THE SCYTHE HAS RISEN!
Dieselfunk has emerged and the Roaring Twenties will never seem the same!
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!
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!
*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.!
Make it a REAL “Black” Friday!
Buy Black Speculative Fiction!
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, 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.
DIESELFUNK POETS: History of the Open Mic
Open 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”.
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?
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.
The 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.
On 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.
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?
Content should be in some speculative genre.
That’s it. I promise.
BQE Restaurant & Lounge
262 Edgewood Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Friday, October 25, 2013
9:00pm – Until
ALIEN ENCOUNTERS IV: The Black Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Experience Returns!
Once again, Alien Encounters, the annual conference for Black speculative and imaginative fiction, film and music – which serves as a venue for both education and entertainment – returns to Atlanta in October, which is now recognized worldwide as Black Speculative Fiction month!
The Atlanta-based State of Black Science Fiction collective and the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History have collaborated to offer exciting, informational and interactive discussions, film screenings, book signings and much more that are all free and open to the public.
“About four years ago, I went to the Decatur Book Festival, and found authors of color who wrote in these genres (i.e., science fiction, fantasy, horror),” the original event organizer, Sharon E. Robinson, says.
“We got together, talked, had several meetings, and finally came up with the idea of putting together this program [Alien Encounters]. A lot of the time, our literary audiences aren’t as familiar with these genre writers as they are with, say, urban romance (authors) and others. There are a lot of writers, in the Atlanta area and across the country, who write in these genres, and we hope to increase readers’ knowledge base about them and their works,” she explains. “Our ultimate goal is to broaden visitors’ literary knowledge and understanding about these particular genres.”
The schedule for Aliens Encounters IV is as follows:
Friday, October 25, 2013
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade: Black to the Future
Come dressed in your best Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we enjoy Black Speculative Fiction short films and meet their creators.
9:00 pm until – Mahogany Masquerade After-Party
Drop the children off at Grandma’s and parade over to the BQE Lounge with us and let’s party the night away!
Saturday, October 26, 2013
4:00 to 6:00 pm – Retro-Futuristic Worlds of Steam and Diesel Funk
Join authors and creators of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade and Steampunk and cosplayer, actor and maker of Steampunk costumes and props, Mark Curtis for a discussion on Steamfunk and Dieselfunk, the long ignored stories of the Black experience during the Victorian Era and the Great World Wars told through retrofuturistic Fantasy and Science Fiction.
6:00 to 8:00 pm – Dark and Stormy: Horror Fiction on the Black Hand Side
Join horror authors Brandon Massey and Crystal Connor for this exciting panel as they discuss horror fiction from a Black point of view.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman
Join artist and Curator of OnyxCon, Joseph Wheeler III, comic book store owner, collector and publisher, Tony Cade and renowned comic book and animation creator and illustrator, Dawud Anyabwile as they discuss the conscious community of Black comic books and graphic novels.
Ongoing – Monday, September 3, 2013 – Sunday, November 3, 2013
The Neo-African Dynasty: Art from the Ancient Future of the Continent
This groundbreaking art exhibition, by renowned artist James Eugene, is a vibrant, afrofuturistic visual fusion of Africana ancestry, non-Western cosmologies and fantasy techno-culture.
Join James Eugene Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 7:00pm, for a discussion on his art, his creative process and the borderless Black future, rooted firmly in the African Diasporic experience, that he envisions.
There you have it. A fun-filled weekend of Blacktastic Science Fiction, Funk, Fantasy & Horror you absolutely do NOT want to miss!
See you there!
PAINTING A STEAMPUNK WORLD A DARKER SHADE OF BROWN:
RITE OF PASSAGE: The Dentist of Westminster
On Sunday, August 4, 2013, Yours Truly and the rest of the brilliant cast and crew of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage shot a short film that ties-in to the feature film, Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster.
In Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster, Osho Adewale, the first Black dentist in the United Kingdom – and the best dentist in Westminster, England – visits the town of Nicodemus, Kansas and his cousin forces an artifact upon him that forever changes his life.
Osho becomes the fifth Guardian of Nicodemus – along with Harriet Tubman, Dorothy Wright, Bass Reeves and John Henry – but Harriet Tubman sends him back to the UK to serve as her representative in Europe as they prepare for the coming of a powerful entity, who, like Harriet, is connected to the artifacts that hold the power of the Orisa but does not possess any artifact.
Harriet is the living embodiment of the residual power constantly leaked by all the artifacts on earth; the entity who Harriet is preparing to receive feeds off the power of the artifacts and of those who wield them.
The world of Rite of Passage continues to grow and the story is ever-increasing in excitement. Author Milton Davis and I are having a ball creating this amazing Steamfunk world, developing its heroes and villains and entwining it all with African and African-American history.
Join us August 23, 2013, as we draw you deeper into the world of Rite of Passage at the internet premiere of Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. Visit the Rite of Passage website after 12:00 pm EST, click the Dentist of Westminster tab and enjoy!
For those of you who receive an invitation to the Rite of Passage: Dentist of Westminster Private Screening and Meet & Greet on August 22, 2013, we have some fun and exciting surprises in store for you, so be sure to keep your appointment with The Dentist; his chair awaits you!
WE’RE HERE: Ending the Search for Black Fandom
Recently, I read an excellent – and somewhat saddening – post on the Rude Girl Magazine blog entitled A Search for Black Fandom.
The author laments: “A lot of times when I watch things, and am seeking out internet reactions and discussion, I wish I had access to other black opinions. Sometimes fandom is like watching a movie with a room full of white people – when someone does something kinda shady and racist, you want to lean over and be like ‘did this motherfucker just really,’ but then you realize you’re the only black person there so you have to weigh whether or not you’re in the mood for bullshit, because that’s what you’ll get by bringing this up with white people.”
The author thought that she was all alone in the nerdiverse. That there were no other Black people into Science Fiction, comic books, cosplay, Steampunk and Dungeons and Dragons and she felt crippled by this: “It’s no secret that fandom can be racist. Like, really, really racist…if you, as a black person, want to enjoy something – anything – in most popular fandom, you kind of have to decide not to bring up problematic aspects of the source material if you’re not ready to break out the bingo card for yet another tragic game of ‘No That’s Not Racist Toward Black People, Let Me Tell You Why,’ during which white people from all corners of the globe will gather to attempt to invalidate your thoughts, feelings and experiences.”
I am constantly reminded of just how important the work I and the other members of our authors, filmmakers and artists collective – State of Black Science Fiction – do really is. We tell the stories that need to be told – stories of heroes that have been ignored; history that has been forgotten…or denied.
Steamfunk, Sword and Soul and Rococoa are subgenres of fiction, fashion and film that convey the heroes and history of Africa, African-America and, indeed, the entire Diaspora. There are also many great tales of science fiction, horror, action-adventure and the paranormal with heroes of African descent.
I have been a guest and panelist at several small and major fandom conventions and I – along with my friend and author Milton Davis – am the curator of the popular Black Science Fiction Film Festival and The Mahogany Masquerade and I am happy to say that there is a multitude of Black fans of speculative fiction and film and the numbers are growing rapidly and immensely.
However, every time I get comfortable, a blog, an attendee at a panel discussion, or a fan at a convention will say “I thought I was the only one reading, doing and / or writing this,” or “If I had known Black people were writing this kind of stuff (or making these kinds of movies), I would have gotten into this a long time ago.”
Statements like that tell me that there is a lot more work to do and that there are a lot more people to reach.
I want my sister at Rude Girl Magazine to know that she need lament no longer and that she is certainly not alone.
We’re here my dear sister.
Below is a list of great recent fandom events with a strong Black presence. Most are annual events, so put them on your calendar and be sure to attend.
Black Speculative Fiction Film Festival, August 2012 – Auburn Avenue Research Library; Atlanta, GA
OnyxCon 4th Annual Black Age of Comics Convention, August 2012 – Southwest Arts Center; Atlanta, GA
State of Black Science Fiction Panel, August 2012 – Dragon*Con; Atlanta, GA
The Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film, October 2012 – Alien Encounters (an annual Black Fandom Symposium); Atlanta, GA
The Afrofuturist Affair Museum of Time 2nd Annual Charity & Costume Ball, November 2012 – Philadelphia, PA (an annual costume ball and afrofuturism presentation / performance)
Black Science Fiction Film Festival, February 2013 – Georgia Institute of Technology; Atlanta, GA (an annual film festival featuring fantasy, science fiction and horror films by and about people of African descent from around the world); Atlanta, GA
Multiculturalism in Alternate History Panel, February 2013 – AnachroCon; Atlanta, GA
Octavia E. Butler Celebration of the Fantastic Arts, March 2013 – Spelman College; Atlanta, GA
12th Annual East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC), May 2013; Philadelphia, PA
State of Black Science Fiction Panel, June 2013 – SciFi Summer Con; Atlanta, GA
State of Black Science Fiction Panel, June 15, 2013 – Wesley Chapel Library; Atlanta, GA (upcoming)
RITE OF PASSAGE: The Web
The full moon cast a silver glow upon the leaves that crackled beneath Jake’s heels.
He no longer heard the dogs, or the curses of Master William Jessup’s slave-catchers, so he stopped to rest his weary muscles and catch his breath. “For a short spell,” he thought.
“Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly.”
Jake whirled toward the source of the voice, raising a silver carving knife – still sticky with his former master’s blood – chest high.
The most beautiful woman Jake had ever laid eyes upon stepped out of the shadows. The corners of her full lips were spread in an inviting smile. “I’m sorry, did I frighten you?” Her husky voice revealed a hint of an English accent.
“You obviously ain’t from around here,” Jake said, studying her tall, muscular frame. “You sound like this man who come from England and train me and the other catchers.”
“I’m from London, England,” the woman said. I moved here a while ago. I bought my freedom from…wait…catchers? What did you catch?”
“Runaways,” Jake replied.
“And now, it appears that you are the one who is running away,” the woman said.
“I was the worst catcher ever born,” Jake said. “Every runaway I went after got away.
“They just happened to get away, eh?” The woman snickered.
“My old master got wise to me,” Jake replied. “He decided to make an example of me…killed my wife; my daughter…so I killed him. Been runnin’ since.”
“Well, you are safe here for the night,” the woman said. “The locals are afraid of this forest. They say a terrible beast roams these parts.”
“Then, what you doin’ out here?” Jake asked.
“I love the outdoors,” the woman replied. “Besides, beasts don’t frighten me; men do.”
“Well, this man won’t do you no harm,” Jake said. “My name’s Jake, by the way. Jake Jessup.”
“I’m Tara Malloy,” the woman said, offering her hand.
Jake took Tara’s smooth, mahogany hand in his and kissed the back of it. “Pleasure, ma’am.”
Suddenly, Tara’s hand became a vice around Jake’s fingers, crushing the dense bones as easily as if she was squeezing an egg in her fist.
Jake screamed in agony.
Tara threw her head back as a growl escaped her throat. She snapped her head forward, fixing her maddened gaze on Jake. Her beautiful face had been replaced by what Jake could only describe as the visage of a rabid wolf.
Jake tried to snatch his pulverized hand out of Tara’s grip, but she was too strong and his pain was too great.
Tara yanked Jake toward her. The runaway’s head snapped back from the force as his feet skittered across the dirt and dry foliage.
Jake thrust forward with his carving knife, sinking it deep into Tara’s chest.
Tara staggered backward, coughing as a crimson cloud of ichor spewed from her mouth.
Jake collapsed to his knees. Tara fell onto her back, convulsed once; twice; and then, lay still.
Jake crawled to a large tree and rested his back against it. The pain in his hand and shoulder made it difficult to think; to understand what just happened and darkness encroached upon him, blurring his vision.
“Still alive, eh?”
Jake turned his head toward the voice. Tara stood beside him. He turned his gaze toward her beastly form, still lying where she fell.
“How?” Jake whispered. He wanted to leap to his feet and run, but the pain would not allow it. “What are you?”
“What was I, you mean,” Tara replied. “A werewolf; a child of Eshu; blessed with his gift.”
Tara pointed toward Jake’s wounded shoulder. “Now, you have his blessing, too.”
“I…I’m gon’ turn into a thing like you, now?” Jake spat.
“Maybe,” Tara answered. “You become what your spirit is.”
“I’m gon’ kill you!” Jake bellowed.
“You already have,” Tara said, nodding toward her corpse.”
This was all too much for Jake to bear. He shut his eyes and succumbed to the darkness.
Jake felt soft, warm flesh on his chest. He looked down. Staring up at him was a pretty woman with full, pouty lips and skin the color of sweet cream.
“Good morning, lover,” the woman said, flashing a smile. Her dimpled cheeks accented her beauty.
“You’d better give up that body, Tara,” Jake said, looking at the clock on the far wall of the inn’s room. “You only have a few minutes.”
“Jake, can we talk?” Tara asked, caressing his chest with borrowed fingers.
“Time’s tickin’,” Jake replied.
“I love you,” Tara whispered.
“You what?” Jake pushed Tara’s head off his chest and sat upright.
“I love you, Jake,” Tara repeated.
“We don’t have time for this,” Jake said. “A second past those six hours and this woman dies from shock or goes mad.”
Jake hopped out of bed. His flesh shifted; flowed, as if it was some thick, ebon fluid and then trousers, boots, a shirt and a leather overcoat – all a very dark brown – formed around his naked frame.
“You’re a haint, Tara…a ghost…the undead. I – hell we – hunt the undead. Love ain’t in the cards for us. ‘Sides, you did try to kill me, remember?”
“That was two-hundred forty-seven years ago!” Tara replied.
“Seems like yesterday to me,” Jake said.
A loud, sucking din echoed throughout the room as Tara rose out of the woman’s body. “We’ll talk more later.”
The woman sat bolt upright. She leapt from the bed, locking her gaze on Jake’s broad back. An ebony, wide-brimmed planter hat formed atop Jake’s head. The woman gasped and darted out of the room.
“Creole women,” Tara said, shaking her head. “So…emotional.”
“Let’s go,” Jake said, sauntering toward the door. “Ms. Tubman should have sent that telegram by now.”
On the ground, carriages carried people to-and-from the retail shops, restaurants, inns and houses of ill-repute. In the sky, out of the view of the common people – but not out of Jake’s view – the very wealthy and the military traversed the bustling city by ornate airships and hot air balloons.
“Isn’t it beautiful? Tara sighed.
“Nope,” Jake replied.
“What do you see, then, Mister Doom-and-Gloom?” Tara asked.
“I see smoke…and steel,” Jake answered. “I see children worked to death in dirty factories…widows turned into whores to feed their babies…and we’re still swingin’ from the end of the white man’s rope.”
“Like I said…Doom-and-Gloom,” Tara snickered.
Jake entered the telegraph office. A man sat before each of the three telegraph machines.
“How can we help you fine folks?” One of the men asked, looking up from his machine.
Jake and Tara exchanged glances. Jake took a step back toward the door.
“Oh, don’t worry,” the man said, smiling. “Negro money spends here.”
“That’s not our concern,” Jake said.
“What, then?” The man said, rising from his chair.
“Well, considerin’ my lady friend here is a haint and y’all can see her without her willing it, y’all must be haints, too.” Jake replied.
The man directed his attention to Tara. “You’re a ghost, correct?”
“That’s right,” Tara replied.
“The two other men stood.
“Hmm…ghasts,” Jake said, studying the trio. “Never had the pleasure of killing one of you. Ms. Tubman said you’re fast and can possess a body for days at a time.
“Ah, Ms. Tubman,” The ghast crooned. “After we kill you, we’ll have to pay her a visit.”
“The bloodsuckers got you interceptin’ her messages, now?” Jake asked.
“She has been sending her merry, little band all over to hunt down our kind…your kind!” The ghast spat. That nigger has to die!”
“Give me the message,” Jake said, unmoved.
“I don’t think so,” the ghast hissed.
“Jake raised his palms before his chest. His hands shifted, changing into a pair of ebon broadswords. “I reckon I’ll have to take it then.”
The trio of ghasts exploded forward. Jake leapt forward to meet them.
Jake’s body shattered into a cloud of miniscule, venomous spiders. Each of the thousands of spiders was armed with a scythe-like claw on each of its eight legs. The spider-cloud washed over the ghasts. A moment later, a reformed Jake landed in front of one of the telegraph machines.
The ghasts fell, their tattered bodies covered with an uncountable number of gashes; the organs of their hosts reduced to liquid by the venom racing through their veins.
Jake rustled through the telegrams until he found the one from Harriet Tubman. “Ms. Tubman found the nest.”
“Where to?” Tara inquired.
The sweet-green smell of kudzu permeated the night air. Jake stood high above the ground upon the thick limb of an old oak tree. “Go check it out,” he said, pointing toward a large ranch house an acre away.
“Be back in a bit, lover,” Tara said, blowing him a kiss as she leapt from the limb. She floated toward the house like a feather held aloft in a gentle breeze, landing gracefully at the door of the house. With a quick step, she passed through the closed door as if it was not there.
Jake studied the house. The windows were all covered with a dense, black cloth, preventing any light from getting in or out; a sure sign of a vampire nest.
Tara appeared on the limb. She fanned her hand in front of her nose. “Lord, it smells like the flatulence of a thousand mules in there!”
“Any vampires?” Jake inquired.
“Three,” Tara replied. “It looks like they are getting ready to call it a night.”
“The sun will be up in a couple of hours,” Jake said. “Coffins?”
“No,” Tara answered. “Dirt. The whole house is covered in about two feet of it.”
“These are Old Ones, then,” Jake said. “Good. Kill an Old One and all their progeny die, too.”
Jake leapt from the tree limb. He landed silently below. The hunter knelt at the base of the tree and thrust his hands into the dirt. A moment later, he pulled out a suede sack that was filled with something metallic by the clinking sound of it. “Good old General Tubman,” Jake whispered. “Right where she said it would be.”
Jake tossed the sack over his shoulder and sprinted toward the house. His boots made no sound as they glided across the soft, red, Georgia clay.
Tara floated closely behind him. Upon reaching the house, she stepped through the door. A few seconds later, Jake heard the door’s bolt lock slide back. He tested the door, slowly turning its knob. The door opened.
Jake slipped into the house. He reached into the sack and withdrew a tiny, wedged shape device. The device, constructed of bronze, had a miniscule, amber crystal at its center.
Tara raised her thumb and smiled.
Jake placed the wedge back into the bag and crept forward down the long hallway. He felt something hard beneath the dirt sink under his feet. Iron shackles sprang up around his ankles. Jake transformed into the swarm of spiders to escape, but it was too late. Walls of thick glass sprang up from the floor, slamming into the ceiling with a tremendous thud. Jake was encased in an impenetrable, airtight cube.
The Old Ones stepped out of a room at the end of the hallway and strode toward Jake. Huge grins were spread across their pallid faces, exposing their fangs.
Tara floated toward them.
“I can feel you, darlin’,” the lead Old One – a tall, lean man, with the dress and ruggedness of a cowboy – said. “Well done.”
“Tara?” Jake gasped.
Tara turned her gaze away from Jake and cast her eyes downward.
“My kind are the servants of Eshu, charged with keeping the balance between the light and the darkness…between the Natural and the Unnatural, like yourselves,” Jake said. “My kind are the livin’.”
“Living; dead; undead…some of us are hunters; some prey,” the Old One said. “That – and blood – are all that matter.” The Old One stepped closer to the glass. “Where are my manners? In all of this excitement, I neglected to introduce myself. I am Henrick.” Henrick pointed his thumb over his shoulder. “The rather large gentleman behind me is Malloy and the enthralling beauty is Bloody Jane.”
“Let me out of here, so we can all shake hands,” Jake said.
Henrick laughed. “I like you, hunter. It’s a shame you’ll be dead soon. We could have been friends.”
The vampires walked past Jake’s cell toward the door.
Henrick glanced over his shoulder. “We are heading out for a quick bite. Don’t go anywhere.”
The vampires left the house. Their sardonic laughter cleaved the darkness outside and echoed throughout the house.
“How could you do this, Tara?” Jake spat.
“I am sorry, Jake,” Tara replied. “One day, you’ll understand.”
“Just a few days ago, you said you loved me,” Jake said. “You sure as hell have a funny way of showin’ it.”
“I do love you,” Tara cried. “That’s why I’m doing this.”
“You ain’t makin’ no sense at all,” Jake said.
“Soon, you’ll run out of air,” Tara said. “You’ll die; then, you’ll have an eternity to fall in love with me.”
“That’s haint obsession talkin’,” Jake said. “After a while, every haint goes mad. I thought you had it beat. I reckon it just took you a little longer.”
“I am not crazy, Jake!” Tara shouted. “But, love makes us do crazy things.”
“If I die on account of you settin’ me up, do you really think I’m gon’ ever love you?”
“I…I’m not sure,” Tara sighed. I hope that you’ll…”
“I’ll hate you,” Jake said. “But, if you let me out of here, there might be a chance for us.”
“You’re just saying that to convince me to set you free,” Tara said.
Jake stared into Tara’s eyes. “Have I ever lied to you?”
Tara stepped into Jake’s cell. “I don’t know where the release switch is.”
Jake nodded toward his suede sack, which lay at his feet. “Then persuade those bloodsuckers to tell you.”
Tara closed her eyes and stretched her incorporeal fingers toward the sack. For a moment, her fingers became somatic and she grabbed it. A second later, she was, once again, incorporeal, as was the sack and its contents. She walked out of the cube, taking the sack with her.
Tara floated down the hallway and through the door, leaving Jake alone in his cell.
Jake launched a powerful side-kick at one of the walls of the cell. His heel slammed into the glass. Jake’s foot felt as if it had slammed into the side of a mountain. “Magically enhanced,” he mused. Jake sat, cross-legged, on the floor. He closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing, slowing it.
A while later, Tara returned. “It’s done.”
Jake’s opened his eyes. “Did you get all the windows? The roof?”
“I was quite thorough,” she replied.
“Tara!” A voice wailed on the other side of the door.
Tara floated to the door. She willed her hand to become corporeal and used it to open the door.
A web of intense light crisscrossed the entrance.
Henrick stood a few yards away from the doorway. Malloy and Bloody Jane stood behind him.
You’ve been a bad girl, Tara,” Henrick said. “What have you done to our house?”
“They’re called Thread Bombs,” Tara replied. Each one releases a thread of light akin to the light of the sun. I planted nearly a thousand around your house to encase it in a web of sunlight.”
“Well, be a dear and turn them off, please,” Henrick said, affecting a warm smile.
“I can’t,” Tara said. “Only Jake can.”
“And why is that?” Henrick asked, struggling to maintain his friendly demeanor.
“Every bomb has to be turned off at the exact same time, or they will explode, blanketing a square mile in their light,” Tara answered. “Jake can become a swarm of spiders and turn off each bomb simultaneously.”
“And how do we know he will do that for us once he is free?” Henrick inquired.
“You don’t,” Tara replied. “But, what choice do you have?” If you set Jake free, he might shut down the web; leave him in that cell to die and you’ll all burn.”
“Quite the fickle one, aren’t you?” Henrick said. “Okay, we’ll bite, so to speak, but know that if you cause the death of three Old Ones and their children, there is nowhere you can run; nowhere you can hide. We will find you…and even a ghost can be destroyed.”
“Duly noted,” Tara said. “Now, where is the switch?”
“In the study,” Henrick replied. “There is a brass statue of a tiger in there. Turn its tail clockwise and the walls will come down.”
“I’ll be right back,” Tara said, vanishing from sight.
“Hurry back, child,” Henrick said, looking skyward. “It’ll be dawn soon.”
A whirring sound rose from beneath Jake. A moment later, the glass walls slid back into the floor.
Jake breathed deeply, welcoming fetid, but cool air into his lungs.
Refreshed, Jake sauntered toward the door.
“We have upheld our end of the bargain,” Henrick said. “Your turn.”
“Bargain?” Jake said. “I don’t bargain with Unnaturals.”
Henrick’s smile faded. “Tara said…”
“Your deal was with Tara,” Jake said, interrupting the Old One. “Not with me.”
“Nope,” Jake replied, picking dirt from his nails.
“You bastard!” Henrick hissed, baring his fangs.
Malloy and Bloody Jane screamed as sunlight cut through the clouds and seared their flesh.
“Turn it off,” Henrick wailed, his skin turning black where the sun kissed it. “Please!”
The Old Ones burst into flames. Their chilling screams rending the night sky until their vocal chords were to charred to emit sound.
Within moments, three piles of gray ash lay near the entrance to the house.
Tara materialized beside Jake. “I hope this makes things right between us, lover,”
“Nope,” Jake replied.
“What now, then?” Tara asked.
“We keep killin’ Unnaturals,” Jake answered.
A broad smile spread across the ghost’s pretty face. “So, we’re still partners?”
“For now,” Jake replied. “We make a good team. ‘Sides, huntin’ can be lonely work. But, I promise you, you ever betray me again and you get the sigil.”
“To use a sigil on a ghost, you have to know that ghost’s real name, Jake,” Tara said. “I never told you – or anyone – my real name.”
“Your ex-husband says different,” Jake said.
Tara’s eyes widened and her jaw fell slack. “My ex…?”
“I met a conjurer a few years back by the name of Laveau,” Jake replied. “She channeled your ex-husband, Kayode, and, boy, did he have a story to tell!”
“What did he tell you?” Tara asked.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jake said. This place stinks.”
“Jake, what did he say?” Tara’s voice was shaky. “Jake?”
The corners of Jake’s mouth curled into a slight smile as he stepped through the web and into the welcoming dawn.
THE MAKING OF A STEAMFUNK MOVIE: Pt. 1, the Crew
When I left Howard University – and my despised major in Finance – in 1986 (don’t do the math) to pursue my vision of novelist, screenwriter and film director, my family – particularly my mother was supportive. My sister, Alesia, however – a film and video producer for the Air Force – did not warn me about what I was getting myself into.
I enrolled in Columbia College – the renowned college of the Fine Arts in Chicago – and my training in film, which I just knew would be easy and fun every minute, began.
And so did work ten times more demanding than any Finance, Economics, or Statistics class ever was.
Easy? My ass!
Fun? Hell no!
The work was grueling; tiresome; boring; lonely.
Wait a minute…lonely?
The first week of my Film Directing I Class was a solo directing project. Unbeknownst to us ignorant students, that project was designed for the sole purpose of teaching us – the hard way – that film is always a collaborative effort. Anyone who tries to be a one-man film crew is about as sharp as a bowl of Jell-O.
For those of you looking to make a movie, but you do not have access to a multimillion-dollar budget, you may have to assume more than one responsibility to make your film. While it is possible – and often necessary – to wear two or three hats when making a film, it is not recommended. Search hard for qualified and experienced people to work with. The more you do, the more the quality of your film suffers and the quicker you will burn yourself out.
In May, we begin pre-production on the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage. We start shooting in August. This is the bare minimum crew we will begin with:
Producer: A film producer creates the conditions for making movies. The producer initiates, coordinates, supervises, and controls matters such as raising funding, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the filmmaking, from development to “delivery” of a project.
Executive producer: In major productions, can sometimes be a representative or CEO of the film studio. Or the title may be given as an honorarium to a major investor. Often they oversee the financial, administrative and creative aspects of production, though not always in a technical capacity. In smaller companies or independent projects, it may be synonymous with creator/writer. Often, a “Line Producer” is awarded this title if this producer has a lineage of experience, or is involved in a greater capacity than a “typical” line producer. E.G – working from development through post, or simply bringing to the table a certain level of expertise.
Associate producer: Usually acts as a representative of the Producer, who may share financial, creative, or administrative responsibilities, delegated from that producer. Often, a title for an experienced film professional acting as a consultant or a title granted as a courtesy to one who makes a major financial, creative or physical contribution to the production.
Script Supervisor: The script supervisor maintains a daily log of the shots covered and their relation to the script during the course of a production, acts as chief continuity person, and acts as an on-set liaison to the post-production staff. They maintain logs of all shots and act as the chief continuity person on set, performing daily cross-referencing with the continuity stills photographer to ensure shots remain accurate and in logical order.
Continuity Stills Photographer: The continuity stills photographer uses a digital still camera to establish continuity referents for each shot covered in a day of shooting. These shots are cross-referenced with the script supervisor’s log for accessibility on set. The continuity stills photographer takes pictures of each shot covered, paying particular attention to the in-point and out-point of a shot – a photograph is taken just before the director says “action,” and immediately after he or she says “cut.”
Director: The director is responsible for overseeing the creative aspects of a film, including controlling the content and flow of the film’s plot, directing the performances of actors, organizing and selecting the locations in which the film will be shot, and managing technical details such as the positioning of cameras, the use of lighting, and the timing and content of the film’s soundtrack. Though the director wields a great deal of power, they are ultimately subordinate to the film’s producer or producers. Some directors, especially more established ones, take on many of the roles of a producer, and the distinction between the two roles is sometimes blurred.
Stunt Coordinator: Where the film requires a stunt, and involves the use of stunt performers, the stunt coordinator will arrange the casting and performance of the stunt, working closely with the director. This includes Fight Choreographers – stunt coordinators who specialize in the casting, design and performance of fight scenes.
Production Designer: A production designer is responsible for creating the physical, visual appearance of the film – settings, costumes, properties, character makeup, all taken as a unit. The production designer works closely with the director and the cinematographer to achieve the ‘look’ of the film.
Director of Photography / Cinematographer: The director of photography is the chief of the camera and lighting crew of the film. The DP makes decisions on lighting and framing of scenes in conjunction with the film’s director. Typically, the director tells the DP how they want a shot to look, and the DP chooses the correct aperture, filter, and lighting to achieve the desired effect.
Camera Operator: The camera operator uses the camera at the direction of the cinematographer / director of photography, or the film director to capture the scenes on film. Generally, a cinematographer or director of photography does not operate the camera, but sometimes these jobs may be combined.
Boom Operator: The boom operator is an assistant to the production sound mixer, responsible for microphone placement and movement during filming. The boom operator uses a boom pole, a long pole made of light aluminum or carbon fiber that allows precise positioning of the microphone above or below the actors, just out of the camera’s frame. The boom operator may also place radio microphones and hidden set microphones.
Film Editor: The film editor is the person who assembles the various shots into a coherent film, with the help of the director.
Sound Designer: The sound designer, or “supervising sound editor”, is in charge of the post-production sound of a movie. Sometimes this may involve great creative license, and other times it may simply mean working with the director and editor to balance the sound to their liking.
Composer: The composer is responsible for writing the musical score for a film.
Foley Artist: The foley artist is the person who creates the sound effects for a film.
Key Makeup Person: The key makeup person applies and maintains the cast’s makeup, working in coordination with the script supervisor and the continuity stills photographer.
Key Hairdresser: The key hairdresser dresses and maintains the cast’s hair, working in coordination with the script supervisor and the continuity stills photographer.
Costume Designer: The costume designer works under the supervision of the director and the art director to design, obtain, assemble, and maintain the costumes for a production. Costume designers develop costuming concepts and the design of costumes in coordination with the art director, production designer, and DP.
This is the crew I am working with, plus the assistants for each member of the crew, caterers and security. I bet no Financier ever had to work with so many people – from a couple of months to a year or more – just to complete one project.
Such is the life of a filmmaker, but I love it and when you see the fruit of the labor of our crew, when Rite of Passage hits the silver screen at the Black Science Fiction Film Festival in February, 2014, you’ll love it – and us – too!
More funk to come. Stay tuned, Steamfunkateers!
If you would like to be a part of the making of this film and live in or near Atlanta, please join us at the Information Session at Georgia Tech Thursday, April 18, 2013; Skiles Building; Room 343 at 11:00 am. We will discuss cast and crew needs, scheduling and benefits to be enjoyed by all involved!
STEAMFUNK FICTION: A Darker Shade of Brown
Readers are asking for more Steamfunk, which is really quite shocking; not because Steamfunk fiction isn’t absolutely funktastic – it is – but because, after reading nearly five-hundred pages chock full o’ funky goodness, I would figure they would need to take a breather and inhale a bit of funk-free air.
Much to my surprise and glee, I was mistaken. “More Steamfunk!” is the cry. Even the august group of authors who contributed their fascinating fables of funkasticity to the anthology has demanded a second volume – Steamfunk II: Dieselfunk.
To tide you over until the final verdict on the production of a second volume is delivered, I offer you a listing of several books that are either Steamfunk, or Steampunk, with a main character of African descent.
Here goes. Enjoy!
And remember: keep it funky!
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2) by Balogun Ojetade
“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 this novel of dark fantasy (with a touch of Steampunk), 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?
The Switch and The Switch II: Clockwork by Valjeanne Jeffers
Includes The Switch I and The Switch II! York is a city of contradictions. Women are hard-pressed for lovers, because lovemaking can be dangerous. The upper city is powered by computers, the underground by steam. And the wealthy don’t work for a living, underdwellers do it for them. But certain underdwellers have a big problem with this arrangement. And so does the time keeper. Welcome to the Revolution…
Samoht Sivad, sorcerer and warrior, goes missing after a garrison tour. Naheem, his cousin and acting patriarch of the Sivad clan, sets out to find him. His journey puts him on the path of a man who has found a way to seek revenge from beyond his grave.
The Possession introduces the alternate world of the Sivads, a North America whose present is entirely unique from the world in which we live, a land of beauty, diversity…and magic.
In the second Sivad Chronicle adventure, brothers Samoht and Vel find themselves exiled from the Nations by their cousin Naheem for different reasons. They embark on a journey to the Motherland to seek the secrets of their clan and their mysterious power. Naheem sets out to right his cousins’ wrongs while they are away and finds himself in his own adventure, one that will be as dangerous as it is enlightening.
Immortal 4: Collision of Worlds by Valjeanne Jeffers
Rules were broken. Now the price must be paid. “The New World awoke to a roaring wind, light blazed from the mirror—swallowing the planet—a churning, savage vortex. Tundra’s inhabitants cried out, as their flesh bled from their bones like wet clay. The world shuddered. And was still.” The Immortals broke the rules. As punishment, Karla and Joseph are transported to a steam powered realm. Tehotep is now ruler of the empire. Karla is his concubine. Vampires roam the streets. Androids enforce a demon’s will. And there is no way out. Except death…
Steamfunk Issue 0 Written by Eric Doty; Illustrated by Luke McKay
A comic book for all ages, that includes a bit of Steampunk and a pinch of Dieselpunk with Western and Fantasy elements. Its biggest influences are the film, The Wizard of Oz and the television series, Firefly. The “funk” in the title serves a dual purpose, referring to the musical references throughout the story as well as the state of the world the characters exist in. The story follows the adventures of a gutsy delivery girl, Deaux, as she unravels truths that she may not be prepared for.
John Henry: The Steam Age Written and Illustrated by Dwayne Harris
John Henry, a former slave, wasn’t about to let some new-fangled steam hammer replace his ability to earn an honest wage as a steel-driving man. He’d beat that machine, or die with his hammer in his hand. We all know the outcome of that legendary contest. In this alternate history, however, John doesn’t die in his heroic effort, but instead slips into a coma, only to awaken to his worst nightmare. A robotic uprising has occurred, and a new age has dawned – the Steam Age! Now the only thing that can free the human race from the very machines they’ve created is John and his hammer. John Henry: The Steam Age is an exciting re-imagining of the story of John Henry in a steampunk setting.
Clementine by Cherie Priest
Maria Isabella Boyd’s success as a Confederate spy has made her too famous for further espionage work, and now her employment options are slim. Exiled, widowed, and on the brink of poverty…she reluctantly goes to work for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in Chicago.
Adding insult to injury, her first big assignment is commissioned by the Union Army. In short, a federally sponsored transport dirigible is being violently pursued across the Rockies and Uncle Sam isn’t pleased. The Clementine is carrying a top secret load of military essentials – essentials which must be delivered to Louisville, Kentucky, without delay.
Intelligence suggests that the unrelenting pursuer is a runaway slave who’s been wanted by authorities on both sides of the Mason-Dixon for fifteen years. In that time, Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey has felonied his way back and forth across the continent, leaving a trail of broken banks, stolen war machines, and illegally distributed weaponry from sea to shining sea.
And now it’s Maria’s job to go get him.
He’s dangerous quarry and she’s a dangerous woman, but when forces conspire against them both, they take a chance and form an alliance. She joins his crew, and he uses her connections. She follows his orders. He takes her advice.
And somebody, somewhere, is going to rue the day he crossed either one of them.
Stay tuned! There is plenty more Steamfunk to come!
THE BEAUTY, POWER AND MYSTERY OF MASKS IN THE AGE OF STEAM, DIESEL & BEYOND
Wearing a mask can completely change your persona – with your facial expression permanently fixed, you must focus on your body movement and voice, leading to the broadest, silliest clowning, the most intense of subtleties, or menacing stillness.
Masks can be as unsettling as they are beautiful. Expressionless, absolutely neutral masks are often spooky and masks without eyes or a mouth – a mask that hides the face instead of creating a new one – are eerie, yet compelling. Veils, shrouds and hoods pulled down low, effacing the wearer’s features, gives the wearer an undeniable authority and power – think Darth Sidious from Star Wars, or Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, from Assassin’s Creed.
From a haircut to a pair of sunglasses, anything that transforms, or conceals, our appearance can influence not only the attitude of those who incorporate the change, but also of those who see them.
When director Jared Hess was in Mexico City casting the film Nacho Libre, a comedy in which the actor Jack Black plays a priest in training turned wrestler, he auditioned a number of real-life Lucha Libre wrestlers, who showed up wearing colorful masks.
Hess asked them to remove their disguises; they all refused.
“We learned very quickly that asking them to remove their masks was too much,” Hess said. “There’s a lot of integrity in that.”
Masked wrestlers have been popular in Mexico since 1942, when the silver-masked wrestler, known simply as El Santo – “The Saint” – first stepped into the ring. Making his debut in Mexico City by winning an 8-man battle royal, the public became enamored by the mystique and secrecy of his personality, and he quickly became the most popular luchador (fighter) in Mexico. His wrestling career spanned nearly five decades, during which he became a folk hero and a symbol of justice for the common man through his appearances in comic books and movies, while the sport received an unparalleled degree of mainstream attention.
Santo, whose real name was Adolfo Guzman Huerta, never removed his mask – in his films or in public – and remained a mysterious figure even in death. Huerta, who died in 1984, was buried in his famed silver mask.
According to Michelle Martinez of the Department of Chicano Studies at Arizona State University, “The lucha mask is a symbol of strength and empowerment in the Mexican and Chicano culture.” She goes on further to say that “The mask goes back to Aztec and Mayan times and also brought the luchador to the superhero level. It gave them this larger than human appeal.”
Other luchadores, with names like Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras – “Thousand Masks” – followed Santo to the silver screen, and from the ’50s through the ’80s, they appeared in numerous films, battling everyone from Dracula and the Daughter of Frankenstein to the Mummies of Guanajuato.
Although these films suffered from low production values, cliché-ridden dialogue and barely competent performances, they were enormous successes and gave Hispanic children their own cinematic role models.
The psychologist Carl Jung proposed that there is a dark side to the personality called “the shadow”. The shadow includes both repressed, instinctual feelings and untapped potential. The shadow is not simply the “evil” opponent of persona; it is imagination and creativity left behind or forgotten because of sensible or good behavior.
Masks can bring to consciousness how we both see ourselves or what we fantasize we would like to be. Because a mask has an outside and an inside, the wearer should explore portraying how others see them on the outside of the mask and how they feel on the reverse side of the mask. Exploring persona and shadow in this way can be a profound, revealing, and often personally liberating experience.
At the end of many remarkable lives, historic figures were immortalized with death masks. The best known of these are the masks used by ancient Egyptians as part of the mummification process, such as Tutankhamun’s burial mask.
The most important process of the funeral ceremony in ancient Egypt was the mummification of the body, which, after prayers and consecration, was put into a sarcophagus enameled and decorated with gold and gems. A special element of the rite was a sculpted mask, put on the face of the deceased. This mask was believed to strengthen the spirit of the mummy and guard the soul from evil spirits on its way to the after-world.
This tradition reached an apex among Europeans in the Age of Steam and was quite popular among the Italians, English and French, who all believed death masks to be the final impression of a human spirit whom they once knew, or who had made his or her mark upon all men’s minds.
Death was a common domestic fact of life for those living in the Age of Steam, so they developed elaborate rituals – and borrowed a few from the ancient Egyptians – to deal with it.
The deathbed became a focal point for families who were in the process of losing a loved one. Typically, one or more grieving relatives would surround the bed, waiting to hear the dying person’s last words, which were considered to be of great value, as it was hoped that the dying might deliver some climatic testimony to the meaning of life.
The mysterious and mystic power of the mask has been revered throughout the ages. Masks are as popular as ever; their power of transformation and expression as great today as during the most ancient of times.
In later posts, leading up to the 2nd annual Mahogany Masquerade and the unveiling of the Steamfunk line of masks created by master mask-maker, Shay Lhea, owner of Oculto Masks, we will explore the history, power and importance of masks through articles, photographs and fiction.
A bitter chill gnawed at the back of Thomas Morgan’s pink neck.
He flipped up the collar of his overcoat and walked briskly up the lonely road. “It will be dark soon,” he whispered. “I must find shelter.”
Thomas continued on, thinking that the feeling of unmerciful winds biting into his flesh must be what it felt like to the countless number of slaves who had tasted the caustic sting of his whip.
The memory of his whip rending black flesh warmed him a bit and strengthened his resolve to continue on.
Finally, Thomas came upon a house. He crept up to it. The smell of cinnamon met him, caressing his nostrils. Thomas peeked through a window at the front of the house. Inside, an elderly Black couple sat before a flickering fire. Steam rose from their brass mugs as they sipped from them.
“Niggers,” Thomas hissed. To Thomas, ‘niggers’ were bad enough, but ‘Yankee niggers’ were the worst.
“Well, their nigger home looks warm,” He thought. “And niggers are too scared to turn away a white man seekin’ shelter.”
A moment later, a man’s voice called from the other side of the door. “Who’s there?”
“My name’s Morgan,” Thomas replied. “Thomas Morgan. My airship crashed about a half mile from here. I need a warm place to spend the night until I can find a tinkerer in the morning.”
The door opened a crack. A pair of brown eyes peered out. “You sound like a Southerner, Mr. Morgan,” the old man said.
“Born and raised,” Thomas said, tipping his bowler as he saluted the old man with a deep bow. “But my heart belongs to the North.”
“What brings you to Weeksville?” The old man inquired.
“I’ve been usin’ that ol’ airship of mine to transport runaways for Harriet Tubman,” Thomas lied. He wondered what this old coon would do if he told them that he was really headed to Auburn to kill ‘General Tubman’.
“You can stay,” the old man said. “If you tell me an’ my wife a good story.”
Thomas rubbed his numb fingers under his armpits. “Umm…there once was a man from Nantucket…”
“I said a good story!” The old man said, interrupting Thomas’ limerick.
“I wish I could, but I’m just a transporter of people and cargo,” Thomas said. “I don’t have no stories to tell.”
“Black devil!” Thomas spat as he stormed away from the house.
He perused the area. A barn sat several yards behind the house. Thomas scurried toward the barn. He tugged at the door and it swung open. Inside, the barn was empty, save for a few farming tools strewn about and a large mound of straw that sat in a far corner.
Thomas dashed to the mound and dived into it. He burrowed deep into the mound, pulling straw over himself until he was completely covered. He quickly warmed up and, within moments, he was sound asleep.
A gruff voice awakened him.
Thomas peered between a few blades of straw, seeking the source of the harsh, baritone voice that had startled him out of his slumber.
In the middle of the barn, illuminated by a single lantern, stood two of the largest men Thomas had ever seen in his life. One man stood about seven feet tall. His massive muscles strained against his leather overcoat as he rapidly rubbed two sticks together over a pile of twigs and dry leaves
The other man, nearly a foot taller than the first and just as massive, dragged something large and heavy across the floor.
Both men’s faces were concealed by the over-sized brims of their top-hats, but their hands were nearly black as pitch.
As the fire came to life and lit the barn, Thomas saw clearly what the man was dragging – the corpse of a portly white man. The flesh on the corpse’s neck was twisted into a sickening spiral pattern, as if someone – or something – had tried to screw his head off.
The first man tied a rope around the corpse’s feet. “Hang him from that beam and let’s roast him.”
“I’m tired,” the first man replied. “Let Tom Morgan do it.”
Thomas shuddered. “How could they know I’m here? How do they know my name?”
“Come on out,” the second man bellowed.
Thomas crawled out of the mound of hay.
The first man yanked him to his feet. “Turn the corpse…and do not let it burn!”
Thomas’ mouth went dry and sourness gurgled in his throat. He nodded.
Thomas began to slowly turn the corpse over the fire.
The men turned from him. The first man snatched the barn door open. Moonlight poured into the barn, reflecting off the giants’ ebon skin.
“Keep turning, Tom,” the second man said as he disappeared into the night. “We’ll be back soon.”
Thomas shook as he turned the body over the fire.
A loud snap startled him. Suddenly, the corpse plummeted into the now raging flame. Sparks and ashes flew into the air and the barn filled with smoke.
“No!” Thomas screamed. “They’ll kill me!”
Thomas sprinted out the door and back onto the road. He raced into the frigid wind, fear keeping his legs pumping even though they ached terribly. When he could not run another step, he scurried into a muddy ditch, hiding behind a moist clump of overgrown weeds.
He had barely caught his breath when he heard thunderous footsteps upon the road above him.
“I am tired of carrying this charred, fat fool,” a gruff voice bellowed. “You carry him now.”
“Not me,” a second voice – as deep and gruff as the first – replied. “I’m tired. Let Tom Morgan do it.”
A loud thud exploded behind Thomas. He whirled toward the sound. Standing over him was the massive second man from the barn.
The man wrapped his thick fingers around Thomas’ neck and then hurled him high into the air.
Thomas winced as his buttocks slammed onto the road.
The first man snatched him onto his feet.
“Drag this body to Whitmore Ridge so we can bury it!” The first man ordered.
“But…but ain’t Whitmore Ridge about a mile from here?” Thomas asked.
“Move!” The first man commanded.
Thomas tucked the corpse’s feet under his armpits and shambled up the road, dragging the obese, bloated body behind him.
Thomas’ legs burned and his back felt as if it would fold in upon itself, but his fear of the twin black giants kept his taxed legs moving.
“While you’re down there, start digging,” the first man snickered.
“With my hands?” Thomas sighed.
“Well, you can’t dig with my hands, can you?” The first man spat.
The second man tapped the first man on the shoulder and then pointed toward the reddening sky. “Sun’s coming.”
“It’s your lucky night, Tom Morgan,” the first man said. “If we could stay a bit longer, we’d bury you with that body.”
With that, the men sauntered away and soon disappeared up the road.
Thomas leapt to his feet and then sprinted down the road in the opposite direction of the giants. Soon, he came upon the same house with the barn behind it in which the two men had found him. He slammed his fists on the door.
The door swung open. The old man of the house stood before him.
“You, again?” The old man hissed.
“Please, sir,” Thomas cried. “Some crazed men made me do terrible things! Please, grant me a place to hide and to rest and I will reward you dearly.”
The old man stepped aside and Thomas staggered through the doorway.
“Take a seat,” the old man said, pointing toward a table with four large oak chairs.
Thomas plopped down in a chair. The old woman of the house – a petite Black woman with smooth, cocoa skin and white locks that fell to the middle of her back - placed a cup before him. Thomas inhaled. The contents of the cup smelled pleasantly of honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. Thomas took a sip. The tea warmed and relaxed him.
Suddenly, heavy footsteps came from the back of the house.
A shiver crawled up the back of Thomas’ neck.
The twin, ebon giants sauntered into the room.
“Have a seat, boys,” the old woman said. “Tom Morgan got a story to tell.”
FACING THE FUNK: Renowned Mask-Maker to Create Steamfunk Line!
Carnival is a festive event that typically involves a public celebration or parade, combining elements of a circus, masking and public street party. People commonly dress up in costumes and/or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning and renewal of daily life.
Widely thought to have originated in 12th Century Rome – with its purpose being to play and eat meat before Ash Wednesday, thus marking the beginning of Catholic Lent – Carnival – also known as Jankunu, particularly in the Caribbean and the Southeastern United States – actually has West African roots much older than its Roman influences.
Spreading from Italy into Spain, Portugal, England, Germany and France, Carnival – by the 15th and 16th centuries – had become a rowdy tradition, featuring boisterous games and masquerades adopted from a variety of late winter and early spring festive practices. It was a time for ritual and play and by engaging in irony, disguise, laughter, and revelry, people sought renewal and growth for themselves and their communities.
The political and industrial revolutions of the 19th century had a significant effect on Carnival celebrations. With newly formed governments perceiving the festivities as civic events, urban street parades became more structured. Groups from different neighborhoods and workers’ guilds competed with one another for the best performances.
In the Caribbean and Southeastern United States, it is an undisputed African engine that propels this form of cultural expression and the African Carnival, or Jankunu has nothing to do with Lent or Christmas.
Every society, however inhibited or repressed, finds occasion for celebration, feasts, festivals, merry-making and the like – it is an aspect of humanity in which we all share. Most societies also have the idea of the masquerade or the costume in one or another form, whether in social or religious ritual, dramatic theater or the stage, or the street parade.
Where Africa and Europe appear to diverge in this respect is in the setting of costumed celebrations.
French, Portuguese English and Spanish colonialists held costumed balls. Individuals wore costumes and the merry-making was largely indoors, though spill-over onto the streets could be expected. It is the same today with the European Carnivals of Quebec, Venice and elsewhere and is also present also in the celebration of Halloween.
By contrast, the African style of celebration called for costumed bands, and for the merry-making focus to be outdoors, rather than indoors, similar to what we see with today’s Caribbean and American Carnivals.
One of the clearest examples of the masquerade in Africa is the Yoruba Egungun Festival. During this festival, every family honors its collective ancestors, and all the members of an extended family lineage wear the same colors, thus constituting a “band”.
From the Egungun celebration also comes a feature that we find prominent in various Caribbean carnivals: throwing talcum powder on fellow masqueraders, from which comes the Trinidadian expression – “you can’t play mas’ and ‘fraid powder!”.
During the Egungun festival people wear masks to show outwardly that they are no longer themselves, that their body has been possessed by an ancestral spirit.
The ancestral spirits of the Yoruba are much more than just dead relatives, they play an active role in the daily life of the living. Believed to provide protection and guidance, there are numerous ways the ancestors communicate with the living, one of the most unique is their manifestation on earth in the form of masked spirits known as Egungun.
Ancient Khemet (Egypt)
The Greek scholar, Herodotus describes – during the 5thCentury – one of the ceremonial processions in Egypt: “… they come in barges, men and women together, a great number in each boat; on the way, some of the women keep up a continual clatter with castanets and some of the men play flutes, while the rest, both men and women, sing and clap their hands. Whenever they pass a town on the river-bank, they bring the barge close in-shore, some of the women continuing to act as I have said, while others shout abuse at the women of the place, or start dancing, or stand up and pull up their skirts. When they reach Bubastis, they celebrate the festival with elaborate sacrifices, and more wine is consumed than during all the rest of the year. The numbers that meet there are, according to native report, as many as seven hundred thousand men and women…”
Sounds like what today we would call a Carnival. Even in regard to Herodotus’ description of women pulling up their skirts, thousands of years later, at Carnival, they do the same thing.
Northern Edo Masquerades
Masking traditions are a major part of the Edo groups of Nigeria, who trace their beginnings to the kingdom of Benin, their neighbors to the south. Basic political units are formed from ritual ties. A council of elders within a number of Masquerade societies forms each small village’s government. Men and women of the Edo people belong to masquerade societies, whose primary responsibilities are to control anti-social forces and help to bring about a better, safer, and well-adjusted community or village.
The best-known of the Edo groups, the Okpella, use a widely varying range of mask types, which, according to some African artists, may take up to a year to complete. The masks that are created by the artist convey many different types of rituals and ceremonies. One example of this is a brilliant, white-faced mask representing “dead mothers”, appearing during the annual Olimi festival, which is held at the end of the dry season, and is worn by dancing kinsmen. This festival, as others do, signifies social control and ancestral reverence, celebrating the transitions of age-grades.
The Otsa festival embraces women dancers in addition to the male masquerade dancers. During the festival, the women come to the dance area with their masquerade celebration to sprinkle white chalk and water, which symbolizes peace and good luck. This festival annually celebrates the feast of Otsa to purify the land and reinforce community solidarity.
In addition to the masks and costumes worn during the masquerades, another vital component is the music and dance used to create the atmosphere that is conducive to capturing the essence of the spirit. The highly sophisticated dance helps expand more of the character being portrayed. Throughout the ceremony, the actions of the dancer may be something entirely different than the person beneath would normally portray. Atmospheric circumstances are another essential element to the success of the masquerade. The right mood and setting add to and enhance the integrity of the performance, inviting the spirits to join. The audience’s participation from the sidelines only adds to the intensity of the masquerade – clapping, singing, and dancing, allowing themselves to feel the spirit’s presence. This strong relationship between human and spirits is the grand hallmark of the Northern Edo Masquerades.
The Caribbean’s Carnivals all have several common themes, many originating from Trinidad and Tobago Carnival which is based on folklore, culture, religion, and tradition. Carnival tradition is based on a number of disciplines including: “Playing Mas”/Masquerade; Calypso Music and crowning a Calypso King or Monarch; Panorama (Steel Band Competition); Jouvert morning; and a number of other traditions.
Jankunu (“Junkanoo”) is a street parade with music that occurs in many towns across The Bahamas every Boxing Day (December 26), New Year’s Day and, more recently, in the summer on the island of Grand Bahamas. The largest Jankunu parade happens in Nassau, the capital. In the USA, there are also Jankunu parades in Miami, in June, Key West, in October and Knoxville, Tennessee in June.
Similar masquerades / street performance traditions, are found on other islands in the Caribbean.
Masks Get Funkdafied
Shay Lhea – owner and product designer of Oculto Steam Masks, which features a wide array of luxury, wearable disguises she considers to be ‘Alter Egos’ – recently discovered Steamfunk after reading a blog I wrote as a guest of author Pip Ballantine’s and Tee Morris’ Aether Feature, from their excellent Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences website.
Shay found Steamfunk fascinating and has decided to create a Steamfunk line of masks. I am looking forward to seeing what she comes up with. I am sure it will be brilliant, as Shay has years of experience using her extraordinary artistic vision, skill and talent in the creation of unique and innovative Steampunk – and many other – styles of masks.
Her adventure began when she journeyed to New Orleans for Mardis Gras and – on a whim – decided to make masks for her herself and for her best friend. Folks from The Big Easy descended upon Shay like ants at a picnic, demanding to know where she purchased such a beautiful mask and how they could buy one. It was then that she realized a mask shop was in her head and desperately needed to escape into reality and voila! Oculto Masks was born!
Oculto creates both ready-to-wear and custom-made Steampunk and carnival/masquerade-style masks.
“I started making masks because witnessing how people felt and acted behind them mesmerized me,” she went on to say.
Shay seeks to use her masks to unmask the human psyche; to “set an artistic platform where truth can be expressed and prevail.” We look forward to her unmasking the psychedelic psyche of the Steamfunkateer.
We will keep you updated as things progress. More funky goodness to come soon!
Milton Davis – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com andwww.wagadu.ning.com .
Ray Dean – Growing up in Hawaii, Ray Dean had the opportunity to enjoy nearly every culture under the sun. The Steamfunk Anthology was an inspiration she couldn’t pass up. Ray can be reached at http://www.raydean.net/.
Malon Edwards – Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Malon Edwards now lives in the Greater Toronto Area. Much of his speculative fiction features people of color and is set in his hometown. Malon can be reached ateastofmars.blogspot.com.
Valjeanne Jeffers – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/ .
Rebecca M. Kyle – With a birthday on Friday 13, it’s only natural that the author is fascinated with myths, legends, and oddities of all kinds. Ms. Kyle lives with her husband, four cats, and more rocks and books than she cares to count between the Smokies and Cumberland mountains. Visit her at http://bexboox13.blogspot.com/.
Carole McDonnell – is a writer of Christian, supernatural, and ethnic stories. Her writings appear in various anthologies, including So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonialism in Science Fiction, edited by Nalo Hopkinson; Jigsaw Nation; and Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: Writings by Mature Women of Color among others. Her reviews appear in print and at various online sites. Her novels are the Christian speculative fiction, Wind Follower, and The Constant Tower. Her Bible study is called: Seeds of Bible Study. Her website is http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/.
Balogun Ojetade – Author of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steamfunk); “Once Upon A Time in Afrika” (Sword and Soul); “Redeemer” (Urban Fantasy) and the film, “A Single Link” and “Rite of Passage”. Finally, he is Co-Author of “Ki-Khanga: The Anthology” and Co-Editor of “Steamfunk!” Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.
Hannibal Tabu – is a writer, a storyteller, and by god, a fan. He has written the novels, “The Crown: Ascenscion” and “Faraway” and the upcoming scifi political thriller “Rogue Nation.” He is currently the co-owner and editor-in-chief of Black geek website Komplicated at the Good Men Project, and uses his Operative Network website (www.operative.net) to publish his poetry, market what he’s doing, rant at the world and emit strangled cries for help.
Geoffrey Thorne – Geoffrey Thorne has written a lot of stuff in a lot of venues and will be writing more in more. It’s his distinct pleasure to take part in another of these groundbreaking anthologies. Thanks for letting me roll with you folks. For more (and God knows why you’d want more) check outhttp://www.geoffreythorne.com/.
A Two-Fisted Dieselfunk Tale!
Dr. A.C. Jackson dashed into Examination Room Four. His assistant of three years, nurse Rita McCray, crouched by the window. Her face was a mask of fear and shock. “What is it, Rita? What’s wrong?”
“Those rubes have Reverend Mason surrounded in the street!” Nurse McCray cried.
“What?” Dr. Jackson gasped as he ran to the window.
He knelt beside Rita and peered over the window sill.
Four white men – their clothes and boots spotted with dirt and splashes of blood – surrounded a pudgy black man whom Dr. Jackson quickly recognized as Reverend Malcolm Mason, pastor of Third Baptist Church.
“I’m going out there,” Dr. Jackson said, leaping to his feet.
Rita grabbed his wrist and held his hand to her chest. “Dr. Jackson, don’t! You’ll just get yourself killed.”
“I have to do something,” Dr. Jackson said.
“Look out there,” Rita said, thrusting her finger toward the window. “The movie theater…my brother’s grocery store…the hospital…all on fire! Those devils have brought Hell to Greenwood. The best we can do now is lay low until this all blows over.”
An agonized scream tore across the blackened sky.
Dr. Jackson looked out the window in time to see Reverend Mason fall to the ground, blood pouring from a gaping wound in the side of his head.
Dr. Jackson slid down the wall and collapsed onto his haunches. “Damn, too late. Reverend Mason is…”
“I know,” Rita sobbed. “Reverend Mason was a good…”
A loud knock on the front door startled them.
Dr. Mason slowly rose to his feet. “Who?”
“Don’t go to the door,” Rita whispered.
“I have to,” Dr. Jackson replied. “Someone might need my help.”
He sauntered toward the door.
Another knock – this one stronger than the first – shook the mahogany door.
“Who is it?” Dr. Jackson called.
“My friend here is hurt and needs some medicine,” a nasal voice replied.
“You don’t sound like a negro,” Dr. Jackson said.
“You don’t either, boy,” the man on the other side of the door snickered.
“Please, go away,” Dr. Jackson shouted.
“Look, just give us some bandages and some medicine to stop pain and we’ll leave you and your place untouched,” the man replied. “We ain’t gonna hurt you, boy. Now open up!”
“Hold on,” Dr. Jackson said as he ran to a metal cabinet at the rear of the lobby of his practice. He yanked the cabinet door open and then withdrew two rolls of cloth bandages and a small jar filled with an amber cream.
Rita crept out of the examination room.
Dr. Jackson waved his hand toward the examination room as he shook his head. “Hide!”
Rita scurried back into Examination Room Four.
Dr. Jackson unlocked the front door and then opened it. He stepped outside and closed the door behind him.
Standing before the doctor were two men. One, he recognized from the Tulsa Star newspaper as Earl May, owner of May’s Masks, who was exonerated of the rape of a nine year old black girl. The other man, while dressed in soiled overalls and reeking of alcohol and sweat like his partner, seemed out of place. His brunette hair was immaculately groomed, his teeth were perfectly straight and there was not one blemish on his tan skin.
Neither man appeared to be injured at all.
Dr. Jackson extended the medical supplies toward Earl May. “Here you go. The salve is my own concoction; a mixture of arnica, camphor and brandy.”
“Now, that’s a shine for you,” the well-groomed man chuckled. “Smart and stupid all at the same time.”
“What? What do you mean?” Dr. Jackson asked.
Earl May leered at Dr. Jackson in a way that made the doctor feel like a rabbit that had just burrowed into a den of foxes.
“You should have stayed inside, boy,” Earl May said.
Dr. Jackson tossed the bandages and salve into Earl May’s face and then spun on his heels and darted toward the door.
A loud boom rent the air.
A searing pain clawed its way through the doctor’s calf.
Dr. Jackson collapsed onto one knee.
A second shot struck Dr. Jackson’s lower back. He collapsed onto his side.
The doctor rolled onto his back, desperately grasping at consciousness yet feeling it slip between his fingers.
Dr. Jackson scooted toward the door, leaving a trail of blood in his wake.
The well-groomed man stomped the heel of his boot down into Dr. Jackson’s chest. “Do shines go to the same Hell as the white man? Why don’t you write me and let me know.”
Fire erupted from the muzzle of the well-groomed man’s revolver.
Waves of darkness and silence swept over the good doctor. His vision faded…his heart fluttered…and he was gone – taken by the waves to the land of Forever-Night.
“Is this…Heaven?” Dr. Jackson whispered.
“No, it is not.”
The voice was soft, yet strong, like a brass dinner bell. It did not, however, ring in his ears, but in the depths of his mind.
Dr. Jackson swallowed hard. “Hell, then?”
A soothing chime rang in his head. The rhythm and tone of the chime gave Dr. Jackson the feeling that it was giggling.
“Not Hell, either,” the chiming voice sang. “You are at the crossroad between the realm of the quick and that of the dead.”
“And where are you?” Dr. Jackson said. “Please, show yourself.”
“Do you not see me?” The voice inquired. “Here, let me come a bit closer.”
The miniscule point of light flew toward Dr. Jackson until he could finally make out its shape.
“A scythe,” the voice chimed. “The scythe, actually. My name is Ikukulu.
“The scythe?” Dr. Jackson asked.
“Of Death,” Ikukulu answered.
“And you talk?”
“If not, you’re insane; you are holding a conversation with me, after all,” Ikukulu replied.
“True,” Dr. Jackson said, nodding in agreement. “So, am I dead?”
“Very,” Ikukulu answered. “However, I brought you here to offer you a second chance at life.”
“How? Why?” Dr. Jackson asked.
“When I venture out with my master to gather the dead, I am always amazed – and somewhat puzzled, I must admit – by the struggle you mortals put up to stay alive,” Ikukulu replied. “Life and Death are merely phases of existence, yet you cling to Life as if it is the most precious thing in creation. I want to experience Life in the way you do in hopes that I might one day understand.”
“And just what do you need me for?”
“I want to become one with your Ori Inu – your subconscious mind,” Ikukulu replied. “Doing so will allow me to feel what you feel; do what you do; be who you are. In exchange, I will grant you life…and a portion of my power, so you can avenge your death and the deaths of all those people in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
“Just agree and I will return you to the realm of the quick posthaste.”
“I…I agree,” Dr. Jackson whispered.
“Excellent!” Ikukulu sang.
The tiny scythe flew into the gaping gunshot wound in Dr. Jackson’s skull.
A cold, white light fell over Dr. Jackson like a blanket. He felt himself moving through something thick and gummy and dank.
A moment later, he was on his knees in the doorway of the torched remains of his practice.
Dr. Jackson pulled himself to his feet and perused his surroundings. Most of the shops, churches and schools were burned to the ground. The sky was black with smoke and great craters dotted the streets. Not one living soul – besides the doctor – was anywhere to be seen.
Dr. Jackson sprinted across the street toward where West’s Funeral Home used to sit. He stopped at a chocolate-colored hearse that was parked in the driveway and peeked through the driver’s window. The key was in the ignition, where old man West always left it.
Dr. Jackson opened the driver’s door. He caught a quick glimpse of his reflection in the lantern mounted on the side of the hearse. He snapped his head toward the lantern and stared – in shock – at his reflection. The bullet wound in his forehead was closed and not even a scar was evident. He appeared to be fifteen years younger than his forty-six years of age and his salt-and-pepper hair was now jet-black.
He rubbed his fingers across his smooth cheeks, shaking his head in disbelief. “A second chance at life, indeed.”
Dr. Jackson slid into the driver’s seat of the hearse and turned the key. The car coughed and spat in protest and then came to life.
Dr. Jackson hit the accelerator and the hearse sped off, leaving behind his beloved ‘Negro Wall Street.’
Dr. Jackson brought the hearse to a stop across the street from May’s Masks.
The street was quiet. The smell of baked bread, engine oil and iron assaulted his nostrils.
He crept toward the dimly lit mask shop. When he was within a foot of the door, he felt a slight tug on his insides, as if his internal organs were being pulled by lines of fishing wire. He did not resist the pull as it grew stronger, the pull becoming a hard yank.
And then, he vanished in a cloud of dirt, which reeked of decay, mildew and muck.
A moment later, he reappeared inside of Earl May’s shop.
The corners of Dr. Jackson’s mouth curled upward into a smile. Thanks to Ikukulu – the Scythe – he now had power and he was eager to show Earl May just how much.
A low, clanking noise issued from the back room.
Dr. Jackson crept toward the sound until before him sat Earl May, pounding away at a Death’s-head mask formed of tin.
Lost in his work and with his back to Dr. Jackson, May took no notice as the doctor sauntered toward him.
“Nice work,” Dr. Jackson whispered.
May leapt to his feet and turned to face Dr. Jackson with his hammer raised high above his head. “Who the hell?”
May’s eyes widened in shock as he recognized the man standing before him, his suit caked in blood and reeking of death. “No…it can’t be! We killed you!”
Earl May brought the hammer down.
Doctor Jackson raised his arm to block the blow.
The hammer slammed into the doctor’s forearm with a loud crack.
The head of the hammer flew across the room as the hammer’s haft shattered.
To Dr. Jackson, the strike felt no more bothersome than a blow from a rolled up newspaper.
The doctor countered with a strike of his own, his fist flying into Earl May’s chest like a cannonball.
The mask maker slid backward, coming to an abrupt stop when his back collided with the wall behind him.
May collapsed onto his knees, clutching at his chest as he struggled to suck in quick, erratic breaths between his slack and drooling lips.
“Can’t breathe, eh?” Dr. Jackson said as he crept toward Earl May. “Your sternum is fractured. Tell me the name of the man who shot me in the head and I’ll fix you right up.”
May lowered his gaze. A line of spittle fell onto his lap.
Dr. Jackson drove his knee into May’s bicep.
May screamed in agony as the bones in his upper arm shattered from the pulverizing force of the blow.
“I will break every bone in your boorish body if you don’t tell me the man’s name right now.”
“Okay, okay!” May cried. “He’s my cousin…lives in Atlanta, Georgia…”
“His name!” Dr. Jackson hissed.
“Woodruff,” Earl May gasped. “Ernest Woodruff.”
A beautiful woman, with cinnamon skin and a strut like a lioness on the hunt, stormed into A.C. Jackson’s office.
“What’s wrong, Marie?” The doctor asked.
“That Scythe cat hit another Coca-Cola truck, Dr. Cygnet,” she replied, calling him by the name he had worn since relocating to Atlanta a little over a year ago.
“Scythe?” the doctor inquired, feigning ignorance.
“That’s what all the newspapers are calling him,” Marie replied. “He keeps sabotaging Coca-Cola shipments, setting the trucks on fire…terrorizing the drivers. Deliveries to pharmacies are late as hell. I ordered a crate a week ago and still haven’t gotten it.”
Marie’s curly, brown hair danced upon her shoulders as she shook her head. “I can’t run a pharmacy without Coca-Cola! Applesauce!”
“Negroes need to get together and we make our own fountain drink,” Dr. ‘Cygnet’ said.
“Earl Woodruff would burn Auburn Avenue to the ground if we tried that,” Marie said. “There wouldn’t be a…applesauce! I am so sorry, Dr. Cygnet.
“It’s okay,” Dr. Cygnet replied.
“No, it’s not,” Marie sighed, lowering her gaze. “After all you went through in Tulsa…I should have been more sensitive to that.”
“If you didn’t speak your mind, you wouldn’t be you, Marie,” Dr. Cygnet said, gently raising her chin with the tips of his fingers. “Don’t change that; it’s one of the things everyone loves about you.”
The doctor kissed Marie on the forehead.
Marie’s cheeks reddened. “Well, ain’t you the bee’s knees?!”
“And the cat’s meow,” Dr. Cygnet said, walking toward the door. “And for the hundredth time, call me Jerry…we’re partners.”
“Negro doctors don’t get the recognition they deserve,” Marie said. “So, I want the world to give you your due. Besides, one day, you’re gonna be my husband, so I wanna show you off.”
“Your husband?” Dr. Cygnet chuckled. “We haven’t even gone out to dinner yet.”
“I guess we’d better do something about that, then,” Marie said.
“How about this Friday? Dr. Cygnet asked. “At the Municipal Market?”
“It’s a date,” Marie replied.
Dr. Cygnet nodded, tossed his fedora onto his head and stepped a foot out of the door. “I have a house-call; if it runs long, I will see you in the morning.”
“Be safe, Doc’,” Marie said.
“Always,” Dr. Cygnet replied as he left the office. “Safer than Citizen’s Trust.”
The tin Death’s-head mask he had taken from Earl May’s shop – now tarnished a dull grey – turned each exhalation from his nostrils into an eerie, metallic hiss.
The mask, his mahogany, leather vest, mahogany denim trousers, dark brown boots and worn leather gaiters gave him the appearance of a militant Papa Ghede – the Haitian Vodoun spirit of the grave. A fitting image for the Scythe of Death.
A flash of red and white whizzed by the hearse.
The Scythe whipped the hearse onto Peachtree Street and he took off behind the speeding truck.
He slammed the heel of his combat boot down onto the accelerator as his gloved hand shifted the hearse into high gear.
The vehicle flew down Peachtree Street like a bullet fired from a carbine, quickly closing on the Coca-Cola truck.
The Scythe cut the wheel hard as the hearse came upon the truck’s left flank.
The hearse slammed into the side of the truck.
The truck swerved to the right, squealing as its driver tried to right the vehicle.
The Scythe slammed the hearse into the truck’s flank once more.
The smell of burnt rubber filled the air as the truck’s brakes and wheels struggled against the hearse’s onslaught.
The truck came to a crashing halt, its right side bending around the thick trunk of an old oak tree.
The Scythe parked the hearse a few feet behind the truck and then hopped out onto the dark street.
He vanished in a putrid cloud of dirt and then appeared a moment later at the driver’s side door of the Coca-Cola truck. He dug his fingers into the door and then ripped it off its frame.
With a snap of his wiry arms, the door somersaulted through the air, crashing to the ground several yards away.
The Scythe reached into the truck, wrapping his fingers around the dazed driver’s neck.
“No, please,” the driver cried.
The Scythe yanked the driver out of the truck and tossed him onto the pavement.
He waved his hand across the driver’s face. A second later, the driver went pale and he began to thrust his palms before and above him, as if he was trying to escape from an invisible box.
“No! Let me out of here!” The driver shouted. “The walls…closing in…can’t…breathe…can’t…”
The Scythe of Death stepped around to the back of the truck. He studied the large padlock that secured the sliding door. With one stomp, the lock snapped and fell to the ground. He pushed the door upward and inspected its contents. Inside were forty wooden crates, all marked with the Coca-Cola logo.
The Scythe stacked three of the crates on top of each other and then carried them to the back of the hearse, where he loaded them in.
He then withdrew a stick of dynamite and a match from the hearse. He struck the match on the palm of his glove and used it to light the stick of dynamite.
He tossed the explosive into the back of the Coca-Cola truck and then leapt into the hearse and sped off.
He peered at his side mirror and watched the Coca-Cola truck erupt into a ball of fire.
A metallic laugh hissed from the mask as The Scythe sped away into the night.
Ernest Woodruff pounded his fist onto his redwood desk. “Find him; give him the Broderick and then bring his battered body to me so I can lay eyes on that hatchet man’s mug before I bash it in!”
“No disrespect, but that won’t be easy, boss,” the driver from the previous night’s attack by the Scythe of Death said.
“What?” Woodruff spat.
“Like I said, no disrespect meant, Mr. Woodruff,” the driver said, his blistered face leaking pus onto the collar of his uniform shirt. “But the Scythe…he ain’t no ordinary lug. The way he moves…the things he can do…it’s like he’s magic or somethin’.”
“Magic, huh?” Woodruff said. “Well, if he is magic, he will be brought down by the best magician money can buy.”
“Harry Houdini?” The driver asked.
“No, Houdini is an escape artist…a prestidigitator,” Woodruff replied. “I’m talking about real magic…and a real magician…Dai Vernon.”
“Someone is in a good mood,” Dr. Cygnet said.
“When I got here, I found not one crate of Coca-Cola at our door, but three!” Marie said. “Ain’t that the bee’s knees?!”
“It certainly is,” Dr. Cygnet replied. “How did this minor miracle happen?”
“I don’t know,” Marie said. “I’m just grateful that…”
The door flew open, interrupting them. Two men entered – one, dressed in a tailored, navy-blue silk suit and a navy blue Hamburg hat. The other, dressed in a Coca-Cola uniform – and approached Marie and the doctor.
Doctor Cygnet recognized the man in uniform as the driver of the Coca-Cola truck he attacked the previous night.
“How can we help you, gentlemen?” Dr. Cygnet asked.
“The shine…umm…shoeshine man who works in the lobby of our place of employment told us the pharmacist here sells an over-the-counter salve that works wonders on burns and for pain,” the man in the suit replied. “As you can see, my friend here is in need.”
“Well, then, follow me,” Marie said, walking toward her section of the practice.
The men followed closely behind Marie, admiring her curvy body as she glided behind her glass display case.
Inside the case were several bottles of medicine, jars of salve and bottles of Coca-Cola.
“I see you work for Coca-Cola,” Marie said, nodding toward the driver’s shirt.
“Yes, I do,” the driver said. “We both do. My name’s Mr. Wallace and this here’s Mr. Wilson.
“Pleased to meet you both,” Marie said. “I’m Marie; Marie Lefleur. Thank Mr. Woodruff for me, won’t you?”
“Thank him for what?” Mr. Wilson asked.
“For the two extra crates of Coca-Cola that was shipped to me,” Marie answered. “I figure the company did it to make up for the late shipment. Nice touch.”
Mr. Wallace and Mr. Wilson exchanged glances.
“Well, here you go,” Marie said, placing a jar of white cream on top of the display case. “That’ll be two dollars.”
Mr. Wilson slid a five dollar note across the counter toward Marie and then picked up the jar of salve. “Keep the change.”
Marie plucked the note from the counter and slipped it into the pocket of her frock.
The men turned and headed toward the door.
“See you around,” Mr. Wallace said over his shoulder.
“You’d better hope not,” Dr. Cygnet said, stepping out of the shadows in the lobby.
“What’s that?” Mr. Wilson inquired, leering at Dr. Cygnet.
“If you see us again, that would mean you suffered some sort of trauma…some sort of calamity,” Dr. Cygnet replied.
“I suppose so,” Mr. Wilson said, opening the door. “Have a great day.”
“You, too,” Dr. Cygnet said.
The men left the office, allowing the door to slam behind them.
The door creaked open.
Marie snapped her head toward the door. “I’m sorry, we’re closed.”
Mr. Wilson – and two more equally well-dressed men – sauntered into the office.
“Doctor Lefleur, right?” Mr. Wilson said. “These are my colleagues – Mr. Pratt and Mr. Turner.
“It’s Miss Lefleur,” Marie said. “I have a Doctorate degree in Pharmacy, so technically, yes; however, I am not a medical doctor and – not to be rude – but as I said before, we’re closed for the evening, so if you’ll please follow me…”
“What’s the rush?” Wilson asked. “Got a hot date?”
“Actually, I do,” Marie replied. “Now, please, go.”
Mr. Pratt and Mr. Turner lurched forward and grabbed Marie’s arms.
“We’re going,” Mr. Wilson said. “And you’re coming with us.”
“Let me go, damn it!” Marie screamed.
“Shut your mouth, smoke,” Mr. Wilson spat. “Or I’ll skin your black…”
“The lady said let her go.”
Wilson whirled around toward the metallic, hissing voice.
The Scythe stood in the doorway, the setting sun forming an eerie, silver-crimson aura around him.
“And if we don’t?” Mr. Wilson asked.
“Then, I’ll do this…” the Scythe of Death whispered, vanishing in a cloud of dirt.
Half a heartbeat later, he appeared an inch from Mr. Pratt’s back.
The Scythe wrapped his arms around Mr. Pratt’s neck and then vanished with him. The air within the lobby was replaced with foul-smelling dirt, which left Marie, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Turner gagging and unable to see more than an inch in front of their faces.
Mr. Pratt’s tortured screams tore through the putrid cloud. Mr. Turner jumped at the blood-curdling din.
Marie snatched her arm from Mr. Turner’s grasp, dropped to her knees and – using her familiarity with the environment in lieu of her vision – crawled to her counter and took refuge behind it.
Mr. Wilson and Mr. Turner stumbled out of the office and onto Auburn Avenue, coughing the rank dirt out of their lungs and brushing it from their clothes.
The Scythe appeared before them.
“Where’s Pratt?” Mr. Turner spat as he thrust his thick fingers into his suit jacket.
The Scythe exploded forward, driving his elbow into Mr. Turner’s collarbone.
Mr. Turner screamed as his hand slid out of his jacket and fell to his side. His revolver hit the ground with a metallic thud as his arm bounced lifelessly against his thigh.
“That is a fractured clavicle,” Lazarus said, pointing at the bulge in Mr. Turner’s collar. “And this…”
The Scythe thrust the heel of his boot downward into Mr. Turner’s knee.
A sickening din – like the trunk of an old oak snapping under the force of a gale wind – followed.
Mr. Turner collapsed onto his back, screaming in agony.
“…is a torn lateral meniscus.”
“You crazy son-of-a-bitch!” Wilson drew his revolver and squeezed the trigger.
The Scythe vanished just before the bullet met its mark.
He appeared before Wilson, thrusting his arm forward. The tips of his fingers speared Wilson’s throat.
Wilson staggered backward, clutching at his crushed windpipe.
A burning sensation suddenly shot across the back of The Scythe’s upper arm. He stared at it. A trail of blood spiraled down his forearm out of a thin gash in the flesh of his triceps.
He perused the area for his attacker.
A black Rolls Royce Silver Ghost limousine sat in the middle of the street.
A cabin door of the limousine opened. A man, dressed in a black, tailcoat tuxedo, exited the vehicle. In one hand, he held his top-hat, which he slowly slid onto his head. In the other hand, he held a deck of cards, which were spread like a fan.
The man drew a card and – with a flick of his wrist – hurled it at The Scythe.
The Scythe lunged sideways.
The card zipped past him, striking the door of the doctor’s office. One corner of the card embedded itself deep into it.
He looked over his shoulder at the card – the tarot card of Death.
“Good evening, sir,” the man said, bowing with a dramatic tip of his top-hat. “Please, allow me to introduce myself. I am Dai Vernon…magician extraordinaire.”
The Scythe replied with a sweeping wave of his hand.
Mr. Wilson and Mr. Turner forgot their pain as they were ensnared in the crushing grip of fear.
Both men wailed in terror as they struggled to escape the stifling confines of some invisible grave.
Dai Vernon fell to his knees, his breathing shallow; his eyes wide with consternation.
The magician fumbled with his cards. With trembling fingers, he drew one from the deck. He licked the back of the card and then slapped it onto his forehead.
Lazarus peered at the card – an illustration of a broadsword with a golden crown hovering over it – the Ace of Swords.
The card seemed to shift; to liquefy. Its edges melted into Dai Vernon’s forehead, becoming one with the tanned flesh. The sword and the crown oozed into the shape of a closed, vertical eye. The eye blinked several times and then opened wide. Vernon no longer appeared to be afraid.
The magician stood and – with rapid flicks of his wrist – unleashed a volley of tarot cards.
The cards sped toward the Scythe of Death, whistling as they cut through the night air.
The Scythe disappeared in a cloud of dirt.
He reappeared before Dai Vernon and then lunged forward, driving the side of his head into the magician’s nose.
Dai Vernon staggered backward, a web of blood spreading across his face.
The Scythe exploded forward, whipping his left leg in a wide arc. His shin slammed into Vernon’s abdomen.
The magician flew backward, landing, with a thud, on the hood of the limousine. A trickle of blood fell from the corner of his mouth.
“That pain you feel is a ruptured liver,” The Scythe said, appearing over the magician. He raised his fists above his head. “The pain you are about to feel is your face being pulverized into dust.”
The Scythe brought his fists down with frightful force. His fists, however, met only the magician’s tuxedo and top-hat, which Dai Vernon was no longer in.
The hood of the limousine collapsed under the force of The Scythe’s blow. The front tires issued a loud popping sound and then hissed in protest as they fell flat.
He spun toward a rustling sound behind him.
Standing before him was Dai Vernon, now dressed in a white, double-breasted suit, white shoes and a white fedora. A red rose sat in hi lapel.
Vernon held up his fists. Between each finger protruded a tarot card. The cards were fused with the flesh, forming rectangular claws.
The magician smiled and then sprang forward, slashing furiously with his ‘tarot-claws’.
The Scythe parried and evaded the blows with feline grace.
One strike, however, met its mark, rending his glove and opening a deep gash in the back of his hand.
Another strike ripped open the flesh on his chest.
The Scythe grabbed Vernon’s wrist and pulled him forward and off his feet.
Dai Vernon stumbled forward.
The Scythe hammered his fist into the middle of Vernon’s forearm.
The magician’s arm made a loud, snapping noise as it bent upward at an odd angle.
Dai Vernon shrieked in agony.
He twisted Vernon’s wrist and forcefully pushed the magician’s fist toward his own chin. He swiped the magician’s claws across his own neck, slitting Dai Vernon’s throat.
Blood sprayed from the wound in a wide arc and then rained down on the magician’s suit, polka-dotting it with splotches of red.
The Scythe of Death vanished in a cloud of dirt as Dai Vernon fell, lifeless, onto the pavement.
He appeared in the lobby of the doctor’s office. “Ms. Lefleur?”
Marie rose from behind her counter, her fists raised below her chin. “Come on, then. Let’s dance!”
“I mean you no harm, Ms. Lefleur,” he said. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“Actually, I do,” Marie replied. “But thanks to you, my dress is all covered in stinky dirt now, so…”
“Go home and change,” The Scythe said. “I am sure he will still be waiting for you when you reach your destination.”
“He?” Marie’s eyes widened with shock. “How do you…”
“As dolled-up as you are…it has to be for a ‘he’,” The Scythe said. “Now, go; and don’t fret, these men won’t darken your door ever again.”
Marie went to the door and peeked outside. “Dang, I guess they won’t. Your handiwork?”
“Okay, then,” Marie said, stepping out the door.
She poked her head back into the lobby. “Thanks.”
“Go,” The Scythe whispered.
Marie’s head vanished from view. A moment later, the door slammed shut with a loud bang.
“I gotta get that fixed,” The Scythe said, shaking his head.
And then he vanished in a cloud of dirt.
SWING DOWN, SWEET CHARIOT, STOP AND LET ME RIDE: A Steamfunk sneak-peek!
Greetings, Steamfunkateers! We are broadcasting live from the airship Sweet Chariot, which is now docked at AnachroCon, where great fun, good food, drink and entertainment and a whole lot of learning is taking place.
Many new recruits to the crew of Sweet Chariot have signed on, given their oath of allegiance to the Funk and have purchased their copy of the Steamfunkateers’ first guide to funktastic – Steamfunk!
Below, I offer a sampling of just four of those stories and will give more sneak peeks as we continue to tour this Blacknificent anthology.
Benjamin’s Freedom Magic
By Ronald T. Jones
The Confederate stars and bars waved high above the mansion belonging to the Jensen family. Five airships descended upon the estate in V formation. The lead airship, larger than the others, landed softly on a patch of gray tarmac, its side-mounted turbines shifting horizontally to cushion its descent. Blasts of steam whooshed out of the craft’s side and top vents as its landing struts touched the surface with an impact lighter than a feather’s kiss.
Tough Night in Tommyville
By Melvin Carter
Thomasville had been founded one hundred and twenty-seven years back, and named after an eastern entrepreneur, Benjamin Thomas. Mr. Thomas and his public relations departments, both in house and hired, had webbed a myth that portrayed him as frontier born, bear and buffalo wrestling hellion, who became both a guide and later a scout for General ‘Ham Fist’ Hammond and his elite Eleventh Lancers. An all around American Hero, he was. The reality was that he had only been west of the Lanyard and into the North West Territories twice.
His only true adventure had been an upriver journey to get trading rights with the Chippewa-Sioux. The second, was as an older and wealthier man, dedicating a statue, to “Corny” Cornelius Opopo, a real frontiersman among whose accomplishments were, he had prevented one who had grown so fed up with the whining of Mr. Thomas on the expedition, from splitting his fat skull. Over the decades the bronze statue became that of the 5’6” potbellied businessman, rather than the 6’2” West-Man. Thomasville had become an important trade hub by that time. Not even the tornado of ’67, the occupation by regional separatists in ’73, nor the subsequent pitched battle in the Regulars counteroffensive.
Once A Spider
By Rebecca M. Kyle
A woman’s terrified scream forced Nansi to move with her day-to-night transition incomplete. Off-balance, despite the many years of nightly changes from two legs to eight, she raced through the tangle of alleys along the river toward the sound. Somewhere in the city, a big cat stalked, claiming the lives of citizens nearly every night. Nansi’s goal was to stop the deaths.
Keep to the shadows, her eight-legged mind, bent on survival, tried to assert itself. Hurry, her still-human heart urged. So she sped along on her eight legs, using the smoke from stacks to camouflage her inky form.
If the night sky wasn’t so thick with fog, the moon would be eclipsed by beautifully colored pleasure balloons owned by the wealthiest who enjoyed soaring above the city and looking down upon the silver ribbons of rivers and snow-capped mountains. Dirigibles, both great and small, also flew in more clement weather. These more sturdy crafts served for long-distance travel and the city’s emergency services, including the police and fire brigades.
So far, none of the denizens of this fog-bound city where a wide river met the sea were aware of her dual identity, but that could change any time. The more the cat killed, the more in danger the other shadowy residents of the city were.
The Tunnel at the End of the Light
By Geoffrey Thorne
Ol’ Moby spun slowly in the airtides, creaking and groaning as the pressure pushed it this way and that, giving the false but persistent impression that it was alive.
The giant spokes, interlocking like spider webs, the great corroded drum squatting at the hub, even the enormous bolts protruding from the thing like huge dead eyes, somehow implied the presence of some great beast or skeeter.
Of course it was neither of these things. The nearest anybody had been able to tell was that Ol’ Moby, one of the bigger wrecks floating in the misty aether a few leagues from Breaktown, was that it had been home to some manner of elseworldly persons many, many turns ago.
Those persons were all gone to dust now, leaving no clue about themselves or how they’d found their way into the Other Country.
Nowatimes only the homesteaders and the damned Morikans had any real presence and, of the two, only the homesteaders had been of a mind to take the place for what it was and put down roots.
I hope you enjoyed the excerpts from these funktastic tales dear Steamfunkateers!
Be sure to pick up your copy of the Steamfunk anthology and enjoy all the funky goodness found therein!
Also, please check out the blogs of several authors who contributed stories to Steamfunk. We will give away sneak peeks – and maybe some funky prizes, too – over the next several days. The authors and their pages are:
Milton Davis – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com andwww.wagadu.ning.com .
Ray Dean – Growing up in Hawaii, Ray Dean had the opportunity to enjoy nearly every culture under the sun. The Steamfunk Anthology was an inspiration she couldn’t pass up. Ray can be reached at http://www.raydean.net/.
Malon Edwards – Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Malon Edwards now lives in the Greater Toronto Area. Much of his speculative fiction features people of color and is set in his hometown. Malon can be reached at eastofmars.blogspot.com.
Valjeanne Jeffers – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy / Steamfunk novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/ .
Rebecca M. Kyle – With a birthday on Friday 13, it’s only natural that the author is fascinated with myths, legends, and oddities of all kinds. Ms. Kyle lives with her husband, four cats, and more rocks and books than she cares to count between the Smokies and Cumberland mountains. Visit her at http://bexboox13.blogspot.com/.
Carole McDonnell – is a writer of Christian, supernatural, and ethnic stories. Her writings appear in various anthologies, including So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonialism in Science Fiction, edited by Nalo Hopkinson; Jigsaw Nation; and Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: Writings by Mature Women of Color among others. Her reviews appear in print and at various online sites. Her novels are the Christian speculative fiction, Wind Follower, and The Constant Tower. Her Bible study is called: Seeds of Bible Study. Her website is http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/.
Balogun Ojetade – Author of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steamfunk); “Once Upon A Time in Afrika” (Sword and Soul); “Redeemer” (Urban Fantasy) and the films, “A Single Link” and “Rite of Passage”. Finally, he is Co-Author of “Ki-Khanga: The Anthology” and Co-Editor of “Steamfunk!” Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.
Hannibal Tabu – is a writer, a storyteller, and by god, a fan. He has written the novels, “The Crown: Ascenscion” and “Faraway” and the upcoming scifi political thriller “Rogue Nation”. He is currently the co-owner and editor-in-chief of Black geek website Komplicated at the Good Men Project, and uses his Operative Network website (www.operative.net) to publish his poetry, market what he’s doing, rant at the world and emit strangled cries for help.
Geoffrey Thorne – Geoffrey Thorne has written a lot of stuff in a lot of venues and will be writing more in more. It’s his distinct pleasure to take part in another of these groundbreaking anthologies. Thanks for letting me roll with you folks. For more (and God knows why you’d want more) check out http://www.geoffreythorne.com/.
THE MAKING OF A STEAMFUNK FEATURE FILM: The Big Budget Version
I am – at present – writing the final draft of Rite of Passage – a screenplay based on the Steamfunk series of tales, Rite of Passage, which are based on author Milton Davis’ story of the same title.
The movie will begin production in the fall.
Recently, I was asked if I had a budget of one hundred million dollars, who would play the characters in the film. Since my wife has one of the lead roles as Harriet Tubman, I of course said I would keep my wife in the role of Harriet Tubman – for one, I don’t feel like sleeping on the couch; secondly, I honestly feel she has the look, toughness and movie martial arts skills required to pull off the role better than anyone else I can think of.
Another role I would not change is that of Dorothy Wright, played by Dasie Thames. Dasie is an exceptional actor and singer with extensive experience on the stage and screen. During our fighting and stunt boot camp – wherein we teach actors to look like warriors, soldiers, assassins and professional fighters; and professional martial artists and fighters to modify their techniques so they look good on camera, or before a live audience – Dasie picked up fight choreography with ease and, within just two hours of the camp, she was convincing as a character who had received several years of hard training in the martial arts.
As for the other roles, after long contemplation, I came up with a list.
I give you my Rite of Passage Dream Team and a peak into the main and main supporting characters of the very first Steamfunk feature film. Enjoy!
Spy, warrior and hunter of monsters and men who even monsters fear. Harriet Tubman is a conductor for the Underground Railroad, which, in the world of Rite of Passage, means she has powers, skills and access to technology far beyond the average person.
Harriet Tubman is iron-fisted mentor to the likes of John Henry and Sherlock Holmes and is self-appointed protector of the town of Nicodemus, Kansas – a western town established by African-Americans during the Reconstruction Period following the American Civil War.
ACTOR: Iyalogun Ojetade
Bass Reeves’s life story is a true saga of commitment and contribution. It is a real Wild West story that very few fiction writers could have ever imagined. Bass Reeves’s law enforcement career was a testimony to a life of truth, honesty, and justice.
A badass of the highest order, Bass Reeves became a Deputy U.S. Marshal in 1875 at the age of 38. During his 32-year career as a Deputy Marshal, Reeves was responsible for the arrest of 3,000 violent felons and for killing 14 outlaws, without ever being shot.
Reeves possesses uncanny skills of detection and investigation, an acerbic wit and three firearms – a Sharp’s carbine and a pair of Colt revolvers – that enable him to kill the unkillable.
ACTOR: Jeffrey Wright
Admit it; like me, you’ve always wanted to see the Steel Drivin’ Man kick more than just a steam-powered hammer’s ass. Many an author, comic book creator and Steampunk have re-imagined John Henry’s story and in every one, I bet mountains of opened cans of whoop-ass abound.
In Rite of Passage, John Henry has a dark past, a tortured present and an epic future.
He – and his hammers – thirsts for battle and as guardian of the town of Nicodemus – a seeming magnet for trouble and weird happenings – his cup runneth over.
ACTOR: Mehcad Brooks
A student of Harriet Tubman, who helped her escape through the Underground Railroad, Dottie trained diligently for years in the arts of combat, espionage, survival and escape. Dottie – now Dorothy – has become quite the soldier and freedom fighter in her own right and possessor of an ancient artifact that gives her some extraordinary abilities.
ACTOR: Dasie Thames (Dorothy); Sydney Park (Dottie)
Mr. Ross – hired gun for ruthless businessman, P.T. Barnum – spent years as Allen Pinkerton’s executive assistant (i.e. corporate spy and fixer) before hiring himself out to the highest bidder. Skilled in investigation, assassination, provocation, interrogation and a host of other useful “ations”, Ross is one of the most valued – and feared – “fixers” in America.
A keeper of his clients’ secrets, Ross, ironically, must keep a secret of his own; a secret that – if told before its proper time – could destroy us all.
ACTOR: Nathan Fillion
Beautiful, brilliant and wise, Lana is a woman John Henry could fall for, if she didn’t scare the hell out of him.
Lana is like a drill sergeant on steroids, but to make a man as hard as steel, can you be anything less?
ACTOR: Regina King
Mysterious; unstoppable; powerful beyond measure. This description just scratches the surface of who – or what – this ebon-skinned giant is. Harriet Tubman’s teacher and friend and guardian of one of the oldest and most powerful artifacts on the planet, Akingbe has lived several lifetimes and fought countless wars.
Battle hardened and world weary, Akingbe seeks to pass his burden on to another poor soul.
ACTOR: Djimon Hounsou
THE NEXT BIG THING: Steamfunk, Sword & Soul and The Haunting of Truth High
The rules of this blog hop are simple and sweet: 1. Answer ten questions about your current Work In Progress on your blog; 2. Tag five writers / bloggers and add links to their pages so we can hop along to them next.
So, here goes – enjoy!
What is the working title of your book?
The working title of my next novel is The Haunting of Truth High.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Even though I am known for writing Steamfunk, Sword and Soul and Urban Fantasy, I am a horror writer at heart. I have always wanted to write a horror novel. I am also the father of seven daughters and a son. Six of my eight children read Young Adult Fiction and have asked when I will write something in that genre. A marriage of horror and YA fiction happened in my head and voila…The Haunting of Truth High was born.
What genre does your book fall under?
The Haunting of Truth High is Young Adult Horror Fiction, however, I’ve made it deep enough that adults will enjoy it too.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The main character, Renay is a beautiful, intelligent and talented teen, who is very popular in and outside of school. Her life, however, is troubled and in turmoil. Renay discovers she is a warrior, born with the power to slay ghosts and other vengeful spirits. The role would require a young actress who possesses depth, but also can take on the demands of a very physical and gritty role. I think Keke Palmer would be the perfect Renay.
Her love interest, Shawn, who introduces Renay to the dark and frightening spectral world, hides a dark secret. Although he is young, he was raised by ghost hunters, so he has experienced things most of the world has only had nightmares about. This has made him wise beyond his years, fearless and a bit stoic; however, he is also charismatic, witty and the epitome of cool. Corbin Bleu would make a great Shawn.
Renay’s autistic half-brother, Ricky, has the ability to see ghosts. While he cannot speak, he can draw nearly perfect illustrations of people with uncanny speed. Such a role would require an actor who can show emotions and evoke feelings without saying a word. Kyle Massey is perfect for the role of Ricky.
Finally, the main antagonist, Mr. Newsome, while appearing to be a lovable but firm band instructor, is sinister, creepy and the literally feeds off pain, sorrow and hatred. I would cast Phill Lewis in this frightening role.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A girl, whose life falls apart after the death of her father, discovers her true calling as a ghost hunter when her high school is overrun by vengeful spirits that feed on human emotions.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The Haunting of Truth High will be self-published through my new publishing company, Roaring Lions Productions.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am still writing it. I should have the first draft complete by May.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
While there are other works of Young Adult Horror Fiction, I would say the closest comparison would be Devil’s Wake, by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. Devil’s Wake, while a YA novel is still scary as hell and is a great read for older folks as well. In those ways, The Haunting of Truth High is similar, even though the premises are quite different.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by my love for horror movies, television and fiction and for my desire for my children to have more books with heroes who look and think like them.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
For those who read my Steamfunk, Urban Fantasy and Sword and Soul stories, you know my writing style. It is very visual, visceral, witty, and a bit frightening at times. Well, I am truly a horror writer at heart, so with The Haunting of Truth High, I went all out with the chills and thrills. Also, as a man with children who are voracious readers of YA fiction, I am intimately familiar with the YA genre and know what makes a YA book great. I also know and understand teens’ desires, goals and fears, which allows me to spin a tale that is scary, but at the same time, has heart.
Below are the links to the next chain of authors. Be sure to bookmark their sites and add their new releases to your calendars.
STEAMFUNK DEBUTS AT ANACHROCON 2013!
This is an exciting week for me. The greatest cosmological event of all time, in my humble opinion – my bEARTHday – is February 21. You are all invited to join me in celebration. In honor of that august day (can it be august in February?), complimentary drinks are on me!
Immediately following the celebration of my 25th solar return – that’s right, I said 25th (I am a Fantasy writer, after all) – is the long-awaited release of the Steamfunk anthology!
We will debut Steamfunk at AnachroCon on February 22, 2013. For those who don’t know, AnachroCon is, by their own definition, “the premier place in the Southern United States for people to celebrate Historical Reenacting, Alternate History, Steampunk, Sciences, Horror, Etiquette & Indulgence, Fashion, Fabrication, Literature & Media, Costuming and socialize with people of like minds.” Sounds like fun…and this year, AnachroCon gets fun-ky, as thousands of Steamfunkateers converge upon the convention to witness the unveiling of an anthology chock-full-o’ steamy and funky goodness!
To help us celebrate, the good folks at AnachroCon have given Steamfunk Co-Editor, Milton Davis, a table, where contributing authors to Steamfunk will sign books and hand out free hugs and handshakes. They have also made me a Guest and I will have the pleasure of speaking on a panel or two.
So, come on by and let’s funk up AnachroCon!
Following is a list of Funkateers and their Funktastic contributions to the Steamfunk Anthology:
Ronald T. Jones – Benjamin’s Freedom Magic
Malon Edwards – Mud Holes and Mississippi Mules
Hannibal Tabu – The Sharp Knife of a Short Life
P. Djeli Clark – Men in Black
Geoffrey Thorne – The Tunnel at the End of Light
Ray Dean – A Will of Steel
Kochava Greene – The Refuge
Carole McDonnell – Oh, Western Wind
Rebecca McFarland Kyle – Once a Spider
Josh Reynolds – The Lion Hunters
Melvin Carter – Tough Night in Tommyville
Valjeanne Jeffers – The Switch
Balogun Ojetade – Rite of Passage: Blood and Iron
Milton Davis – The Delivery
STEAMFUNK ENCHANTERS: Black Magicians, Conjurers and Soothsayers in the Age of Steam!
We return to our League of Extraordinary Black People series with a look at the great men and women whose lives were bolstered, or broken, by the arts of legerdemain, divination and prestidigitation. These virtuosos of voodoo, stage magic, fortune-telling and mesmerism all came to fame through the workings of the arcane.
Previously, we explored Dandies, Adventurers, Activists, Tinkerers and the Black Dispatches. Join us now, as we examine the lives and amazing abilities of more extraordinary Black people from the Age of Steam(funk)!
Richard Potter (1783 – 1835)
Potter was born in New Hampshire, the son of an English baronet and an African servant woman. He was educated in Europe before beginning his 25-year career as a performer in post-Revolutionary America. He lived with his father in Hopkinton, NH, until he married his wife, Sally, and had three children.
Potter is also credited as America’s first successful hypnotist and ventriloquist. One of the earliest records of his stage shows is November 2, 1811, in Boston at the Columbian Museum. The performance featured ventriloquism and magic. Potter is believed to be the first to use a ventriloquist’s dummy and could skillfully throw his voice, using human speech and sounds that perfectly imitated the chirping, cooing and caws of birds.
Potter performed in Boston, throughout New England, and Canada. Witnesses of Potter’s shows say he was able to walk through a log. The crowd that watched him do this assumed the log was hollow. But when they checked out the log for themselves they discovered it was completely solid! Another of Potter’s amazing tricks was his ability to take a ball of yarn and toss it high into the air, where it would slowly unravel. Potter would then climb up the yarn and vanish into the clouds to vanish before hundreds of spectators.
His shows also regularly included prestidigitation with eggs, money, and cards; throwing knives at assistants; touching a hot iron to his tongue; walking on flames; and dancing on eggs without breaking them.
Potter was very successful and it is said that he made $4800 for 20-day engagements in the early 1800s, allowing him to buy a 175-acre farm in Andover, New Hampshire, in the village now known as Potter’s Place. His story intrigued Harry Houdini, who became a huge fan.
JK Rowling, author of the mega-successful Harry Potter series of novels, explains the supposed origin of Harry Potter’s name: “Harry’ has always been my favourite boy’s name, so if my daughter had been a son, he would have been Harry Rowling. Then I would have had to choose a different name for “Harry” in the books, because it would have been too cruel to name him after my own son. “Potter” was the surname of a family who used to live near me when I was seven years old and I always liked the name, so I borrowed it.” However, sources close to Rowling say that she named the popular teen magician after famed stage magician Harry Houdini and his idol – the first known stage magician in America – Richard Potter.
Potter died on September 20, 1835. Sometime after his death and the death of his wife, Sally, the couple was buried in the front yard of their estate. A few years afterward, however, the house burned down. Potter and his wife’s graves were moved to their present site in 1849. All that remains to this day is a small plot with the gravestones behind the railroad station at Potter’s Place.
Marie Laveau (1794 – 1881)
Marie Catherine Laveau was born in New Orleans on September 10, 1794, the daughter of two free Blacks – Marguerite Darcantel, a former Haitian slave and Charles Laveau, a wealthy, Black plantation owner of mixed race.
Raised by her mother and grandmother, both Voodoo priestesses, Marie Laveau spent most of her adult life in a world where Voodoo was neither alien nor uncommon. She was a very spiritual person who blended, in the Creole way, Voodoo with Catholicism, especially the saints. For Laveau, Voodoo was an extension of Catholic practices and Catholicism, a focus toward the same Bon Dieu (God), natural and familiar, to Voodoo.
Laveau married a Jacques Paris in 1819 and went to live in New Orleans’ French Quarter. For whatever reason, Charles Paris was soon died, however, and she was left with two children to care for.
After Jacques’ passing, the “Widow Paris” worked as a hairdresser and as a nurse, even performing minor surgery when necessary. Her nursing duties included ministering to prisoners on death row as well as taking in the sick to be nursed in her home. During the worst breakouts of Yellow Fever and Cholera, Laveau was a saint who saved many, and helped make the transition to death a comfortable one. She was there, in the worst hospital wards, using her knowledge of herbal medicines and Voodoo prayers to save the dying. This was frowned on by the local church, but nobody could stop her.
Being a free woman of color meant that “Mam’zelle Laveau” was free to own slaves. She took advantage of this…not to make life easier on herself, but to put herself in a position to free her enslaved people.
She entered into a common-law marriage with Christophe Glapion, a member of a prominent local family, and they had five children together – only two of whom survived to adulthood. Although Marie never abandoned her Catholic roots, she became increasingly interested in her traditional African beliefs and quickly developed a reputation as New Orleans’ leading voodoo queen.
While voodoo was commonly practiced in New Orleans, it had a fearsome reputation and a history of fueling revolution and slave revolts and was actually banned at different times in Louisiana history. Marie Laveau’s marriage of voodoo beliefs to Catholic traditions helped make voodoo and more acceptable to upper-class New Orleans society. She regularly presided over public voodoo ceremonies in Congo Square – one of the few locations in rigidly segregated New Orleans where people of different races could mix freely – and made a good income selling charms, curses, and blessings to people of all social classes. The fact that many of her clients were servants in upper-class homes also gave her a spy network which helped reinforce her supernatural reputation to the wealthy patrons who asked for her services.
The dark consultation of Marie Laveau was sought by the many great men and women of New Orleans. They would visit with Laveau at her St. Ann cottage, sit with her and discuss business matters and affairs of the heart. After fully understanding the situation, Marie would give them advice on how to proceed and insight into their past, present and future…and she was always right.
Marie disappeared for a time. It is said that she went off to train with a famous Voodoo priest named Doctor John, who was believed to be a free Black man with so much experience in dark magic, that he has never been discovered because of this power.
In 1830, several years after her disappearance, Marie returned as Voodoo Queen, now armed with the most potent rituals, a pet snake named Li Grande Zombi, and, it seemed, eternal youth.
Marie Laveau had an extremely complex reputation in later life, both feared for her power as a voodoo queen – with numerous stories about the things that “happened” to anyone who offended her – and admired as a living saint due to her humanitarian work.
At the time of her death in 1881, eminent writer Lafcadio Hearn referred to her as “one of the kindest women who ever lived”. Her fame also guaranteed prominent obituaries in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the New York Times.
After the announcement of her death, however, many witnessed Marie Laveau walking the streets of the French Quarter as she always did and to this very day people claim to see Marie Laveau walking about on her beloved St. Ann Street.
Mary Ellen Pleasant (1814 – 1904)
Called “the Mother of Civil Rights in California” from work she initiated in the 1860s, Mary Ellen Pleasant’s achievements in the struggle for the rights of Black people and women went unsurpassed until the 1960s.
Pleasant was once the most talked-about woman in San Francisco. When other African Americans were rarely mentioned, she claimed full-page articles in the press. She helped shape early San Francisco, and covertly amassed a joint fortune once assessed at $30,000,000.
Pleasant was born a slave near Augusta, Georgia in 1814, the daughter of Virginia governor John H. Pleasants’ son, John H. Pleasants, Jr. and an enslaved Haitian Vodoun priestess.
After witnessing the death of her mother at the cruel hands of a plantation overseer, Mary Pleasant had to make her way through life largely on her own.
Pleasant dropped the ‘s’ in her last name, changing it to ‘Pleasant’ and fled to New Orleans, where she found employment as a linen worker at the Ursaline Convent. A short time later, she went to work as a free servant for a Louis Alexander Williams, a merchant in Cincinnati. Williams promised that, after Mary served the Williams family for some time without pay, she would be freed legally. However, Williams, in debt and ultimately jealous of his wife Ellen’s affection for young Mary Pleasant, eventually placed her into nine years of indentured servitude with an aging Quaker merchant known only as Grandma Hussey. Indentured servants could be of any race, and Pleasant, a child of mixed parentage, who in her earlier years was of a very light complexion, was told not to reveal her race – a heavy burden for a girl of about eleven.
Pleasant adopted Ellen Williams’ name, becoming “Mary Ellen Williams” and she learned business as a clerk in Grandma Hussey’s general store. Although she could not read or write then, she said in her final memoir, “I could recall the accounts of a whole day, and she [Grandma Hussey] would set them down and they would be right as I remembered ‘em.”
Pleasant grew smart and witty, and adopted abolitionist beliefs and the principles of equality that those beliefs taught her.
Later in the 1840′s, when her indentured service had ended, the Husseys helped the brilliant and talented twenty-something, young woman, become a tailor’s assistant in Boston. She also became a paid church soloist there.
Mary Ellen Williams soon met and married James W. Smith, a wealthy free Black who passed for white, so as to serve as a Southern contributor to William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist paper and a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Soon both Smiths served on that Railroad, helping slaves escape to freedom in Canada, Nova Scotia, and Mexico.
James Smith owned a plantation near Harper’s Ferry, left to him by his white father. Smith staffed it with freed slaves, whose freedom he helped secure. Smith died suddenly in 1844, leaving Mary Ellen a wealthy woman. She eventually remarried, but she continued her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad between New Bedford, MA, and Ohio out of her own inner calling. She soon became a much-hunted slave rescuer.
Finally, in 1851, with slavers hot on her trail, she fled West.
According to ships records and confirming testimony, she arrived in San Francisco in April, 1852 to escape persecution under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, for helping hundreds of slaves escape.
Before her arrival in what would become her permanent home, however, Mary Ellen stayed a year in New Orleans, continuing her studies of Vodoun she originally began with her mother with the Voodoo Queen, Mam’zelle Marie Laveau. From Mam’zelle Laveau Mary not only learned the herbal remedies and rituals of Vodoun, but also how to mentor her people and to manipulate the secrets of the rich to gain aid for the poor – a ‘model’ that would serve her well in San Francisco. After her intensive training was complete, Mary Ellen fled to San Francisco, assisted by Marie Laveau.
San Francisco was a rough and tumble, fast-paced place, inhabited by 40,000 people, and home to 700 drinking and gambling establishments, and 5 murders every 6 days.
In addition to those staggering statistics for that time, there were six men to every woman. San Francisco was not a safe place, but Mary Ellen Pleasant was up to the challenge. She was forced to use two identities to thwart capture under California’s Fugitive Slave Act. Under this law anyone without freedom papers could be captured and sent into slavery. Pleasant had no papers, So she lived as both “Mrs. Ellen Smith”, a white boardinghouse steward / cook and as “Mrs. Pleasants”, an abolitionist / entrepreneur). As Mrs. Smith, she served the wealthiest and most influential men in San Francisco and using their regard for her as well as the “Laveau model” of leveraging their secrets for favors, she was able to get jobs and privileges for “colored” people in San Francisco. It is this work that earned her the nickname “The Black City Hall”.
In the “colored” community, in her true identity as Mrs. Pleasants, she used her money to help ex-slaves fight unfair laws and to get lawyers or businesses in California. She became an expert capitalist, owning every kind of business imaginable, and she prospered. However, her people suffered as European immigrations took the menial jobs once held for them and as anti-black sentiment and national depression mounted. So, in 1858 Mary decided to return East – not to live, but – as she once said in a letter – to help her former brother in law gain release from slavery and to help abolitionist John Brown end slavery forever.
In Canada, she bought land on Campbell Street, near Harper’s Ferry, Virginia to help John Brown house the slaves that he planned to free. John Brown’s plan was to capture the Federal arsenal there with only 21 men. He would set up a maroon-like militia, made up of runaway slaves throughout the Virginia Mountains, as the Haitians had done. Then, he would shuttle some slaves from there to Canada. Mary gave Brown money for arms and came back the following fall to ride – in disguise as a jockey – in advance of Brown to alert slaves near Harper’s Ferry of his coming. It was a good, but risky, plan, but, unlike some other Black leaders, Pleasant, believing that slavery had to be ended by force, was willing to help. “I’d rather be a corpse than a coward,” was always her motto.
Of course, Brown acted too soon and was hanged, and Pleasant narrowly escaped with her life. On her return to California, however, she continued to fight, and after the Emancipation Proclamation and the California Right-of-Testimony of 1863 law, she declared her race openly.
She orchestrated court battles to test the right of testimony, and in 1868 her battle for the right of Blacks to ride the San Francisco trolleys without fear of discrimination set precedent in the California Supreme Court.
Mary Pleasant went on to become celebrated as a philanthropist and business woman and to amass a $30,000,000 fortune with her secret partner, Scotsman, Thomas Bell and today, the Voodoo Queen of California’s legacy of love and courage lives on.
Gbêhanzin (Béhanzin) Hossu Bowelle (1844 – 1906)
Gbêhanzin Hossu Bowelle or the ‘King Shark‘ was one the most powerful kings in West Africa at the turn of the 19th Century. He was the eleventh king of Dahomey, and the last independent ruler of Abomey before French colonization.
Gbehanzin was also reputed to be a fierce and powerful Vodou Priest, famously noted for hanging a witch or sorcerer alive from a pole as a warning to all who would dare to cross spiritual forces with him. He was never found without his trademark pipe and according to legend emerged from the womb smoking. Gbehanzin controlled a private army of female soldiers, the Dahomey Amazons, who were said to have fought more fiercely than men, sharpening their teeth into points to tear at their opponents’ carotid arteries.
In 1882, France declared a protectorate over Porto Novo, a vassal state of Abomey, without consulting with the indigenous people. By 1885, the French occupied the entire coastal strip West of Porto Novo. In 1889, King Glèlè and his son Gbehanzin, who considered these coastal areas to be part of the kingdom of Dahomey, declared that the Fon people could no longer tolerate France’s actions.
In February 1890, the French occupied Cotonou. Gbehanzin, now king after Glele’s sudden death, prepared for war. Gbehanzin’s forces attacked the French simultaneously on two fronts – militarily at Cotonou and economically by destroying the palm plantations at Porto Novo. The latter precipitated an early end to the hostilities. A treaty was signed, with the French continuing to occupy Cotonou, for which Gbehanzin exacted an annuity; he made France pay for the use of Cotonou port. The peace lasted for two years. However, France was determined to annex Dahomey before the British or Germans did. Gbehanzin, knowing that he would have to defend his sovereignty, continued upgrading his army in preparation for renewed war.
He declared a treaty made with France by his father, Glèlè, in1868 null and void. From this act, war began.
Gbehanzin led the final struggle against French colonial forces, but would ultimately succumb to Colonel Alfred-Amédée Dodds, a Senegalese warrior, who was sent to fight against Gbehanzin with powerful French armed forces under his command. Colonel Dodds’ division defeated Gbehanzin not by the French directly besting Dahomey in combat, but because part of Dodd’s campaign was the deforestation of sacred trees, areas of arbors believed to house the spirits of ancestors and to give strength to the Dahomey people (now you know where they got that scene in Avatar from). It was only after a significant number of the trees were cut that the French were able to break through the Dahomey forces and drive Gbehanzin into exile.
Gbehanzin died in 1906 in Algeria. In 1928, his son, Ouanilo (who was also France’s first African attorney in 1920) had his body moved to Dahomey.
Benjamin “Black Herman” Rucker (1892 – 1934)
Rucker came of age under the tutelage of an itinerant African-American showman and street peddler by the name of Alonzo Moore, who went by the name ‘Prince Herman’. Moore took in Rucker as an apprentice at the age of sixteen. By the time of Prince Herman’s death a few years later, Rucker had fine-tuned his own skills at reading cards, divining fortunes, and cooking up healing elixirs, so much that he was able to make his own way around the circuit of traveling faith healers who hustled material goods and spiritual assurances from town to town in Black Belt communities.
Eventually, poverty and racial discrimination pushed Rucker out of the South and toward Chicago, where in the late 1910s he launched an independent career. Assuming a new name borrowed from his old friend and mentor, Prince Herman, Rucker became known as ‘Black Herman’.
Black Herman was a master of conventional magic techniques and legerdemain, successfully crossing the boundaries between theater, folk religion, the black vernacular traditions and entrepreneurship and mixing them all up into a powerful and entertaining gumbo. Echoes of a mysterious, powerful constellation of folk supernaturalism, occult arts, and ancestral religiosity are what defined Black Herman’s performance style. This appropriation of worlds both distinctly African and African-American was as resonant with audiences as it was profitable for him.
Black Herman found his place as the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest magician” in Harlem, the African American Mecca during the Jazz Age.
It was in Harlem that Herman mass-marketed the act for which he became best known – a combination of stage craft, comedy, vaudeville theater, religious oratory, and mind-reading tricks.
Herman’s crowning achievement was a headlining show at Marcus Garvey’s four-thousand-seat Liberty Hall in 1923. Hugely appealing to an emerging urban audience – a highly mixed demographic that included Blacks, whites, members of high society and other elites, and men and women of the working classes – Herman sold out at Liberty Hall for a month and continued to sell out every time he performed.
Equally at home as a merchant of conjuring implements and as a storefront impresario, Herman set up shop as an authorized seller of mail order courses, lucky numbers, and health tonics until he was arrested in 1925 and sent to Sing-Sing on a charge of fraud.
Prison did not dissuade him from his true calling, however, and by the end of the decade Herman had returned to the stage and his extraordinarily lucrative career.
Black Herman’s public career came to an abrupt end when he collapsed onstage after a show at the Palace Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1934. Members of the audience could not determine whether Herman’s departure was part of the act or not. After all, one of his most famous tricks involved the staging of his own burial and resurrection. When Black Herman’s body was ultimately laid to rest at New York’s Woodlawn cemetery, newspapers reported that scores of visitors gathered in anticipation of his rising from the grave.
The author Arthur C. Clarke said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Then Steamfunk and Steampunk can be said to be magical. How does magic affect or influence you, Steampunks and Steamfunkateers? What has been magical about your life?
I think of Redeemer as a sci-fi gangster epic. Some say I have created “the perfect bridge” between urban fiction and science fiction and call it “Urban Science Fiction”. And some simply call it Science Fiction.
I dunno. You tell me what it is after you read it.
Think American Gangster or Goodfellas meets The Time Machine.
Here is an excerpt:
His movement was swift…silent.
He found himself thanking God again – this time, for Chagga Mutwa, patriarch of the Tokoloshe guild of assassins and expert in the arts of invisibility and quiescence.
Ezekiel had spent two years of harsh training, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, under the tutelage of the sapient old master.
In those two years, he had learned much.
Ezekiel tested the front door. The steel entryway creaked open. No surprise. Engineers’ Row – or, ‘The Twilight Zone’, as the youth called it – was patrolled and protected by fearsome and efficient Nano-Drones.
Swarming an intruder by the thousands, these nearly microscopic, cybernetic organisms invaded a victim’s body through his orifices. The minuscule drones would then connect to the victim’s nervous system and shut the intruder down, rendering him comatose until the arrival of the police.
Of course, when your boss is Danny Sweet – owner of the company that created the Drones – the little terrors presented no problem at all.
Ezekiel crept into the warehouse. Through the dim light, he could see rows of crates, filled with wires, computer parts, electronic gadgets, rods, gears and motors of various sizes. The hangar-sized warehouse reeked with the smell of copper and axle grease.
Suddenly, voices came – low and in a staccato rhythm. Ezekiel crouched low and tilted his head toward the sound, as if to bring his right ear closer to it. No, not voices, Ezekiel realized. A voice. A woman’s voice…rapping a tune from his early childhood.
His father would play the song and talk about the rapper performing it as if the man was a god. “Biggie is a genius!” His father would proclaim. “The mad scientist of hip-hop!”
The name of the song came to Ezekiel – ‘Warning’.
The assassin moved across the warehouse in a quick, zigzagging shuffle.
The woman’s voice grew louder.
“…I got the Calico with the black talons loaded in the clip.”
The voice was coming from a small office at the rear of the warehouse. Ezekiel rushed toward the office door, aimed his pistol and snatched the door wide open.
He rolled into the room, quickly popping up to a kneeling position, with his pistol at the ready.
The room, however, was empty, save a large plasma television in the corner of the room. On top of the television sat what appeared to be a gold watch.
Suddenly, the door slammed shut. Ezekiel whirled around to face it.
The low click that followed told him that the door had locked.
Ezekiel aimed his pistol at the doorknob.
The television came to life with a soft hum. “I wouldn’t do that if I was you.”
Once Upon A Time In Afrika is Sword & Soul.
Here is an excerpt:
Tayewo sailed through the air, thrashing like a mackerel on the floor of a fisherman’s boat. He landed on a row of large, wooden bata drums – his buttocks, elbows and the back of his head pounding out a thunderous tune before he slid to the floor. Tayewo grunted as his ebony-toned back smacked the cold marble.
Ṣeeke smiled. It was the first time she had thrown someone with a wheel kick and she had executed it perfectly. “Mistress Oyabakin would be proud,” she thought.
Ṣeeke’s smile faded as she found herself hoisted into the air by her brother, Kehinde, who had trapped her in a powerful bear-hug from behind.
Though identical in size and appearance to Tayewo, Kehinde was nearly twice as strong and knew how to use his strength to do damage.
Ṣeeke hooked her left foot around Kehinde’s left ankle and then reached behind her, pressing her palm into the middle of Kehinde’s back.
Try as he might, Kehinde could not throw his sister, who seemed to be stuck to him like palm oil to white cloth.
Suddenly, Ṣeeke bent forward, grabbing Kehinde’s right ankle with both hands. She continued her forward momentum, rolling over into a seated position, which sent Kehinde careening over Ṣeeke and onto his back, beside his sister, with his right leg trapped between both of hers.
Ṣeeke held Kehinde’s foot tightly to her chest as she propelled herself backward, until she lay beside her brother. She then thrust her pelvis upward, against Kehinde’s knee, as she arched her back and expanded her chest.
Kehinde screamed in agony as his knee hyper-extended and the ligaments stretched to their limits.
“Release him Ṣeeke! Now!”
Ṣeeke immediately recognized the bellowing, baritone voice. “Yes, Baba.”
Ṣeeke released her grip on her brother’s ankle.
Kehinde rolled onto his side, massaging his aching knee.
“Is Kehinde’s knee dislocated?” The Alaafin asked.
“No, father,” Ṣeeke said, as she sprang to her feet. “He should be fine in a day or two.”
“How does the knee feel?” The Alaafin asked Kehinde.
“It hurts when I do this, Baba,” Kehinde replied, extending and then bending his knee in a stiff, choppy rhythm.
“Then, don’t do that,” the Alaafin said.
After you read these novels, please, give me feedback and honest critique. I want your experience, when reading my books, to be nothing short of Blacknificent!