Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Diversify Your SteamPunk Day 4:From Here to Timbuktu with Milton Davis

Although we've only recently been exposed to this author's work through his release of "Amber and The Hidden City"(Isnt the cover just amazing...),the esteemed Milton Davis has been writing for nearly a decade.

While incorporating African culture in the somewhat Eurocentric genre, "fantasy", he's managed to release over 24 distinct works and sell thousands of copies of his books. What really stands out though? With help, he and fellow steampunk alumni Balogun Ojetade, have helped diversify the steampunk genre with a new sub genre to the sub genre, notably named "SteamFunk."

Milton Davis took some time out to chat with us during our "Diversify Your SteamPunk" event, and here's what he has to say!

1. Your latest YA/MG book "Amber and The Hidden City" is what made me most familiar with your work. I mean, who could really deny that cover?!? Can you tell us a little more about yourself,and a bit about your work?

I'm a research chemist during the day who moonlights as a black speculative fiction writer. I live in Metro Atlanta with my wife and kids. As I mentioned earlier I specialize in speculative fiction by and about people of African descent. My concentration for the past 6 years has been sword and soul and steamfunk, but I'm expanding into science fiction and YA fiction this year.

2. We'll get into the interesting creation of what is "SteamFunk" with the next question. But for now, since were asking everyone, what attracts you to the Science Fiction sub-genre steampunk to begin with? What is steampunk to you? What makes you so connected to it? Was there a book you connected with that made you feel like you needed to write in this genre?
I didn't read science fiction until I was in college. One of my college instructors was trying to persuade me to change my major from chemistry to English and thought introducing me to science fiction would be the perfect way to do it. It didn't work. It did get me interested in reading and writing it, however. I wasn't until I experienced my 'African Renaissance' that I knew how I wanted to write in the genre. As far as steampunk is concerned, I'm more an alternate history fan. Adding the aspect of steam technology enhances the stories for me, but my real interest is creating 'what if'' scenarios that focus on African and African American history.

3. Since we've dedicated a theme to diversifying steampunk. Steampunk has it's faults. It hasn't been open to diversity until recently, and even then, many of the die hards still view it as a Eurocentric sub-genre. You are hailed as one of the creators of a revolutionary sub genre known as "SteamFunk." Care to share what the journey that took? What was the inspiration behind the steamfunk movement?

The concept of the Steamfunk anthology came out of a discussion between writers on Facebook. We were discussing steampunk and how with its Victorian focus it totally ignored the history of other folks during the time period. Being the person that I am, I suggested we create an anthology that filled the void. One of the writers, Maurice Broaddus, had published a steampunk story titled 'Pimp My Airship." He said he called his writing Steamfunk, and the rest is history. 

4. You and colleague, Balogun Ojetade have collaborated on not only a SteamFunk anthology, but also a motion picture! Where can we see it?!? Tell us what it's about for those of us who dont know!
Rite of Passage is based on a story I wrote a few years ago with the same title. I was about a young man who was saved by a mysterious man with incredible powers while escaping from slavery with Harriet Tubman. Years later the young man encounters the mysterious man again. He learns the secret of the man's powers which is passed on to him.

Balogun Ojetade read the story and was immediately taken by it. We brainstormed on the concept and came up with a pantheon of people endowed with special powers and led by Harriet Tubman. The main character of the story was changed to a young woman and the rest is history.
The film will debut in May at Eagle Con. I'm excited about the project and what it represents.

5. What are the most interesting parts about the SteamFunk/Punk sub genre for you to write? What do you find to be the most problematic parts about writing within the genre? 
For me it's all about the alternate history aspect. I enjoy looking at the history of the time period and imagining what if scenarios as it pertains with people of African descent. The writing is the easy part. I love history and research so it's exciting to work on the projects and to see where they lead.

6. There seems to be a surge of writers abandoning the "traditional" setting of steampunk. Many are starting to reject the Victorian era, and expanding the settings in steampunk. Why do you think that is? Do you have any favorite steampunk works featuring people of color and diverse characters?
I just think it's the evolution of the genre. As more people became involved more began to ask the question, 'where are the folks that look like me?" The response is books like Balogun Ojetade's Chronicles of Harriet Tubman and Steamfunk. I'm looking forward to more works by other writers.

As far as other steampunk writers I must admit I'm not very well-read in the genre. I like Cherie Priest's work and my daughter has recommended I read Leviathan by Scott Westerfield. 

7. Any future plans on expanding the SteamFunk movement? Any upcoming projects that aren't steam funk?

I'm about to release my first steamfunk novel, From Here to Timbuktu. It's set in my alternate history country of Freedonia, a country ruled by free blacks. I'm also releasing Changa's Safari Volume III, the continuation of my Sword and Soul historical fantasy adventure. 

8.Where can readers brush up on everything that is Milton Davis and learn more about any "SteamFunk"projects in the future?
The best place to start is my site, Milton Davis' Official Site. I also have a Ning site, Wagadu Site, where I post short stories and do all kinds of fun stuff. And  of course you can find me on Facebook.


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