TOP 20 STEAMFUNK, DIESELFUNK, SWORD & SOUL AND URBAN FANTASY BOOKS FOR BLACK YOUTH!
Recently, I wrote about why Black children should read and write Science Fiction and Fantasy. I also wrote about it here. Now I would like to provide you with a list of books for young adults, teens and tweens. A list of books for children aged 2-9 will follow in a later blog.
Young Adult (“YA”) Fiction is fiction marketed to adolescents and young adults, ranging roughly between the ages of 14 to 21. The majority of YA stories portray an adolescent as the protagonist, rather than an adult or a child. The subject matter and story lines are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character and the stories span the entire spectrum of fiction genres.
Middle Grade (“MG”) Fiction is intended for readers between the ages of 8 to 12, with the protagonist at the higher end of the age range.
MG readers are learning about who they are, what they think, and where they fit in. Their focus is inward and the conflicts in MG books usually reflect this. The themes range from school situations, friendships, relationships with peers and siblings, and daily difficulties that may seem ordinary to the rest of us. The protagonist’s parents are usually seen and have some sort of an influence. Stories are usually fast paced and chapters are short.
In contrast, Young Adult novels deal with underlying themes and more complicated plots. They allow teen readers to examine deeper issues, their roles in life, the importance of relationships, how to cope with adversity and even tragedy and how their actions can impact the world.
YA protagonists are usually searching for their identity, figuring out who they are as an individual and where they fit in. YA books are generally much more gritty and realistic than MG books. Parents have less influence in YA stories and are often not seen at all.
Below is a list of twenty of the most Blacktastic books that are sure to entertain, educate and even empower readers, young and old.
The books are grouped into three categories, by age appropriateness, for your convenience.
While there are many more great books written by and about Black people, this is a good start and more books will be shared in future posts.
YOUNG ADULT (Ages 15+)
A Single Link, by Balogun Ojetade
After suffering a brutal rape at the hands of a martial arts champion, Remi “Ray” Swan decides that, to gain closure and empowerment, she must face her attacker in the first professional fight between a man and a woman.
Join Ray in this powerful, two-fisted adventure as she fights, not just for herself, but for all who have suffered at the cruel hands of those who would wreak pain, oppression, injustice and death!
Step into the cage, where action, adventure, bone shattering fights, and a touch of romance await you!
Damballa, by Charles R. Saunders
The first ever African American 1930s avenger sets out to stop a Nazi plot to subvert a championship fight.
From deepest Africa to the streets of 1930s Harlem, the action is none stop.
Written by famed novelist Charles Saunders, with interior illustrations by Clayton Hinkle and a cover by Charles Fetherolf, this is a history making pulp adventure fans do not want to miss.
Devil’s Wake, by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
But this infection goes far beyond disease. Beyond even the nightmare images of walking dead or flesh-eating ghouls. The infected are turning into creatures unlike anything ever dreamed of . . . more complex, more mysterious, and more deadly.
Trapped in the northwestern United States as winter begins to fall, Terry and Kendra have only one choice: they and their friends must cross a thousand miles of no-man’s-land in a rickety school bus, battling ravenous hordes, human raiders, and their own fears.
In the midst of apocalypse, they find something no one could have anticipated . . . love.
Dillon and the Voice of Odin, by Derrick Ferguson
He’s a soldier of fortune gifted with an astonishing range of remarkable talents and skills that make him respected and feared in the secret world of mercenaries, spies and adventurers. A world inhabited by amazing men and women of fabulous abilities that most of us are unaware even exists.
Fueled by a taste for excitement, driven by an overpowering desire to protect the innocent, see that wrongs are righted and assisted by a worldwide network of extraordinary men and women, all experts in their fields, Dillon spans the globe in a never-ending quest for the wildest and most breathtaking adventures of all!
Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, Edited by Milton J. Davis and Charles R. Saunders
Magic. Myth. Warfare. Wonder. Beauty. Bravery. Glamour. Gore. Sorcery. Sensuality. These and many more elements of fantasy await you in the pages of Griots, which brings you the latest stories of the new genre called Sword and Soul.
The tales told in Griots are the annals of the Africa that was, as well as Africas that never were, may have been, or should have been. They are the legends of a continent and people emerging from shadows thrust upon them in the past. They are the sagas sung by the modern heirs of the African story-tellers known by many names – including griots.
Here, you will meet mighty warriors, seductive sorceresses, ambitious monarchs, and cunning courtesans. Here, you will journey through the vast variety of settings Africa offers, and inspires. Here, you will savor what the writings of the modern-day griots have to offer: journeys through limitless vistas of the imagination, with a touch of color and a taste of soul.
Griots: Sisters of the Spear, Edited by Milton J. Davis and Charles R. Saunders
Griots: Sisters of the Spear picks up where the ground breaking Griots Anthology leaves off.
Charles R. Saunders and Milton J. Davis present seventeen original and exciting Sword and Soul tales focusing on black women.
Just as the Griots Anthology broke ground as the first Sword and Soul Anthology, Griots: Sisters of the Spear pays homage to the spirit, bravery and compassion of women of color.
The griots have returned to sing new songs, and what wonderful songs they are!
Ki Khanga: The Anthology, Edited by Milton J. Davis and Balogun Ojetade
What is Ki Khanga?
The answer lies in the pages of this amazing anthology.
Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis define this fascinating world which forms the foundation of the Ki Khanga Sword and Soul Role Playing Game.
Prepare yourself for stories of bravery, tragedy, love and adventure.
Prepare yourself for Ki Khanga.
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, by Balogun Ojetade
Harriet Tubman: Freedom fighter. Psychic. Soldier. Spy. Something…more. Much more.
In “MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Book 1: Kings * Book 2: Judges)”, the author masterfully transports you to a world of wonder…of horror…of amazing inventions, captivating locales and extraordinary people.
In what is hailed as the world’s first Steamfunk novel, Harriet Tubman must match wits and power with the sardonic John Wilkes Booth and a team of hunters with powers beyond this world in order to save herself, her teenaged nephew, Ben and a little girl in her care – Margaret.
But is anyone who, or what, they seem?
Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.
When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.
Steamfunk, Edited by Balogun Ojetade and Milton J. Davis
A witch, more machine than human, judges the character of the wicked and hands out justice in a ravaged Chicago. John Henry wields his mighty hammers in a war against machines and the undead. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman rule a country of freed slaves that rivals – and often bests – England and France in power and technology.
You will find all this – and much more – between the pages of Steamfunk, an anthology of incredible stories by some of today’s greatest authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Steamfunk – African and African American-inspired Steampunk.
Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have put together a masterful work guaranteed to transport you to new worlds. Worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam. Open these pages and traverse the lumineferous aether to the world of Steamfunk!
Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter, by Keith Gaston
Taurus Moon is a relic hunter, but the artifacts he searches for aren’t found in the jungles of the Yucatan or the deserts of Egypt. His quests often take him through the grittier parts of urbanized cities where even the toughest of thugs fear to tread. Forgotten relics once thought of as only myths and legends can be found, if you know where to look, and have the guts to go searching into dark and deadly places.
Taurus Moon is hired by a vampire crime lord to locate an ancient artifact that would make the criminal a God. Even though Taurus is no fan of vampires, especially one aspiring to become a Deity, he does love money and despite his misgivings, he begins the treacherous hunt for the artifact. Things become more complicated when a rival crime lord hires a ruthless relic hunter who has no qualms about killing the competition.
YOUNG ADULT (Ages 13+)
Changa’s Safari, by Milton J. Davis
In the 15th century on the African Continent a young prince flees his homeland of Kongo, vowing to seek revenge for the murder of his father and the enslavement of his family and his people.
He triumphs over the slavery and the fighting pits of Mogadishu to become a legendary fighter and respected merchant.
From the Swahili cities of the East African Coast to the magnificent Middle Kingdom of Asia, Changa and his crew experience adventures beyond the imagination.
Changa will not rest until he has fulfilled his promise to his family and his people. The anchors are raised and the sails unfurled.
Let the safari begin!
Fist of Africa, by Balogun Ojetade
Nigeria 2004 … Nicholas ‘New Breed’ Steed, a tough teen from the mean streets of Chicago, is sent to his mother’s homeland – a tiny village in Nigeria – to avoid trouble with the law. Unknown to Nick, the tiny village is actually a compound where some of the best fighters in the world are trained. Nick is teased, bullied and subjected to torturous training in a culture so very different from the world where he grew up.
Atlanta 2014 … After a decade of training in Nigeria, a tragedy brings Nick back to America. Believing the disaffected youth in his home town sorely need the same self-discipline and strength of character training in the African martial arts gave him, Nick opens an Academy. While the kids are disinterested in the fighting style of the cultural heritage Nick offers, they are enamored with mixed martial arts. Nick decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts to make the world aware of the effectiveness and efficiency of the martial arts of Africa.
Pursing a professional career in MMA, Nick moves to Atlanta, Georgia, where he runs into his old nemesis – Rico Stokes, the organized crime boss who once employed Nick’s father, wants Nick to replace his father in the Stokes’ protection racket. Will New Breed Steed claim the Light Heavyweight title … Or will the streets of Atlanta claim him?
Once Upon A Time In Afrika, by Balogun Ojetade
An exciting Sword and Soul tale by Balogun Ojetade, Once Upon a Time in Afrika Tells the story of a beautiful princess and her eager suitors.
Desperate to marry off his beautiful but “tomboyish” duaghter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of Oyo, consults the Oracle. The Oracle tells the Emperor Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament inviting warrior from all over the continent.
Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament a powerful evil is headed their way.
Will the warriors band together against this evil?
The Scythe, by Balogun Ojetade
Out of the tragedy of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, a two-fisted hero rises from the grave!
Inspired by the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, a tale of action, adventure, thrills and chills await fans of Dieselpunk, die-hard pulp fans and readers who just love a gritty story that packs a mean punch.
Enter a world in which Gangsters, Flappers, vampires, robots and the Ku Klux Klan all roam the same dark back streets; a world of grit, grime and grease; a world of hardboiled gumshoe detectives and mad scientists; a world where magic and technology compete for rule over the world.
Dieselfunk has emerged in The Scythe…and the Roaring Twenties will never seem the same!
The Seedbearing Prince, by DaVaun Sanders
Dayn Ro’Halan is a farmer’s son sworn to a life of plowing on his homeworld, Shard. After finding a lost artifact called a Seed, he’s thrust into an ancient conflict between voidwalkers of the hated world Thar’Kur, and Defenders from a floating fortress called the Ring.
Dayn must become a Seedbearer and learn to use the Seed’s power to shape worlds before the entire World Belt is lost.
Woman of the Woods, by Milton J. Davis
The latest Sword and Soul novel by Milton Davis returns to the land of Meji, the amazing world of Uhuru. It tells the story of Sadatina, a girl on the brink of becoming a woman living with her family in Adamusola, the land beyond the Old Men Mountains. But tragic events transpire that change her life forever, revealing a hidden past that leads her into the midst of a war between her people and those that would see them destroyed, the Mosele.
Armed with a spiritual weapon and her feline ‘sisters,’ Sadatina becomes a Shosa, a warrior trained to fight the terrible nyokas, demon-like creatures that aid the Mosele in their war against her people.
Woman of the Woods is an action filled, emotionally charged adventure that expands the scope of the world of Uhuru and introduces another unforgettable character to its heroic legends.
MIDDLE GRADE (Ages 10+)
Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer.
There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality.
But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?
Amber and the Hidden City, by Milton J. Davis
Thirteen year old Amber Robinson’s life is full of changes. Her parents are sending her to a private school away from her friends, and high school looms before her. But little does she know that her biggest change awaits in a mysterious city hidden from the world for a thousand years.
Amber’s grandmother is a princess from this magical kingdom of Marai. She’s been summoned home to use her special abilities to select the new king but she no longer has the gift, and her daughter was never trained for the task. That leaves only one person with the ability to save the city: Amber! But there are those who are determined that Amber never reaches Marai and they will do anything to stop her.
Prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that spans from the Atlanta suburbs to the grasslands of Mali.
It’s a story of a girl who discovers her hidden abilities and heritage in a way that surprises and entertains.
Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, by L.M. Davis
Make sure to clean up your messes.
Keep the cat in the house.
Fraternal twins Nate and Larissa Pantera know all about strange rules. They’ve grown up with plenty of them, and they have always obeyed those rules without question
However, disturbing things are starting to happen–both at home and at school. And when their parents go missing and a strange messenger appears, they discover that the only way to save them is by breaking all the rules.
Interlopers: A Shifters Novel is the thrilling fantasy adventure. Fans of YA fantasy, such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, love this new series about the Pantera twins, who discover that everything they thought they knew is only the beginning of the truth.
I am sure this list will get you well on your way on your Blacknificent journey through the world of Black Speculative Fiction. We end this with a few book trailers to take along as companions on this journey. Enjoy!
AFRICAN PULP: The Spear in Racist Pulp Fiction’s Heart!
Throughout Africa, storytelling has always been an intrinsic part of society, used to recall historical events, impart wisdom, debate and communicate messages from the divine.
Storytellers – called Djele, Sanusi, Babalawo, Iyanifa, Okomfo and other titles, depending on where, on the continent you go – are revered and are usually also skilled in spiritual and healing practices as well.
Tales of powerful heroes, megalomaniacal villains, sorcerers, witches and fearsome creatures abound in African folklore, thus I was not surprised at my recent discovery – thanks to Paul Bishop, author and mastermind behind the Fight Card brand of Fight Fiction books – that Pulp magazines, created by, and about, African heroes were highly popular across the continent in the 1960s through the 1980s.
Sold under the brand names African Film and Boom, these magazines – called photo comics, or “look books” – were illustrated with stunning photographs instead of drawings, giving them the uniqueness, creative flair and do-it-yourself spirit common throughout Africa.
With heroes like the Tarzanesque Fearless Fang (Boom) and the “African Superman”, Son of Samson, children and adults alike waited eagerly every month for latest edition to hit the newsstands.
The most popular photo comic magazine was The Spear (African Film), which featured Lance Spearman, the super-spy / detective whose coolness James Bond and Derek Flint would envy. The Spear drove a Corvette stingray, sported a panama hat and well-tailored suits with a bow tie and smoked expensive cigars. And in true Pulp fashion, he had a bevy of beautiful women at his beck-and-call.
Lance Spearman pursued the bad guys with zeal, outwitting their conspiracies, kicking much ass with his African martial arts and saving the day…all in one issue!
These popular Pulps – a portfolio of black and white photos, complete with speech balloons, narration boxes and all the “bam-pow” sound effects that a kick and a quick upper cut to the jaw makes in any comic book.
Unlike the popular Pulps of the Western world, however, which were rife with racist tropes of uncivilized, uneducated, spear-chucking cannibals, or damn-near naked noble savages, with objectified, ample body parts, Lance Spearman was sharp, stylish and sophisticated.
Even the jungle stalking Fearless Fang was intelligent, witty, brave and well, cool.
Combining Western references with a distinctly African cultural identity, these amazing African Pulps presented a critique of colonialism and a significant variation in how the genre classically figured normality and otherness.
And they were entertaining as hell!
Published first by publisher Drum Publications in Nigeria in the early 1960s and later also published in Kenya and Ghana the photo comic had a powerful and lasting influence in fostering postcolonial pride and identity.
Its combination of extreme violence, melodrama, romance and glimpses of the glamorous life preceded and influenced the Blaxploitation craze in American cinema in the 1970s and its use of inventive DIY tactics to overcome budget constraints influenced the booming Nollywood film industry.
“Ok, you’ve told us about the photo comics, but how, and why, were they created?” You ask? “
Well, Drum Publications of Nairobi, Kenya – tired of the clichéd racist images of Black people in contrast to the heroic images of white soldiers and superheroes in Western comics – decided to create comic books that would appeal to Black men. They began photographing black men in adventures that were designed to appeal to the Black African population.
Drum would buy stories and then send the scripts to Swaziland, where a photographer would takes pictures of a cast of Black actors. They would then send the photographed strips to London, England, where the magazines were printed. Finally, the photo comic magazines would be distributed in West, East and South Africa.
The Lance Spearman title was the most popular publication, with circulation figures estimated at 100, 000 in West Africa, 45,000 in East Africa and 20,000 in South Africa. In fact, Lance Spearman had a greater circulation in Kenya than any of the local daily newspapers at that time.
The writers of these look-books were Black Africans, who were paid $65 – equivalent to approximately $508.00 today – for every script they produced.
Expected in the scripts were lots of fistfights and the bad guys always losing in the end.
The readership of these photo comics included men, women, boys and girls from small rural towns to sprawling urban cities; from the barely literate to highly educated professionals.
The man, who played the character of Lance Spearman, was Jore Mkwanazi, originally employed as a “houseboy” in Durban, South Africa, scrubbing the floors of an apartment for $35 a month and as a musician, playing the piano in a nightclub for $1.50 a night, when photographer Stanley N. Bunn discovered him and decided he had the tough, cynical, sophisticated face that was needed for The Spear. In the role of the super-spy, Mkwanazi earned $215 a month.
Here is the original Drum Publications information, found in every issue of their photo comic magazines:
Drum Publications (E.A.) Ltd
P.O Box 43372
Editor: J. Singh
Printing and Packaging Corporation Ltd
P.O Box 30157,
But the story of photo comic magazines does not stop here.
In fact, it is just beginning.
In the summer of 2014, I will publish my first photo comic book, The Siafu: Revolution.
The Siafu is about escaped prisoner, Jamil Brown, who suffers a virus-induced myostatin deficiency that gives him enhanced strength, speed and endurance. Jamil is hunted by his makers, while gathering others like him to help fight against the corrupt system that made him.
For those of you who don’t know, siafu are army ants that, while small, are powerful and – in large enough numbers – can bring down an elephant.
So, be on the lookout for this amazing new graphic Pulp science fiction novel in a few months.
Get ready for The Siafu.
Get ready for Revolution.
THIS AINT I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: Rape in Black Speculative Fiction
For years, I worked as an expert witness on violent crime in Illinois and I am the founder of the NZINGA: Mother / Daughter Self-Defense Program, in which I taught rape awareness as part of the course. I say taught, because I have since given responsibilities of that program over to my wife and to the women who are Assistant Instructors under my tutelage.
Among African Americans, there is a reluctance to report rape and incest. A reluctance born of wariness of authority, especially white authority, which is learned from the experience of white lynch mobs; the death of four little girls killed during the bombing of a church in Birmingham and the battered body of young Emmett Till. There is reluctance, because we remember the destruction of entire cities – such as Tulsa, Oklahoma and Rosewood, Florida – at the hands of white mobs after a Black man was wrongfully accused of raping a white woman.
Historically, we have learned that the system is not to be trusted.
Rape is one of the most underreported violent crimes, according to the Department of Justice, regardless of the victim’s sex, age, race, ethnicity, religion or class, but as a group, African American women are the least likely to break the silence.
This phenomenon, first documented in 1981 by Gail Wyatt, a sexual behavior researcher at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, is now being addressed in self-help books and at rape crisis centers created specifically to serve People of Color, such as the Rosa Parks Sexual Assault Crisis Center in South Los Angeles.
I believe what I suffered, which I kept to myself for thirty years, led me to being sexually promiscuous at a very young age; to high blood pressure, which led to several strokes in 2012 and a bout with alcoholism. What I, three of my children and countless women I know, suffered also led to my portraying rapists, or potential rapists, as the vilest of villains in some of my writing.
It’s no secret that rape is common in fiction. Sometimes it’s relevant to the plot, often used as the catalyst in a revenge story. Other times rape is used to remind us that we live in a cruel world, filled with even crueler people. And other times, it is used to shock, or even titillate.
I don’t write much about rape. Only my latest book, A Single Link, actually has such a horrific event take place and in one of my screenplays, I hint that one of the villains is a rapist.
When I wrote A Single Link, which I first wrote, directed and produced as a film, I conferred with nearly fifty women of various ages. I asked if I had handled the rape intelligently, if it came off as a gimmick, or if it was predictable. They invariably answered “no,” and told me A Single Link was a story that needed to be told.
Many of the women – including my wife – gave suggestions on how I could make the story more believable; more like something they would want to see. I am glad I listened and made much needed changes based on their suggestions. The story went through fifteen drafts – more than I have ever done for any of my writing – before I was comfortable enough with the script to shoot it.
I am happy I did.
Many lazy writers use rape as a plot device in their stories because it is easy to use as a motivator for the shero to begin her quest. Well, for those who have known me for even a short while, you know I am far from lazy, so you know that was not my motivation (as one reader and part-time troll implied). She assumed my use of the rape is predictable…which is a predictable – and lazy – response, by the way (do your research – or at least read the book – before passing judgment, y’all).
However, to be fair, rape is often overused or misused in fiction; particularly in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
In fact, no violent act – assault; battery; terroristic threats; murder — should take place in a story unless it is integral to the plot or to develop characters. Any violence, for the sake of violence, is wrong and makes for poor writing.
A common statement that has been made is “Let’s see men get raped in fiction as well.” Once again, if it is handled intelligently and with empathy, why not? However, if such a story is told on some old ‘quid pro quo’ bull, then it is just as gimmicky; just as lazy; just as wrong.
Rape of men has happened in popular fiction a few times; most famously in Pulp Fiction, Deliverance and Antwone Fisher. Sadly, these rapes have been made jokes of by men and women, as if a man suffering a rape – especially if committed by a woman – has no lasting effect on men. This should be rectified, so I would welcome someone writing a story that deals with this issue seriously.
America has been described as a “rape culture” – an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence – and I would agree with that description.
A Single Link is my contribution to the fight against such a twisted, cruel culture that leaves my mother, my sisters, my daughters, and even my son, unsafe.
I pray I got it right.
Read the book and let me know.
A SINGLE LINK IS HERE!
I am excited – and proud – to announce that the action adventure, fight fiction, New Pulp book is available in paperback and ebook!
A Single Link is sure to keep your eyes popped, your jaw dropped and your fingers turning the pages as you step into the cage with Remi Swan, who becomes the first woman to fight against men in professional mixed martial arts on her quest for justice and closure after suffering a brutal assault by a pro fighter.
I loved writing this Rocky meets Enough story, which is filled with heart, grit and pulse-pounding, two-fisted action and I know you’ll love it too!
The action adventure New Pulp novel A Single Link is now available in paperback and ebook!
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.
BLACK HEROES OF PULP FICTION (and we don’t mean Samuel L. Jackson or Ving Rhames)
Some of you are saying “If not the movie by Quentin Tarantino, then what the in the hell is Pulp?”
Is it that nasty, fibrous stuff I hate in my orange juice, but my wife always buys, because – for some odd reason – she loves it?
What is Pulp?
Is it that early 80s British alternative rock band who sounded like a hybrid of David Bowie and The Human League?
What is Pulp?
Think adventure, exotic settings, femme fatales and non-stop action. Think larger-than-life heroes, such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, Marv, from Sin City and Indiana Jones.
The genre gets its name from the adventure fiction magazines of the 1930s and 1940s.
Pulp includes Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Western, Fight Fiction and other genres, but what sets pulp apart are its aforementioned fast-pace, exotic locales, linear – but layered – plots, its two-fisted action….and those characters! As author Thaddeus Howze describes them: “I like the larger than life heroes of the pulp era, loud, bombastic, often arrogant, sexy, outrageous and oh so violent…”
The first pulps were published in the late 1800s and enjoyed a golden age in the 1930s and 1940s.
And – like most genre fiction of the day…and today – Black heroes were absent. Like most genre fiction of the day, if a Black person was found in pulp fiction at all, they were the noble savage…or just the savage.
Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones
However, in 1957, we saw our first Black pulp heroes with the duo of Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, violent and vicious Harlem police officers, who operated more like private detectives, often going beyond police protocol to solve their cases.
A true master of the pulp aesthetic, Chester Himes – an accomplished author and screenwriter before going to prison – discovered the work of popular pulp author Dashiell Hammett while serving eight years in an Ohio penitentiary for armed robbery. Himes vowed to write pulp books that would, in his words, “tell it like it is”.
Upon his release from prison, Himes moved to Paris and – true to his word – wrote a string of what he called “Harlem domestic detective stories”, all but one written in French and later translated into English.
His first novel, A Rage in Harlem (1957) – first published in French as La Reine des Pomme and also known as For Love of Imabelle – which won the prestigious French literature award, Grand Prix de la Litterature Policière, gave us our first taste of the fearsome Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones.
Fans begged for more of these pulp bad boys and Himes delivered, with a total of seven more bestsellers and one unfinished novel that was published posthumously: The Crazy Kill (1959), The Real Cool Killers (1959), All Shot Up (1960), The Big Gold Dream (1960), Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965), The Heat’s On (aka Come Back, Charleston Blue)(1966), Blind Man With A Pistol (1969), Plan B (1993).
While the duo frequently uses physical brutality, psychological torture and intimidation to solve their cases, Gravedigger and Coffin Ed have deep and genuine sympathy for the innocent victims of crime. They frequently intervene – even putting their own reputations and lives on the line – to protect Black people from the vicious and truly pointless brutality of the white, openly racist police officers in their precinct. Jones and Johnson generally go easy on – and even tolerate – numbers runners, madames, prostitutes, junkies and gamblers; but they are extremely hostile to violent criminals, drug dealers, con artists and pimps.
It can be said that Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones were the darkest heroes in pulp…and not because they’re Black…well, that too.
The next Black hero in pulp did not come on the scene until 1983. Who was he? Aubrey Knight, a lightning quick mountain of muscle, trained to be a Null Boxer who fights in brutal matches while locked in a zero-gravity bubble.
Aubrey Knight is the protagonist of Street Lethal (1983), a jaw dropping pulp thrill ride, penned masterfully by veteran science fiction, fantasy and horror author, Steven Barnes. Street Lethal is set in a near-future dystopian Los Angeles in which Aubrey Knight must battle genetically engineered New Men, drug kingpins, brutal prison guards, a ruthless femme fatale and brainwashing similar to the horrific Ludovico Technique from the classic novel A Clockwork Orange.
Barnes, an accomplished martial artist himself, gives us a pulp hero who is one part Luke Cage Noir and two parts Iron Fist…only cooler, savvier and more…well, street lethal.
Damballa (2011) is an incredible pulp adventure written by author Charles R. Saunders, the founder of the subgenre of Fantasy fiction called Sword and Soul and creator of the Fantasy icon Imaro. The action does not stop as the titular hero uses his vast knowledge of Western science, African science and martial arts to expose and neutralize the Nazi threat.
Set in 1938, Damballa is a shining example of what Pulp is when it is at its very best: thrilling, visceral, tightly-plotted, well-written, fast-paced fun.
And the hero Damballa is a shining example of what a pulp hero in the hands of a master can be: a hero the reader can actually stand up and cheer for; a hero with qualities and with a story other authors do their damndest to echo in their own creative and original ways.
Equal parts James Bond, Indiana Jones, Doc Savage and The Saint, Dillon – by his creator Derrick Ferguson’s account – first came to attention of the world a decade ago, when he began hiring himself out as a soldier of fortune. Dillon possesses remarkable talents and gifts that make him respected and even feared in a world of mercenaries, spies, adventurers, powerful technology and mystic artifacts.
Actually, Dillon first came to our attention in the Pulp fiction masterpiece, Dillon and the Voice of Odin (2003).
Dillon’s actual age is unknown, but what is known is that he was born on the technologically advanced, doomed island of Usimi Dero. After the Destruction of his home, twelve year old Dillon and his mother fled to Shamballah, a monastery hidden in the Himalayas. Dillon was adopted by Shamballa’s Warmasters of Liguria, who spent the next seven years training him in various martial arts and other physical and mental disciplines. After those seven years, Dillon elected to leave Shamballah and return to the world.
Once back in the world, Dillon wandered, learning various skills that would help him in his chosen profession as an adventurer and seeking out those who destroyed his homeland.
This adventurer is the hero of four of his own books – the aforementioned Dillon and the Voice of Odin; Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell (2010); Four Bullets for Dillon (2011) and Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira (2012) – and appears in the anthology Black Pulp (2013).
First seen in the often hilarious and always exciting, Taurus Moon: Relic Hunter (2011) and now returning in the recently released, equally exciting sequel, Taurus Moon: Magic and Mayhem (2013), Taurus moon is a complex Pulp hero who walks a complex world of mythic creatures, gangsters and even mythic gangsters and gangling creatures.
The morally conflicted hero, Taurus Moon is often compared to another famed relic hunter, Indiana Jones. Unlike popular relic hunter Indiana Jones, however, the artifacts Taurus Moon hunts are not found in the deserts of Iskenderun Hatay, or in the tropical rainforests of Brazil. Taurus Moon’s quests take him through the grittier parts of urbanized cities; settings where Indiana Jones would get that whip and fedora shoved up his…well, you get the picture. Also unlike Indiana Jones, Taurus Moon’s clientele includes vampire crime bosses and other individuals of ill-repute.
Taurus Moon is straight up mercenary, motivated by money; yet he is imbued with nobility, which keeps him from being completely amoral.
If Indiana Jones and Blade had a clone created from both their DNA strains, with a dash of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford sprinkled in, that little GMO fella would be Taurus Moon.
2014 will see the premiere of at least three more pulp heroes.
In early 2014, my character Nick ‘New Breed’ Steed, the indigenous African martial arts expert turned MMA fighter will enter the world with a bang in my novella, which is part of the Fight Card Series, Fight Card MMA: A-Town Throwdown. A second novella starring Nick Steed, Fight Card MMA: Circle of Blood is likely to follow shortly behind it.
2014 will see another MMA fighter, Remi Fasina [ray-MEE fah-SHEE-nah] – a woman – battle men and women fighters – and her inner demons – on her quest to defeat the MMA champion who sexually assaulted her seven years in her past in my Pulp action novel, A Single Link.
Finally, the Pulp hero Black Caesar – a former slave, imbued with enhanced intelligence, strength, endurance and agility by dark forces run amok upon a stone slave ship – debuts in the first Rococoa novel, Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises.
I have also created the Pulp hero The Scythe, the resurrected Dr. A.C. Jackson, who was murdered in the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 and returns to reap vengeance upon his murderers and their kin. It is likely that I will expand his story into a novel in 2015.
What other Black Pulp heroes and sheroes do you know of? What Pulp heroes or sheroes are you in the process of developing or creating?
INGLORIOUS BASTARDS: Is Independent Filmmaking illegitimate?
Last week, in the State of Black Science Fiction group, another minor kerfuffle – oh yeah, Black speculative fiction authors and fans do love their heated discourses – occurred after Milton Davis – oh yeah, fifty-something chemist / author / publishers do like to set it off – posted this status:
“Apparently if you are self published you are not a legitimate writer. Wow.”
This statement was made in regard to another author, who said he was looking for Black women speculative fiction authors for a documentary he is doing, but only wanted “legit” authors: “I need MORE AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN WRITERS of Science-Fiction, Fantasy or comics!!! To be considered for the documentary you need to have: been published by a legit publishing company (no self-publishers).”
The aftermath was – to put things lightly – passionate…yeah, that’s it. Passionate.
I will say, the “offending” author did try to clear things up – kind of – and even went so far as to contact me personally to explain he meant “traditional”, not “legit,” which perplexed me a bit because my only comment on Milton’s status was “Name NAMES, Milton!” Y’all know me…I’m a researcher and researchers, by nature, are a curious lot.
Anywho, i know you’re dying to see what was said in response to Milton’s comment. Here are a few of those responses – the names, however, are not included to protect the (not so) innocent:
“So if I’m an indie singer, I’m not legitimate? If I’m an indie film maker, I’m not legitimate? If I’m Indie Jones, I’m not a legitimate archaeologist and college professor?”
“They’re just mad because we won’t go away–and we’re stealing away their readers.”
“That’s just bougie perpetraters using their status to over inflate their already bloated egos, to the detriment and baseless shaming of others.”
“ Hmmm…that’s funny. My royalty checks seem to be legitimate.”
In response, the “offending author” had this to say:
“For the sake of clarity and common sense, I must make something known – Earlier today I posted a call for Black Women writers for my documentary Brave New Souls. I used the word “legit” instead of “traditional” when describing the criteria for my interview subjects. Somehow, that has been construed as a slight against self-publishers and that isn’t the case at all. So let me be as clear as possible here:
1) I want to use Black creators who have mainstream credits because there is a great misconception and lack of awareness about the presence of Black writers within the mainstream entertainment industry. I wanted to show aspiring talent that they CAN make it in the mainstream industry and that it doesn’t require “selling out” or compromising your value system.
2) Roughly 60% of my extremely limited literary entertainment budget is spent on self-published and independent material from Black creators. Let me repeat, 60%. If you don’t believe me ask the hundreds of Black creators I’ve met at conventions over the last 15 years whether or not I put my money where my mouth is. Ask folks like Thaddeus Atreides, Ray Height, Daniel McNeal, Jaycen Wise, etc.
3) I also spend a ton of time mentoring people behind the scenes. I have an entire FB group dedicated to the mentoring of writers of all backgrounds and I rarely talk about what I do because I don’t need to pat myself on the back.
4) Brave New Souls is my documentary, and I can do whatever I wish with the material.
I hope that clears things up, otherwise, most of you know how to find me, and if you still have a problem, I will be at the Hollywood Black Film Festival from Oct 2 – 6 and at NY Comic Con hanging around the Lion Forge booth from Oct 10 – 13. Feel free to approach me to discuss the matter.“
So, this is what was said by a few of his associates and friends:
“Whenever someone steps up, someone else has to find something wrong.”
“4) Brave New Souls is my documentary, and I can do whatever I wish with the material.” That’s all you needed to say.”
“Did E*****n just pull a ‘Tony Stark from Iron Man 3′-move? ‘Here’s my address, come find me!!’”
“You haven’t seen his arsenal yet…”
“Seems nowadays people are in search of reasons to be pissed–not ways to make things work well… leaping beyond these words in order to give yourself (an in-general “yourself”) a perpetual underwear knot–& ignoring an avalanche of counter-balancing evidence–is small-minded. I’m less & less patient with this approach to life as I get older.”
This little skirmish set my thoughts in motion and, since I am in nearing the end of production on the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, I pondered whether the same beef – indie vs. mainstream – exists in the world of film?
As early as 1908, independent film has been paving the way for filmmakers to fight the corporate way of creating their art form. Around 1924, a group of independent filmmakers in Europe created the London Film Society. This group was the first to preserve the artistic nature of filmmaking. Some of the founding members included H.G. Wells and Charlie Chaplin, film directors who began a revolution with their movie making.
In a short time, independent filmmakers all over Europe were introducing new and exciting genres to their movies, such as horror and suspense. After World War II, science fiction was introduced by independent filmmakers to the American audience.
A new wave of American filmmakers began creating films outside of the control of the corrupt major studios and a Golden Age of independent films began.
For these independent filmmakers, the best way to showcase their work was at local film festivals.
One such festival, The Sundance Film Festival, run by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, began as the Utah / U.S. Film Festival in 1978. The festival – founded by Brigham Young University Film School graduate, Sterling Van Wagenen and Utah Film Commissioners, Cirina Hampton Catania and John Earle – showcased independent films created in the United States.
In 1985, Redford’s institute took over management of the festival and changed the name to Sundance. In 1991, the Sundance Institute bought the rights to the festival and officially changed the name to the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Sundance has included international independent films in its screenings and has launched the careers of some of today’s hottest directors such as, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, James Wan and Jim Jarmusch.
Viewed as the leader in independent filmmaking, the Sundance Film Festival innovates ways to help small productions gain mainstream notoriety.
Last year, this festival brought Utah $92 million dollars in revenue, further cementing both the importance of the festival and the films that it showcases.
But what, exactly is an “independent film”, you ask?
An independent, or indie, film is one that is primarily funded outside of the major studios, also known as “the Big Six” – Warner Brothers, Paramount, Walt Disney, Columbia Pictures, Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox.
Independent films have the freedom to explore many subjects in society that are seen as taboo or unmarketable by the Big Six.
Most independent films achieve nothing more than critical acclaim at film festivals, but every once in a while, an indie film creates such a loud buzz at a film festival that it is purchased by a major film studio and screened in major theaters all over the world. One such film is The Blair Witch Project, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 1999. Writers-Directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who made The Blair Witch Project for $25,000, had sold their movie, by the end of the festival, to Artisan Entertainment for 1.1 million dollars. Artisan then went on to make $248 million with this “little” independent film!
However, when an indie film hits the “big time”, like The Blair Witch Project, it is no longer considered to be an independent film because, even though the film was produced on a shoestring budget, the marketing budget that Artisan Entertainment implemented when they purchased the film put The Blair Witch Project way over the 50% funding category.
While, technically, the Blair Witch Project is no longer considered an indie film, it possesses one characteristic that most certainly sets it apart from “mainstream” films, a characteristic that films produced by the Big Six will never have – the willingness to take risks with their storytelling.
The Big Six film studios are large corporations, and corporations of that size do not allow risk-taking in their business practices.
They will only invest in actors and stories that have already been proven to make a lot of money. This may lead to financial success, but also leads to creative stagnation.
Independent films are about original and creative story-telling by filmmakers who are not afraid to try new techniques or put their creative and financial necks on the line.
Are they legit? Hell yeah!
Are they traditional? Well, since the definition of traditional is ‘existing in or as part of a tradition; long-established‘, “Hell yeah,” to that too!
I will be at the Alien Encounters Black Speculative Fiction, Film and Art Conference October 25 – 27. Feel free to approach me to discuss the matter.
Did I, like that “offending author”, just pull a ‘Tony Stark from Iron Man 3′-move?’
Well, we Black speculative fiction authors do love our heated discourses.
BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH: Celebrating Over 150 Years of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror By and About Black People
BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH: Celebrating Over 150 Years of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror By and About Black People
In Atlanta, we are doing it big in October, with a full month of spectacular, educational and downright fun events, all leading up to the wildly popular, 4th Annual – and now national – Alien Encounters Black Speculative Fiction Conference.
In addition to Atlanta, Alien Encounters gatherings will take place throughout October in different major cities in the United States, including the DMV (D.C.; Maryland; Virginia), Philly and San Diego, just to name a few.
Join us for three exciting days of panels, presentations and parties as we illuminated and expand Black Speculative Fiction!
October 25, 2013, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade Film Festival and Cosplay Party: Come dressed in your best Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we enjoy Black Speculative Fiction short films and meet their creators.
9:00 pm until: Mahogany Masquerade After-Party
6:00 to 8:00 pm – Horror on the Black Hand Side: Horror Fiction from a Black point of view.
8:00 pm until – Black Hand Side After-Party
October 27, 2013
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman: The conscious community of Black comic books and graphic novels.
Very exciting times for creators and fans of Black Speculative Fiction and Film; however, the creation of such great and entertaining works are not new. In 1859, for example, Martin Delany published Blake, or The Huts of America, a novel about an alternate history in which a successful slave revolt in the Southern states leads to the founding of a Black country in Cuba.
Charles W. Chesnutt penned The Conjure Woman in 1899, which is the first known speculative fiction collection written by a person of color.
W.E.B. Dubois gave us The Comet in 1920, a post-apocalyptic story about a world where the only survivors of an apocalyptic event are a Black man and a white woman.
Also in 1920, South African author and entrepreneur Thomas Mofolo published his novel, Chaka, which presented a fantastical rendering of the famous – and infamous – Zulu king’s life.
Son of Ingagi is a Black Science Fiction / Horror film released in 1940. It is the story of Eleanor and Bob Lindsay, who inherit the house of Helen Jackson, a physician who has just returned from her trip to Africa possessing gold…and the monstrous, murderous, missing link-type creature named N’Gina.
Many great works of Black Speculative Fiction have followed through the years. Here is a sampling of more great speculative fiction and films by and about Black people:
The Jewels of Aptor, is a Science Fiction novel, written in 1962 by 19 year old genius, Samuel Delaney about a post-atomic future, when civilization has regressed to something near the Middle Ages, or even before, a young student and poet, Geo, takes a job as a sailor on a boat with a strange passenger, a priestess of the goddess Argo, who is heading toward a mysterious land of mutants and high radiation, called Aptor, presumably to recapture a young priestess of Argo, her daughter, who has been kidnapped by the forces of the dark god Hama.
This novel has since gone on to win countless prestigious awards including the coveted Nebula and Hugo awards.
Echo Tree, an amazing collection of short, speculative works by master writer, Henry Dumas, features such stories – all written in the mid-to-late 60s – as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a fantasy story, with elements of horror, set in an underground jazz club. The protagonist, Probe, tests a legendary instrument of immense power on a few unwelcome guests; and “Fon,” a story in which flaming arrows rain from the sky to dispatch a group of would-be lynchers.
Along with Charles Saunders, Henry Dumas is my favorite author and one of my greatest influences. After you read Echo Tree, I am sure he will be one of your favorites, too.
Space Is the Place is an 82-minute science fiction film made in 1972 and released in 1974. It was directed by John Coney, written by revered musician, Sun Ra and Joshua Smith, and featured Sun Ra and his Arkestra in starring roles.
The story revolves around Sun Ra, who has been reported lost since a European tour in June 1969. The musician lands on a new planet in outer space with his crew “The Arkestra” and decides to settle African Americans on this planet. Sun Ra’s medium of transportation throughout space and time is music. He travels back in time, arriving in a Chicago strip club where he used to play piano under the stage name Sonny Ray. There, he confronts The Overseer, a pimp-overlord, and they agree on a duel at cards for the fate of the Black race.
A Blacktacular pulp fiction novel – one of my favorites, by one of my favorite authors – is Damballa, an engaging tale of a shadowy hero who fights evil in 1930s Harlem with unprecedented martial skills and a combination of African and Western science.
If you have not read any of Charles Saunders work, run, don’t walk, to your nearest computer and visit his website.
Pumzi is a Kenyan science-fiction short film written and directed by Wanuri Kahiu.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which water scarcity has extinguished life above ground, this brilliant short film follows one scientist’s quest to investigate the possibility of germinating seeds beyond the confines of her repressive subterranean Nairobi culture.
Winner of numerous awards including Best Short Film at BET Urban World Film Festival & a student film award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, Wake is a story steeped in the southern gothic tradition. Written, produced, directed & edited by filmmaker Bree Newsome, Wake is a masterpiece of horror, humor and dark fantasy. This is Southern Horror at its finest!
Next is a novel that helped launch a major movement in speculative fiction.
A long-time admirer of Harriet Tubman, in Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, Balogun Ojetade elevates this already heroic icon to super-heroic status, pitting her against the advanced technologies and enhanced abilities of the servants of a government that has turned its back on her and seeks to see her dead. Harriet, possessing extraordinary abilities of her own, enlists the aid of other heroes of history to make a stand against the powerful forces of evil.
Balogun transports you to Harriet Tubmans world: a world of wonder…of horror…of amazing inventions, captivating locales and extraordinary people. In this novel – the first ever book in the subgenre known as Steamfunk – Harriet Tubman must match wits and power with the sardonic John Wilkes Booth and a team of hunters with powers beyond this world in order to save herself, her teenaged nephew, Ben and a little girl in her care – Margaret. But is anyone who, or what, they seem?
With more authors and fans becoming interested in Steamfunk, many more works have begun to appear. The next bestselling work elevates the subgenre of Steamfunk and sends its popularity soaring into the stratosphere:
A witch, more machine than human, judges the character of the wicked and hands out justice in a ravaged Chicago. John Henry wields his mighty hammers in a war against machines and the undead. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman rule a country of freed slaves that rivals – and often bests – England and France in power and technology. You will find all this – and much more – between the pages of Steamfunk, an anthology of incredible stories by some of today’s greatest authors of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Steamfunk – African and African American-inspired Steampunk.
Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have put together a masterful work guaranteed to transport you to new worlds; worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam.
This is the definitive work for what Steamfunk is and how much fun it can be.
These are exciting times, indeed. October will be the culmination – and the beginning; the sharing and celebration of 150 years of stories that excite, inspire, frighten, educate, entertain and evoke change.
October is gonna be hotter than fish grease!
I’ll be celebrating all month.
Come party with me!
BLACK PEOPLE DO READ: Urban Fiction’s Impact on Black Literacy!
My introduction to Urban Fiction in literature began with Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which I read when I was eight or nine years old – a few years after going nuts over the film version, which released in 1972 and The Godfather II, which released in 1974.
My love for The Godfather, led me to seek out gangster films and books with Black people as the heroes, thus became a lifelong (not so) secret love affair with Blaxploitation films and Urban Literature. I could quote every line from Shaft, The Mack, Coffee, and my favorite, Gordon’s War and Donald Goines’ Cry Revenge had an honored place in the trunk that held my most prized comic books.
The youth have always loved Urban Fiction. And not just tweens and teens from the inner city. Teens in rural communities also crave these gritty, action-packed stories. Leading authority on Urban Fiction, Dr. Vanessa Irvin Morris, claims that 93 percent of libraries across the country – both urban and rural – carry Urban Fiction in their collections.
And it is bringing adults who normally do not read to the brick-and-mortar and online bookstores. According to Dr. Morris, writers such as Teri Woods, Miasha Coleman, K’wan and Shannon Holmes not only outsell such renowned authors as Alice Walker,Toni Morrison, Richard Wright and other authors of classic literature, but even more mainstream authors, such as Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) (Morris, V. J., Agosto, D.P., Hughes-Hassell, S., & Cottman, D.T.; 2006; Street Lit: Flying off teen fiction bookshelves in Philadelphia public libraries. Journal of Young Adult Library Service, 5(1): 16-23).
And the readers of Urban Fiction are loyal customers, quick to make a purchase and insatiable in their desire for more stories.
Even with its popularity, however, Urban Literature still has its detractors – mainly African-American writers of contemporary and speculative fiction.
Popular Speculative Fiction author and publisher, Milton Davis, had these words of advice for his speculative fiction colleagues who hate on Urban Fiction:
“As a black science fiction and fantasy writer, I constantly listen to my fellow writers complain about the genre, how it is lowering the standards of black readers and stealing shelf space from not only our works but those of ‘more literary writers’ like Terry McMillian and Tony Morrison. While there are complex reasons why this is happening, the obvious reason to me is simple: hustle…don’t concentrate on what you feel the Street Lit writer is doing wrong, focus on what they’re doing right then apply it to your efforts.”
He goes on to say “So what has Street Lit taught us? That [success] is as much, or more, about hard work as it is about skill. The lesson should resonate more among independent writers, such as myself, than my mainstream published kin, although they too should take note.”
While the authors of Urban Fiction may not possess a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, or may not have a clue what the Lumineferous Aether is, they do have a gripping story, interesting characters, a do-it-yourself attitude and extraordinary hustle and heart. And that is why Urban Fiction outsells every other genre of fiction on the shelf. So don’t hate; congratulate…and get your hustle up!
While many of us moisten at the thought of recognition from some mainstream publishing company, the authors of Urban Fiction are possessed by an entrepreneurial spirit that enables them to self-publish and sell hundreds of thousands of copies of their books at bus stops, barber shops, beauty salons and street festivals. They don’t seek out mainstream publishers; mainstream publishers seek them out.
And – more than any other genre – Urban Fiction inspires people to read and write.
“But Street Lit glorifies drug dealing, murder and misogyny,” you say. Some does. So does some science fiction; so does some horror; so does some fantasy, romance and even some of the classics.
However, there is Urban Fiction that gives the reader strong, independent and competent women, healthy, loving relationships, and characters with high moral standards.
Furthermore, reading Urban Fiction can evoke necessary discussion on issues that plague us all.
According to Dr. Morris, who is author of The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature and owner of the website, streetliterature.com, in Philadelphia, a group of librarians worked with hundreds of teens to determine Urban Fiction’s impact on our youth. They found that the relationships between the men and women characters in the books spurred much discussion. The girls, for the most part, originally thought that the male characters “were good to their women” because “they bought them name brand stuff”, but as they analyzed the books, they came to understand that most of the relationships in them involved verbal abuse and domestic violence.
The most significant discovery for the librarians was that it was analyzing the books that brought about the teens’ awareness of abuse, which was not originally apparent to them. The students read the books and then came together to talk about what they had read and in doing so, developed a greater understanding of the dynamics of relationships and the tragedy of domestic violence.
It is interesting that we reject Street Lit for its presumed misogyny and abusive relationships – which we most certainly should – yet we ignore the misogyny in such classics as Catcher in the Rye, or the abusive relationship in the Twilight Saga. We must make a stand against the abuse of women wherever we find it. If writers truly want to see a change in Urban Fiction, shouldn’t we create that change by contributing our own works?
My mother has always taught my siblings and me, by example, that if you have a problem with something, don’t complain, do your part to fix it. I like to grow a scraggly beard sometimes – I just do, okay? – and my mother hates it. She’ll say the same thing every time she sees my beard – “How much does a shave cost?” She will then proceed to reach into her purse, pull out the exact amount for the shave and hand me the money.
Now, she could easily say “You look like a hobo, son. A shave is only six dollars…go get one!” Instead, she pulls out her money – and pulling out the exact amount tells me she was prepared to act if I sported that hateful, unkempt beard – and hands it to me. No complaining; just action.
It’s her way…and it’s one of the many great things I love about her. Ironically, it is also the way of the authors of Urban Fiction. They are warriors; not worriers.
Urban Fiction has been called “the most appealing form of Black literature.” It appeals to youth and adults for many reasons. Why? How? Here are a few reasons readers gave in a recent study (Morris, V.J.;2010; Street Lit: Before you recommend it, you have to understand it. Agosto, D. & Hughes-Hassell, S. (eds.). IN Urban Teens in the Library: Research and Practice. (pp. 53-66). Chicago: American Library Association):
- Stories are fast-paced and action-packed, often with elements of romance.
- The style is straight forward and cinematic – like a movie in your head.
- The protagonists are usually anti-heroes.
- Readers relate to the story, setting and characters.
- While readers tend to be African-American women, ages 18 – 35, Urban Fiction also attracts more male readers than any other genre – many readers feel that if something can get men and boys to read, it is powerful indeed.
- There are many parallels between Urban Fiction and Hip-Hop.
Below are two reviews of my Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, a mash-up of Urban Fiction and Urban Fantasy. Redeemer is a thrilling read and appeals to science fiction, fantasy and urban fiction readers alike for all the reasons cited above and more. But don’t just take my word for it; read on…
Ezekiel Cross is a cold blooded killer. He works for ‘Sweet’ Danny Sweet, owner of Sweet South Records, the second wealthiest music label in the country. For most of his life Ezekiel has been a killer, trained from a young age to enforce the whims of his boss. But Ezekiel is tired. He longs for the day that he can hang up his guns and live a normal life with his wife Mali. But the life of a killer is never his own. Ezekiel is called to do another hit, but instead of closing the deal he finds himself the target of a different kind of hit. He’s sent back into time and finds himself in a situation that could change his life forever…or end it.
Redeemer is the latest novel by Balogun Ojetade, author of the Steamfunk novel, Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, the Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon a Time in Afrika, and my Sword and Soul brother. I had the privilege to read Redeemer earlier this year in manuscript form and was immediately blown away. The book is filled with action, drama and humor as only Balogun can write, but with Redeemer he takes his penchant of mashing genres to another level. For months I’ve read different manuscripts attempting to mesh urban fiction and science fiction in an attempt to capture a piece of the urban fiction market. None of those I perused had of a much chance of success in my opinion. The authors either kept too much urban or too much science fiction or too little of both. After reading the last page of Redeemer I smiled and said to myself, ‘this is it right here.’ A story with a touch of science fiction, a dose of urban fiction and a wallop of great action and great character development. If there was any book that would combine the two genres, Redeemer is it.
Now I know a few of you are saying, ‘doesn’t this plot remind you of Looper?’ Well, let me clear that up as well. Balogun first shared Redeemer to me as a script almost two years ago. Unfortunately for me I didn’t read it. He passed it along to me again as a novel later and the rest is history. Even if you persist in that thought mode, I urge you to put those thoughts aside and read this book. It takes a different journey, one that is as much heartfelt as it is action packed. And it comes with an ending that will make you smile.
Now, that’s all I can reveal without spoiling all the fun. I give Redeemer 5 out of 5 stars. Balogun once again shows his skills as a writer that can take different genres and make them something fresh and new. You can purchase Redeemer here and here. You won’t be disappointed.
“Redeemer” – One of the best reads ever!
I teach drama and creative movement at a private school in Boston. I am also the sponsor of the Avid Readers Club at the school, which I enjoy because I have always loved to read and I have books that I love from EVERY genre.
Though I have literally (pun intended) read thousands of books in my lifetime – I average about a hundred a year – I have never written a review of one. Until now.
I just read the latest book, “Redeemer”, from Balogun Ojetade, one of my favorite authors.
Redeemer is unique in that it successfully combines the best of urban fiction with the best of science fiction into a story that is nothing short of incredible.
I intended to devote a couple of weeks to Redeemer – to read it between grading papers and doing laundry on my weekend afternoons. I ended up reading it in one sitting, with breaks to answer the call of nature, or to briefly hop on Facebook to tell folks how great Redeemer is.
Redeemer truly elevates urban fiction; not only because it is well-edited, original and does not degrade women – qualities sorely lacking in the genre – but because it is a heartfelt tale of fatherhood. Particularly how a father’s relationship with his son can have powerful consequences, for better or worse.
This gritty and exciting story is the tale of Ezekiel Cross, a hit-man who wants out of the game. He resigns from a life of organized crime and killing with the permission and blessings of his crime boss, “Sweet” Danny Sweet. Or so it seems.
Danny Sweet actually sets Ezekiel up and uses him in an experiment in time travel. Ezekiel is sent back thirty years in time. Initially distraught, he decides to change his fate by saving himself and his family from the events that led him to a lifetime of crime. Along the way, he meets some of the coolest, sexiest, deadliest and craziest characters to ever grace the pages of a book. Besides Ezekiel Cross, one of my favorite characters is Norm, a giant Black Cockney attorney and master assassin. Another is Lala, legendary contract killer and fashionista.
Redeemer is going to go down (or rise up) in history as the novel that finally got it right. That took two wildly popular, and sometimes opposing, genres of fiction and married them. And oh, what a matchmaker Balogun Ojetade is! With such masterful matchmaking skill, maybe he can hook me up with my future husband, Idris Elba! It’s in the cards, Idris. It’s in the cards.
Many fans of urban literature don’t read science fiction because they don’t see themselves in those stories and many science fiction fans don’t read urban fiction because they believe urban fiction to be poorly written, poorly edited and full of cliché. Neither side has done enough research. Great books can be found in both genres.
Redeemer is such a book and is the best mash-up of both genres. EVER.
I won’t reveal anymore. You’ll have to read the book. You’ll be glad you did.
A Timeless Killer
Ezekiel Cross is handsome, strong, intelligent, in love, and a ruthless assassin. After years of lying to his true love, Cross decides to finally end his career as a professional killer and become the man his parents would have been proud of. After telling his employer, `Sweet’ Danny Sweet, of his intentions to retire, Sweet sends him on a final assignment. Trouble is, it’s a trap.
Cross travels back in time in what was meant as an experiment as well as punishment. Although Cross is determined to return to his own time and wreak revenge on those that betrayed him, he sees his leap back through time as an opportunity to fix things involving his life as a young man. However, his actions have created events that may cause even more damage to the timeline.
Redeemer by author Balogun Ojetade is an innovative novel that is highly addictive, fast paced, and entertaining.
The author would like to thank the reviewers of the novel, Redeemer and a special thanks goes out to Dr. Vanessa Irvin Morris, who provided the bulk of the research for this article.
WE’RE HERE II: Black Creators of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in Film & Fiction
In my last post, I provided a listing of popular fandom events with a major Black presence.
I now offer you We’re Here, part II.
Coincidentally (?), friend and fellow speculative fiction author, SR Torris, asked me, shortly after I scheduled this article to post, to check out a video in which the narrator launched a scathing attack on Black writers for our “lack of a literary capacity or intellectual competence to write such stories [Science Fiction and Fantasy]“ and “Because most Black writers have no knowledge of anything other than pimping hoes and hearing women complain about not being able to find a man.”
As I have said before, I do not believe in coincidence; I know this post is right on time and much needed.
The lack of knowledge of the existence of great Black writers of speculative fiction by the narrator of that video – a man who calls himself “theblackauthOrity” – proves that.
I would like to introduce you to just a few of the people who – at present – are on the cutting edge of creating works that attract fans from throughout the geekosphere and who are regular guests of honor, vendors and panelists at fan conventions, festivals and symposiums around the globe, or regular bloggers on all things Black and Nerdy.
We’re here, theblackauthOrity.
Born in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, in 1946, but living in Canada since 1969, this brilliant African American author and journalist has, during his long career, written everything from novels to screenplays and radio plays to magazine articles on boxing.
Charles is also the founder and father of Sword & Soul – African-inspired epic and heroic fantasy.
I first read a work by Charles in 1987 in Dragon Magazine #122, entitled Out of Africa. Unaware that Charles was Black at the time I said “This white guy got it right, but one day, I’ll do better. As a brother, I have to!”
Ah, the blissful ignorance of youth.
Of course, by the time I discovered Charles – who is now at the top of the list of my favorite authors – he had already published his first Imaro story over a decade earlier and had released the first Sword & Soul novel, Imaro, six years before that Dragon Magazine article.
In addition to the mega-popular Imaro series of books, Charles is also the author of the Dossouye series of novels about the adventures of the titular woman-warrior and Damballa – a pulp novel about a scientist / shaman / warrior who fights against Nazis in 1930s Harlem.
His latest work, “Mtimu”, can be read in the anthology Black Pulp.
A pioneer of the modern black film movement, creating such successful and influential movies as House Party, Boomerang and the animated Bebe’s Kids, Reginald Hudlin is unique in the entertainment business because of his success as a writer, producer, director and executive.
Hudlin is also the executive producer and writer of the Black Panther animated series and was executive producer of The Boondocks.
Hudlin received an Oscar nomination as Producer on the blockbuster film, Django Unchained, which also won two Golden Globes, two NAACP Image Awards and is writer / director Quentin Tarantino’s most profitable film and one of most successful westerns ever made.
In addition to his success in films and animation, Hudlin has found much success on the “small screen” as an executive producer of the 2013 NAACP Image Awards, which aired on NBC. The broadcast got the highest ratings for the show since 2009.
Other works in television include his directing the pilot of the hit series Everybody Hates Chris and his work as producer and director of The Bernie Mac Show. Hudlin has also directed episodes of Modern Family, The Office, The Middle, and Psych.
During his tenure as the first President of Entertainment for Black Entertainment Television, Hudlin created some of the most successful shows in the history of the network including the award-winning reality show, Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is; American Gangster; and Sunday Best. He created the BET Hip Hop Awards and the BET Honors.
Reginald is also one of the most successful Black writers in the field of comics, writing award winning runs of Spider Man and Black Panther for Marvel Comics. He adapted Quentin Tarantino’s original screenplay for Django Unchained into a six issue limited series for DC/Vertigo Comics and co-authored the intelligent, witty and moving graphic novel Birth of a Nation.
A friend, writing partner, filmmaking partner and jegna (“mentor”) of mine, Milton has been a strong influence on my work.
Together, Milton and I produced the successful Mahogany Masquerade: An evening of Steamfunk and Film and the Black Science Fiction Film Festival, now both annual events.
He is the author of two Sword & Soul series, Changa’s Safari (Volumes I & II) and Meji (Books I & II) and he, together with the Father and Founder of Sword & Soul, Fantasy fiction pioneer, Charles R. Saunders, is the Co-Editor of Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, the definitive work of Sword & Soul, featuring stories from fourteen different black writers. The first such anthology of its kind, Milton also published this masterpiece through his multimedia company, MVmedia, a micro-publisher and film production company dedicated to bringing diversity to the science-fiction and fantasy fields.
Milton is also Co-Editor, with Balogun Ojetade, of the Sword and Soul anthology Ki-Khanga –which is an introduction to the world in which the table-top role-playing game of the same name they created is set – and the wildly popular Steamfunk!, an anthology featuring twelve masterfully crafted stories of Steampunk, told from an African / African-American perspective.
Milton is also publisher of Balogun’s Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika, the co-creator of the graphic novel, The Blood Seekers, with artist Kristopher Mosby and will release his own fifth Sword and Soul novel, the highly anticipated Woman of the Woods, in mid-June.
Balogun began his career as an author in non-fiction, as writer of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within, which is also used as the manual for the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute, in which Balogun is Master Instructor and Technical Director.
His career in speculative fiction, however, began as screenwriter, producer and director of the films, Reynolds War and A Single Link.
He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul, Steampunk and fandom in general, on his website, the popular Chronicles of Harriet.
He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk! and is the screenwriter, director and co-producer of the short Steamfunk film, Rite of Passage: Initiation.
Along with creative partner Milton Davis, Balogun produces the popular annual events, the Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk & Film and the Black Science Fiction Film Festival.
At present, Balogun is directing and fight choreographing the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage.
The First Family of Speculative Fiction, these authors and filmmakers are movements by themselves and forces of nature together.
Steven Barnes has written several episodes of The Outer Limits and Baywatch. He also wrote the episode “Brief Candle” for Stargate SG-1 and the “The Sum of Its Parts” an episode of Andromeda.
Barnes’ first published piece of fiction, the 1979 novelette The Locusts, was written with Larry Niven, and was a Hugo Award nominee.
Barnes has gone on to author nearly thirty great novels, including the speculative fiction novels, Street Lethal, Lion’s Blood, Zulu Heart and with Tananarive Due, the Tennyson Hardwick mystery novel series.
The first person of African descent to find success as an author of horror fiction, Tananarive Due is an icon, a living legend and immensely popular worldwide.
Beginning with the scary-as-hell, The Between, in 1995, Due followed up with the equally frightening The Good House, a book that gave my wife nightmares every night she perused its pages and still gives her goose-bumps whenever the book is mentioned. After that came Joplin’s Ghost, and then the African Immortals series – my favorite – then, the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with her husband, Steven Barnes in partnership with the actor, Blair Underwood.
Recently, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due have teamed up to create the “zombie” YA novel series, which includes Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls.
This series inspired the horror short film, Danger Word, which Barnes and Due wrote and produced.
R.L. wrote, produced and directed his first short film at the age of seventeen. He has since gone on to involvement in over fifty short and feature films in many capacities including writing, directing, fight choreography, cinematography, post production work, and editing.
In 2006, R.L. wrote, directed, produced and choreographed the fan film Black Panther: Blood Ties, a film I, my wife and several of my students had the pleasure of acting and performing stunts in.
In 2007 R.L. brought us Champion Road, a popular martial arts / fantasy feature film he wrote, directed, choreographed and produced and in 2008, took on the same roles for its sequel, Champion Road: Arena.
Full disclosure: I play the heroic hermit / martial arts master, Soleem, in both films.
In 2012, R.L. choreographed the fight scenes for the feature film entitled Call Me King, which stars international superstar Bai Ling (Red Corner). Call Me King is scheduled to be released early 2014.
Recently, R.L. acquired the film rights to the Street Team brand of indie graphic novels, which feature street-level (think Wolverine and Batman) superheroes of African descent.
Rasheedah’s life is one that inspires and educates. A mother at the age of fourteen, Rasheedah raised her daughter while attending high school, and college and, in spite of her many responsibilities, she was able to earn a cumulative 3.79 GPA, graduating Summa Cum Laude from Temple in three years with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice. In the fall of 2005, she began her first semester at Temple University Beasley School of Law, earning her J.D. in Spring, 2008 and becoming a member of the Pennsylvania Bar in Fall 2008.
Because of her perseverance and success in spite of personal difficulties, her story was featured in several publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Temple Times, as well as a few books, including It Couldnt Happen to Me: Three True Stories of Teenage Moms by Beth Johnson.
An educator, attorney, activist and advocate for teen moms, Rasheedah writes science fiction stories and essays on Philosophy and Metaphysics in her spare time. She has had a work of short fiction published in an anthology entitled Growing Up Girl, inspirational essays published in Sister to Sister: Black Women Speak to Young Black Women and Professor May I Bring My Baby to Class. She will publish her first science fiction novel, Recurrence Plot, in Fall 2013.
In 2011, Rasheedah created The AfroFuturist Affair, an organization dedicated to celebrating and promoting Afrofuturistic culture, art, and literature through creative events and creative writing.
Through The Afrofuturist Affair, Rasheedah has created the annual Charity and Costume Ball, an Afrofuturist-themed costume ball that features artists, authors, and performers who present creations using Afrofuturism and Science Fiction as vehicles for expression and agency.
Black Tribbles is a radio show about geek culture and media in which five people of African American descent engage in thought-provoking conversation and provide critical insight into a culture that is often devoid of a Black influence. The show is witty, irreverent and informative, simultaneously entertaining as it educates.
Every Thursday night, the Tribbles – Jason “Spider Tribble” Richardson; producer, Len “Bat Tribble Webb; co-producer, Kennedy “Storm Tribble” Allen; Erik “Master Tribble” Darden; and Randy “Super Tribble” Green – gather in the radio studio to banter about the nerdy things that excite them, from comic books and fantasy movies to science, history and ancient mythology.
Recently, they hosted a special show – Octavia City – in which original tales of afrofuturism from some of science fiction and fantasy’s upcoming and brightest stars were performed live.
Of course, this list could be expanded to include many more Black men and women who are doing great things in speculative fiction and film. If you would like more authors and filmmakers featured, please, let me know and I will be glad to introduce you to others.
Until then, happy reading and watching!
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)
IT AIN’T A $7 CUP O’ JOE, BUT…When Science Fiction & Fantasy meet the mean streets!
A few nights ago, late night talk show host and comedian, Jimmy Kimmel, conducted a taste test to see how people would react to the new $7 cup of Costa Rica Finca Palmilera coffee that Starbucks is introducing.
However, instead of Costa Rica Finca Palmilera, each participant was presented with two cups of coffee and they had to determine which one was regular coffee and which one was “super-premium”. Unknown to the participants, each cup was poured from the same pot of regular, cheap coffee.
Time and again, the participants claimed one cup was better than the other – how one was richer; one creamier; one much more bold. Finally, one man – who looked like he just stepped off the set of Sons of Anarchy – said that both cups of coffee tasted exactly the same.
Later, that same night, I watched a documentary about Street Lit. Also called “urban fiction”, “hip hop fiction”, “gangsta lit” or “ghetto lit”, Street Lit is a mega-popular genre, especially among readers in their teens and 20s. In the 40-plus years since Robert “Iceberg Slim” Beck released Pimp, the audience for so-called “street literature” has remained faithful, making bestsellers of such successors of Beck as Donald Goines, Omar Tyree, Teri Woods, Vickie Stringer, Sister Souljah and ‘Relentless’ Aaron.
Sessalee Hensley, a renowned fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble, says that urban lit now dominates the shelves of African-American fiction: “We have 25 or so new urban titles a month, versus about one of the literary titles.”
With provocative titles, such as Black and Ugly and Section 8: A Hoodrat Novel, and with covers featuring half-naked women, flashy cars and big guns, these books stand out on the shelves. And standing out equals huge sales.
Around the country, street literature not only outsells novels by such esteemed Black authors as Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker, but also popular genre fiction such as The Da Vinci Code. Owners of independent black bookstores say they must either stock street lit, or by a ton of candles for when the lights are turned off.
However, even with the extraordinary success of street lit, the genre and its authors are still not respected as “real” authors and are, in fact, highly disrespected. In the documentary, entitled Behind Those Books, poets, authors and activists spoke passionately for or against this booming book industry.
In the documentary, Terry McMillan, author of the bestselling novel, Waiting to Exhale, says of street lit, “The fact that they are glorifying things that happen in our communities that shouldn’t be glorified – being a pimp, being a ho, you know? How much we can get away with it is seen as something to be applauded almost.” She goes on to say – “There will be something sexual to look at and it’s always a black woman. And it insults the hell out of me because it’s almost as if our breasts and our behinds are for sale…In the end [of reading a street lit novel], I want to know, am I a better person? Do I feel better about my son, my mama, my daddy, my brother, my neighbor? Now we are turning on ourselves. THAT’s what I hate about that shit [street lit].”
While street lit is known to be riddled with grammatical errors, misspelling, inconsistencies in the stories – and other issues that scream “Get a damned editor!” – Many authors of street lit actually write well and some even strive to be original in their work. In earlier posts, I discussed how Black people love science fiction and fantasy; and, obviously, we love street lit. Thus, it had to happen – street lit / science fiction and street lit / fantasy mash-ups.
Of course, urban fantasy is already wildly popular, however, to my surprise, some “urban science fiction” novels are pretty good reads too.
Yes, they are set in the ‘hood, but, as anyone who has lived in the ‘hood can attest, anything and everything happens there. If aliens launch an attack on the earth, I guarantee it will start in the ‘hood. One of my favorite films, Attack the Block, deals with this very subject, with hilarious – and terrifying – results.
Zetta Elliot’s Blacknificent young adult urban fantasy novel, A Wish After Midnight, is about 15 year-old protagonist, Genna, who resides in the projects of Brooklyn. Genna’s mother has a hard time making ends meet and to make matters worse, Genna’s brother is involved in gang life. To escape the stresses of ‘hood life, Genna regularly visits the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, where she finds herself time travelling after making a wish at a fountain.
Genna and her friend, Judah, end up in Brooklyn during the Age of Steam. They eventually become heroes, fighting for justice and equality in the ‘hood of 1860s Brooklyn during the American Civil War.
Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring is set in 21st century Toronto, which has been barricaded off and abandoned by its rich, predominantly white suburbs. Helpless to defend itself against the oppression of a ruthless drug lord, the city becomes one big…you guessed it…’hood.
Are these works Urban Fiction? Science Fiction? Fantasy? All three? None of the above?
Is Science Fiction Costa Rica Finca Palmilera and Urban Fiction regular coffee? Or, if done well, can they both be enjoyed from the same pot?
It was actually Hopkinson’s brilliant work that inspired me to write Redeemer, an urban fantasy novel set in the future – and the present – ‘hood. The pitch: Sent nearly thirty years into the past as an unwilling subject in a time travel experiment, Ezekiel Cross must save his younger self from the deadly path that forged him into the ruthless killer he is. This edge-of-your-seat thriller is both gangster saga and fantasy epic – “Goodfellas” meets “The Time Machine”.
Will fans of urban fiction love Redeemer? Yep.
Is Redeemer science fantasy, or is it urban fantasy? Yep.
Redeemer is whatever genre or subgenre you want, or need, it to be.
Is Redeemer a cup of “super-premium”, Costa Rica Finca Palmilera, or just a regular Cup O’ Joe? Who cares? It’s rich, creamy, bold and stimulating.
Pick up a cup and enjoy!
ORGANIZED NOISE: Prison Songs in the Age of Steam & Beyond
Prison – a form of political organization for the United States, at least since the beginning of the 19th century – has, in all its cold, hard cruelty, produced its own form of music (or “organized noise”). This music – all of its songs from, or about, prisons and prison life – helps trace the history of human containment sonically. Prison music awakens us to the possibilities of sonic and political escape from incarceration.
The beginnings of prison music in the United States can be traced to the War of 1812. A poet named Francis Scott Key met with British officers aboard a ship off the coast of Maryland to negotiate the release of American prisoners. He was detained and from his dank cell on that ship, Key watched the Battle of Baltimore at Fort McHenry and reported at dawn to the prisoners below deck that he was still able to see the American flag waving.
He chronicled the experience in a poem titled, In Defence of Fort McHenry, which he later put to music. Eventually, the song came to be known as The Star-Spangled Banner. In 1889, the Secretary of the Navy designated “The Star Spangled Banner” as the official tune to be played at the raising of the U.S. flag, and in 1916 the song was declared the national anthem of the United States.
The relationship between prison and music in the United States can be heard most clearly through Black soundings of voice, tools, instruments and technology. It is a sonic protest against imprisonment, even as prison labor is being performed. It is simultaneous containment and escape.
Prison is a necessary function of white supremacist patriarchal capitalism – a warehousing of surplus bodies for exploitation or elimination. Prison music is a documentation of this process. Listening to, and perhaps playing, prison music is our attempt to hear ourselves survive within these dehumanizing systems.
Prison inmates were put to work in the various institutions where they were housed. Working in the cotton or tobacco fields, road and chain gangs, or clearing forests, there were different types of songs for each type of labor. A team would choose a leader as their singer, usually a man with a clear voice who could easily be heard. Proper singing wasn’t necessary but the volume of the voice was. Sometimes, teams or crews of as many as eight men were put to work cutting a tree down, with each member of that team supplied an axe. The reason the work song was so important to the team was simple; with eight men swinging individual axes at the same target, without a rhythm to work by, havoc would be the natural outcome. In an eight man team, four men would follow the lead voice on the downbeat, swinging their axes into the base of a tree, the opposite team would strike the tree on the next downbeat.
These songs were often sang in coded language and expressed the prisoners’ – many of them former slaves – feelings of re-enslavement after Emancipation. These songs of the Steam Age and beyond represent testimonials about the injustice of the criminal legal system for Black people.
Take, for instance, these lines from the haunting prison song Early in the Mornin’, which lament the rape of prisoners by the Caucasian guards:
Boy, the peckerwood a-peck-in on the,
On the schoolhouse door, sugar
Well the peckerwood a-peck-in on the,
On the schoolhouse door,
Well the peckerwood a-peckin on the,
On the schoolhouse door, Lordy, sugar,
Well he peck so hard, Lordy, baby, until his pecker got sore
The theme of wrongful imprisonment and mistreatment of prisoners permeates many prison songs, which have become the foundation of what we now know as the Blues and even today, songs about the hardships of prison life are commonly found in Hip-Hop. R&B / Hip-Hop star, Akon, had written for mega stars, including the King of Pop – Michael Jackson – but his own career as a performer did not take off until the release of Locked Up, his song about his time behind bars.
What type of music provides escape for you? Which songs set you free?
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.”
THE UNMASKING OF AUNT TAMMY
The ivory Rolls Royce Phantom crept along the winding road towards the immense structure, which loomed on the horizon.
“Fifteen years.” Amy said. Her perfect, white teeth reflected the shine from her gloss-moistened lips as she smiled.
“What?” The chauffeur peered at Amy through the rearview mirror.
“Fifteen years, Tosu,” Amy answered. “Fifteen years of my fellow Senior Executives’ racist, sexist, bullshit. Fifteen years of the black employees calling me ‘Aunt Tammy’ behind my back. It all ends tonight.”
Tosu’s broad shoulders danced back and forth as he chuckled. “Aunt Tammy?”
“Yes, Aunt Tammy, Amy replied. “A female ‘Uncle Tom’ – and that’s not funny, Tosu!”
“Of course, you are not an ‘Aunt Tammy’, little sister,” Tosu said. “Just because you prefer Frank Sinatra to Fifty-Cent…or because you prefer quinoa to cornbread…or because you prefer Steampunk to Street Lit does not mean you are an Uncle Tom or an Aunt Tammy…It does mean, however, that you have poor taste!”
The driver looked over his shoulder at his little sister. “Today, all that you have endured pays off.”
Amy took a deep breath. “Yes, today it does…for us…”
“And for Malomo,” Tosu whispered, as he fought back the tears that threatened to pour from under his eyelids.
The Rolls Royce Phantom crept into the circular carport on the side of the mansion.
A short, lean, Asian woman – dressed in a blue, silk kimono – opened the door of the Rolls Royce for Amy. “Good afternoon, Ms. Cross,” The Asian woman said, smiling warmly. “My name is Yuriko Sakuraba. Mr. Emilianenko is eager to see you. Follow me please.”
Amy shuffled behind Yuriko, who escorted her to a pair of double doors within the mansion. The doors were carved from heavy African ironwood and inlaid with gold. “This is the dining room,” Yuriko began. “There are a few rules I must go over with you before you enter, but first, a quick search.”
Yuriko perused Amy’s face. Her expression told Amy that the security expert could see the fearlessness in her eyes. Fearlessness…and ferocity. Amy searched Yuriko’s eyes and saw the same.
Yuriko glided her lithe fingers across Amy’s athletic frame. Her skilled hands did not leave even the slightest wrinkle on Amy’s black shark-skin business suit. The search confirmed that Amy was unarmed.
“Now, the rules,” Yuriko began. “First, once you are seated, please remain so, unless you need to go to the restroom. If that is the case, please inform Mr. Emilianenko. He will call me on the radio and I will escort you.”
Amy nodded and Yuriko continued.
“Second, please refrain from any sudden gestures, or talking excessively with your hands.”
Amy smiled and nodded again. Yuriko nodded back at Amy and went on.
“Finally, just remember, I will be right outside this door if any assistance is needed.”
Amy nodded and held her smile. She knew that the final rule was actually a warning that if she tried to harm Mr. Emilianenko, she would have to deal with Yuriko. “I understand.”
Yuriko smiled and then pushed the double doors open. Amy stepped into the huge dining room behind Yuriko. The room was illuminated by a crystal chandelier, which hovered above a ten-foot long, mahogany table, which Amy figured to be over a hundred years old, judging by the hand-carved craftsmanship. Aside from the dining table and chairs, which sat in the middle of the room, the dining room was pretty bare, except for tropical plants, which sat in each corner and gave the room a fresh, pleasant smell that reminded Amy of cantaloupe, sprinkled with black pepper.
At the far end of the table sat Vasiliev Emilianenko, Amy’s boss. CEO of Biochem, Incorporated.
“Please, be seated.” Yuriko whispered.
Amy sat at the end of the table opposite Vasiliev.
Vasiliev waved a well-manicured hand as if swatting flies with the back of it. “You are dismissed, Ms. Sakuraba.”
Yuriko bowed and exited the dining room. Vasiliev turned his gaze toward Amy and grinned. “Good evening, Ms. Cross.”
“Good evening, Mr. Emilianenko.”
Vasiliev shook his head. His curly, black hair bounced slightly as his head moved from side to side. “Please, call me Vasiliev. May I call you Amy?”
Amy nodded. “Of course.”
Vasiliev smiled even wider. “So, Amy, let’s chat while we wait for our meal, yes?”
Vasiliev leaned forward in his chair and placed his arms upon the table. His massive arms strained against the sleeves of his soft, burgundy, silk smoking jacket. “So, you are my Vice President of International Affairs, yes?”
Amy nodded. “Yes.”
“And now, you are here to put in your bid for President, now that Radcliff Delmont has retired, yes?”
Amy swallowed and then nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Well, Amy, I do not dine with V-Ps…only Presidents.” Vasiliev grinned and the light from the chandelier danced across his perfectly veneered teeth.
Amy patted her chest. “What?! You mean the position is mine?”
“Yes,” Vasiliev said. “You’ve earned it. I would be a fool not to promote the person responsible for a two-hundred and twelve percent increase in our international profits. If I do not promote you, my rivals will steal you away from me.”
“Yes, Vasiliev,” Amy replied. “I’ve been collecting masks from all over Africa for the past two decades.”
“And I hear there has been one mask, in particular, that you desire, but it has eluded you, yes?”
“Yes, it is called ‘Oya’s Beard’. It is a rare Yoruba mask that depicts the Goddess Oya with a conical beard. “It represents women who possess the power of man, as well as woman.”
Vasiliev shoved the box down the table towards Amy. “I see…open the box, please.”
Amy caught the box as it slid over the edge of the table. She opened the box and peeked inside. “Oh, my God! Vasiliev…I don’t know how to thank you!”
Vasiliev pounded his fists on his broad chest. “That is my thanks to you! You have done so much for Biochem. This is just a small token of my appreciation…but, please, tell me…why such a fascination with masks, Amy?”
Amy stared into Vasiliev’s grey eyes. The time had finally come. “Paul Lawrence Dunbar said: ‘We wear the mask that grins and lies.’ I collect masks to remind me that there are many masks that we wear and I must never allow one of them to become my face.”
Vasiliev leaned forward again. “Explain, please.”
“We all wear masks and, many times, we wear them so long and so often that the mask becomes indistinguishable from the person. The mask has become the face. Thankfully, mine has not.”
Vasiliev smiled. “So, what mask do you wear, Amy?”
Amy patted her chest and then ran her hands across her face. “This is my mask. Amy Cross. Conservative…capitalist…loyal to the establishment…an Aunt Tammy.”
Vasiliev’s right hand crept closer to the two-way radio that sat at the corner of the table. “Continue, please.”
“But my face, Vasiliev, is Esusanya Ogunlana. Former operative of the OPC – Ododuwa People’s Congress…aunt of Malomo Ogunlana, who was a victim of the Atlanta Child Murders…remember those!?”
Vasiliev grabbed the two-way radio. Amy hurled the Oya’s Beard mask towards him. The spiked chin of the mask tore through his esophagus, piercing his spine.
The tip of the mask’s chin protruded from the back of Vasiliev’s neck. His shoulders bounced up and down involuntarily and his legs jerked back and forth in a sardonic tap-dance. The two-way radio was frozen in Vasiliev’s right hand. His eyes stared, unblinking, at Amy’s – or Esusanya’s – chest.
Esusanya was a blur as she sprung from her chair and darted across the room until she was directly behind Vasiliev. She placed her full lips to Vasiliev’s ear and whispered: “Within the next ninety seconds, you will be dead, so let’s make this brief. I know you were responsible for the death of my nephew and all those other boys. I know that you had those boys kidnapped and murdered in order to harvest their melanin and sell it to the highest bidder to use in their tanning lotions, sunblockers and contact lenses. I know you, Vasiliev Emilianenko…your mask has been removed!”
Esusanya sauntered to the double doors and placed her hands upon the handles. “I’ll have to soak in Epsom salts after this.”
She then opened the doors to face Yuriko Sakuraba…and a life with no masks.
AFROFUTURISM-PRESENTISM-PASTISM: Catching up with time in Black Science Fiction!
Or what if you could travel forward into your future and alter your present? Would you?
Most Westerners speak of time travel in science fiction in terms of forward in time or backward in time. In the Western view, an event is a component of time – that time exists as an entity in itself, and it moves. The movement of time is forward, coming from behind us. As time moves, you must use it or lose it. If you do not use it, it is gone.
In the traditional African view of time, one might say that time flows backwards. It flows toward you from the future, and the more or faster the activity, the faster time flows. Time is created, in a sense.
Time is not something in itself. Life is made up of events, defined by relationships. Time is a component of the event.
In the African view, your activity really determines the amount of time that passes. Thus the faster you work, the more time you use. Time is not actually passing; it is simply waiting for you to catch up.
In the traditional Asian view of time, it is believed that what we call the past, present and future are mere illusions – fabrics of space and time, in which all exist seamlessly together. In this view, the future and the past are not any different.
Recent research suggests that, in fact, the present can change the past and the future can change the present. This is known as retrocausality.
Retrocausality has powerful and interesting implications for your life. The opportunity to change something about your present life that was originally set in motion in your past – or, the ability to use the future, even though it hasn’t “happened” yet, from your time-frame, to change something in the present – is a powerful thing. In effect, the results of your choice can be seen before you’ve even made it.
Seeing time, however, from the perspective of retrocausality is helpful with many people in need of psychotherapy and with those who feel “stuck” and unable to change or grow.
If it is, indeed, true that what we label past, present and future are all one, an event in either the past or the future could alter the one we call “the present.” Suppose, then, that you could shift something that occurred in your past, which created your future – which is now the present. Similarly, if you saw your future, based upon what you’re doing right now, and altered that, could it also transform your present?
Time and time travel have also been explored in science fiction and fantasy.
Sent nearly thirty years into the past as an unwilling subject in a time travel experiment, he must save his younger self from the deadly path that forged him into the ruthless killer he now is.
Described as an Urban Fantasy thriller, Redeemer is both gangster saga and science fiction epic.
Retrocausality…explored and experienced on the mean streets of the past, present and future.
Ezekiel uses retrocausality in attempt to change his condition in both the past and the future. Let’s hop into Ezekiel’s shoes for a bit and experience a bit of retrocausality ourselves.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Identify a meaningful turning point or event in your life in which you made a decision or were moved by circumstances to go in one direction vs. another, and that you know forged a path in your life that you wish it hadn’t. It might have concerned a feature of your personality that became reinforced through your behavior, associations, or personal values. Perhaps particular interests that grew or an educational choice you made. Or a relationship you began or committed to.
2. Write down what you wish you had known then and how you would have liked to act differently, in that turning point. Then, envision inhabiting the person you were at that earlier time. Show your earlier self what he/she needs to know or do, right now, in order to shift direction or change in some way. Do this exercise during meditation or a period of quite reflection.
3. Now, envision that you have actually become the person who could have emerged from that earlier shift. Imagine incorporating the emotions, state of mind and capacities that would have resulted. Envision that you are that person you might have been. Reflect on how you can integrate the results of the past you have “changed” into your life in the present. What new intentions or emotions arise within you and what can you do with them? Remember, your experience of reality is constructed within your head, your consciousness. That experience can change by “changing” your past.
4. Next flip this around: Teleport yourself into the future that you desire. Use your imagination to envision the person you would like to be in your future; the person who is already there. From within that person, speak to who you are right now. Tell your present self what you need to alter, change or develop from this immediate moment forward, in order to be pulled to that future version of yourself that you want to become. Doing this reminds you of the vast power – and importance – of having an ideal: a positive vision of something that constantly beckons you and keeps pulling you along the path towards it, as it tells you that it’s already there – or could be.
Upon your return from this jaunt, studies have shown that, to avoid “time-lag”, you should pick up your copy of Redeemer and treat yourself to a great read!
IT’S STILL DARK AT TWILIGHT: Scrubbing off the Whitewash of Urban Fantasy!
Whitewashing is the practice in which an author, filmmaker, artist or fan takes a character who is originally of color in literature and / or film and replaces them with a white character, actor, or model, or a person who looks “more white”, in order to appeal to the white masses.
Whitewashing is also used to describe the entertainment industry’s erasure of People of Color from history and / or specific locales.
This practice is extremely prevalent in Urban Fantasy.
Fans of Urban Fantasy often give the excuse that because most Urban Fantasy is set in a rural town, the percentage of People of Color who populate those towns is so insignificant that inclusion of them is pointless and even unrealistic.
This would almost make sense if the problematic subgenre was Rural Fantasy. The issue at hand, however, is Urban Fantasy.
Human settlements are classified as rural or urban depending on the density of human-created structures and resident people in a particular area. Urban areas can include towns and cities while rural areas include villages and hamlets.
Rural areas are settled places outside towns and cities, that often develop randomly on the basis of natural vegetation and fauna available in a region. They can have an agricultural feel to them – think the village in Children of the Corn, or Mayberry, with Andy, Otis, Opie, Barney and Gomer Pyle all gathered at Floyd Lawson’s Barbershop enjoying Aunt Bee’s apple pie.
Unlike rural areas, urban settlements are defined by their advanced civic amenities, opportunities for education, facilities for transport, business and social interaction and overall better standard of living. Socio-cultural statistics are usually based on an urban population – think Chicago, Atlanta and New York City.
So, why in the hell would Urban Fantasy be chiefly set in a Mayberry, when it clearly should be set in Chi-Town? We should change the subgenre of these stories to Rural Fantasy. Believe me; the complaints of whitewashing would end then; especially from me, because I would never bother to pick one of those books up.
Now before one of you fanboys rants about Jim Butcher setting his Harry Dresden books in Chicago, let’s explore this fact a bit deeper.
Yes, both Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden Series and Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires, are set in “Chicago”. This is obviously a very different Windy City from where I grew up and spent most of my life, however, because my Chicago is only 40% white. Yet Butcher’s and Neill’s Chicago’s are about 99% white. It’s like they took big bottles of White-Out and went berserk. Their works are, most certainly, about as fantastical as writing can get, perhaps even farcical. But Urban? Nah.
“About a year ago, Jim Butcher’s Twitter feed erupted into a bit of a kerfuffle about the whitewashing of urban fantasy. Apparently folks were bent out of shape by his depiction of Chicago, essentially whitewashing it as his Chicago comes up a bit short on the amount of black folks (or other people of color) living there. Frankly, I wasn’t too bent out of shape over this as somehow every week people used to tune into Friends who lived in a New York remarkably bereft of black folks. It’s to the point where I go into an urban fantasy expecting not to encounter minority characters other than in a ‘magical Negro’-type capacity.”
He goes on to say:
“There are more stories to tell in urban fiction than Boyz N the Hood or Menace II Society or baby mama dramas. Just as there are more characters to write about in urban fantasy whose stories aren’t as often told or voices always expressed. With the legends of the Green Knight, Red Knight, and Black Knight (in each of the books, respectively), Tristan and Isolde, trolls, zombies, a dragon, elven assassins, Red Caps, griffins, gangstas, and thug life tossed in, I guess I’m putting the “urban” in urban fantasy. This isn’t your father’s King Arthur tale, but it is mine.”
No Rural Fantasy with Maurice Broaddus’ Knights of Breton Court series. This magnificent series is pure Urban Fantasy at its very best.
Come on, y’all…if you write a story and set it in a place like Broaddus’ Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, London, or Las Vegas, basic demographic research will indicate the presence of People of Color. To read and enjoy Urban Fantasy, I am expected to just accept that Black people don’t exist? You get the side-eye for that one.
Whether or not you like Urban Fantasy, the fact of the matter is that this subgenre of Fantasy has had an immense and global impact on people through literature, television and film.
It is because of this impact that we cannot ignore the messages that Urban Fantasy brings. Each time an author of this subgenre decides to tell a story, instead of working so hard to erase People of Color out of existence, they should work just as hard to erase the problems that plague our society. And fanboys…do not say that writers should not have to be political; that they should be free to write merely to entertain. Every statement we make is political. Every sentence we write is potentially life-changing for someone. Such is the power of the word.
You cannot truly change culture without literature. We can pass a thousand laws saying that racism and sexism are wrong. We can make a thousand impassioned speeches to rouse the marginalized masses; but if everyone returns home after those speeches and sits down to read the latest installment of Twilight, or watch the next episode of The Vampire Diaries and their fictional worlds in which those same marginalized masses barely even exist – then how much change can truly be affected?
It is within the pages of books and under the light of the TV screen where we will reach people and change the world for the better…or worse.
Over and over again, we are told that our stories aren’t worth being told. We do not get to be the heroes. We are never “the one destined to come since man was young upon the earth”. If we are lucky, we get to be the “magical negro”; the “noble savage”; the sidekick; the Black person who doesn’t die in the first ten minutes of the film.
This is damaging to the psyches of People of Color. And a devastating blow to the self-esteem of our babies.
So, don’t tell me writers just write to merely entertain, when entertainment has such a powerful, deep and lasting impression on the minds of us all.
This is why Black speculative fiction is so important. In my own work of Urban Fantasy, Redeemer, the hero, Ezekiel Cross, is a Black man from an Atlanta of the future who is used in an experiment that transports him to an Atlanta of the past – our present. This Atlanta is a gritty, real Atlanta in which intelligent and powerful Black people – both good and bad – exist.
Redeemer is witty, thrilling and, sometimes, frightening Urban Fantasy that I have always wanted to read; with heroes I have always wanted to see.
Will it change the world? Maybe…give it a read and let me know.
The Coldest Wynter Ever
A Lesson Learned; A Tale of Terror
I have always had a heart for – and spoken in defense of – the downtrodden; the victimized; the rejected and the despised. I have never turned my nose up at a homeless person, or looked down upon those less fortunate than myself. I think of myself as one of the “good guys” and good guys defend the weak and help those in need.
It is easy, however, to “speak out against”, or “speak up for”, however to act on behalf of is quite another thing entirely and not so easy at all.
I learned this nearly two decades ago, while discussing the plight of the homeless in Chicago. I was scolding a group of brothers for not being “grassroots” enough; for not speaking out against homelessness and for not working together to erect a shelter for homeless women and children.
One of my closest friends pulled me aside after my tirade and told me he liked what I said and agreed that we must take an active stance in helping the homeless. He then asked if I’d like to go see Pulp Fiction – his treat. With dark comedies – especially ones with professional assassins – at the top of my list of favorite types of movies, how could I refuse?
On the way to the movies, my friend, who insisted that he drive, said he had to make a quit stop. He then proceeded to head toward downtown Chicago – the opposite direction from the movie theater we frequented.
“Where are we headed?” I asked.
“I have to drop something off to some old friends of mine,” my friend replied.
We reached Wacker Drive, the famed “triple-decker” street. My friend veered off toward the road that led to Lower Wacker Drive and we continued our descent to Lower Lower Wacker Drive, which was even more famous…for being one of the largest homeless encampments in the world. The homeless preferred sleeping on Lower Lower Wacker Drive because they are sheltered from the weather and dozens of them could be found sleeping on loading docks and other out-of-the-way spots on any given night. In the mid-1990s, Chi-Town began forcibly removing these unfortunate people, tossing out their belongings and fencing off the places where they stayed.
In 1993, however, Lower Lower Wacker Drive was a sprawling metropolis of tents and cardboard boxes.
My friend – Jermaine is his name, in case you’re wondering – parked beside a loading dock, honked twice and then hopped out of his vehicle. I followed him to the trunk. Jermaine opened it, revealing his wife’s mink coat, two goose down coats, a pair of his ostrich-skin boots – chill, PETA, it wasn’t me – and a crate of bottled water.
Dozens of homeless people approached us, with warm smiles. Jermaine knew them all by name. He embraced them without hesitation.
I felt immense shame, because I realized that I was talking the talk – with a proverbial megaphone at that – but had never walked the walk.
Jermaine had walked it many times, though and had never said a word about it. He did not seek accolades; he did not seek support. He saw people in need and wanted to help them in the best way he could.
Jermaine handed out his donations to a man he called “The Mayor”, a short, thin, elderly Black man, who corrected me when I said the word “homeless” during my conversation with this brilliant man – “We aren’t homeless; we’re residenceless. This is home.”
The Mayor of Lower Lower Wacker Drive then decided who would receive which items. No one complained about his choices and all was peaceful. Jermaine and I said farewell to everyone, hopped back in his car and drove off. I turned to Jermaine and asked “So, when are we coming back?” “Pick a day,” he responded. “I visit and drop off stuff four or five days a week.”
Jermaine – always a cool brother – became a hundred times cooler, in my eyes.
My many chats with the Mayor of Lower Lower Wacker Drive over the next year or so inspired me to write a story with a “residenceless” person as the hero. Finally, I crafted Chicago Wynter, a tale of a homeless man’s battle against the deadly cold that takes the lives of so many homeless in Chicago each year.
I recently recorded an audio version of the story for GA Tech’s WREK radio station (91.1 FM), which will air on their Sci Fi Lab show. I now share that recording, with an accompanying slide show, with you. Give a listen and a look, enjoy and then, please, give me your feedback.
I have given homage to authors Nnedi Okorafor and Milton J. Davis by making them “actors” in this work. Why? Because they are artists whose work I admire greatly and, in the case of Milton Davis, he is also a great friend and teacher who I have had the honor – and pleasure – of working with on several projects.
We now continue the celebration of the release of my latest Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, with Part 3 of Redeemer: Glitch, the episodic short story based on the book. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.
So, sit back and enjoy the finale (perhaps) of Redeemer: Glitch!
REDEEMER: Glitch Part 3
Glitch: A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag
Z strolled down Abernathy Boulevard, past the old men hanging out in front of the West End Mall to ogle scantily clad girls as they passed by; past the men and women selling incense, fragrant oils and books on the Prison Industrial Complex or the Mayan Apocalypse. He strolled past them all, seen, but unnoticed, just as Norm had taught him to be.
Unnoticed, that is, except by one. One who remained unnoticed and unseen by all, stepping in and out of shadow as he traced Z’s every step.
Z stopped at the door of a three-story office building nestled between a swanky vegetarian restaurant and a natural hair salon. The sign on the door read ‘Carver Recording & Film Studios’.
Z stepped through the door, drawing his pistol from inside his Enyce vest. The pitol’s silencer reflected the light from the chandelier which hung over the security desk. He squeezed the trigger twice.
The first guard slumped in his chair. A torrent of blood rushed gushed from a hole in his neck. Within seconds, his starched, white uniform shirt was a deep burgundy.
The second guard collapsed to the floor as blood and tissue erupted from his back. A wisp of smoke rose from the hole in his black security officer’s shirt as he convulsed erratically. A moment later, he lay still.
Z sauntered to the elevator, pressed the button and waited.
The elevator door slid open. Z turned his back to the elevator, admiring his handiwork as he stepped into it. The elevator came to a smooth stop on the third floor. The door opened and Z stepped out of it into the hallway. The skylights that ran the length of the hallway’s ceiling bathed the corridor in the warmth and light of the noonday sun.
Z perused the numbers on the studio and office doors, stopping at ‘Studio 9’, from which emanated the din of southern gangster rap music, laughter and firm commands. Z recognized one of the commands belonging to the voice of Virginia Carver. He had found at least one of his targets.
Z raised his pistol before him. He then took half a step back from the door, inhaled deeply and then drove the heel of his foot toward the doorknob.
His heel crashed into the door, just below the knob. The door frame shattered and the door flew open. Z rushed in, squeezing off a volley of rounds from his pistol.
The Carver Twins’ bodyguards, Manny and Steve, threw their bodies in front of their bosses, as Z had hoped – he did not want to have to face these two killers and the twins – and were caught in a hail storm of searing lead. Round after round tore into their flesh, rending tissue, bone and vital organs. The big men fell, soiling the hardwood flooring with entrails and gore.
The rapper Point Blank dropped to his haunches in the recording booth, thrusting his head between his legs.
Virginia Carver darted forward, closing on Z with fearsome speed and ferocity. Her hands wrapped around his pistol, as she pushed her arms high above her head. A round exploded from the gun, lodging in the ceiling.
Z tried to pull the trigger again, but Virginia held the pistol’s slide firmly in place and the gun would not fire.
Virginia jerked the weapon downward.
Z’s index finger, caught in the trigger guard, made a sickening snap as it bent sideways at an impossible angle. Z dropped to his knees, releasing the pistol.
Virginia thrust her knee forward, driving the air out of Z’s lungs as the powerful knee strike collided with his solar plexus.
Z tried to crawl away, but a heavy, leather boot came crashing down on his left hand, crushing the small bones and pinning it to the floor.
Z screamed in agony as he looked up into Virgil’s smiling face.
“Where are you running to, boy?” Virgil snickered. “”Don’t you have some killing to do?”
“This is one of Sweet’s boys,” Virginia said.
The hammer of Z’s pistol clicked as Virginia cocked it. “We’re gonna send what’s left of your head to Sweet. The rest of you, I’m gonna keep on display in pickle jars in my pool-house.”
Virginia aimed the pistol at Z’s forehead. A loud boom rocked the studio.
Blood and brain splashed onto Z’s face.
A second boom. More blood and brain rained on the floor before the teen.
Z scurried across the floor, slipping in blood and bits of flesh.
The headless bodies of the twins collapsed onto the floor with dull thuds.
Z reached out toward his pistol. With shaky fingers, he snatched it off the floor and raised it toward the entrance. There was no one there.
“Put the gun down, Z.”
Z leapt to his feet, aiming his pistol toward the source of the rich, baritone voice. Standing before him was a tall, athletically built man holding a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun on his shoulder. Although Z had never seen him before, the man looked strangely familiar.
“Who the hell are you?” Z inquired. “How do you know my name?”
“You’re welcome,” the man replied.
“Thanks,” Z said, keeping his gun aimed at the man. “Now, who the hell are you?”
“My name’s Ezekiel,” the man answered. “Ezekiel Cross.”
“Bullshit!” Z shouted, struggling to ignore the intense pain gnawing at both hands.
“Naw, boy, that’s real shit,” the man said. “As real as the shock you’re gonna go into if we don’t get those hands taken care of.”
A wave of nausea washed over Z. The pistol fell from his shaky fingers and he collapsed against the mixing board. Ezekiel ran to Z and placed a powerful arm around the boy’s waist. “We have to get out of here. I’ll explain everything later.
Z nodded. Ezekiel sat Z in a chair and retrieved the boy’s gun. He tucked the weapon into the holster sewn into the interior of Z’s vest and then helped him to his feet. The duo crept out of the office and into the sunlit hallway.
“I can walk now,” Z said.
“You sure?” Ezekiel asked.
“Positive,” Z answered.
Ezekiel let him go. Z stood wide-legged, remaining still until he was sure that his balance would not fail him. He then sauntered down the hall toward the elevator with Ezekiel on his heels.
A low “ding” came from the elevator and the door slowly slid open.
Ezekiel raised his shotgun, holding it at the ready. Z took a few steps backward until he was standing a couple of feet behind Ezekiel.
An immaculately dressed, elderly man stepped off the elevator and stood before the elevator door, offering only his profile to Z and Ezekiel. The man was tall, but his spiky, grey afro made him appear even taller. His full, grey beard seemed to glow against his mahogany skin and his frame, though covered in a tailored grey suit, was obviously athletic, despite his age.
“Oh, no,” Ezekiel gasped.
“What? Who is that?” Z asked.
“He’s called Paradox,” Ezekiel whispered. When a time traveler changes history, Paradox comes and fixes it back.”
“Man…what? Paradox?” Z said, shaking his head.
“That’s Grandfather Paradox to you,” the elderly man said. “Always respect your elders, boy.”
“What do you want, old man?” Z inquired.
“You,” Paradox replied. He turned his head slowly toward Z, revealing a wide grin.
Fire erupted from the muzzle of Ezekiel’s shotgun.
Paradox was thrown onto his back as a sabot shotgun slug blew a chasm in his chest.
“Run!” Ezekiel shouted.
Z did not move. “Run? You just ghosted that old nigga!”
“Damn, I do not recall being this stupid!” Ezekiel spat. “Now, we’ve got to fight this thing.”
“Man, I appreciate you saving me and all,” Z said, approaching Paradox’s body. “But you are straight cray-cray, for real!”
“Cray-cray?” Ezekiel asked.
“That means you take crazy to a whole ‘nother level,” Z said. If you really believe you’re…”
The words grew heavy in Z’s throat as he watched Paradox sit up on his haunches. “The hell?” The teen gasped.
Paradox rose to its feet. It raised its head toward the ceiling and let loose a roar that sent a chill clawing its way up Z’s spine. The creature shifted…changed. Tendon, sinew and bone popped and crackled as they changed shape and function. The Grandfather Paradox was no longer a sophisticated, athletic elderly gentleman; it was now gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin was pulled tautly over its bones and its complexion was now the pallid, ash-gray of death. Strange runes and raised patterns traversed the creature’s flesh. Its eyes were pushed back deep into their sockets, what lips remained were tattered and bloody and the monster gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition; of death and destruction; of disease, sickness and shit.
Z whirled on his heels and took off. The Grandfather Paradox exploded forward, sprinting on all fours, hot on Z’s heels.
“Now, you run?” Ezekiel sighed.
Ezekiel squeezed the trigger of his shotgun.
The creature fell over on its side as its forearm was blown from its elbow.
Ezekiel squeezed the trigger once more. The shotgun roared.
Paradox’s head exploded, its oily, black ichor painting the walls and floor.
“Keep going,” Ezekiel shouted. “That thing will be back at us in a few minutes!”
Ezekiel and Z reached the main floor. They ran through the door and into the lobby, continuing on, sprinting past the corpses of the pair of security guards.
“My car is parked around the corner…to your left,” Ezekiel said.
The duo ran out of the building and onto Abernathy Boulevard. Almost in unison, they reduced their speed to a brisk walk, so as to not attract too much attention.
“Time travelers…old men turning into monsters…what the hell is really going on, shawty?” Z inquired.
“Welcome to my world, kid,” Z sighed. “Welcome to my world.”
We now continue the celebration of the release of my latest Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, with Part 2 of Redeemer: Glitch, the episodic short story based on the book. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.
So, sit back once more and enjoy part two of Redeemer: Glitch!
REDEEMER: Glitch Part 2
Glitch: A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag
Danny Sweet forced a smile as he sat across the table from Virginia and Virgil Carver – the notorious Carver Twins – the only threat and obstacle to Sweet’s total domination of rap and R&B music in the South and the Southeast.
Norm and Detective McGraw stood, menacingly, at Sweet’s back.
Z sat alone in an apartment across the street – one of Sweet’s safe-houses – monitoring the closed circuit cameras and microphones that he and Norm had planted in the restaurant the night before.
At the Carver Twins’ backs were two men who Z recognized as former Navy Seals, Manny and Steve. The duo had been securing the Twins since Old Man Carver was still alive and running the family business and the twins were in high school.
“My husband – God rest his soul – proposed to me here,” Virginia Carver said. “Ah, the memories!”
“And I banged my first piece of ass here,” Virgil snickered. “In the restroom. Ah, the memories!”
Virginia punched Virgil in the arm. Virgil winced from the pain. “Ow!” he screamed, rubbing his aching bicep.
“Please, forgive my brother,” Virginia said. “So, what exactly, did you want to discuss with us? It sounded urgent on the phone.”
Sweet then pointed the fork in the direction of the Carver Twins, shaking it as he spoke. “For ten years, we’ve been rivals…”
Sweet sucked a piece of fish from between his teeth and spat it into a napkin. “We first competed on these streets and now, in the music business. Congrats on signing Point Blank, by the way…he’s sure to win Best New Artist at the Hip-Hop Awards. Hell, he might even give my boy, Skinz, a run for his money for Best Album.”
“Thank you. We’ll see,” Virginia replied.
“Well, we’ve been bitter rivals,” Sweet continued. “But we’ve never broken the peace with each other. There has been no violence between our families and we’ve all grown because of that.”
Norm glanced at the young gangster.
Virginia shook her head.
“Look, Sweet,” Virgil began. “I’ve got a date with a certain supermodel talk-show host in a couple of hours, so, if you don’t mind…”
“Virgil!” Virginia shouted, as she placed a firm hand on her brother’s forearm.
“It’s okay, Virginia,” Sweet said, struggling to maintain his smile. “You’re right, Virgil, I’ll get straight to the point.”
Sweet took a deep breath. “Two nights ago, someone killed three of my best men. One of them was a Lieutenant. A reliable source describes the killer as some kind of Special Forces, ninja-type motherfucker. Me!”
Virgil shrugged his narrow shoulders. “So, what does that have to do with us?”
Virgil pounded his fist on the table. Plates jumped and a few forks fell to the floor. Virgil glared at Sweet, not once acknowledging Norm’s presence with his eyes. “I am Co-Boss of the Carver Family, Sweet! Since when do you allow your Captain to speak to a Boss at a sit-down?”
“Since when does a Co-Boss who rides the coattails of his sister – the real Boss of your family – disrespect the Boss of Bosses?” Sweet spat.
“The Boss of Bosses?” Virginia said, shaking her head. “You go too far, Sweet.”
Sweet took another bite of catfish and spoke as he chewed. “Look, we both know that there isn’t a Boss in the Southeast who will stand with you against me.
Sweet sprinkled hot sauce on his fish and took another bite. “But, if you have broken the peace, Virginia, the other Bosses will side with me against you. None of them like the idea of a female Boss, anyway. Me? I’m more progressive.”
Virginia scooted her chair away from the table and stood up. Virgil rose almost in unison with her.
Manny and Steve stood at the Carver Twins’ flanks.
“This sit-down is over, Sweet!” Virginia said.
“Goodbye, Sweet,” Virginia said, as she walked away from the table.
The Carver Family sauntered out of the restaurant.
“Fuckin’ wankers! Norm shouted.
“What do we do now, Sweet?” McGraw asked.
Sweetstared out of a large window, which ran from floor to ceiling in a wall near his table. The Carver Twins were hopping into their limousine.
“You should send Z’s crazy, little ass after them,” McGraw said.
“The Carvers are too dangerous,” Sweet said. “I can’t have my little experiment getting’ himself killed.”
“Your experiment?” McGraw inquired.
“I’m creating the perfect killer,” Sweet replied.
“I thought Norm, here, was the perfect killer,” McGraw said, slapping Norm on his massive bicep with the back of his hand.
“Norm is almost perfect, but he was a barrister before I showed him his true calling,” Sweet said.
“That’s a bloody barista, fool! I was a barrister…an attorney.”
Sweet and McGraw laughed. Norm went back to devouring his bowl of kale.
“So, how are we handling the twins, Sweet?” McGraw asked.
“We’re gonna use an outsider,” Sweet answered.
“Anyone I know?” McGraw asked.
“Maybe,” Sweet replied. “Her name’s Lala.”
McGraw sat bolt upright in his chair. “Hold up…Lala is real? I thought she was just a friggin’ urban legend.”
“I heard she took out Preach, the Boss out of Cincinnati,” McGraw said. “And his gang, too, without ever firing a single shot. Man, I thought all that was bullshit, though.”
“No, that was really Lala,” Norm said. “She only uses silent weapons. Knives and crossbows and other Lord of the Rings-type shit. Sweet has used her a few times.”
“Yeah, she does good wet-work, but she’s fuckin’ expensive,” Sweet sighed. “And she’s crazy as a shithouse rat! I don’t like fuckin’ with her unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, it’s necessary. You’ll finally get to meet her, McGraw; she should be here any minute.”
“Any minute?” McGraw gasped. “What the hell is she…psychic or something? How did she know you’d be giving her this contract?”
“Ever hear of speed-dial, wanker?” Norm asked.
“The second the sit-down went south, I hit Lala up with a text.”
A woman sauntered into the dining room, her Dolce and Gabbana mini dress caressing every curve of her sensuous form with each graceful step.
“Gentlemen,” the woman said. She then nodded in McGraw’s direction. “Pervert.”
“Speak of the devil,” Sweet said, taking the woman’s hand.
“And the devil appears,” Lala said. “So, who are we killin’, sugar?”
Sweet kissed the back of her hand and extended his arm toward a chair. Lala took a seat.
“The Carver Twins,” Sweet said.
“Okay,” Lala said. “Two-fifty…each.”
“Five hundred thousand dollars?” Sweet hissed. “Are you fuckin’ serious?”
“I’m the World Serious of seriousness, baby,” Lala replied. “These are two crime bosses we’re talkin’ about, not some mayor or fuckin’ police chief!”
“Two hundred each,” Sweet said.
“Two-twenty-five,” Lala responded.
“Done,” Sweet said.
McGraw exploded forward.
Sweet lit a stogie and took a few quick puffs.
“McGraw, what the bloody hell are you doin’?” Norm spat.
“I’m disappointed,” McGraw said. “The legendary Lala, huh? It was easy to get the ups on your sexy, little ass. I could have slit your throat and you’d have been dead before you knew who did you.”
“I’ll tell you what I do know, Perv,” Lala said. “After you slit my throat, I’d try to cauterize and sew up the wound. Hell, it’s worth a shot. I still might die, but not before you.”
“How’s that?” McGraw asked.
McGraw winced. He looked down toward the source of his pain. Lala held the tip of a knife at his inner thigh.
“Femoral artery laceration,” Lala said. “You’ll bleed out in eleven seconds. Still disappointed?”
McGraw sheathed his knife on his belt. “Not at all.”
Tammy slipped hers back in a hidden sheath on the outside of her clutch bag. She then slammed the back of her head into McGraw’s groin.
The detective collapsed onto his knees.
Tammy leapt from the chair and darted behind McGraw. She coiled her arms around his neck and squeezed.
McGraw’s eyes turned a bright pink as the constriction on his neck grew tighter.
“That’ll be another twenty thousand, or the pervert dies,” Lala demanded.
Sweet answered with a nod.
Lala released the choke.
“I swear to God, McGraw, if you weren’t so damned valuable, I’d kill you myself!” Sweet said.
“Alright gents,” Lala said, walking toward the door. She nodded toward McGraw, who was now resting on his knees. “Pervert…gotta get home, The Walking Dead marathon is coming on and I love me some T-Dog.”
Lala glided out of the dining room.
Z slipped his Sig Sauer nine millimeter pistol into the waistband of his jeans and then tossed the bottom of his t-shirt over it. “Sorry Lala,” he whispered as he shut the door to the apartment. “The Carvers are mine!”
Join us in a few days as we continue our thrilling tale with Redeemer: Glitch, Part 2!
And, as always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.