DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Black Steampunks and Steamfunkateers
For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of what is commonly 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 the classic works that continue to inspire Steampunk and Steamfunk – Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and HG Wells’ The Time Machine.
One of my childhood rituals was to sit at the feet of my mother and, together, we would watch The 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 watching James West and Artemus Gordon solve crimes, protect the President, and foil the plans of megalomaniacal villains, with the help of Verne-esque, technologically advanced devices, sharp wits and superior fighting skills.
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 The 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 set in the Wild West, 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…you guessed it…The 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].
Shortly after finding the article by Jah, I was fortunate to find 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 and artists who write Steampunk and – through the genius and diligence of these same authors and artists, we have successfully created a subgenre of Steampunk that is a movement within a movement – Steamfunk.
Recently, author Milton Davis and I co-edited and contributed to the definitive work in the subgenre, the anthology Steamfunk!. We are now working together on a feature film based on a story that Milton wrote and a world we have built also based on that story. Rite of Passage, which we are producing in partnership with GA-Tech is sure to be a powerhouse of entertainment and education and will incite much thought, emotion, conversation and – hopefully – action upon its worldwide release.
Following is a list of Black people who are helping to move Steampunk and Steamfunk forward and to elevate the quality of these sibling movements.
Milton is a chemist by day and a writer / publisher by night and on the weekends. All of his works are self-published through his company, MVmedia, LLC.
He is contributing co-editor of the anthology, Steamfunk! and author and / or publisher of seven other books, which are all masterful works of Sword and Soul – African inspired heroic and epic fantasy.
Milton is an active historian and educator on the topics of Steamfunk and Sword and Soul.
Valjeanne Jeffers, author of the erotic horror series, Immortal. The fourth book in that series – Collision of Worlds – is Steamfunk. She is also author of the Steamfunk novels, The Switch I and The Switch II: Clockwork.
Valjeanne also works as an editor of Steamfunk and other genres of fiction and is co-owner of Q and V Affordable Editing.
At present, Valjeanne is putting the finishing touches on her next novel – Mona Livelong – a mash-up of Steamfunk and horror.
Luisa Ana Fuentes – aka Dorothy Winterman – is a New York-based attorney, Steampunk and owner of the Hattitude store.
A true Renaissance Woman, Luisa is also an opera/Broadway show tune singing, belly dancing, martial artist who speaks several languages, loves metal and Rasputina and Kletzmer music.
A long-time fan of cosplay and Live-Action Role-Playing (LARPing), Luisa says “I’ve LARPed, RenFaired, CosPlayed, ComicConed and so forth and so on. STEAMPUNK/GOTH/NEO-VICTORIAN has won me over.”
Needing an outlet for her creativity – and relief for her stress – Luisa began making her own costumes. She now runs a successful hat making business but still makes time to fabricate her own beautiful clothing and accessories.
Luisa’s Steamfunk persona is Dorothy Winterman, a Steampunk Dahomey Amazon, a character who came to her in a dream. According to Luisa, “…one evening I awoke from a dream. In that dream, Miss Winterman was standing among bodies of White men in differing military uniforms. They were dead or dying. I/Miss Winterman had a cross bow with a red laser light shooting out its pinpoint accuracy onto a Joshua tree not too far ahead. I stood, Captain Morgan-like on what I knew to be a Dutch military man. All around me were clearly African women soldiers all dressed alike with the same or similar weaponry, but likewise standing as I was upon the chests of other fallen European male soldiers. We all shouted and whooped and hollered in victory-my sisters and I. We had defeated our enemies and Africa (yes, all of Africa) was safe from continued plunder and rape.”
Luisa also wears a beautiful outfit that combines the looks of Cherokee, Taino and Caribe Indian warriors, with whom she also shares heritage.
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.”
Truly a creative genius, Nivi Hicks wears many hats; and wears them quite well. She is a world renowned cosplay model, cosplay costume designer and fabricator, mother and Director of Utah’s popular fan convention, the first such convention ever in the state of Utah – the Salt City Steam Fest.
She says of Steampunk – “Steampunk, to me, is my outlet, my muse, and my friend. It’s been something I can say in regards to a hobby and a genre of interest I have been interested in for the longest time.”
Nivi is an all-around great person – humble and always offering a kind and encouraging word to fellow Steampunks and Steamfunkateers.
With his creative 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. Also, with Sixpence, Mr. Saturday hosts brilliant and witty Steampunk performances at fan conventions across the country.
A friend, Mr. Saturday – along with Jaymee Goh, Diana Pho aka Ay-Leen, the Peacemaker and Savan Gupta, aka A Count Named Slick Brass (Savan Gupta is actually creator of SteamFunk Studios and SteamFunk, a separate, but just as awesome movement as Steamfunk) – has been extremely supportive of Steamfunk and when I was new to Steampunk, he was one of the icons of the movement who spread the word about Steamfunk and my work in it.
About Steampunk, he has this to say – “Steampunk, I would say, is one of the more political “geek” subcultures out there. I never shy away from sharing my politics and views in any situation and Steampunk is no exception.” He further states “…there is no room for racism, sexism, elitism and various other cruel prejudices out there, within our community and we must do our best to prevent such counter-revolutionary efforts…”
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.
In her precious, but little spare time, she enjoys all things Steampunk, Gothic, eccentric and eclectic. At present, Kimberly resides in Memphis, Tennessee.
That toy awakened the artist in young Standingo and he immediately started drawing…on his parents’ wall.
After awakening from the knockout blow delivered by his mom, Stan staggered to school, where he discovered an armless Spiderman action figure in the trash can. He retrieved Spidey from the detritus and took him home so he could draw him as well.
At ten years of age, Stan acquired his first comic book, when he saw an Incredible Hulk comic book at the local candy store and begged his father to buy it for him. It was then that Stan concluded that he wanted to draw comic books.
After unsuccessfully pursuing a career with Marvel, DC and Milestone comics – who told him he had tons of talent, but still was not good enough for them (they were wrong) – the disheartened Stan did not pick up a pencil to draw for the next five years.
In 2005, at the age of 32, Stan’s passion to draw was reignited, but this time, he was determined to remain independent and to create works on his terms. And boy, are we happy he made that decision! Stan is one of the most prolific artists in the business and is one of the premier artists in indie comics and genre fiction.
Stan has done the covers for several popular graphic novels and novels, including the Steamfunk series, The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman and the Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time in Afrika, for which his work was nominated for best cover by the prestigious Pulp Ark Awards. Recently, Stan completed the beautiful cover for author Milton Davis’ Steamfunk series, From Here to Timbuktu.
He is highly sought after for his skills and has been commissioned by the NBA and the High Museum of Art.
His work can be seen on the covers of numerous magazines and books and in animation and designs for top apparel companies.
Marcellus is committed to developing the next generation of artists by sharing his experience and expertise as a judge for art competitions and as a panelist at conventions and festivals.
We were fortunate to commission Marcellus for the beautiful and beloved cover of the Steamfunk anthology and look forward to working with him on many more Steamfunk projects in the near future!
A popular prop maker, costume fabricator and mover and shaker at fandom conventions, Mark and his wife, Theresa, are true icons – and all around wonderful people – in the movement.
We were elated when Mark agreed to play the vampire Greasy Grant in the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage. Mark agreed to take on the role of the vampire mob boss mainly because he is an admirer of famed African American lawman, Bass Reeves and says he will be honored to be killed by the legendary U.S. Marshal.
He spends his day time hours pondering the mysteries of the Aether at the Emory Center for Comprehensive Informatics. His night time hours are dedicated to the enlightenment of students at local universities.
Steampunk evangelist, costume designer, maker, corset inspector, mixologist, computer jock and run-of-the-mill knowledge geek, Vernard is a popular and highly active Steampunk.