The ATLiens TOC!

Known as the Nerdiest City in America and as the Hub of Speculative Fiction, few cities offer as much as Atlanta by way of the weird, the fantastical, the scary and the out right off the chain.

Atlanta also happens to be one of the Blackest cities in the world, so the anthology ATLiens had to happen.

Featuring fantastic and funky tales set in Atlanta by the authors from the ATL State of Black Speculative Fiction Creators Collective, ATLiens features a heavy dose of Urban Fantasy, a healthy helping of horror, with a little techno-thriller sprinkled in. All Blacktastic stories; all Blacktastic representation of the ATL.

Here is the TOC:

  1. Bomani and the Case of the Missing Monsters – Balogun Ojetade
  2. Play the Wraith – Azziza Sphinx (Jessica Hosten)
  3. Blerd and Confused – Alan Jones
  4. Piggyback – Milton Davis
  5. Not Your (Magical) Negro – Marcus Haynes
  6. Of Home and Hearth – Kortney Watkins
  7. My Dinner with Vlad – Kyoko M
  8. Another Day in the A – Violette L. Meier
  9. The Messiah Curse – Gerald L. Coleman

ATLiens releases very soon. Stay tuned!

Step Into A World: Portal Fantasy in Black Speculative Fiction

The “portal fantasy,” where somebody walks through a magical door (or wardrobe) into a fantasy world, has become a terrible cliche.
Nowadays, writers often begin describing their books by saying, “It’s not portal fantasy.” What most of them mean is that their portal fantasy stories don’t follow the old rules of the medium, such as those found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz, in which the youthful protagonist(s) is sucked into an amazing alternate world.
Is Gamelit or its subgenre, LitRPG, portal fantasy? Not exactly. In most portal fantasy, the protagonist spends most of the book trying to find a way home. In Gamelit / LitRPG, however, after the protagonist enters the game world – usually through a digital or virtual portal – he or she usually spends most of the book trying to achieve some task, attain some item, or level up in the game world.
While many portal fantasy stories are cliché, some of the most powerful stories have been portal fantasies, including Pan’s Labyrinth. Even science fiction has gotten in on the action, such as the hit television series Fringe, with its portal between Earth and Alternate Earth.
What’s useful about the portal scenario is that it’s a quick and often beautiful way to signify that our characters have moved from the realm of the familiar into the unfamiliar. The problem comes in when authors refuse to question the definition of “familiar,” or build fantasy worlds that are unsustainable monocultures (“all women are slaves” or “everybody is happy here”).
Our lives are full of portals, both literal and figurative. We’ve divided up the planet into nations whose conceptual boundaries are magically concretized in maps, in fences, and more dangerous barriers. We enclose museums and universities and laboratories in buildings whose doors truly lead to alternate worlds where new things become possible. Every time you walk over the threshold of a library, or through a door into a party, you open yourself up to the strange and previously unknown. That’s what makes the portal such a powerful and enduring metaphor. It’s based on our everyday experience.
And, when done right, it takes us out of that everyday experience in unpredictable ways.
In Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, the portal isn’t a doorway to a better world, but a worse one. Here, a young girl discovers a secondary world that has a home eerily similar to her own from which she must rescue herself and the souls trapped by her “other mother.” The portal between our world and the other one is literally a doorway – a locked door in a downstairs room – bricked up but still the object of young Coraline’s curiosity, despite a warning to not go through it.
In science fiction, portals tend to be ways for characters to move great distances. The idea of a portal in a scientifically plausible setting inevitably leads to the idea of a “star gate” through which ships can travel vast distances in the blink of an eye.
A science-fiction book in which the portal is not meant to move people over great distances is The Shining Girls by Lauren Buekes. Here, a serial killer discovers the portal that allows him to move through time to perpetrate his dastardly deeds. This mechanism adds tension to an already-harrowing tale; how do you stop a killer who has the perfect getaway?
In my latest novel, The Beatdown, the heroine, Remi, enters the fantasy world of Ki Khanga through the Universal Reality Engine, a video game console that allows players to experience the game with all 14 senses. Here is the synopsis:
The coolest videogame you’ll ever READ!
“A Single Link NEVER Breaks!”
Remi Korede is a martial artist and a fan of THE BEATDOWN, a popular MMORPG set in the fantasy world of Ki Khanga.
In The Beatdown, players fight each other in the circles of sand and soil to prevent full-scale wars and the wrath of a vengeful Creator who almost destroyed the world when war on earth spilled over into the Heavens.
Players experience every punch, every throw, every kiss and every sip of honey wine in The Beatdown, so the stakes of every encounter, violent or not, are high.
After suffering a brutal assault at the hands of a martial arts champion in the game, Remi decides that, to gain closure and empowerment, she must face her attacker in the first professional fight between a man and a woman.
Remi, fighting as ‘The Single Link’ – because a single link never breaks – becomes a symbol to the people of Ki Khanga – a symbol of courage; of standing against oppression and discrimination; of freedom.
Join the fight in THE BEATDOWN, the epic tale that brings together the very best in Sword and Soul and Gamelit/LitRPG!
So, what is your favorite portal fantasy story?

Sword and Soul meets Cyberfunk in the Beatdown!

The coolest videogame you’ll ever READ!

“A Single Link NEVER Breaks!”

Remi Korede is a martial artist and a fan of The Beatdown, a popular MMORPG set in the fantasy world of Ki Khanga.

In The Beatdown, players fight each other in the circles of sand and soil to prevent full-scale wars and the wrath of a vengeful Creator who almost destroyed the world when war on earth spilled over into the Heavens.

Players experience every punch, every throw, every kiss and every sip of honey wine in The Beatdown, so the stakes of every encounter, violent or not, are high.

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

Remi, fighting as ‘The Single Link’ – because a single link never breaks – becomes a symbol to the people of Ki Khanga – a symbol of courage; of standing against oppression and discrimination; of freedom.

Join the fight in THE BEATDOWN, the epic tale that brings together the very best in Sword and Soul and Gamelit/LitRPG! Available NOW!

Dembo’s Ditty Available NOW!

You are Dembo Daji, a Maroki – a Griot. But you weren’t always. You were once a struggling DJ in the near future. Home for you was a tiny efficiency in the Pittsburgh Projects – a 50-story housing development in the crime-ridden, ultra-violent area of Pittsburgh, in southwest Atlanta, Georgia… until you finally saved up enough credits to purchase the U.R.E. – the Universal Reality Engine – the world’s most popular gaming console and you decided to play Ki Khanga – the world’s most popular MMORPG – on it.

Now, you’re stuck in the world of Ki Khanga and looking for a way out.

All isn’t bad, though. You’re in love with Joni, a beautiful and brilliant princess. But in order to win her hand in marriage, you have to first win over her father, who demands his daughter marry someone of great fame and fortune. Becoming the official Maroki of Yoro Mosa, the hero of heroes, is the best way to do it. The problem is, Yoro’s life is fraught with dangers. Hordes of evil, intelligent chimpanzees, sorcerers, gargantuan monsters are just some of the terrible things you’ll have to face if you get the gig.

This gamebook is similar to the Choose Your Own-type books, but with cool game stats, weapons, skills and funky spell-songs to choose from!

Hack, slash, talk and sing your way out of trouble and into fame and glory as you choose your path through a hilarious and dangerous LitRPG adventure!

Dembo’s Ditty is available in paperback and e-book formats.

When Afrofuturism Meets Sword & Soul! Why YOU should be reading LitRPG

A short while ago, an author I had not yet heard of joined the State of Black Science Fiction Facebook Group. After introducing himself, the brother – Dr. Aleron Kong – informed us that he was the “Father of LitRPG.” Someone in the group asked “What, exactly, is LitRPG?” Dr. Kong just said “It’s a cool new genre of science fiction that mashes up MMORPG video gaming with fantasy or science fiction settings and elements,” and he posted a link to his Amazon page. As a writer of cyoa-style and Fighting Fantasy-style gamebooks and as co-creator of a roleplaying game with quite a bit of buzz, I considered myself in the know about anything in literature that has something to do with gaming.

“New genre?” I scoffed. “We’ll see.” Out of curiosity, I checked it out. “I’ll be damn,” I said, perusing pages of Kong’s The Land: Founding. “I have NEVER read anything like this!”

And thus, my journey down the rabbit hole that is LitRPG began.

Wait… what? “What, exactly IS LitRPG,” you ask?

While LitRPG is still developing, so many people have their own ideas, the good folks over at LitRPG Forum provide us with a clear and concise definition:

“LitRPG is a literary genre where games or game-like challenges form an essential part of the landscape. A LitRPG work simultaneously narrates the story of characters inside and outside of the game-world.

At least some of the characters in a LitRPG novel therefore understand that they are playing a game: they are ‘meta-aware’. So, while Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a fantasy novel, a book about people creating avatars and interacting in a Lord of the Rings MMORPG would be a LitRPG novel.”

As LitRPG Forum founder, Paul Bellow says, when you add game mechanics – especially stats, experience, and leveling – to science-fiction or fantasy, you get LitRPG, which is shorthand for Literary RPG or Literary Role-Playing Games.

Think the manga and anime, Sword Art Online or the Jumanji book and films.

In Sword Art Online, NerveGear – a helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain – allows players to experience and control their in-game characters with their minds. Both the game and the NerveGear was created by Akihiko Kayaba.

One day, 10,000 players log into the SAO’s mainframe cyberspace for the first time, only to discover that they are unable to log out. Kayaba appears and tells the players that they must beat all 100 floors of Aincrad, a steel castle which is the setting of SAO, if they wish to be free. Those who suffer in-game deaths or forcibly remove the NerveGear out-of-game will suffer real-life deaths.

Jumanji is a 1995 American fantasy adventure film. It is an adaptation of the 1981 children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg.

The story centers on young Alan Parrish, who becomes trapped in a board game while playing with his best friend Sarah Whittle in 1969. Twenty-six years later, siblings Judy and Peter Shepherd find the game, begin playing and then unwittingly release the now-adult Alan. After tracking down Sarah, the quartet resolves to finish the game in order to reverse all of the destruction it has caused.

As far as the origins of formally calling the genre LitRPG, that began in Russia. Its first translations appeared around 2010, triggering a wave of fan fiction from new Russian authors who came up with a name for the new genre: LitRPG.

Three published authors became the founders of the genre: D. Rus, V. Mahanenko and D. Mikhailov. All three originally contributed their series to Russia’s bestselling “LitRPG” project which is published by EKSMO, Russia’s biggest publishing house, since 2013.

The word “LitRPG” as the project’s title was suggested by the project’s producer Alex Bobl in a brainstorming session with V. Mahanenko and EKSMO’s science fiction editor-in-chief Dmitry Malkin.

Now LitRPG has gained popularity all over the world.

While there are hundreds of good books in the genre and many great ones, I will introduce you to a few, along with their authors:

 

The Land: Founding, by Aleron Kong

In The Land: Founding, the first volume of the award winning Chaos Seeds saga, by physician, “Father of American LitRPG,” and founder of LitRPG.com, the Exiles and Eternals toy with the lives of unwitting humans. Gamers sign away their souls in unread contracts as they log online each day. One at a time, these people are stolen, mind and soul, into a world of magic and adventure that operates by the same laws as the game they worshiped at for years.

 

Goblin: A LitRPG Novel, by Paul Bellow

Sarah, Eric and Josh secretly log onto the new Tower of Gates VRMMORPG and stumble on a world unlike any they have seen before. Swords, sorcery, and intrigue abound. While not planning on staying in the unreleased game long, life happens.

They soon learn the stakes are even higher than they imagined. To survive, they will need all their strength, courage, and wisdom, not to mention help from friendly NPCs, magic items, and everything else uncovered as they delve deeper into the game.

One more level becomes a matter of life and death. A great read from the founder of LitRPG Forum and LitRPG Reads.

 

Adventures on Terra – Book 1: Beginnings, by R.A. Mejia

Armon Ellington is a nineteen year old kid that always felt out of place. He’s an orphan, a gamer, and a role playing game geek. When he dies after a seventy-two hour gaming marathon, instead of going to an afterlife, he’s transported to a new world, governed by rules that are eerily similar to the RPG games he loves. On this new world, Terra, he can be anything he wants, a warrior, mage, or even a crafter. Only, Armon wants more than that, he also wants friends and family.

Join Armon on his journey through this amazing new world where he’ll go on adventures, explore dungeons, slay monsters and hopefully find the friends and family he never had on earth. This is an excellent work from the founder and host of the LitRPG Podcast.

 

Dembo’s Ditty, by Balogun Ojetade

You are Dembo Daji, a Maroki – a Griot. But you weren’t always. You were once a struggling DJ in the near future. Home for you was a tiny efficiency in the Pittsburgh Projects – a 50-story housing development in the crime-ridden, ultra-violent area of Pittsburgh, in southwest Atlanta, Georgia… until you finally saved up enough credits to purchase the U.R.E. – the Universal Reality Engine – the world’s most popular gaming console and you decided to play Ki Khanga – the world’s most popular MMORPG – on it.

Now, you’re stuck in the world of Ki Khanga and looking for a way out.

All isn’t bad, though. You’re in love with Joni, a beautiful and brilliant princess. But in order to win her hand in marriage, you have to first win over her father, who demands his daughter marry someone of great fame and fortune. Becoming the official Maroki of Yoro Mosa, the hero of heroes, is the best way to do it. The problem is, Yoro’s life is fraught with dangers. Hordes of evil, intelligent chimpanzees, sorcerers, gargantuan monsters are just some of the terrible things you’ll have to face if you get the gig.

This gamebook is similar to the Choose Your Own-type books, but with cool game stats, weapons, skills and funky spell-songs to choose from!

Hack, slash, talk and sing your way out of trouble and into fame and glory as you choose your path through a hilarious and dangerous LitRPG adventure!

If Afrofuturism and Sword and Soul had a baby full of the Funk, Dembo’s Ditty would be its name! The gamebook is set in Ki Khanga, the African analogue that is the world of the popular tabletop Role-Playing Game and anthology of the same name.

Pick up a LitRPG book today, but be warned… you WON’T be able to put it down; you’ll be having too much fun. So, if you’re the type of person who hates sunsets and dolphins and frowns whenever a baby giggles, LitRPG might not be the genre for you. Everybody else, run and go read some LitRPG!

Why Your Child Loves Zombies And What YOU Can Do About It

When I was a child, the things in fiction and films that most terrified children and adults alike were giant bugs, aliens, and possession or replacement by a demonic spirit, ghost or some other type of “body-snatcher.” However, Zombies have always been there too, lurking in the shadows, at times replacing one of the top three.

Today, Zombies may not be the most feared things in fiction and film, but they are certainly one of the most popular, especially with children, who are not afraid of zombies like back when I was young.

Zombies are flesh-eating undead people – usually with bloated or decaying gray bodies who will stop at nothing to locate and eat the flesh of living human beings. Not something I would have ever thought children would like.

But times are changing.

Zombies are now seen everywhere – on children’s TV channels, as heroes in PG and PG-13 movies, and in books and graphic novels. Zombies have become more mainstream than ever before.

So what makes them so appealing to children these days?

I asked my son, Oluade, who is 14 years old that question. He said “I can’t really speak for children (oops, momentarily forgot he’s 14 – “a young man,” he quickly points out), but a lot of teens are into zombies because they aren’t really THAT scary. They walk slowly and are dumb. They are more funny than anything! The really scary stuff in zombie shows like Z-Nation and The Walking Dead are the people.”

“What about fast zombies, like in World War Z?” I asked.

He shook his head as his eyes widened. “Now, those mugs are scary!”

When I was a child, zombies were portrayed as unstoppable forces of unnatural death. People in zombie movies always died. It wasn’t until I saw Dawn of the Dead that I was exposed to the concept of people beating the zombies through ingenuity and luck.

Today though, zombies are little more than walking targets. Movies and video games of the 21st Century relish in showing people come out on top of the zombies.

I know some folks might think zombies are inappropriate for children. I’d argue that I am much happier that my children aren’t afraid of zombies. I don’t want my children to be afraid of anything.

Zombies are here to stay. And not just for grownups. Paranorman, Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice… there are so many movies out there with the undead presented in a way not to give your children nightmares.

If you have a child that’s afraid of zombies, I highly recommend you cure them. Let them read – and play –  Siafu vs. The Horde, the action-packed, fun and exciting 2nd volume in the Black Power: The Superhero Gamebook series in which YOU are a superhero!

Just like in the bestselling gamebook, Siafu Saves the World, in Book 2:

YOU choose how the story unfolds.

YOU choose how the story ends.

YOU have 4 Superpower Archetypes to choose from!

And YOU have new Mega-Powers to choose from and develop!

In this gamebook YOU must face, The Horde, superheroes turned walking dead, bent on “Making America Great” by turning all super-powered beings into zombies… or eating them.

Solve puzzles, gather clues, bring evil to justice and stop the rampaging Horde with your superpowers, the help of your 1st cousin, Big ‘Lo and cameos from characters from Siafu Saves the World!

Siafu vs. The Horde is available in e:book and paperback formats.

Siafu vs. The Horde available NOW!

You are STILL the Peoples’ Champion, Defender of the Defenseless; the Afrikan Ant… the Siafu!

By day, you are a not-so-mild-mannered 13 year old 9th Grader – yeah, you’re smart, and cool, too.

But when duty calls, YOU are ready to risk your life to defend the defenseless; ready to stand up for those afraid to, or unable to, stand up for themselves. YOU are a superhero!

YOU choose how the story unfolds.

YOU choose how the story ends.

YOU have 4 Superpower Archetypes to choose from!

YOU have new Mega-Powers to choose from and develop!

 

There are puzzles to solve, clues to find, Supervillains to bring to justice, HERO points to gain and lose, and citizens to save!

All YOU need to save the world is a pen or pencil, a few sheets of paper, and a regular deck of playing cards.

You’ll also need your wits, your imagination, the help of your 1st cousin, Big ‘Lo, your superpowers, a few cameos from Siafu Saves the World (Black Power: The Superhero Gamebook, Book 1) and maybe even a new superhero or two!

 

Enjoy Siafu vs. The Horde, the second action-packed, fun-filled volume in the Black Power: The Superhero Gamebook series!

Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role Playing Game is now available!

Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role Playing Game, by Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis, puts you in the role of a character of your liking in a world of mystery and magic; of villainy and victory; of sword… and soul.

Will you delve for lost artifacts in the ruins of ancient temples? Strap on beaded armor and an nkisi necklace to battle undead legions as they storm your city upon the backs of skeletal camels, or defend your village from a swarm of ravenous impundulu? Whether you’re making your way through the magical forests of Wandatu or fighting to survive in the palm oil-lit back alleys of Sati-Baa, you and your team will need all your wits, combat skill, and magic to make it through. But most of all, you’ll need each other.

This rulebook is the essential centerpiece of Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role Playing Game, with rules for character creation, magic, arms, armor, divination and much more – everything you need to play Ki Khanga as either a player or Griot!

The next great adventure in fantasy roleplaying takes off here, and Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role Playing Game is your ticket to a lifetime of adventure!

The Ki Khanga Core Rulebook includes:

  • All player and Game Master rules in a single volume.
  • The ability to create characters the way YOU want them to be, without restrictions of class or species.
  • Multiple maps and detailed overviews of the 16 countries and multiple cultures that comprise the world of Ki Khanga including their gods, major factions and threats, and more.
  • Complete rules for combat.
  • African weapons, armor, and items – magical, spiritual and technological – from hand cannons and divine armor to enchanted swords and biological implants.
  • Rules for magic, deadly traps, bizarre diseases and poisons, and everything else you need to craft exciting adventures.
  • And much, much more!

Seeking Track Directors for Blacktasticon!

SOBSFCon returns in 2018 as Blacktasticon a lot easier to pronounce, huh? – and they are seeking enthusiastic fans, scholars and creators of Black Speculative Fiction, Fashion, Film and Fabrication to work with them as Track Directors.

Track Directors will work directly with Blacktasticon Co-Chairs Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis to come up with exciting, cutting edge programming for their track.

During the convention, Track Directors will ensure their tracks are running smoothly, that guests and panelists are in place and comfortable and that their track provides a great experience for the fans.

Each track will have several volunteers that will assist in the workings of that track.

So, if you are ready to put in some creativity and hard work, we are looking for YOU! Contact us on the Blacktasticon Facebook event page  and tell us what track you’re interested in. We will make our decisions on Track Directors by the end of this month.

The Blacktasticon Tracks are:

Media

The Media track combines the best of all Black mixed media! From audio podcasting to television to YouTube and beyond, we bring the best and brightest to inform, teach and entertain.

The Media Track features guests and panels where you get to interact with your favorite stars, ask questions, and even nod your head and stomp your feet to some jazz, reggae, hip-hop, ragtime, African drumming, blues or other form of hot Black music.

Afroretroism

The Afroretroism Track is the destination for times of “neverwas” and days of “could-have-beens.”

Panels and events showcasing Sword and Soul, Steamfunk, Rococoa, Dieselfunk, and traditional African dance and martial arts are what this Blacktastic track is all about!

Afrofuturism

The Afrofuturism Track will examine Black/African people in the future and that futuristic representation in literature, film, music and artwork.

Sweet Chariot is going to swing down, stop and let you ride all the way to the worlds of the Dark Universe, Cyberfunk, Cybertrap, infinity and beyond!

Urban Fantasy, Paranormal and Horror

The Urban Fantasy, Paranormal and Horror Track focuses on intriguing storytelling in books and media in a genre where supernatural beings of all varieties often exist side-by-side with humans.

Looking for mystery, the abnormal, and unearthly? On the lookout for ghosts, the unexplained, the unreal and the really scary?

This track features actors, authors, artists, scholars and fans of the wicked, the weird, the fantastical and sometimes grotesque tales and terrors that haunt our imaginations.

Gaming

The Gaming Track is the place to go for unique and fun pen and paper Role Playing Games such as Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role Playing Game, for board games, card games, videogames, as well as gamer culture in general.

There will be presentations and discussions about games and game technology, development, and artwork as part of the program, as well as people selling games in the dealers room and a few gaming tournaments for prizes, giveaways and bragging rights!

Youth

Are you a family with young people between the ages of 5-17? If so, then Blacktasticon has programming for your youth!

Our Youth Track will have “something for everyone” for the children and teenagers that attend Blacktasticon. We are planning activities that explore science, art, costuming, gaming, literature, creative play, as well as movement, music, martial arts and theatre.

The Youth Track is a safe place for our young people to enjoy Blacktasticon on their level while you participate in the convention at your leisure. There will be volunteers from around the world that are experts at working with children, many of whom are teachers or teachers at heart.

Cosplay

Whether you’re into Superheroes, historical costumes, film replicas, interpretations from text or animation, or entirely original designs – if you rock your fandom through clothing, Blacktasticon is the place for you!

This track features workshops that teach practical costuming skills, like how to finish a seam, stitch a period-accurate hem, tailor a garment, or apply stage makeup, as well as panels on cosplaying in non-canon-bodies, overcoming racism, sexism and body shaming in the cosplay community and much more!

Film

The Film Track is the place to be for filmmakers and film-lovers. Blacktasticon will bring you Black science fiction, fantasy, animation, and horror short films as well as a few features – really special Black speculative films you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

Then there are our panels on digital and analog FX, makeup, distribution, advanced film audio techniques, fight choreography and becoming a stuntperson on stage and screen. If you are interested in acting, producing or directing, we’ll have a panel for you!

 

Video Games on Paper? Black Heroes and Sheroes in Gamebooks!

At the age of ten I discovered Choose Your Own Adventure books. I read them non-stop, almost obsessively, and, when I picture my childhood bookshelf in my mind, I can see whole rows of those thin white paperbacks with the numbers and red bubbles on the side.

If you’ve never read a Choose Your Own Adventure book before, they’re a little hard to explain. They’re not like much else in the “kid lit” market. They sort of resemble chapter books, in terms of length and reading level, but, structurally, they’re something completely different.

The structure of a Choose Your Own Adventure book is designed to make the reading experience immersive. They’re written from the rarely used second-person point-of-view – so the narrator is always referring to the reader as “You.” When a child opens a CYOA book, they’re told something like, “You are a child of the ruler of the famed lost city of Atlantis” or “You are a spy for the Galactic Union, on a smuggler’s spaceship traveling between worlds on a dangerous espionage mission,” thus setting the stage for the adventure to come. The lead character is never described in detail because “YOU” are that character.

After a two-page set-up, the reader is quickly presented with various choices that will dictate where the story can go – i.e. where the “choosing” of one’s own adventure begins. Are you going to stay at your base-camp in the Himalayas or are you going to go looking for your missing friend? Will you fight the giant squid or swim away? Will you join the space circus or carry on with your rocket-ship caravan across the stars? If you chose option A, turn to page 51. If choose pick option B, turn to page 52. And each choice leads to more choices and more choices and, eventually, an ending. And, if you don’t like your ending, you’re encouraged to re-read the book, make different choices, and follow a different path to a different ending.

While CYOA books don’t have the depth of emotion or character that a Newbery Medal-winning chapter book has, they are fantastic tools for introducing children to “branching narratives,” a form of storytelling that is flourishing lately thanks to video games and game apps for mobile devices. In such wildly influential video games like Assassin’s Creed and the Last of Us, children are being exposed to new kinds of interactive storytelling.

In many recent video games, players follow very fleshed-out, very detailed storylines – often written by novelists or screenwriters – and they can then watch those narratives alter or evolve based on the choices they’re making in the game. Video games are often built with multiple plotlines and endings, just so that the player can feel like they really have a hand in directing where the storyline goes. In Mass Effect, for example, the choices you make as your character can influence and customize the events you experience in every game in the series. It is a very modern, very immersive form of storytelling – the branching narrative – and the Choose Your Own Adventure series introduced children to the most basic form of the branching narrative in 1979.

What I loved about Choose Your Own Adventure books was how they gave me a sense of power and ownership over the narrative.

However, what I did NOT love about the books was that I could never fully relate to the characters because all the cover and interior illustrations were showed the hero as white. One cover even shows a defeated Black track star in the background while the foreground shows the image of a white girl, powerful, confident – a champion, ready to win her next race.

It is imperative that Black people – youth and adults – see ourselves in heroic roles, especially in gamebooks like Choose Your Own Adventure, which literally put the reader in the role of the hero.

That is why I have chosen to write an entire line of gamebooks for our youth and will release three this year:

Siafu Saves the World – a gamebook in which YOU are a superhero who must save Atlanta – and the world – from a curse brought on by police brutality; Jagunjagun Lewa – a Cyberfunk/Rococoa hybrid based on the manga I wrote about a warrior who travels with his brother, the mandrill Papio, seeking to make the African martial arts respected and revered around the world; and Siafu vs. The Horde – book 2 in the Black Power: The Superhero Gamebook series.

My CYOA-style book, The Keys, has long been a huge hit with youth and adults at conventions and festivals around the country.

These new series of books, however, not only give you choices, they allow you to do battle with your enemies and to find and use special weapons, tools and other devices to help you during your adventures. These books incorporate the use of a deck of regular playing cards as you read, giving you a fun, video-game like experience as you read and use your imagination.

In these gamebooks, YOU directly impact the world with your own actions. The stories are non-linear, non-sequential and have multiple pathways, divided into a series of numbered sections.

Different choices made within the stories can influence their final outcome.

YOU are the hero or shero. YOU determine how the story progresses and how it ends. YOU fight the bad guy and save the world. YOU see yourself on the cover and within the books pages.

These gamebooks are all about YOU. And all YOU need to do to get in on the fun and edutainment is to pick up a copy of our new and Blacktastic Siafu Saves the World (Black Power: The Superhero Gamebook) or our classic, The Keys and let the fun begin!