Yesterday heralded the release of Dieselfunk!, the follow up anthology to the groundbreaking Steamfunk! anthology. The idea for Dieselfunk! came almost simultaneously with Steamfunk. Balogun and I had discussed the anthology at length; as a matter of fact he coined the term around the same time as we adopted the term Steamfunk to describe Steampunk rooted in the African/African Diaspora experience. Many of you are familiar with the aftermath of the release of Steamfunk; it’s was my top selling anthology until the release of Dark Universe and has been taught in a number of colleges and universities including Georgia Tech.
Although Steampunk is relatively well known among speculative fiction enthusiasts, Dieselpunk is a bit more obscure. So what exactly is Dieselpunk, and why does it deserved to be funkdafied? Let’s start with the definition. Wikipedia defines Dieselpunk as a genre similar to that of its more well-known cousin “steampunk” that combines the aesthetics of the diesel-based technology of the interwar period (World War I and World War II) through to the 1950s with retro-futuristic technology and postmodern sensibilities. Balogun Ojetade defines Dieselfunk as ‘a type of fiction, film and fashion that combines the style and mood of the period between World War I and the early 1950s with Afrofuturistic inspiration. Dieselfunk tells the exciting untold stories of people of African descent during the Jazz Age. Think the Harlem Renaissance meets Science Fiction…think Chalky White (from “Boardwalk Empire”) doing battle with robots run amok in his territory…that is Dieselfunk!’
It makes sense that Dieselpunk would be of interest to people of African Descent, particularly African Americans. This was a volatile time in America. The country was 50 years away
from the Civil War and Jim Crow ruled the South. The Negro of the early 20th century was significantly different from the 19th century; black people were educated, restless and becoming more and more vocal against the inequality of America. Many sought to prove themselves by joining the armed forces to fight against the Germany and its allies. What they found when they reached Europe was an attitude that while not perfect, was significantly better than the racism in America. Black soldiers and pilots distinguished themselves in battle; Eugene Bullard became the first Black American fighter pilot, while the 369th ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ earned a ferocious reputation among allies and enemies alike while at the same time enduring the insults and discrimination of their countrymen.
When these soldiers returned home they found an America even more hostile to them than when they left despite their service. The Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence due to the fear of thousands of black men returning from war and the shameless propaganda of the movie ‘Birth of A Nation. Still, black people continued to strive and achieve, building communities such as Harlem, New York and Greenwood, Tulsa, also known as Black Wall Street. When World War II arrived Black men and woman once again answered the call. The push for equal rights at home and overseas resulted in the integration of the arm forces and changes which eventually led to the Civil Rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s.
So as you can see, the time in which Dieselpunk rests its hat is fertile ground for a unique perspective. In other words, Dieselpunk was begging to be funkdafied. While both Steampunk and Dieselpunk stories can be written without mention of the racial dynamics of the time, it is telling that most of the writers of Dieselfunk! chose to incorporate the history within their stories, resulting in stories that in my opinion raises the Dieselfunk! anthology to a level beyond it’s sister anthology.
Balogun Ojetade’s story, ‘SOAR: Wild Blue Yonder‘, sets the pace with an action-packed adventure which includes the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the first all-black paratrooper unit and the Tuskegee Airmen joining forces to carry out a secret mission.
Day Al-Mohamed’s ‘Powerplay‘ centers around the real life story of mob-buster Eunice Carter with a special twist that qualifies her story for pages of the anthology.
S.A. Cosby’s ‘The Girl With The Iron Heart‘ takes us on an inter-dimensional journey where the main character finds himself invisible to the system, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
Then there’s ‘Into the Breach‘ by Malon Edwards, an imaginative patios ladened story that takes place in a Chicago like you never
Angel’s Flight by Joe Hilliard tells the story of a boy pursuing his dream and the legacy that fuels his life.
Ronald T. Jones ‘Unusual Threats and Circumstances‘ takes us back to Chicago, specifically to the city section known as Bronzeville, where Jericho Aldrige’s terror filled night becomes the beginning of an amazing adventure.
Carole McDonnell gives us rocket men and the personal trials of the Jim Crow South in her story ‘Bonregard and the Three Ninnies;’ and in my story ‘Down South,’ Roscoe Tanner travels back to the South against his better judgement to help a woman retrieve something of great value.
The Dieselfunk! Anthology ends with ‘Big Joe and the Electro-Men‘ by James A. Staten a perfect blend of science fiction, espionage and undercover brothers and sisters.
Though significantly shorter than the Steamfunk! anthology, Dieselfunk! packs a punch. The weight of history and the imaginative storytelling makes it an anthology I’m very proud of. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
To get your copy of Dieselfunk!, visit http://www.mvmediaatl.com/.