UnCONventional Gatherings: Steampunk, Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions and Conferences that target Black People
Traditionally, these gatherings have attracted the default fan of Speculative Fiction – the Straight, White Geek Male – and always will, because that is who most of these geek gatherings are marketed to. However, there has always been a small group of die-hard fans other than the default who frequent these events as well.
In fact, according to a reliable source who is very active in the development and hosting of conventions throughout the country, the fastest growing demographic at conventions across the board is…you guessed it – Black folks!
With that growth, of course, have come gatherings that target a Black audience. All are welcome; however, these gatherings showcase works by – and, more often than not, about – Black people.
I have been fortunate to attend and participate in – as a professional and a fan – several of these gatherings and I am actually the co-developer and curator of one such gathering myself.
Below, we will examine several gatherings that target the Black fan of Speculative Art, Fiction and Film.
But first, let’s give brief definitions to the types of gatherings offered:
A conference is a meeting of people who “confer” about a topic. Also known as a trade fair, a conference provides the opportunity for creators, fans and the general public to network and learn more about topics of interest through workshops, presentations and meeting vendors.
A convention is a gathering of individuals who meet at an arranged place and time in order to discuss or engage in some common interest. Conventions typically focus on a particular industry or industry segment, and feature keynote speakers, vendor displays, and other information and activities of interest to the event organizers and attendees. Such conventions are generally organized by societies dedicated to promotion of the topic of interest.
In 1993, Turtel Onli launched the inaugural Black Age of Comics convention at the Southside Community Arts Center in Chicago and has been organizing the conventions ever since.
A trained artist with an interest in a wide range of mediums, Onli emphasizes “independent creativity” as the major subject of the convention. “Independent people need to come together and cooperate,” says Onli, who sees the Black Age of Comics Convention as a movement of artistic innovation; a movement that has grown by leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings.
Co-sponsored annually by the DuSable Museum, the Black Age of Comics Convention attracts hundreds of excited attendees each year.
The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, originally slated to be called the Pan-African Comic Convention (PAC-Con) or First World Komix Con (1st World Con), is an annual gathering of comic book artists, writers, their fans and retailers who are interested in discussing, buying and selling comic books, science fiction, action figures and related material by and / or about Black superheroes, super-powered characters and their adventures.
In addition, this convention also features panel discussions, self-publishing and graphic arts workshops for aspiring creators, and film screenings of works of veterans and amateurs alike.
Held in Philadelphia each May, ECBACC also features the prestigious Glyph Comics Awards. The Glyph Comic Awards recognize the best in comics made either by, for, or about Black people.
Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention
Detroit’s first convention for the aforementioned Black Age of Comics Movement was held at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center on February 07, 2009. Since then, the Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention has continued to follow the tradition set forth by Turtel Onli, as well as the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, spearheaded by Yumy Odum and Maurice Waters.
Andre Batts, the CEO of the Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention is also co-creator of the well known comic book series, Urban Style Comics.
OnyxCon is a progressive and diverse showcase and networking event for professionals who appreciate the African Diaspora’s contributions as it relates to popular Arts media. Like its sibling Black Age Conventions, OnyxCon’s major feature is comic books.
Not limited to comics, however, this event also showcases literary novels, video games, collectable toys and models, films and documentaries, and all other media fits the interest of their target audience.
Co-sponsored by the State of Black Science Fiction author, artist and filmmaker collective and the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History and curated by author / publisher, Milton Davis and author / filmmaker, Balogun Ojetade, this conference features three days’ worth of discussions, lectures and book signings, all aimed at highlighting the wide variety of contributions by creators of color to the fields of science fiction, fantasy, Steampunk, Dieselpunk and horror.
In its fourth year, and growing larger and more popular with each annual conference, Alien Encounters promises to culminate Black Speculative Fiction Month with a bang.
Here is the schedule for 2013:
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2013
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade: Black to the Future
Come dressed in your best Rococoa, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we enjoy Black Speculative Fiction short films and meet their creators.
Some of the films shown will be Evolve, from director Kia T. Barbee; Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster, from director Balogun Ojetade and Kina Sky, from director Coretta Singer.
9:00 pm until – Mahogany Masquerade After-Party
Drop the children off at Grandma’s and parade over to the BQE Lounge with us and let’s party the night away!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2013
4:00 to 6:00 pm – Retro-Futuristic Worlds of Steam and Diesel Funk
Join authors and creators of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade and Steampunk and cosplayer, actor and maker of Steampunk and Dieselpunk costumes and props, Mark Curtis for a discussion on Steamfunk and Dieselfunk, the long ignored stories of the Black experience during the Victorian Era and the Great World Wars told through retrofuturistic Fantasy and Science Fiction.
6:00 to 8:00 pm – Dark and Stormy: Horror Fiction on the Black Hand Side
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2013
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman
Join artist and Curator of OnyxCon, Joseph Wheeler III, comic book store owner, collector and publisher, Tony Cade and renowned comic book and animation creator and illustrator, Dawud Anyabwile as they discuss the conscious community of Black comic books and graphic novels.
Ongoing – Monday, September 3, 2013 – Sunday, November 3, 2013
The Neo-African Dynasty: Art from the Ancient Future of the Continent
This groundbreaking art exhibition, by renowned artist James Eugene, is a vibrant, afrofuturistic visual fusion of Africana ancestry, non-Western cosmologies and fantasy techno-culture.
Join James Eugene Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 7:00pm, for a discussion on his art, his creative process and the borderless Black future, rooted firmly in the African Diasporic experience, that he envisions.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2013
7:00 pm to 8:00 pm – The Animated Life of Floyd Norman: An Evening with a Legendary Walt Disney Studio Animator
Author’s Discussion and Book Signing
As a part of Alien Encounters Atlanta 2013, and in collaboration with The Wren’s Nest, Emory University and Morehouse College, the Auburn Avenue Research Library will host legendary animator, Floyd Norman, who will discuss his nearly fifty year career as an animator at Walt Disney Studios and his work with Pixar Animation Studios.
This event will also focus on Mr. Norman’s lifelong commitment to cultural diversity as an African American animation artist, his role as co-founder of the AfroKids Animation Studio, and his contributions to the animated classics Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, and the original Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s Fat Albert television special.
This community discussion will be facilitated by Dr. Stephane Dunn, Co-Director of the Cinema, Television, & Emerging Media Studies Program at Morehouse College. Copies of Animated Life: A Lifetime of Tips, Tricks, Techniques and Stories from an Animation Legend will be available for purchase.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – “Ancient, Ancient”, by Kiini Ibura Salaam
In collaboration with Charis Books and More and Afrekete, Spelman College’s LBGTQ Student Organization, the Auburn Avenue Research Library will host acclaimed Speculative Fiction author and Spelman College alumnus Kiini Ibura Salaam, who will discuss her collection of short fiction stories Ancient, Ancient.
Winner of the 2012 James Tiptree Jr. Award, these compelling stories introduce readers to alternate worlds, built around magical realism and fantasy, which ultimately provide transformative revelations about gender, sexuality and the human condition.
There you have it. Fun-filled weekends of Blacktastic Science Fiction, Funk, Fantasy & Horror you absolutely do NOT want to miss!
I look forward to seeing you at Alien Encounters next month!