UnCONventional Gatherings: Steampunk, Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions and Conferences that target Black People

Cosplay3Nearly every month of every year, there are one or more conferences, conventions, or symposiums on the subject of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Steampunk and / or Horror.

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:

Cosplay 10conference 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.

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.


Black Age of Comics Convention

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.

East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

ecbaccThe 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.


Cosplay 11OnyxCon 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.


Alien Encounters

SteamfunkAlien Encounters – the annual conference for Black speculative and imaginative fiction, film and music – serves as a venue for both education and entertainment.

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:


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!


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

Join horror authors Brandon Massey and Crystal Connor for this exciting panel as they discuss horror fiction from a Black point of view.


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.



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.


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!



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.

7 responses »

  1. […] in the films I create. I will continue to push the Steamfunk and Sword & Soul movements – and Black speculative fiction, in general – with fellow authors, artists and filmmakers, such as Milton Davis, Charles […]

  2. […] 17 Sep *If you are in London, next month will have the opening of Re-introducing Oshun, which will be an interdisciplinary exhibition “discussing black women’s bodies, gender and sexual expression through the lens of the Orisha, Oshun” and re-imagining “black women’s bodies as sacred of places of, beauty, intimacy and love.” Featuring the work of an all female collective, the exhibition “demystifies the omnipresent gaze placed on black women’s bodies by creating images of black women that look, talk, feel and love like us and in doing so presenting our own truths.” The exhibition is set to open on October 7 and hosted by Yinka Shinobare, MBE at his Guest Project Space in Hackney, London before culminating into an evening of live performances at Lyric Hammersmith on October 17. “It will be a participatory project moving away from ‘pretty-pictures-on-the-wall’ type exhibition by printing on organza thus allowing the ability of touch for our audience. More so, we wanted our audience to emerge themselves in to another time, space and reality where black women’s bodies are worshiped as the deacon of beauty.” *The Afrofuturist Affair having their third annual charity and costume ball on November 9 in Philadelphia. This year’s theme is Dark Phase Space. They are currently raising funds for it on Indiegogo. For more events from The Afrofuturist Affair, check out their tumblr and facebook, including the Afrofuturist Affair and Black Tribbles hosting their Return to Octavia City radio broadcast featuring speculative fiction stories two days before the ball. *Tomorrow night at the Living Gallery in Brooklyn, artist Jaszmine Hawkins will be featuring her work at the Art Lov[H]er series. “Art Lov(H)er Open Presentation is the brain child of emerging creator JeSansChez. Noticing a lack of female presence in the mainstream and underground art scenes of NYC, JeSansChez set out to create and hold spaces for women artists to represent ourselves.” RSVP here. * In Chicago on September 20, filmmaker Floyd Webb will be showcasing Christopher St. John’s 1972 art house film, Top of the Heap, at the Black Cinema House.The film is about “a black police officer in Washington, D.C., who feels alienated from many of his fellow cops, who look down on him because he’s black, as well as his family and peers, who look down on him for serving the Man. As personal and professional stresses pile up, the cop loses his grip on reality and ultimately breaks out in violence.” The film features several dream sequences that reveal the officer’s subconscious, including the one below where he dreams he is an astronaut: *Balogun Ojetade from Chronicles of Harriet did a list of important speculative fiction events, including the schedule for the upcoming Alien Encounters Conference in Atlanta. Take a look here. […]

  3. […] will be at the Alien Encounters Black Speculative Fiction, Film and Art Conference October 25 – 27. Feel free to approach me to discuss the […]

  4. […] you would like to meet others interested in Black science fiction, fantasy and horror, join us at Alien Encounters IV and on the State Of Black Science Fiction Facebook […]

  5. […] Friday October 25, in celebration of Black Speculative Fiction Month, the State of Black Science Fiction author, artist and filmmaker collective, in partnership with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on Culture and History, is hosting a party […]

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