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.
Steampunk: What in the hell is it, really?
Many will argue that when H. G. Wells was writing, people believed in the possibility of time machines, making animals sentient and traveling to the center of the earth and finding live dinosaurs down there.
Now, if what H. G. Wells wrote was science fiction and most people agree that – along with Jules Verne – Wells created the model for anachronistic fiction (i.e. Steampunk, Dieselpunk and the like), then is Steampunk science fiction?
Yet, you find Steampunk on the fantasy bookshelves, not the science fiction ones. Unless, of course, the Science Fiction and Fantasy titles are, annoyingly, combined onto one set of shelves, a la Barnes and Noble.
So, is steampunk science fiction, or is it fantasy?
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “Steampunk”, please check out http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/05/24/punk-101-steampunk-dieselpunk-and-a-three-year-old-genius/, or http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/01/23/state-of-black-sci-fi-2012-why-i-love-steampunk/.
The Difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy
Both science fiction and fantasy present things that do not exist. All fiction does this, of course. That’s what makes it fiction. But science fiction and fantasy include not only imaginary characters and events but settings, creatures, concepts, or devices that are qualitatively beyond our normal, everyday experience.
While Science Fiction and Fantasy share some characteristics, there is a clear and unambiguous distinction between them.
Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are two of the earliest true modern science fiction writers. Both stretched the bounds of what was known at the time to posit things that did not exist. Unlike earlier, and even much of the other speculative fiction of the time, though, they based their plot devices on extrapolations from current science and technology. Previous visits to improbable lands, encounters with strange creatures, and even fictional travels through time were often the result of a dream or mystical insight. Both Wells and Verne presented their readers with fantastic machines, but these were based on scientifically explained principles. They included strange creatures, but they were natural rather than supernatural, with abilities explainable, at least in theory, solely in terms of biology and evolution.
Fantasy is less constrained. It can include just about anything – magic wands; fire-breathing dragons; shiny, shimmering vampires; werewolves; genies in lamps; lizard men and sentient swords. These things just ‘are’ and don’t need to be explained from a scientific perspective.
While the magical elements must be internally consistent, they do not need to be based on known science. If the story includes supernatural or mythological characters or forces that are not supported with plausible sounding techno-babble, then it is fantasy.
When asked to explain the difference between science fiction and fantasy, Isaac Asimov, the prolific writer of science and science fiction, replied, “Science fiction, given its grounding in science, is possible; fantasy, which has no grounding in reality, is not.” We authors can – at times – be quite presumptuous and this statement is presumptuous to the nth degree, as Asimov implies that he knows everything that is possible and all that is real. He doesn’t (didn’t – he passed away in 1992). We don’t.
A better distinction was provided by the science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer who said, “There’s discontinuity between our reality and fantasy; there’s continuity between our reality and science fiction.”
He is saying that fantasy proposes the existence of things we cannot yet explain rationally. Science fiction, on the other hand, must present some rationale for how such things could exist and demands a plausible theoretical explanation rooted in what we currently know. The explanation does not need to answer such questions in detail, but the reader must feel that a scientific explanation is possible and links back to our current scientific understanding of the real world.
Science fiction is supportive of a scientific outlook and optimistic about humanity’s ability to use science to explain the universe and create a brighter future. Fantasy, which has a mystical basis, supports the idea of the existence of things science cannot explain or deal with.
There are those who believe a magic wand is no less implausible than a TV remote control or that the binary system of African divination is as viable as Boolean logic. Both types of people can, however, read and enjoy science fiction and fantasy.
Stories from both genres can be insightful, thought provoking and evoke a sense of wonder. Both genres can take us to strange and fascinating worlds.
Now, there are stories in which both magic and science work, science is so sophisticated it simulates magic, or characters possess psychic powers so strong they resemble magic. A term that has been applied to these stories is ‘science fantasy.’
An example would be Star Wars, a fantasy adventure with science fiction elements. The fantasy element is the Force, which is described as a mystical ‘energy’ field. The science fiction elements, obviously, are extraterrestrial aliens and space ships, although there is never much of an explanation for how the latter are supposed to work. Another example would be Van Helsing – a popular Steampunk movie. The science fiction element is the weapons and even the creation of Frankenstein’s monster. The fantasy aspects of Van Helsing include the existence of vampires and werewolves.
Stories involving time travel are generally considered science fantasy as well.
So, if Steampunk is, science fantasy, why not just call it – and Star Wars, Van Helsing and time travel stories, for that matter – fantasy?
Well, even the best Steampunk story – a story like Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman Books 1 & 2 (shameless plug) – may not appeal to someone who strictly enjoys high fantasy. A pure fantasy reader may not appreciate a story with a dwarf who wields a steam-powered war-hammer or an elf who pilots a dirigible.
The hard science fiction fan would, most likely, loathe the inclusion of Orcs, fighting alongside the Cassad Empire in the far reaches of the Dark Universe.
So, the science fiction elements make it not purely fantasy, but the fantasy elements make it not purely science fiction either.
And the debate continues as to just what Steampunk is.
I asked the members of the State of Black Science Fiction – a group of which I am a proud, founding member – whether Steampunk is Science Fiction or Fantasy and got some interesting answers. I thank all of them for their insight and happily share them with you.
Cm Talley, noted P-Funk scholar and author: “Well, there’s very little science involved, so, it is very definitely fantasy. If there are elements of Wellsian aliens or Vernsian explorations, then you might straddle the ‘science’ line, but for the most part it’s a variation of historical fiction. Steampunk uses a different paradigm: post-feudal, post Age of Reason, New World colonization. Antebellum to height of industrial revolution to Reconstruction, Gilded Age (Victorian Era if you’re British). I call it the ‘alternate history’ branch of fantasy.”
Diop Malvi, author: “Always considered Steampunk/funk as science fiction of the alternate world variety.”
Valjeanne Jeffers,author of the Immortal series of novels and the Steampunk novel, The Switch II: Clockwork: “Steampunk didn’t just come into being – it’s been around for a while. Think Adam Ant; Sherlock Holmes; and the movie, Time After Time (based on H.G. Well’s The Time Machine).
Steampunk is an island of fantasy – of escape – within our technological, very stressful 21th century. Just like every other type of speculative fiction. And a way of making one’s own personal statement.
Someone on a Steampunk blog, described it as ‘poorly defined’. Really? Seriously? How about open to experimentation and imagination. Steampunk is a glorious mixture of other fantasy/SF genres. And the settings and plots reflect this – plots set in the post-civil war; Victorian England; Post-Apocalyptic America; or a futuristic world, as in my Steampunk story: The Switch II: Clockwork .”
Maurice Broaddus, author of The Knights of Breton Court series of novels and the Steampunk story, Pimp My Airship: “Alternate history, which so much of Steampunk is, falls under science fiction.”
Vincent Moore, Senior Media Correspondent at Komplicated.com and author of the Total Recall comic book series: “I agree with Maurice. Where most Steampunk gets going is the argument about what would have happened if the Babbage Difference Engine actually started the Computer Age early. Everything else descends from that argument.”
Geoffrey Thorne, writer for USA network’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien and TNT’s Leverage.: “It’s sci-fi if it uses science as its central technological engine. It’s fantasy if there are dragons and wizards powering the stuff.”
Cynthia Ward, Market Reporter for the SFWA Bulletin and – with author Nisi Shawl – teaches the workshop Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Differences for Successful Fiction: “Alternate histories are usually classified as science fiction, but then the Soulless/Umbrella Protectorate series, by Gail Carriger, is urban fantasy with its parallel-Victorian werewolves, vampires, and ghosts. So I’d say the content of the individual Steampunk titles determines whether they’re science fiction or fantasy (or science fantasy).”
Ronald Jones, author of the novels Chronicle of the Liberator and Warriors of the Four Worlds: “I’d say it depends on the author. Steam technology is real world, based upon real science and engineering principles. Add steam tech to a fictional tale, create a fantastical setting, but don’t introduce magical elements, your Steampunk story will be science fiction. If magic is added to your story then I would consider it fantasy.”
Alicia McCalla, author of the Teen Dystopian novel, Breaking Free: “Balogun Ojetade I think it’s both depending upon the direction the story takes. Alternate History with steam power would be more like Science Fiction but a new or alien world that uses steam technology would be more like Fantasy. Hoping you find a way to explain that. LOL!”
Hmm…so many opinions.
Maybe that is another reason I love Steampunk / Steamfunk. It freely draws from science fiction, fantasy, horror and history, yet is not bound by any of them.
Perhaps Steampunk is just…Steampunk.
As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. Please share.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE
For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of what is now called Steampunk – a mash-up of fantasy and science fiction that embraces a fantastical past while incorporating a spirit of progress, exploration and do-it-yourself ingenuity.
Always a voracious reader, I devoured Jules Verne’s novels – From the Earth to the Moon; 20,000 Leagues under the Sea; and Around the World in 80 Days. One of my childhood rituals was to sit at the feet of my mother and, together, we would watch Wild, Wild West. My mother, a huge fan of westerns (she has probably seen every western ever made in English…yes, really) and comedic spy stories (Get Smart and I Spy are her favorites) was in heaven.
In my preteens, I was the first of my friends to break away from Dungeons and Dragons in search of a game that allowed me to create a world more like that of Wild, Wild West, in which espionage, steam power, trains and amazing gadgets were some of the tropes. I could not find such a game, so I included these elements in the TSR game Boot Hill (also created by Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D) and it quickly became a hit with my friends.
As an adult, when I decided to write my first novel I knew three things – I wanted the hero to be Harriet Tubman; I wanted Harriet to be an ass-kicking monster-hunter and freedom fighter; and I wanted the story to include amazing gadgets and over-the-top villains a la Wild, Wild West. Thus, the beginnings of Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman took form in my mind. Years later, I sent the first book in the series to independent publisher, Mocha Memoirs Press. The Editor-In-Chief of the company, Nicole Kurtz, wrote me saying they loved the story and were looking for more Steampunk stories like mine. “Steampunk?” I immediately hopped online and began my search and found a wealth of information on the movement.
My next search was Black authors of Steampunk, which did not yield much, however it did take me to an article written by an incredible writer by the name of Jha – who I later discovered is one of the leading authorities on Steampunk, Jaymee Goh – whose informative and inspiring work helped me to find other Steampunk People of Color. You should read her article – The Intersection of Race and Steampunk: Colonialism’s After-Effects & Other Stories, from a Steampunk of Colour’s Perspective [Essay] – at http://www.racialicious.com/2009/06/24/the-intersection-of-race-and-steampunk-colonialisms-after-effects-other-stories-from-a-steampunk-of-colours-perspective-essay/.
Shortly after finding the article by Jah, I joined Black Science Fiction Society. On http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/, I found other writers of African descent who write Steampunk. I was so happy I was not alone and that I could read works of Steampunk that included heroes who look like me.
Since that time, I have developed friendships and working relationships with most of the Black authors who write Steampunk and – through the genius and diligence of author Milton Davis, we will all contribute to the soon-to-be released anthology, Steamfunk.
A few Black authors of Steampunk have been gracious enough to provide me with interviews, which I would like to share with you. I am sure they will inspire you as they have inspired me. Each one, teach one.
Maurice Broaddus is a scientist and a writer. He has been published in dozens of markets, including the anthologies Dark Dreams II and Dark Dreams III; Apex Science Fiction Magazine; Horror Digest; Horror Literature Quarterly; and Weird Tales and is the editor of the acclaimed Dark Faith and Dark Faith II anthologies (Nebula, Bram Stoker, and Black Quill nominated). Maurice is also senior writer for HollywoodJesus.com.
Contact the author at www.mauricebroaddus.com.
What do you like about Steampunk?
I was never much of a fan of history when I was in high school, you know, when you’re forced to sit through boring lessons by disinterested teachers. When I was getting into writing more seriously, I realized I enjoyed writing historical pieces and all the research that it entailed. With steampunk, I not only get to study various aspects of history, but also get to imagine huge “what if” scenarios.
What was your inspiration for writing a Steampunk tale?
Um, this is a little bit embarrassing to admit, but my inspiration was Twitter. I didn’t know much about steampunk other than to make this joke on Twitter: “I’m going to write a steampunk story with an all-black cast and call it ‘Pimp My Airship’.” When five editors wrote me to send them the story when I was done, I knew that I had to write one. (It was later published in Apex Magazine.)
Besides your own, what are your favorite Steampunk stories?
When I was sitting down to write “Pimp My Airship,” I picked up the anthologies Extraordinary Engines (edited by Nick Gevers) and Steampunk (Ann and Jeff Vandermeer). Those not only gave me an excellent overview of steampunk, but also have some of the best steampunk stories in them. “The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider” by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Chabon’s “The Martian Agent”, and Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock were some of my favorites.
What Steampunk stories have you written? Where can we read them?
The only steampunk story of mine available at the moment is “Pimp My Airship”, collected in the Descended from Darkness volume 2 (Apex Books) though it’s also available online (http://apex-magazine.com/2009/08/03/pimp-my-airship/).
What Steampunk works are you planning to release in the near future?
In the works are the novelization of “Pimp My Airship” as well as another short story, which is growing into a novelette, entitled “Steppin’ Razor”, a Jamaican steampunk story.
Milton Davis is a chemist by day and a writer/publisher by night and on the weekends. He writes and publishes uplifting science fiction and fantasy stories from an African American perspective because he feels that there is a lack of positive black characters in the speculative fiction market.
Milton is the author of five novels: Meji Book One, Meji Book Two, Changa’s Safari Vol. 1, Changa’s Safari Vol. 2 and Griots: A Sword & Soul Anthology, for which he is a contributing editor, along with sword and sorcery living legend – and founder of the fantasy subgenre, Sword and Soul – Charles R. Saunders.
All of Milton’s works are self-published through his company, MVmedia, LLC: http://www.mvmediaatl.com/.
What do you like about Steampunk?
I like the alternate history aspect of the genre. I see it as an opportunity to explore “what if” scenarios as they refer to the experiences of the African Diaspora.
What was your inspiration for writing a Steampunk tale?
The technology intrigues me, but again, the alternate history aspect really interests me.
Besides your own, what are your favorite Steampunk stories?
Actually, I’m actually inspired by movies that contain steampunk more than the stories. I think the genre lends itself much better to visual interpretation rather than written. I grew up on Wild, Wild West, and although I wasn’t a big fan of Will Smith’s reinterpretation I did like the gadgets. I also liked The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie). A couple of anime movies handled steampunk well; Steamboy and the series Last Exile. I liked them both. Then there’s Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. It’s a fun story that I plan to write a review about.
What Steampunk stories have you written? Where can we read them?
What Steampunk works are you planning to release in the near future?
I’m working on a novel, titled ‘Unrequited’, a steampunk action romance that takes place in an alternate America. ‘The Delivery’ is based on this scenario.
Valjeanne Jeffers is a poet and SF writer, and the author of Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds, and The Switch: Clockwork, as well as two short works of fiction, Probe and Grandmere’s Secret.
What do you like about steampunk?
One of the things I love about steampunk is that it stirs my imagination. Working with this genre gives me such outrageous clothes (knickers, corsets, top hats etc.) and such extraordinary machines—airships, motorcars and steam powered computers to work with. Steampunk invites me, as a writer, to stretch my imagination, to experiment and to mix genres of horror and SF. My fabulous cover artist, Quinton Veal, helps to stir my steamfunk imagination with the images he creates.
What was your inspiration for writing a steampunk tale?
Steampunk clothing reminds me of the clothing hippies wore during the 1960s. There is a freedom of expression within this style of dress that speaks to me. So I’d have to say that my first inspiration for a steampunk tale was the clothing, which is vaguely reminiscent of the Civil Rights, Make Love Not War, flower power eras of the 1960s and 1970s.
Besides your own, what are your favorite steampunk stories?
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriett Tubman (Book 1: Kings) (by author Balogun Ojetade) is definitely among my favorites— Harriett Tubman and steampunk? What’s not to love! My second favorite is The Delivery by Milton Davis, featuring George Washington Carver, no less, as a character.
What steampunk tales have you written? Where can we read them?
My first adventure into steampunk began with The Switch, a story about a futuristic society that operates on two levels: an ultra rich “upper city,” and a dirt poor, steampunk, underground populated mostly by folks of color. The story has elements of erotica, espionage and even a little time travel. At the time, I thought I’d leave it there, but at the insistence of my oldest son Toussaint, I developed it further.
The Switch II: Clockwork, includes book I (The Switch) and book II (Clockwork). The Switch II: Clockwork is available at Barnes &Noble nook and Amazon in print and kindle. Readers can also contact me for discounts on purchases at firstname.lastname@example.org
My other steampunk novel is the conclusion of my Immortal saga: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds. In Immortal IV, the characters are punished for violating the prophecy of their planet, Tundra. And they’re thrown into a steam powered, alternate universe where their enemy, the sorcerer, “Tehotep” rules. Immortal IV also has elements of erotic and horror.
I must add too, that although I intended this to be the last novel of the Immortal series, my readers have insisted that I not end it here! This, I feel is one the highest compliment a writer can receive—and I love these characters. So, book four won’t be the last one in the Immortal saga.
Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds is also available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Readers can also contact me for discounted sales at email@example.com
What steampunk works are you planning to release in the near future?
Right now, I’m working on a story based on the travels of one of my characters, from Immortal III, “Annabelle.” The setting will be in a New Orleans type of setting, peopled by vampires. This story is a prequel leading to Annabelle’s journeys in Immortal III.
More Afro Steampunk Blacknificence!
Some other cool Black Steampunks who are spreading the movement and inspiring other Black people to become a part of it are:
The H.M.S. Chronabelle is an all-female airship crew based out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Lady March is the first and only woman of African descent to join this august group.
Originally a Goth, Mr. Powell – who converted to Steampunk in 2008 – says: “I turn Steampunk on its ear. I don’t go for the generic guns/goggles/gadgets that permeate Steampunk; I feel that if we are going to recreate (and perfect) the Victorian culture, all of it must be represented, including the Dandy. I am a Dandy, a proud one. I wear very fancy outfits, feathers, accessories, pins, brooches. THOSE are my gadgets.”
For those wondering just what a “Dandy” is, Mr. Powell defines Dandyism as “the art and practice of a fine gentleman who desires to dress in elegance and style, along with carrying himself in said elegance and style, at all appropriate venues. It is the practice for said gentleman to conduct himself in a manner of worthiness of being seen, even in a crowded room, and to find no shame in accessorizing.”
The famed, Ohio-based Steampunk crew, Airship Archon, is helmed by Captain Anthony LaGrange, nom de plume for Tony Ballard-Smoot, a maker, model and ambassador and activist for the Steampunk Community as a whole. Captain LaGrange founded Airship Archon in 2008 and is a popular panelist at Steampunk conventions.
Mr. Ballard-Smoot believes that Steampunk is unique among other cultural movements. He says “Steampunk is doing something fantastic that a lot of other movements have not done – create a community. You have a lot of scenes out there: the goth scene, punk scene, hipster scene but none of them have evolved into an actual community or family.”
Born Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez III, Mr. Saturday – founder and con-chair of Aetherfest, Texas’ first Steampunk convention – is a strong voice in the movement. With his partner, Sixpence, Mr. Saturday leads the San Antonio Neo Victorian Association, a large group of Texas Steampunks who have taken it upon themselves to spread Steampunk throughout Texas and beyond.
Shamus Tinplate, aka Tony Hicks of Tinplate Studios
Mr. Hicks is an ingenious artist of immense skill and creativity. He is a comic book and natural science illustrator, sculptor and bodger (woodworker). His influences range from Charles Darwin to H.P. Lovecraft to Clement Ader.
Like many others (this author included), Mr. Hicks was a lover of Steampunk before the term was ever coined. He says: “As a small child, I watched 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and fell head first into the waters of Steampunk, from which I have yet to resurface.” Mr. Hicks’ work consists of Steampunk ray guns, respirators, odd gadgets, and masks as well as disturbing cryptozoological anomalies under glass and ocular oddities.
You can find Mr. Hicks at all manner of Steampunk and art conventions, fairs, festivals, shows, and other special events.
As Shamus Tinplate, he is proprietor of Tinplate Studios, which sells Mr. Hicks’ incredible work.
Miss Aetherly works tirelessly to spread Steampunk throughout the Portland, Oregon area. She is fast gaining renown as a Blacknificent Steampunk model and as an intelligent and enthusiastic member of the movement.
Special thanks to Jaymee Goh for introducing me to these fellow Steampunks of African descent. Jaymee is a veteran Steampunk, writer, fan and reader of speculative fiction. She has written for Racialicious, Tor.com, and Beyond Victoriana. She holds a B.A. in English (Hons) and an M.A. in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory; her MRP is on postcolonialism and – of course – Steampunk.