Showing posts with label Balogun Ojetade. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Balogun Ojetade. Show all posts

Friday, May 29, 2015

32 Months Later With Balogun Ojetade

Derrick Ferguson: What are the major changes that have taken place in your life personally and professionally since we last talked?

Balogun Ojetade: Personally, I now have two grandchildren (I had one back then), with a third one on the way and my father passed October 16, 2013, a year and a day after our first interview went live.

Professionally, I have published several books, completed a feature film, won a screenwriting contest and participated in several panels around the country.

DF: How have you grown as a writer/editor/publisher in the past 32 months?

BO: I certainly have – physically, at least. I now weigh 220 pounds. Back in 2012, I weighed about 180!

Seriously, I believe I have. I certainly have much more experience in all aspects of the business and the art. I have always worked hard at my craft as a writer, but I am devoting almost as much time to learning the business side of books.

DF: Is the direction you’re heading in now the same as it was 32 months ago?

BO: Pretty much. I have a stronger focus on pushing Black Speculative Fiction to the masses, now and I – with Milton Davis – have produced and / or curated nearly a dozen events since we last talked. These events include The Mahogany Masquerade; Alien Encounters; the Black Speculative Film Festival; the Black Science Fiction and Fantasy Youth Summit; The Black Speculative Fiction Author Showcase and many others. And now we are Co-Chairing SOBSFic Con (“State of Black Science Fiction Con) in 2016.

DF: Where do you see yourself five years from now?     
BO: I see myself publishing other authors, making more films and giving the world SOBSFic Con II. I also see a vacation in there, as I have not taking a vacation (other than working ones) in twenty-five years. My vacation spot of choice is Gabon, in Central Africa, my ancestral home.

DF: Do you think you’ve found your audience? Or that your audience has found you?

BO: My audience has found me. I wish I knew exactly who they were; it would certainly help with marketing. However, in this digital age, people buy books and you don’t know who they are unless they send you a message saying how much they loved, or didn’t love, your book.

DF: Have any of your attitudes about your work or your style of writing changed completely or modified?

BO: No sir. I’m still the same old me. If anything, I am more willing to experiment. Three years ago, I would have been too intimidated to write a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style book. I did that last year with The Keys and I am plotting out the second book in the series.

DF: Tell us about Steamfunk and your place in the genre.

BO: Steamfunk is the Black / African expression of Steampunk, but it is more than that. While steam is the dominant technology in Steampunk it doesn’t have to be in Steamfunk. Most non-European cultures did not rely on steam and saw steam technology as a tool of the oppressor. We deal with that in Steamfunk. We tell the stories of George Washington Carver, Bass Reeves, Harriet Tubman, John Henry and Frederick Douglass – stories you won’t read in Steampunk.

My place in the genre is as an author and screenwriter. Up until this year, I would have been considered the Steamfunk activist. But now I push Black Speculative Fiction in general. I think Steamfunk has grown wings and really caught on, which was my plan. No need for me to keep that as my focus.

DF: Rococoa is a genre that really excites me. For those not in the know can you tell us what Rococoa is?

Where Sword and Soul ends and before Steamfunk begins, there is the Age of Spring Technology and Clockwork. Think Three Finger’d Jack; the pirate, Black Caesar; and the Haitian Revolution. Think the Black Count, Nat Turner, and the Stono Rebellion…that is Rococoa!

A couple of years ago, at the Mahogany Masquerade: An Evening of Steamfunk and Film, I inquired about the era that sits between Sword and Soul – the subgenre of African-inspired epic and heroic fantasy that is usually set before colonization – and Steamfunk, which normally takes place between 1837 and 1901. I asked if anyone had a name for that time because it is a time that fascinates me – a time of revolution (in particular, the Haitian Revolution); a time of pirates and swashbucklers; a time of reverence for art and science. I am a huge fan of The Three Musketeers in all media and Brotherhood of the Wolf, also set during that era, is one of my favorite movies.

No one at the event had a name for the era, however, everyone agreed the time possessed that same  “cool factor” found in Steamfunk and Sword and Soul.

Curious by nature and a researcher by choice, I immediately began my quest of discovery, fueled by my determination to find a name for this era that fascinated me so.

After a brief bit of research, I stumbled upon Rococo…and, to my surprise, Rococopunk.

Rococo is derived from the French word rocaille, originally meaning the bits of rocky decoration sometimes found in 16th-century architectural schemes. It was first used in its modern sense around 1800, at about the same time as baroque, and, like baroque, was initially a pejorative term.

Rococopunk is – like Dieselpunk – a sibling of Steampunk, set in the earlier Renaissance era, primarily in the high-class French community of the time. Participants in this movement wear outlandish makeup and hairstyles and sport bold, brightly colored clothing.

Think Amadeus, Pirates of the Caribbean, or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. For darker Rococo, think Last of the Mohicans, Perfume: The Story of A Murderer, Brotherhood of the Wolf, or Sleepy Hollow (the 1999 film, not the television show).

Okay, I had a name for the era. Now, I needed to come up with a name to define the Black expression of Rococopunk; a name to define the subgenre so that – as author and publisher Milton Davis says of Steamfunk and Sword and Soul – “when you hear or read ‘Steamfunk’ or ‘Sword and Soul’, you know exactly what you’re getting.”

Before I could come up with a name myself, the brilliant Briaan L. Barron, artist and owner of Bri-Dimensional Images, did it for me with her release of the documentary, Steamfunk and Rococoa: A Black Victorian Fantasy. While there is not much talk of Rococo or Rococopunk in the documentary – it is mainly about Steampunk and Steamfunk and features Diana Pho of Beyond Victoriana and Yours Truly – the spelling, Rococoa, was perfect!

At present, I am seeking submissions of Rococoa stories for an anthology I will release in early 2016. It is the first anthology I am publishing and I am very excited about it.

DF: You and Milton Davis won the 2014 Urban Action Showcase Award for Best Action Script for your screenplay NGOLO. How did you guys celebrate when you won?

BO: We celebrated with some great Chinese food and a beer. The next day, we were back on the grind, strategizing our next step with the screenplay.

DF: Tell us about the story of NGOLO and your plans for it. Will we eventually see the movie?

BO: The basic premise of NGOLO is this:
In the near-future, assassinations are legal, as long as they are carried out by government-sanctioned guilds of assassins, who settle disputes in boardrooms and political offices around the world. One guild – the Bloodmen – is the most skilled; the most dangerous; the most feared…until the day the hunters become the hunted.

Here’s the plot:
When a contract for the life of Senator PATRICK STANTON – a man hell-bent on eradicating the assassin guilds – is issued and taken on by the Bloodmen, it is suspected by the Bloodmen’s Guild Professor (2nd-In-Command), STEPHEN JONES, that the master of the guild, KAMARA KEITA, accepted the contract pro-bono (an illegal practice) in order to force Senator Stanton to vote in favor of the continued existence of legal assassination and assassin guilds at the upcoming vote on the Anti-Assassination Bill.

Desiring leadership of the Bloodmen, Stephen challenges Guildmaster Kamara to combat, with the prize being command of the guild. Kamara defeats Stephen. Ashamed and envious, Stephen leaves the Bloodmen and attempts to turn the other guilds against Kamara. Instead, the other Guildmasters and Guild Professors back Kamara and even encourage him to kill Stephen for his betrayal, which Kamara refuses to do.

Stephen goes to assassin wannabes, the TIGERS and offers them a chance to become a legitimate guild if they help him bring down the Bloodmen. The leader of the Tigers, CARLOS FAIRCHILD, is reluctant at first, but Stephen convinces him that, under Guildmaster Kamara’s leadership, the Bloodmen have become corrupt and they must be stopped before they cause the eradication of legal assassination and all the guilds. Carlos joins forces with Stephen and hands over leadership of the Tigers – and a few street gangs he has influence over – to the former Bloodman.

The Bloodmen throw their annual Founders’ Day celebration. All of the Guildmasters and Guild Professors from around the world attend. Kamara awaits the arrival of his son, MALCOLM and Malcolm’s fiancĂ©e, JAMELA RASHON, both top Bloodmen assassins.

Jamela is en route from an assignment in San Diego and Malcolm is en route from a job in Japan. While on his way to the Bloodmen’s guild house, Malcolm is ambushed by the Tigers. At the same time, the guild house is attacked by an army of Tigers and thugs, led by Stephen.

Jamela comes upon the house as it is being attacked.
And then…

You’ll have to wait for the movie or the graphic novel to find out what happens next. We are negotiating both right now, so I can’t say much, but a major feature film is going to happen, but man, it is a long process. Hopefully, the feature film will hit the Big Screen in 2017. The graphic novel should drop a bit earlier in the same year or in late 2016.

DF: You and Milton Davis have proven to be quite the formidable partnership. What’s the secret of such a successful team?

BO: Hard work, consistency and courage. When Milton and I first met – to discuss creating Ngolo, actually – I told Milton that I operate from a position of power; not fear; that I get things done and have no time for naysayers. He had the same principles, so we started setting up events and projects together. Of course, we would discuss our stories with each other and that led to us doing some collaboration with Ki-Khanga, Rite of Passage and Ngolo.  Now, my final installment of Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman will be set in Milton’s world of Freedonia.

It’s fun working with Milton and we have much more work to do together.

DF: Tell us about the State of Black Science Fiction Convention. How did it come about?

BO: Milton and I have long discussed doing a convention. All of the Black conventions at present are focused on comic books. That’s cool, but we need something more. There are many fans of Black Speculative Fiction who aren’t into comic books. I’m one of them. I lost a real interest in comic books after the last issue of Brotherman dropped, but I never lost interest in novels, films and television. Milton is not a fan of comic books either. I say that, not to bash comic books or comic book conventions, but to say that we need conventions that offer more, so we decided to create our own – one that would feature all aspects of Black Speculative Fiction. After curating Alien Encounters, a four-day Black Speculative Fiction conference (more academic than a convention) and sitting on panels at cons across the country, we know how to do this and it is going to be epic.
We call it State of Black Science Fiction Con because State of Black Science Fiction is the name of our collective. We call it SOBSFic [SAHBS-fik] Con for short. SOBSFic Con is set for June 17-18, 2016. There is already a huge buzz around it and we are expecting to get a great turnout.

DF: What are you working on now?

BO: I am working on Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman: Freedonia now. That will be the only novel I release this year. The rest of my time will be devoted to developing and marketing SOBSFic Con and doing panels at a few conventions.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Balogun Ojetade: I am always seeking to collaborate with other authors and artists, so if any readers want to work on something, they can reach me at 

I also love doing cons, so if you are doing a con and need a panelist or a moderator, let me know that, too. Oh, and buy my books. Word on the street is, they’re pretty good.

For more information about Balogun Ojetade and his work, check out his blog Chronicles of Harriet

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: BALOGUN OJETADE

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Balogun Ojetade?
Balogun Ojetade: Balogun Ojetade is a cool dude.
He is an author; a father of eight children; a husband; a Steamfunk / Steampunk; a filmmaker; a screenwriter; an actor (sometimes); a master instructor of indigenous African martial arts; a creator of role-playing games and a traditional African priest.

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?
BO: I live in Atlanta, Georgia.
I am owner and technical director of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute, which has representatives in Atlanta, Macon, Ga and London, England.
To keep the bill collectors away, I avoid answering the phone, I run very quickly and I stay in the good graces of my beautiful and loving wife, who is the hardest working photographer in the business.

DF: When did your love of science fiction, heroic fantasy and speculative fiction begin?
BO: My love for science fiction, fantasy and horror began when I was two years old, when my sisters decided to conduct an experiment and see if they could teach their two year old brother to read by getting him hooked on comic books, starting with Thor, Superman, Beetle Bailey, Archie and the Fantastic Four. Their experiment worked and I have been in love with speculative and imaginative fiction ever since.

DF: You’re an instructor of African Martial Arts. When and where did you begin training?
BO: I began training in April, 1972 in Chicago, Illinois, under the tutelage of my father, who spent over a decade living and training in West Africa, when he was employed as security for the U.S. Embassy in Dakkar, Senegal. I have been training daily ever since. I began formally teaching my own students in 1992.

DF: You’re also heavily involved in film as a writer, director and fight/stunt coordinator. Tell us about your film projects.
BO: I majored in film, with a concentration in screenwriting, in college. I have always loved films and filmmaking, but for years, I did not have the time or resources to create my own, so I concentrated on other endeavors. In 2001, I was asked to develop a one act play based on a popular poem I wrote entitled The Good Ship Jesus. I developed the play and performed it myself as part of the National Black Arts Festival. The play – and I – received rave reviews, so I decided to pursue acting. I won roles in a few martial arts films and a few plays, always observing the techniques of the directors, actors and fight / stunt coordinators.

In 2001, I was given the opportunity to produce a martial arts thriller screenplay I wrote entitled Reynolds’ War. I jumped at the chance and the film has gone on to become an underground hit in the U.S. and in West Africa. After that experience, I formed my own production company, Roaring Lions Productions, and recruited some of the best talents in film to work with me to create quality works of Black science fiction, fantasy and horror for film. We have created two films – A Single Link, a martial arts thriller about a woman who is raped and discovers her rapist has gone on to become a mixed martial arts champion. For closure and empowerment, she decides she wants to fight him and she goes on to become the first woman to fight professionally in co-ed mixed martial arts and a symbol for victimized women worldwide; and Rite of Passage: Initiation, an excerpt from a Steamfunk television series I – and Milton Davis are developing.

DF: Before I get into “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” I think we ought to talk a bit about Steamfunk. What is Steamfunk, where did it come from and where is it going?
BO: In order for people to understand Steamfunk, we must first give a brief definition of Steampunk. Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction or fantasy, characterized by a setting – in the past, present or future – in which steam power predominates as the energy source for high, industrial technologies. Think the television show Wild, Wild West, the graphic novel / comic book series, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or the movie The Golden Compass.

Steamfunk is 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.

DF: “Moses: The Chronicle of Harriet Tubman” is a wonderful reimagining of a genuine historical icon as an action/adventure hero in a story that moves like an out of control freight train going downhill. Where did this concept come from and can we look forward to more?
BO: I have always been a fan of Harriet Tubman and knew that the first novel I ever wrote would have “General Moses” as the hero. In researching her life for a poem I wrote a few years ago, I came to realize what an amazing woman she really was and that she seemed to possess uncanny abilities, such as psychic visions, nigh superhuman strength and the ability to change her appearance where no two people gave the same description of her. Even to this day, there are only five photos of Harriet Tubman known to exist and many we that were once believed to be her have been proven to be someone else.

Finding out these things incredible about Harriet sparked my already wild-as-hell imagination and the concept for Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2) was born. I am writing books 3 & 4 at present and Harriet will make a cameo in my story, Rite of Passage: Blood & Iron, which appears in the upcoming Steamfunk! Anthology.

DF: Tell us about Sword and Soul and “Once Upon A Time In Afrika”
BO: For a definition of Sword and Soul, I will quote the subgenre’s founder, the incomparable author, friend and mentor, Charles R. Saunders: “Sword-and-soul is the name I’ve given to the type of fiction I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years.  The best definition I can think of for the term is ‘African-inspired heroic fantasy’.  Its roots are in sword-and-sorcery, but its scope is likely to expand as time passes.”

Once Upon A Time in Afrika is my Sword and Soul novel. Desperate to marry off his beautiful but "tomboyish" daughter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of the powerful empire of Oyo consults the Oracle, which tells him that Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament, inviting warriors from all over the continent. Just a few of the warriors chosen are her lover, Akin, who enters the tournament in disguise, a wizard seeking to avenge the death of a loved one and a vicious dwarf with shark-like, iron teeth. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament, a powerful evil is headed their way and they will be forced to decide if they will band together against the evil, flee, or confront the evil as individuals.

DF: Tell us about your science fiction gangster epic “Redeemer”
BO: Redeemer releases in November, 2012. It is about an assassin who decides to leave his life of crime – and his crime family – behind and build a family. His boss, a ruthless gangster and technophile, uses the assassin as a test subject in the first attempt at time travel. He is sent thirty years into the past. Distraught at first, he accepts his dilemma and decides to save his teenaged self from a life of crime by preventing the events that led him to choose that life. His attempts, however, bring him into direct conflict with a younger version of his former boss and the brilliant and brutal man who trained him in the arts of death.

DF: And if all this wasn’t enough, you’ve also co-created a Sword and Soul Role Playing Game called Ki-Khanga. Give us the background on that.
BO: I have been a player and Gamemaster of pen-and-paper role-playing games for over thirty years, starting with Dungeons & Dragons and then adding Traveller, Champions, Marvel Superheroes and a host of others to my collection. All of these games were very Eurocentric, however and I was always asked by my friends to create scenarios set in Africa. In 1987, issue # 122 of Dragon Magazine featured an article by Charles Saunders entitled “Out of Africa”. The article was about the deadly and mysterious creatures of Africa. This article planted the seed in my head to create a role-playing game set in Africa. Not a supplement set in Africa, but a stand-alone role-playing game – something very different from the games that were already on the market.
Chasing women, partying and (occasionally) school led to me abandoning the project for several years. 

By the time I decided to return to the development of the game, I found myself married and raising a family. In 2006, the idea for the game would not leave me and I began its development. In 2011, I told author and publisher Milton Davis about the game and he asked me to send him the system I created. He –and his son Brandon, an experienced gamer, liked my concept but felt the system, which had no random generator, needed one. Not wanting to use dice, like most other games, I decided to use playing cards as the random generator. I revamped the system, which Milton liked and we began building the world of Ki-Khanga and writing stories to familiarize people with that world. The system is fully developed and is in the play-testing phase now. After several play-tests, which have gone well, we are now working with illustrators to create visual representations of the nations, people, creatures and technology of Ki-Khanga.

DF: A common complaint of writers is that they have difficulty writing action/fight scenes. As a martial artist what advice can you give for writers in writing authentic and exciting fight scenes?
BO: I wrote an entry on my blog on this very subject awhile ago. You can find it on my website at I think the most important thing to remember is to remember that a good fight scene is about momentum and rhythm.
I provided executive protection for the actor Jackie Chan many years ago and he gave me some advice on choreographing a fight scene that I use in my writing. “The rhythm of a fight scene sells it. I use African and Japanese drum rhythms for my fights. Those rhythms draw the audience in and make them love the fight.”

Each move should flow from where the last one ended. If your hero throws a spinning back kick, where is her weight when she lands? Is he standing straight or bent at the waist? In what direction is his body leaning? The next blow he delivers should follow the same line of momentum. If he kicked in a clockwise motion, his next kick will also probably be clockwise.
Try to act out fight sequences in order to figure out momentum and balance, which creates rhythm. Throw a side kick and observe how your weight shifts, or what area of your body is exposed.
I often act out entire fight scenes with my wife. We are both career martial artists, so she humors me. However, if you do not happen to have a spouse that is a martial arts expert handy, watch movies for ideas.
DF: Do you think it’s desirable for writers to chase “mainstream” audiences or is that just a dream always out of reach?
BO: Many writers have successfully gone “mainstream” and are happy. I have no desire to go the mainstream route of major publishing and acquiring an agent, as I desire to maintain creative control of my work. As an author of Black speculative fiction, I know of writers who have been told by major publishers that if they changed the hero of their story from a Black person into a white one, they will publish the book. I have heard many other such horror stories and I refuse to allow myself to become a victim of that madness. The route I have chosen may take more work for me to reach the masses, however, the rewards are much greater in the long run.

DF: What is A Day In The Life of Balogun Ojetade like?
BO: I awaken at 4:30 am and exercise for an hour, then I shower and meditate / pray. I start writing at 6:00 am and write for about three hours before I take a break to chat with Milton Davis on Facebook or his Wagadu ning site. At 11:00, I hang out with my three-year old daughter and we have lunch at noon. My daughter and I watch movies together until she takes her nap at 2:00pm and then it’s more writing and social networking for me until my wife and my other children return home from school and work. At 6:30pm, I head out to my martial arts school and I teach from 7:00pm until 9:00pm. I return home around 10:00pm, eat, talk with the wife and then go to sleep. This is my normal routine, with slight variations if special events or family outings are forthcoming.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about you?
Balogun Ojetade: I am a hard-working, creative guy who is very approachable and enjoys intelligent discourse. I am easy-going unless I encounter sexism or racism and then the…other side surfaces. So if you see me giving someone a verbal or written beatdown on some social network or at some panel discussion, know that otherwise, I’m a pretty cool dude.

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BERTRAM GIBBS

DF: Who is Bertram Gibbs? Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, film, comic book, television, Broadway collector and enthusiast. Researcher of ...