Exposing the Big Steampunk Lie!

Steamfunk is defined as a philosophy or style of writing and visual aesthetic that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or  steampunk fiction and cosplay.

For those who do not yet know what Steampunk is, you can read my blog – Why I Love Steampunk – here: https://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/state-of-black-sci-fi-2012-why-i-love-steampunk/.

Steampunk has the power to rip open the 19th Century’s belly and examine its clockwork guts – and to rearrange those guts in new ways – but most Steampunk authors – and indeed most Steampunks – choose to avoid the issues of racism, sexism, classism, colonialism and imperialism.

Steamfunk authors – thankfully – choose to address these very same issues, for we know that to avoid them – especially since there is such a wealth of Steampunk tales to be told from a Black perspective – is to perpetuate the Big Steampunk Lie.

Yes…lie; a lie by omission; also known as the ‘suppression of evidence’.

This type of lie is more subtle. It has the advantage that you can’t get caught in a lie, because everything that you say is true. You just fail to mention all of those bothersome little facts that do not support your point of view. Should someone point out one of those annoying – and unmentioned – facts, you can feign innocent ignorance, or claim that the fact is really just an unimportant, trivial detail, not worth mentioning.

Thus the Victorian Era / Wild West are represented in most Steampunk as merely an age of exploration and invention. A renaissance, if you will. A very interesting – and deceptive – way of describing an era in which the “explorers” who at best unintentionally – and at worst, and far more often, very intentionally – brought with them the forces of colonialism and imperialism throughout the world.

The “Wild West” of North America systematically robbed the indigenous people of their lands and murdered them wholesale while also oppressing and vilifying Asians. In the South and East of North America, people of African descent suffered horrors under the yoke of chattel slavery and things did not get much better after the Civil War. To romanticize such an era; to paint such a dystopian reality as a rose-colored (well, various shades of brown in Steampunk) utopia is the ‘Big Steampunk Lie’ of which I speak.

Now, I am not saying all Steampunk stories should be dark and foreboding. However, we should tackle issues of race, sex and class in our stories to some degree. So many incredible and thought-provoking stories are waiting to be told…if we care to tell them.

With the upcoming Steamfunk Anthology and with such already released novels as Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, by Yours Truly and The Switch, by Valjeanne Jeffers – along with a number of awesome short stories from Milton Davis, Maurice Broaddus, NK Jemisin, Malon Edwards and Balogun (me) – these stories, which must be told, will be shouted from our Funkadelic Airships.

Full steam ahead!

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at https://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/blackspeculativefiction.

35 responses »

  1. Jaymee Goh says:


  2. Jaymee Goh says:

    Oh, and do you know what is the status of Steamfunk thus far? Is there a TOC? I am so excited for this anthology! Black-centric steampunk is so long overdue… makes me wish I was a publisher so I could keep pushing all this stuff all day long!

  3. holzmantweed says:

    This seems like an opportune moment to mention A Count Named Slick Brass and the crew at Steam Funk Studios “Turning the Status Quo on its Head – Shifting the Paradigm with Style”


  4. whump says:

    A Steamfunk panel needs to happen at WisCon.

  5. Good words. I just had to explain the Orientalist art in the header to my page, as it plays such a prominent role in steampunk. Forgotten or glossed over histories function as lies in plain sight.

  6. socybride says:

    This is so hawt. I come to steampunk through weddings, and to a lesser extent, romance novels, so learning about “steamfunk” is quite revolutionary…well sais about the “subtle lies” perpetuated when we create these past utopias without confronting the worst of humankind simultaneously, or the intersections of race, class, and sexuality that make us way awesome! And that image…le sigh.

    • Balogun says:

      Thank you!
      With the Steamfunk anthology, we plan to open up a whole new and exciting world of possibilities in Steampunk.
      And I agree…we ARE awesome!
      On the image: Yep…I LOVE it! Several artists will be commissioned to do similar pieces for the anthology. Please, stay tuned!!

  7. […] blog I wrote entitled What is Steamfunk? Exposing The Big Steampunk Lie – which you can read at https://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/what-is-steamfunk-exposing-the-big-steampunk-lie… – a Steampunk said “History is exactly what it says on the tin, an event that happened in […]

  8. […] blog I wrote entitled What is Steamfunk? Exposing The Big Steampunk Lie – which you can read at https://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/what-is-steamfunk-exposing-the-big-steampunk-lie… – a Steampunk said “History is exactly what it says on the tin, an event that happened in […]

  9. […] Mahogany Masquerade features Steamfunk cosplay and an evening of Black science fiction and Fantasy short […]

  10. […] In fact, today’s Stumbled Upon hails from Wagadu. Wagadu is a self-enclosed social network for enthusiasts of Arican-themed speculative fiction. This consists mostly of Sword and Soul, but also black sci-fi and a relative newcomer to the African-themed speculative fiction game, Steamfunk. […]

  11. dederants says:

    Reblogged this on DeDeRants and commented:
    Great read!

  12. […] while discussing the business of writing, a fellow writer took a jab at Steamfunk and the writers of it, saying “I’m not really into the whole making my own version of it […]

  13. […] dressing up…the escapism…the criticism of dysconcious racism in the Steampunk movement…these are all forms of “blowing off steam”. They are all forms of stress relief. My […]

  14. […] while ago, in response to another blog I wrote entitled What is Steamfunk? Exposing The Big Steampunk Lie, a Steampunk said “History is exactly what it says on the tin, an event that happened in the […]

  15. Interestingly, the game Bioshock, decidely steam-ish, does indeed address racism. I think every era has it’s own ugly underbelly and when we choose to play dress up and have fun with the past, not many folks are going to be all “Hey! I think I want to go as a dickhead who treats another segment of the population like dirt!” It’s not that we are pretending shit didn’t happen or are not aware of it.
    21 minutes ago · Just a though, not trying to be confrontational. 🙂

    • Balogun says:

      I did not take your statement as a confrontation. I don’t think anyone says that either. If they do, they are, indeed, a dickhead. I think it is more a matter of ignorance and / or apathy.

  16. Tank (Lady) says:

    […] WHAT IS STEAMFUNK? […]

  17. adaddinsane says:

    I’m a steampunk writer who doesn’t avoid racism, sexism, or the other popular bigotries. Nice to meet you 🙂 The protagonist of my main series, Maliha Anderson, is Anglo-Indian, young, female and gets it from all sides. http://bit.ly/maliha-01

    In my stories the British, German and Dutch empires are portrayed accurately. I haven’t written anything set in the Americas yet, but it will happen.

  18. Leslie Orton says:

    I love the article above! I publish an online Steampunk newspaper called The Aether Chronicle. I was wondering if you would like to submit an article on Steamfunk. I have been searching for some definitive information on the phenomenon across several forums, but I haven’t found anything more conclusive than what you have written here. I would love to present Steamfunk to my readers. If you are interested, you can reach me at ortonlj@hotmail.com.
    Leslie Orton

  19. […] Balogun Ojetade over at the blog Chronicles of Harriet put it […]

  20. […] image was in an article by Balogun, who writes in a genre he calls ‘steampunk’, defined as […]

  21. […] say speculative, because there’s a steamfunk (afro-diasporic steampunk) aspect as well as an imaginative futurity throughout the aesthetics of […]

  22. […] really digging the “funks” – steamfunk, dieselfunk, cyberfunk – and rococoa right now. These are all subgenres of steampunk, […]

  23. Saba Nur Sakhu says:

    I just got hip to the Steampunk movement a couple years ago. I like the inventiveness and creativity involved but don’t care much for the Victorian era. Glad to know SteamFunk is here.

  24. […] http://mvmediaatl.com/index.html WHAT IS STEAMFUNK? Exposing the Big Steampunk Lie! […]

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