A reenactor and educator, Ray Dean has delved into many eras of the past, but Steampunk speaks to her in a retroactive futurism that opens so many possibilities. Her blog, My Ethereality(http://raydean.net), explores history, culture, war and love in eras and countries that might influence a Steampunk world.
by Ray Dean
There was something in the air at Anachrocon… or maybe it was in the rhythm running through the ground beneath their feet. Perhaps it was the rush of air as a new door opened in Steampunk… a widening stretch of ideas that seemed to dawn over the assembled group. An anthology had it’s own birthday at the Con… a Steampunk anthology dedicated and inspired by African Culture and characters.
Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade, editors and creative forces behind the STEAMFUNK! Anthology gave me a little insight into the behind the scenes work of putting together this book. `
Ray: What was the creative spark that brought about this anthology?
Milton: The idea for the anthology came up during a discussion about steampunk and the lack of stories involving people of color.
Balogun: During a discussion on the Black Science Fiction Society site, we were discussing what Steampunk is and the lack of Black representation in it. Someone said “We should do an anthology of Steampunk stories with Black people as the heroes.” Everyone agreed we should and Milton Davis said he’d publish it. When someone asked what we should call the anthology, Maurice Broaddus said “I call what I write ‘Steamfunk’.” We decided we would roll with Steamfunk as the title.
Raye: When you were reading through the submissions, were there any stories that stretched your own definition of Steampunk/Steamfunk? What avenues/horizons did they open for you?
Milton: The story that stands out to me is Geoffrey Thorne’s The Tunnel at the End of the Light. I’m fairly new to Steampunk, so I wasn’t very familiar with the aether concept. I loved the story but was ready to reject it until Balogun explained to me that aether was very much a Steampunk trope.
Balogun: I believe my definition is just that – MY definition. It is MY approach to Steamfunk; how I express it. Others may express it differently and that is fine. As long as retrofuturistic, steam technology and / or aether technology is featured, it is Steamfunk. The setting…the era…whether it’s science fiction or fantasy does not matter much in Steamfunk. What all the stories did for me was show me just how limitless and fluid Steamfunk can be. The stories are so diverse, yet each one was exciting and thought-provoking. I am so happy to be a part of this rule breaking, history-making, world shaking anthology!
Ray: As you were ordering the stories within the anthology, what were some of your considerations? What themes/through-lines started to form?
Milton: We really didn’t have any particular expectation, at least I didn’t. I just wanted good stories that incorporated African and African American history into steampunk. The result is an excellent and varied collection of tales with a strong African American historical slant. There are stories where the main character just happens to be black and stories where the characters culture is essential. I think Steamfunk is a good effort at answering the absence our history and culture in Steampunk.
Balogun: At first, the idea was to ensure similar stories were separate from each other. However, the stories are so diverse…so unique, that wasn’t even an issue. Even the two John Henry stories are so different from each other and so brilliantly crafted they could be placed back-to-back and people would STILL enjoy the hell out of them both. So, we decided to order the book so that from the first page, through each section of the book, the reader will be drawn onward, pulled from story to story. There will never be any point at which the reader’s mind will wander. And even though this anthology is HUGE, I wager that most readers will get to the last page and wish there was more to read!
Ray Dean’s own story, A Will of Iron, appears in the STEAMFUNK! Anthology