WHAT IS STEAMFUNK?

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.

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.

Written by Balogun

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Baba_Balogun

Website: https://chroniclesofharriet.com

ADRIAN CALLOO BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS – STRANGER THINGS: DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN BY ADAM CHRISTOPHER

THE GANGSTERS IN ADRIAN CALLOO’S A MONSTER IN HARLEM

When writing A Monster in Harlem, Calloo wanted to make the  reading experience as authentic as possible which meant featuring real people including the notorious folk of organised crime.

Here are a few of the gangsters that are mentioned in A Monster of Harlem.

Al Capone

Al Capone

Al Capone, (January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947) sometimes known by the nickname “Scarface”, was an American gangster and businessman who attained notoriety during the Prohibition era as the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit. His seven-year reign as crime boss ended when he was 33.

The federal authorities became intent on jailing Capone and prosecuted him in 1931 for tax evasion. During a highly publicized case, the judge admitted as evidence Capone’s admissions of his income and unpaid taxes during prior (and ultimately abortive) negotiations to pay the government taxes he owed.

He was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

After conviction, he replaced his defense team with experts in tax law, and his grounds for appeal were strengthened by a Supreme Court ruling, but his appeal ultimately failed. Capone showed signs of neurosyphilis early in his sentence and became increasingly debilitated before being released after almost eight years of incarceration. On January 25, 1947, Capone died of cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke.

In ‘A Monster in Harlem’ Fats Waller is seen retelling a tale about the time when he was kidnapped by the mob and forced to play piano at Al Capone’s birthday party.

 

Bumpy Johnson

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Ellsworth Raymond Johnson (October 31, 1905 – July 7, 1968)—known as “Bumpy” Johnson—was an American mob boss and bookmaker in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood.

Johnson was an associate of numbers queen Madame Stephanie St. Clair.

By the summer of 1952, Johnson’s activities were being reported in the celebrity people section of Jet,an American weekly aimed at African American readers. That same year, Johnson was indicted in New York for conspiracy to sell heroin and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

He served the majority of his prison time at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay, California as inmate No. 1117.

Johnson was arrested more than 40 times and eventually served two prison terms for narcotics-related charges.

In December 1965, Johnson staged a sit-down strike in a police station, refusing to leave, as a protest against their continued surveillance. He was charged with “refusal to leave a police station” but was acquitted by a judge.

Bumpy was the  main Harlem associate of Charles “Lucky” Luciano and what would become later known as the Genovese crime family, Johnson’s criminal career has inspired films and television.

 

Lucky Luciano

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Charles “Lucky” Luciano (November 24, 1897 – January 26, 1962) was an influential Italian-born mobster, criminal mastermind, and crime lord who operated mainly in the United States. Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime in the United States for the establishment of the first Commission. He was also the first official boss of the modern Genovese crime family. He was, along with his associates, instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate.

Luciano was tried and successfully convicted for compulsory prostitution and running a prostitution racket in 1936 after years of investigation by District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey.

He was given a thirty-year prison sentence, but during World War II an agreement was struck with the Department of the Navy through his associate Meyer Lansky in order to protect New York’s harbors from Axis U-boats. Dewey almost failed to keep his end of the bargain, and it took months to finally come up with a solution to release Luciano. He was deported to live his life freely outside the U.S.

A Monster in Harlem is set to be released in November 2019.

CONDITION OF MY HEART – EXTRACTED FROM NIGHT FLUTES: A BOOK OF POETRY

Thought that was really you; prowling the alley like a panther, walking your façade.

I get so high I can even see the aliens in the trees.

They are watching me.

These are your lies, you left them here.

Your show was alluring, posh & demure.

A mamba snake I follow to the shores of midnight.

The witching hour draws near.

3am.

A shadow falls on my body shaped like the soul of an old tree, dripping like black wax on sun burnt grass.

I thought it was you & then realized it was the condition of my heart

 

Copyright © 2019 by Adrian Calloo
All rights reserved.

 


 

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DRUNK BUDDHA – EXTRACTED FROM NIGHT FLUTES: A BOOK OF POETRY

My aftershave smells like a mixture of rum and pity.

A man at the bar says to me that he hates to see another drinking alone but I made it this way.

I play a Thin Lizzy song on the jukebox and fall in to the shadows of the rows.

The pull of a hyena moon is taking me under.

I’m forgetting pain, love songs are murdered; the wrist of the junkie meets the eye of slaughter.

Trudging through the old town; a ghost walking, looking for the echo of friends who have already escaped on the midnight train.

Numb my lips and pour me under ‘till I dream through the streets like water.

Dawn is coming.

I want to be gone.

Dear Buddha, can you help me?

I’ll meet you in Amsterdam.

I’ll know your heart by the tears on my face

 

Copyright © 2019 by Adrian Calloo
All rights reserved.

 

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PINK AND BLACK ROSES -EXTRACTED FROM NIGHT FLUTES꞉ A BOOK OF POETRY

Pink and Black Roses

 

Take 1

Sent at the end of June,

flowers nourished in ice water.

Sent in haste, delivered by strangers.

Should have walked the miles to feel the thorns in my feet but the discomfort of heartbreak is hard to replicate.

So, I send you pink and black roses, nourished on fire water.

Pretending I still know you, when all I know is a ghost.

 

Take 2

I sent you a remnant of my heart,

the voice of night imprisoned in a petal,

from tear to earth, born as a rosebud.

What kind of light appeases the radiant bride?

Reminding me of lost summers; where lovers never kissed

& windows stay closed.

The groom covering his trail of lies with artificial flowers; manufactured elegance, taut & ridiculously pretty, a token of fraudulent love.

Do you know who sent you the real roses that watch you sleep?

Breathing life into your heart, reminding you that you’re alive unlike the plastic ones that stink of rubber and strawberries.

 

Take 3

Imprisoned in its vase, is a rose still a rose when it dies?

Or is there just an unused vase; waiting to be filled?

When starved of light, does a rose contemplate death?

I wonder, does it wish to be free, out in the evening breeze?

What should I call this skeleton of beauty?

Its grace transformed to blackened confetti; my shredded hope.

If I were to retrieve my unwanted gift,

on this suffering night, in my hands, it would crumble.

I would destroy it, like you said I would.

Better to let it just turn to nothing in its decorated prison.

I do think of it often; its familiar ending is the hook in my heart

 

Copyright © 2019 by Adrian Calloo
All rights reserved.

 

Purchase ‘Night Flutes: A Book of Poetry’