iowa and obtained his aviator license from the U. S. Dept. of Commerce.

Banning operated the J. H. Banning Auto Repair Shop in Ames from 1922 to 1928 but in 1929, left Ames to live in Los Angeles, where he became the chief pilot for the Bessie Coleman Aero Club.

Banning and another Black pilot, Thomas C. Allen became the first Black pilots to fly coast-to-coast – from Los Angeles to Long Island, NY – in 1932. Using a plane pieced together from junkyard parts, they made the 3,300 mile trip in less than 42 hours aloft. However, the trip actually required 21 days to complete because the pilots had to raise money each time they stopped.

Banning was a passenger in a biplane, sitting in the front open cockpit without controls, during a San Diego air show. The Navy pilot at the controls, trying to impress his more accomplished passenger, pulled the nose of the tiny plane up into a steep climb. The plane stalled and fell into a fatal spin in front of hundreds of horrified spectators.

Oscar Wayman Holmes

Oscar HolmesOscar Wayman Holmes, who never really thought of himself as a pioneer, actually broke three color barriers, becoming the first African American air traffic controller in 1941 and a year later becoming the first commissioned Black officer in the U.S. Navy and the first Black Navy pilot.

Holmes never set out to break down racial barriers – he just wanted to fly.

Born on January 31, 1916, in Dunbar, West Virginia, Holmes attended a segregated school in nearby Charleston. Upon graduating from Garnet High School in 1932, he entered West Virginia State College, a land-grant institution for Black citizens of segregated West Virginia and earned a B.S. in chemistry in 1936.

With a graduate assistantship funded by the National Youth Administration, Holmes earned a M.S. in chemistry from Ohio State University three years later.

A superb student, Holmes’ graduate research became the basis for a coauthored article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society – a rare feat for a master’s student. Although he later claimed to hate chemistry, Holmes taught the subject for three years at Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Tired of the low paying teaching job, he subsequently found a part-time position as a water and fuel analyst for a power company in Erie, Pennsylvania.

While in Erie, Holmes entered the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). Established in 1939 by the federal government, the CPTP introduced young Americans to aviation. Holmes successfully completed the program and earned his private pilot’s certificate. Shortly thereafter, he spotted a civil service job announcement at the Erie post office that put him on the path to a new career. The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) was looking for air traffic controller applicants with a college degree and a private pilot’s license.

In 1941, once he completed his training, the CAA offered Holmes a position as an assistant controller at the New York airway traffic control center with an annual salary of $1,800 per year. After he accepted the position, the CAA required Holmes to fill out a questionnaire that included a question on race.

Although he got the job and excelled in it, he was denied a promotion due to his race. Frustrated by this, Holmes applied to the U.S. Navy in 1942. The Navy was offering commissions to men who had pilots’ licenses and 100 hours of flying time to train as flight instructors and ferry pilots.

Although he did not have the requisite flying time, Holmes applied and soon had an ensign’s commission. The Navy did not know it had commissioned an African-American because of Holmes’ light complexion (The Navy did not knowingly commission a Black officer until March 1944.)

At Colgate University, where the Navy had enrolled Holmes in the War Training Service Program, newly commissioned officers had to submit, among other things, a birth certificate. At this point, Holmes later explained, “they realized they now had commissioned a Negro in their Navy . . . They didn’t know what to do about it, and I suppose rather than make a fuss . . . and try to get rid of me they said, ‘Oh, we’ve got him now, we’ll just let him stay.’”

Finishing flight instructor training at the New Orleans Naval Air Station, Holmes became the first Black flying officer. The Navy assigned him first to sit on the Aviation Cadet Selection Board and then in 1944 as a ferry pilot for the Naval Air Transport Service, Air Ferry Squadron III.  The Navy treated Holmes as any other officer, which was unique at the time since the military was segregated. Black sailors served in the “Black” Navy, and Black aviators in the Army Air Corps served in segregated units and were not allowed in officers’ clubs. As Holmes explained, “The Navy knew I was black, and I knew I was black, but not many other people knew it.”

After the war, Holmes returned to his job at the CAA’s New York airway traffic center, finally receiving his promotion as well as a second promotion six months later. In 1950, he became a senior controller. While at his job in New York, Holmes attended Brooklyn Law School as a part-time student. He graduated with a bachelor of laws (LL.B.) degree in 1954. He earned a master of laws (LL.M.) the following year. Admitted to the New York State bar, he opened a part-time law practice. He gave up his practice when he accepted a position at the Federal Aviation Agency’s headquarters in June 1959. There he advanced his career and retired as a GS-15 hearing officer in 1973.

The Tuskegee Airmen

Airmen 2Due to racial discrimination, African-American servicemen were not allowed to learn to fly until 1941, when African American college graduates were selected for what the Army called “an experiment” – the creation of the segregated 99th Fighter Squadron, which trained at an airfield adjacent to Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute.

The experiment involved training Black pilots and ground support members who originally formed the 99th Pursuit Squadron. The squadron, quickly dubbed the Tuskegee Airmen, was activated on March 22, 1941, and redesignated as the 99th Fighter Squadron on May 15, 1942.

For every Black pilot in the Tuskegee Airmen, there were ten Black civilian, officer and enlisted men and women on ground support duty.

Charles Alfred Anderson, one of the first African-American’s to earn his pilot’s license, became the first flight instructor when the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) was organized at Tuskegee Institute in October 1939. The army decided to model its training program on the CPTP and hired Anderson to teach the Tuskegee pilots.

When Eleanor Roosevelt visited Tuskegee Army Air Field in 1941, she insisted on taking a ride in an airplane with a Black pilot at the controls. Roosevelt’s pilot was Charles Anderson. She then insisted that her flight with Anderson be photographed and the film developed immediately so that she could take the photographs back to Washington when she left the field. Roosevelt used this photograph as part of her campaign to convince her husband, President F.D. Roosevelt, to activate the participation of the Tuskegee Airmen in North Africa and in the European Theater and in June 1943, the Tuskegee Airmen entered into combat over North Africa.

The Airmen exemplified courage, skill and dedication in combat. They flew P-39-, P-40-, P-47- and P-51-type aircraft in more than 15,000 sorties, completing over 1,500 missions during the war. They never lost an escorted bomber to enemy fighters, a record no other escort unit could claim.

When the war ended, the Tuskegee Airmen returned home with one hundred and fifty Distinguished Flying Crosses, Legions of Merit and the Red Star of Yugoslavia. The group was deactivated in May 1946 but its success would contribute to the eventual integration of the United States military in 1948.


INGLORIOUS BASTARDS: Is Independent Filmmaking illegitimate?

Indie Vs Mainstream

INGLORIOUS BASTARDS: Is Independent Filmmaking illegitimate?

Poster from the original Inglorious Bastards film.

Poster from the original Inglorious Bastards film.

Last week, in the State of Black Science Fiction group, another minor kerfuffle – oh yeah, Black speculative fiction authors and fans do love their heated discourses – occurred after Milton Davis – oh yeah, fifty-something chemist / author / publishers do like to set it off – posted this status:

“Apparently if you are self published you are not a legitimate writer. Wow.”

This statement was made in regard to another author, who said he was looking for Black women speculative fiction authors for a documentary he is doing, but only wanted “legit” authors: “I need MORE AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN WRITERS of Science-Fiction, Fantasy or comics!!! To be considered for the documentary you need to have: been published by a legit publishing company (no self-publishers).”

The aftermath was – to put things lightly – passionate…yeah, that’s it. Passionate.

I will say, the “offending” author did try to clear things up – kind of – and even went so far as to contact me personally to explain he meant “traditional”, not “legit,” which perplexed me a bit because my only comment on Milton’s status was “Name NAMES, Milton!” Y’all know me…I’m a researcher and researchers, by nature, are a curious lot.

Anywho, i know you’re dying to see what was said in response to Milton’s comment. Here are a few of those responses – the names, however, are not included to protect the (not so) innocent:

“So if I’m an indie singer, I’m not legitimate? If I’m an indie film maker, I’m not legitimate? If I’m Indie Jones, I’m not a legitimate archaeologist and college professor?”

“They’re just mad because we won’t go away–and we’re stealing away their readers.”

“That’s just bougie perpetraters using their status to over inflate their already bloated egos, to the detriment and baseless shaming of others.”

” Hmmm…that’s funny. My royalty checks seem to be legitimate.”

“That’s bs!”

In response, the “offending author” had this to say:

“For the sake of clarity and common sense, I must make something known – Earlier today I posted a call for Black Women writers for my documentary Brave New Souls. I used the word “legit” instead of “traditional” when describing the criteria for my interview subjects. Somehow, that has been construed as a slight against self-publishers and that isn’t the case at all. So let me be as clear as possible here: 

1) I want to use Black creators who have mainstream credits because there is a great misconception and lack of awareness about the presence of Black writers within the mainstream entertainment industry. I wanted to show aspiring talent that they CAN make it in the mainstream industry and that it doesn’t require “selling out” or compromising your value system. 

2) Roughly 60% of my extremely limited literary entertainment budget is spent on self-published and independent material from Black creators. Let me repeat, 60%. If you don’t believe me ask the hundreds of Black creators I’ve met at conventions over the last 15 years whether or not I put my money where my mouth is. Ask folks like Thaddeus Atreides, Ray Height, Daniel McNeal, Jaycen Wise, etc. 

3) I also spend a ton of time mentoring people behind the scenes. I have an entire FB group dedicated to the mentoring of writers of all backgrounds and I rarely talk about what I do because I don’t need to pat myself on the back. 

4) Brave New Souls is my documentary, and I can do whatever I wish with the material. 

I hope that clears things up, otherwise, most of you know how to find me, and if you still have a problem, I will be at the Hollywood Black Film Festival from Oct 2 – 6 and at NY Comic Con hanging around the Lion Forge booth from Oct 10 – 13. Feel free to approach me to discuss the matter.

So, this is what was said by a few of his associates and friends:

Indie Vs Mainstream“lol. Don’t mess with the big dog. Ya might get bit.”

“Whenever someone steps up, someone else has to find something wrong.”

“4) Brave New Souls is my documentary, and I can do whatever I wish with the material.” That’s all you needed to say.”

“Did E*****n just pull a ‘Tony Stark from Iron Man 3′-move? ‘Here’s my address, come find me!!’”

“You haven’t seen his arsenal yet…”

“Seems nowadays people are in search of reasons to be pissed–not ways to make things work well… leaping beyond these words in order to give yourself (an in-general “yourself”) a perpetual underwear knot–& ignoring an avalanche of counter-balancing evidence–is small-minded. I’m less & less patient with this approach to life as I get older.” 

This little skirmish set my thoughts in motion and, since I am in nearing the end of production on the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, I pondered whether the same beef – indie vs. mainstream – exists in the world of film?

As early as 1908, independent film has been paving the way for filmmakers to fight the corporate way of creating their art form. Around 1924, a group of independent filmmakers in Europe created the London Film Society. This group was the first to preserve the artistic nature of filmmaking. Some of the founding members included H.G. Wells and Charlie Chaplin, film directors who began a revolution with their movie making.

In a short time, independent filmmakers all over Europe were introducing new and exciting genres to their movies, such as horror and suspense. After World War II, science fiction was introduced by independent filmmakers to the American audience.

A new wave of American filmmakers began creating films outside of the control of the corrupt major studios and a Golden Age of independent films began.

For these independent filmmakers, the best way to showcase their work was at local film festivals.

Sundance One such festival, The Sundance Film Festival, run by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, began as the Utah / U.S. Film Festival in 1978. The festival – founded by Brigham Young University Film School graduate, Sterling Van Wagenen and Utah Film Commissioners, Cirina Hampton Catania and John Earle – showcased independent films created in the United States.

In 1985, Redford’s institute took over management of the festival and changed the name to Sundance. In 1991, the Sundance Institute bought the rights to the festival and officially changed the name to the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Sundance has included international independent films in its screenings and has launched the careers of some of today’s hottest directors such as, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, James Wan and Jim Jarmusch.

Viewed as the leader in independent filmmaking, the Sundance Film Festival innovates ways to help small productions gain mainstream notoriety.

Last year, this festival brought Utah $92 million dollars in revenue, further cementing both the importance of the festival and the films that it showcases.

But what, exactly is an “independent film”, you ask?

Rite of PassageAn independent, or indie, film is one that is primarily funded outside of the major studios, also known as “the Big Six” – Warner Brothers, Paramount, Walt Disney, Columbia Pictures, Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox.

Independent films have the freedom to explore many subjects in society that are seen as taboo or unmarketable by the Big Six.

Most independent films achieve nothing more than critical acclaim at film festivals, but every once in a while, an indie film creates such a loud buzz at a film festival that it is purchased by a major film studio and screened in major theaters all over the world. One such film is The Blair Witch Project, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 1999. Writers-Directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who made The Blair Witch Project for $25,000, had sold their movie, by the end of the festival, to Artisan Entertainment for 1.1 million dollars. Artisan then went on to make $248 million with this “little” independent film!

However, when an indie film hits the “big time”, like The Blair Witch Project, it is no longer considered to be an independent film because, even though the film was produced on a shoestring budget, the marketing budget that Artisan Entertainment implemented when they purchased the film put The Blair Witch Project way over the 50% funding category.

While, technically, the Blair Witch Project is no longer considered an indie film, it possesses one characteristic that most certainly sets it apart from “mainstream” films, a characteristic that films produced by the Big Six will never have – the willingness to take risks with their storytelling.

The Big Six film studios are large corporations, and corporations of that size do not allow risk-taking in their business practices.

They will only invest in actors and stories that have already been proven to make a lot of money. This may lead to financial success, but also leads to creative stagnation.

Independent films are about original and creative story-telling by filmmakers who are not afraid to try new techniques or put their creative and financial necks on the line.

Are they legit? Hell yeah!

Are they traditional? Well, since the definition of traditional is ‘existing in or as part of a tradition; long-established‘, “Hell yeah,” to that too!

Disagree?

I will be at the Alien Encounters Black Speculative Fiction, Film and Art Conference October 25 – 27. Feel free to approach me to discuss the matter.

Did I, like that “offending author”, just pull a ‘Tony Stark from Iron Man 3′-move?’

Well, we Black speculative fiction authors do love our heated discourses.

 

 


“IT’S LIKE STEAMPUNK BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER…WITH BLACK FOLKS!”

John Henry receives instructions from his teacher, the fearsome Lana.

“IT’S LIKE STEAMPUNK BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER…WITH BLACK FOLKS!”

Steampunk Fabricator and Cosplayer Mark Curtis plays Vampire King Grant in "Rite of Passage"

Steampunk Fabricator and Cosplayer Mark Curtis plays Vampire King Grant in “Rite of Passage”

Well, that is sort of paraphrasing a description of Rite of Passage, the Steamfunk feature film, by Professor Lisa Yaszek, Director of Undergraduate Studies. School of Literature, Media and Communication and one of the Associate Producers of the film. Her actual description: “When people ask what Rite of Passage is about, I tell them to think Buffy the Vampire Slayer, set in Victorian times, with Black superheroes.”

Cool, huh?

And accurate.

Jadon Ben Israel, filmmaker and veteran actor of such films as Fast Five and Champion Road: Arena – who plays Vampire-Lord and martial arts master, Joe in Rite of Passage – describes the film as a “Black Steampunk Avengers.”

Cool, huh?

And accurate.

Author, Publisher and Executive Producer of "Rite of Passage" in his Steamfunk persona, Zeke.

Author, Publisher and Executive Producer of “Rite of Passage” in his Steamfunk persona, Zeke.

Milton Davis, author, publisher, Executive Producer of Rite of Passage and writer of the original story upon which the film is based, describes the film as “A Steamfunk movie collaboration destined to change the perception of historical fantasy. It’s the tale of the city of Nicodemus, Kansas and the special souls that have gathered to protect it. Rite of Passage blends history, fantasy and Steamfunk into an exciting action movie that gives a glimpse of the adventure yet to come.”

Cool, huh?

And, of course, accurate.

In the Rite of Passage universe, the Orisa (oh-REE-sha) – forces of nature that serve and guide humans and animals alike – have given several powerful artifacts to Oluwo (“Master Teachers; possessors of secret powers”), who are to keep those artifacts until their rightful possessors – known as Guardians – come along. The Oluwo are to help their Guardian transform, so that they are worthy to possess the artifact.

In the film, the Guardians are Dorothy Wright, Black Dispatch, Conductor on the Underground Railroad and pupil of Harriet Tubman; famed lawman, Bass Reeves; and John Henry, the legendary “steel drivin’ man.”

 

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

Iyalogun Ojetade as Harriet Tubman, leader of the Guardians.

Harriet Tubman – who is an artifact, given to the world to protect it – gathers the Guardians around the globe to prepare them for the coming of a powerful entity she calls Jedidiah Green, an ancient and dark being who feeds on the power of the artifacts and is drawn to their possessors.

We also learn a bit about the other Guardians, such as the brutal – and somewhat insane – Dentist of Westminster and Sherlock Holmes.

Jedidiah Green also has his team of “supervillains”, if you will: the Piper, the Blood-Kin (vampires) and the Night-Kin (zombies, ghouls, ghasts, Night Howlers and other undead).

African American rodeo owner, Nat (pronounced “Nate”) Love flees to Nicodemus, Kansas – the small town destined to be the final battlefield in the war against Jedidiah Green and home to the Guardians – after his business rival, P.T. Barnum, tries to have him murdered.

Four of the five assassins sent to destroy the town of Nicodemus.

Four of the five assassins sent to destroy the town of Nicodemus.

Barnum dispatches a special team of assassins to Nicodemus to retrieve Nat Love by any means and to kill the Guardians if necessary.

And thus begins the film.

We have been in production since August 18, following the production of the tie-in, Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster.

Production is going very well, although filming on a budget of fumes has proved very challenging and we had to forgo shooting once because we just did not have the money to purchase the costumes for that scene. This of course, is our biggest obstacle, so please donate and help us out. Steampunks, we would definitely appreciate any donations of old costumes and or props…oh, and we have great perks, too!

The actors are phenomenal, really bringing their characters to life.

John Henry receives instructions from his teacher, the fearsome Lana.

John Henry receives instructions from his teacher, the fearsome Lana.

Recently, actor Maurice Johnson, who portrays – no, who isJohn Henry, received a call from E. Roger Mitchell, who has had starring roles in Flight, alongside Denzel Washington, Battle Los Angeles, S.W.A.T. and The Crazies – and who portrayed John Henry in the short masterpiece, John Henry and the Railroad. Mitchell told Maurice that he has been following what is going on with Rite of Passage and told him “Now, you are the real John Henry!”

Cool, huh?

And accurate.

The crew is amazing and makes my job easy. Director of Photography, John Thornton, who is also Professor of Film Production at GA-Tech, brings his experience as a Director and Cinematographer for several independent and Disney films to Rite of Passage. Imed “Kunle” Patman, Cinematographer, brings his experience and artistic genius to the film, as does Assistant Director and Editor, Brandon Davis.

“We have really been blessed to have such talented and intelligent people working with us,” Akin Danny Donaldson, Producer of Rite of Passage, said. “We are making history as we make a film about our history.”

Cool, huh?

And, yep…accurate.

 


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