You write steampunk. For readers unfamiliar with the genre, can you tell us a little about it?
Steampunk is a literary genre – a marriage of science fiction and fantasy that features the technological and social aspects of an Age of Steam. In the world of Steampunk, steam is the “nuclear power” of an industrial era – whether that era takes place during the Victorian Period of the 1800s, in ancient Egypt, or in a future in which electricity and steam takes the place of fusion power.
How did you get started writing, and why steampunk?
Growing up, my siblings were avid readers and incredible writers. Wanting to encourage me to read, they bought me comic books from a neighborhood corner store. At three years old, I wasn’t just interested in the illustrations of the Hulk, Thor, Archie, Beetle Bailey and the Avengers, I was also fascinated by the strange symbols on the page that my sisters called “words”. I would bug them, asking “What’s that word?” “What about this word?” “And that word says what?”
They were very patient with me and taught me to sound out the words myself. Soon, I was reading without their assistance, but my pestering didn’t cease because I now wanted to know what every word meant. This fascination with words grew and I decided I wanted to share my love of words with others, so at four, I started writing (and illustrating) my own comic books and selling them – for a nickel – to my friends. The greatest compliment I received back then was from a girl who said “If you could draw better, I’d buy your books even if they cost a dime.”
As far as writing steampunk, I write it because – since the old Wild, Wild West television show, I have loved the genre. Of course, we didn’t call it steampunk back then. I also write sword and soul, horror and science fiction. I like a challenge, so I don’t limit myself to any specific genre.
You’ve also written a non-fiction book on Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within. Do you practice any martial arts, and if so, which ones?
I am a master instructor of traditional, indigenous West African martial arts. Traditionally we call African martial arts “wrestling”, because the object is to put your opponent on his back, belly or side by any means, thus – unlike western wrestling – African wrestling utilizes strikes, kicks and weapons as well as throws and grappling. This is my fortieth year of training.
Why did you decide to write about martial arts?
The African martial arts are a family legacy. I was taught by my father as I am passing the knowledge on to my children. During my travels, I realized that most people of African descent – outside of the African continent – did not know African martial arts even existed, let alone were the oldest martial arts on the planet and that, in fact, many Asian martial arts came directly from us. Thus, I decided that people of African descent – and indeed the world – needed to know the truth. They needed to be educated. I felt a book was the best way to reach the masses.
If you could meet with any writer, living or dead, who would you pick, and why?
Living – Charles R. Saunders; transitioned – Octavia Butler. Charles, because he is a living legend, the founder of my favorite genre of fiction – Sword and Soul – an outstanding writer and an all around good brother who is very supportive of other authors – established and upcoming. Octavia Butler, because she has been an inspiration to so many writers of speculative fiction, including me.
We recently participated in a seven week blog tour about Black Sci Fi. Can you tell us why you think this was important, and how you came to be involved in this tour?
The blog tour was entitled ‘The State of Black Science Fiction 2012’. It was – and is – important because – like the African martial arts – most people of African descent do not know there are stories in the genres of speculative fiction by – and about – people who look like them; who think like them; who are them. Wonderful stories, just as good as anything by Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert and Mary Shelley.
I came to be involved in the blog tour when I answered the call of Alicia McCalla who created the concept. Alicia is a really ingenious woman and a great writer of an awesome book – Breaking Free – who also happens to be a librarian, so she has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the literary world. She also challenged me to write a novel for middle grade boys, which – at present – I am doing and enjoying immensely, so thanks, again, Alicia!
What would you say to young Black writers, or Black youth who are contemplating careers as writers?
I would first shout, “Go for it!” Then, I would tell them to study the craft. Read all the good science fiction and fantasy they can get their hands on; take writing classes and join a writers’ workshop if possible. I would warn them that it is not enough to be Black. Be good! We need more good stories by people of African descent, not just something we are expected to support solely because it was written by a black person. Finally, I would tell them that if they work hard and produce good work, they can make a good living at what they love.
What are you working on now?
At present, I am working on a few projects. I have been busily promoting my novel, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Book 1: Kings) (Mocha Memoirs Press), a steampunk novel, which released in January. I am also preparing for the release of my sword and soul novel, Once Upon A Time In Afrika (MVmedia) in May of this year and Ki-Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game (MVmedia), which will premiere this August at OnyxCon. My science fiction gangster epic, Redeemer, will release later this year through Mocha Memoirs Press.
As I mentioned earlier, I am also writing a middle grade novel entitled The Adventures of Makola Jones (Book 1: Grave Dirt) and I am gearing up for the world premiere of a film I wrote, co-produced and directed, entitled A Single Link, which is the story of a woman who is raped by a professional fighter and for empowerment, she decides to fight him. With the help of her husband and coach, she gains entry into the world of professional sport martial arts, thus becoming the first woman to fight professionally against men.
Where can readers buy your books?
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman is available for kindle and nook at http://www.amazon.com/Moses-Chronicles-Harriet-Tubman-ebook/dp/B006UOAZJG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1330438719&sr=8-1 and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/moses-balogun-balogun/1108162154?ean=2940013727045&itm=1&usri=moses+the+chronicles+of+harriet+tubman+book+1, respectively. The hardcopy will be available soon. Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within is also available for kindle and nook and can also be ordered directly from www.bossupbu.com.
Where can they find you on the net?
You can reach me on my website at http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/Baba_Balogun.
Any last words?
Thank you all for reading this interview and thank you, Margaret, for this wonderful opportunity! I look forward to working with you again, soon.