Cosplay 4Last semester at the school I teach – and where my son, Ade, attends – the younger male students – ranging in age from six to ten and all of African descent (i.e. Black) – decided to fashion their own costumes based on characters they created. The boys created elaborate back-stories for their personas, developed comic books and transformed from being “themselves” into their personas at every break, during lunch and – for Ade, at least – on the ride home from school.

My son and his schoolmates had discovered the joys of cosplay.

Cosplay, thought by most to be short for “Costume Play” is, more accurately, short for “Paracosmic Play”. Paracosms are the fantasy worlds that many imaginative children invent.

Young people who engage in cosplay are developing creative skills that pay off later in “real life.” The famed trio of Brontë Sisters – best known for the novels, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre – and their Brother, Branwell, are a prime example of those who began writing early through creating and building upon imaginary worlds. As children, they concocted paracosms so elaborate that they documented them with meticulous maps, drawings, and hundreds of pages of encyclopedic writing.

Yes, cosplay involves wearing costumes and acting in the role of a favorite character from a novel, television program, comic book, movie or one’s own imagination; however, any good cosplayer knows that to cosplay well requires a knowledge of the world that character comes from. Those who cosplay characters from their own imaginations – such as my son and his schoolmates – usually create their character’s back-story, which includes the supporting characters and the setting from which that character comes.

Ogunlana gunIt now appears that, like the Brontës, children who engage in cosplay are more likely to be creative as adults. A 2002 study shows that geniuses are twice as likely as “normal” non-geniuses to cosplay. Some fields were proven to be particularly rife with cosplayers: Fully 46 percent of the recipients polled in the social sciences were cosplayers in their youth.

Fandom and cosplay is not for every child – some are just genuinely more interested in football than they are in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles (note that on the covers of the Kane Chronicles, the protagonist’s face is never shown; the protagonist is Black, however, on the cover of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series of novels, the white protagonist’s face is always shown) – but we need to see a change in the media; more Black writers need to tell our stories so that more young, Black fans are encouraged to reap the benefits of participatory fandom and cosplay.

These young, Black cosplayers will go on to make a better world for us.


 Because cosplay requires practical creativity. Fleshing out a universe demands, not just imagination, but an attention to detail, consistency, rule sets, and logic. You have to grapple with constraints – just as when you are problem-solving at work.

The future belongs to those who can imagine it.

Diesel Sis 2On Friday, June 10, 2016, join us for the kickoff event for SOBSFic ConThe Mahogany Masquerade.

Come dressed as your favorite Black hero or villain from comic books, science fiction or fantasy novels, or science fiction, fantasy or horror movies – extra props if the character you cosplay is from an indie work of Black Speculative Fiction. Enjoy great music; engage authors, filmmakers, artists and other cosplayers; shop for books and movies in our bazaar and chill out with some chai tea or a glass of wine.

This will be a fun and funky night and a Blacknificent beginning to a Blacktastic Convention!

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 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; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at

16 responses »

  1. Milton says:

    I’ll be there all steamfunky!

  2. Dr. Curiosity says:

    “The future belongs to those who can imagine it.”


  3. On this note:
    “(note that on the covers of the Kane Chronicles, the protagonist’s face is never shown; the protagonist is Black, however, on the cover of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series of novels, the white protagonist’s face is always shown) – but we need to see a change in the media;”
    – have a look into the changes they made to Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, starting with what was Rivers of London here, but sells as Midnight Riot over in the US. Great book, but if you get the chance, have a look for the two covers and even the process behind the US cover. You might find it interesting. I know I did.

  4. srtorris says:

    Wow that’s what it’s called? I always saw it as having a vivid imagination and I must tell you, your children are lucky. What happens too often in the African-American community is we discourage this type of behavior so good for you and KUDOS that you don’t.

    There have been too many stunted children because of it.

    • Balogun says:

      I concur. My mother always encouraged – and tolerated – my hyper-imagination and paracosmic play, thankfully, so I pay it forward with mine.

  5. […] DO BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DO THIS STUFF? Cosplay and the building of a Black World « chroniclesofharri…. […]

  6. […] The origin of the Mahogany Masquerade began when Yours Truly began research on Black perceptions of self and our place in Cosplay. […]

  7. […] Steampunks and Steamfunkateers insert their personas into imaginative scenarios in which they play the role of a hero who bravely confronts the forces of chaos and destruction. […]

  8. Diashawn says:

    What are you talking about? I looked at the covers, they’re pretty equal when it comes to showing the face.

  9. […] tabletop RPG is conducted through discussion, whereas in live action roleplaying games, or LARPs, players physically perform their characters’ actions. In both of these forms, a game-master […]

  10. […] Cosplay – “costume play”, the wearing of costumes that are the likenesses of characters from a certain era, film, television, comics, video games and novels – and role playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft and Ki-Khanga: The Sword & Soul Role-Playing Game are perfect avenues of escape from mundane and profane lives. “Blerd Heaven”, my daughters call it ( and yes, all seven of them – and my son – are Blerds). […]

  11. […] State of Black Science Fiction Convention, or SOBSF Con (“SOBSFic Con”) began with a telephone conversation between authors, event collaborators and friends, Milton […]

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