Category Archives: Linkspams

Link Round-up: Beyoncé’s “Formation” Of Cultural Perseverance and Historical Trauma

Still from "Formation", a reference to Storyville, the red light district in New Orleans.

Still from “Formation”, a reference to Storyville, the red light district in New Orleans.

One week after Beyoncé ‘s newest single and music video “Formation” was dropped, voices from across the aethernets are still buzzing. The video collapses historical linear time,  unapologetic and demanding in its visual college of the complicated history of southern US black culture. It is not steampunk, but engages in the historical narrative in the tradition of other African diasporic art movements I admire, such as afrofuturism and steamfunk, and deserves to be highlighted.

“Formation”‘s launch is deliberately-timed for powerful political, commercial, and mainstream impact: released on Trayvon Martin’s birthday and two days before Sandra Bland’s, and also before Beyoncé’s planned performance at the SuperBowl. Many commentators, black and non-black alike, have taken to the task of analyzing and critiquing the levels of meaning behind it. Below are some of the many insightful, dynamic viewpoints from the black community written over the past week.

But first, check this video out:

If You Ain’t Got In-“Formation” by Tiffany Lee from Black Girl Dangerous

If these aren’t your experiences, references or reactions, that’s okay. And if this video didn’t give you life, that’s okay too. But if these aren’t your experiences and you’re out here saying any variation of “this video makes no sense/is dumb/kinda scary,” “she’s not even singing,” “Beyoncé fans are stupid,” “what’s she even saying?” or anything that has anything to do with a politics of respectability, then you need to stop.

We know that Beyoncé isn’t necessarily our Black Feminist Hero – there are way too many activists and folk who are out there fighting, supporting, and holding together Black communities for us to be under the simplistic illusion that Beyoncé does all of that for us. And I look forward to all the juicy Black folk critiques  – because nothing is Blacker than reading and being read.

Getting in Line: Working Through Beyonce’s “Formation” from Red Clay Scholar

Beyoncé said “I’ma make me a world.” She conjured New Orleans’ past, present, and future, calling upon the memories and sounds of New Orleans pre- and post Hurricane Katrina. Because rule number 1 in the south is that the past is always present and the past and present is always future. Still shots of preaching reverends, half-drowned buildings, the weave shop, and plantation houses against a sparse synthesizer that sounds like a tweaked electronic banjo from the Bayou sonically position Beyoncé squarely in the middle of a messy Black South. Katrina is not just a historical event. It is a springboard for re-rendering southern trauma and its association with blackness. Trauma is the spring board of southern blackness. But its foundation is resilience and creativity. Beyoncé’s New Orleans – because there are multiple New Orleans and this one is undeniably hers and her sister Solange’s rendering/conjuring – doubly signifies resurrection and the city of the dead.

Dear Beyoncé, Katrina is Not Your Story by Maris Jones from Black Girl Dangerous

This could have all been different, Beyoncé. The disconnect between what is being said in “Formation” and what is being shown cannot be ignored. You inspire while you slay, but know that all of the glorious Blackness in this video is really just a film reel for a sound bite espousing Western capitalist ideology with lines like, and “Earned all this money but they never take the country out me.” Even in showing me how down with the struggle you might be, you are still dredging up images of Black suffering without forewarning an audience that continues to be marginalized in both their city and country or following through by critically engaging with those images. Your anthem doesn’t match your outfit. You might get me to turn up at a party, but you’ll only find me in formation when your words and actions line up.

Hot Sauce in Her Bag: Southern Black identity, Beyoncé, Jim Crow, and the pleasure of well-seasoned food by Mikki Kendall from Eater

During Jim Crow, Black people could pick up food at establishments that served white people, but they often could not eat in them. When custom demanded that Black people be served separately from whites, they were often required to have their own utensils, serving dishes, and condiments. So it was customary for Black families who were traveling to carry everything they might possibly need so that (with the help of the Green Book, the guide that helped Black travelers eat, sleep, and move as safely as possible) they could navigate America in relative comfort.

On ‘Jackson Five Nostrils,’ Creole vs. ‘Negro’ and Beefing Over Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ by Yaba Blay from Colorlines

I cheer Bey on as she sings, “I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” But I cringe when I hear her chant, “You mix that Negro with that Creole make a Texas bamma” about her Alabama-born dad and her mom from Louisiana. This is the same reason I cringed at the L’Oreal ad that identified Beyonce as African-American, Native American and French and why I don’t appreciate her largely unknown song “Creole.”

Having grown up black-Black (read: dark-skinned) in colorstruck New Awlins, hearing someone, particularly a woman, make a distinction between Creole and “Negro” is deeply triggering. This isn’t just for me but for many New Orleanians.

For generations, Creoles—people descended from a cultural/racial mixture of African, French, Spanish and/or Native American people—have distinguished themselves racially from “regular Negroes.” In New Orleans, phenotype—namely “pretty color and good hair”—translates to (relative) power.

Slay Trick: Queer Solidarity (?) in Formation from Queer Black Feminist

But, this movement is all about self-identified Black queer women, transwomen and genderqueer folks leading this movement. So, in some ways this call ignores that, a movement already established. I know folks say it calls attention to it, but it feels just the opposite to me when we have a full fledged movement happening that is full of leaders, actually, predominately led by Black queer women, transfolk and our allies. Just look at the leadership in almost every BLM chapter: Chicago (BYP), Minneapolis, Oakland, Los Angeles. The “ladies” are already in formation, leading the work. So, though this may be a “nod,” a recognition as many are suggesting, the explicit acknowledgement of the queer work in this movement–the queerness of strategy, tactic, and focus–is muddied by the safe position that Beyonce continues to occupy. And while she is being targeted in some ways (I’ll say more when endorsements/collaborations start to fall), can we put that into context of the everyday targeting that Black Lives Matter activists face on the front lines? That Black queer (cis and trans) women and transmen face everyday?

We Slay, Part 1 by zandria from New South Negress

“Formation” is an homage to and recognition of the werk of the “punks, bulldaggers, and welfare queens” in these southern streets and parking lots, in these second lines, in these chocolate cities and neighborhoods, in front of these bands and drumlines. Movements for black liberation are led by black folks at the margins who know we must all get free to sink that car. Folks who know that we must be coordinated, and we must slay. And because I recognize black southern country fence-jumping feminism as a birthright and imperative, I have no tolerance for the uncoordinated–those who cannot dance and move for black queer liberation, black trans liberation, black women’s liberation, at all intersections.

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder to Beyonce: ‘Welcome to the Movement by Alicia Garza on Rolling Stone

Black Lives Matter is rooted in some of these fundamental principles. We have come together to fight back against anti-black racism and state-sanctioned violence, in all forms. We are complex, multi-faceted, and led by what are still unfortunately considered to be non-traditional leaders: folks who are women, queer, trans, disabled, immigrant, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, poor and working class, Southern and rural, urban and coastal. We are comprised of the complexity of who black people are, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

Response to Formation in List Form by rad fag on Radical Faggot
(The whole list is worth reading for some pithy points of critique)

21. Beyoncé is a logo. Beyoncé is a commodity. Beyoncé is a production. Beyoncé is a distraction. Beyoncé is a ruse. Beyoncé does not actually exist.

22. You–not her–are the Black visionary, the budding potential for revolution.


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Signal-boost: Uncanny Magazine Year One

Uncanny Magazine

Click on image to see their Kickstarter

New project alert! Recently, I was contacted by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, former editors-in-chief of Apex Magazine to be a contributor for their latest project: UNCANNY, whose Kickstarter just launched today. Managing Editor Michi Trota already posted about all of the wonderful things about this new mag, so I’m handing over the soapbox, below:

Ok, folks, you’ve waited patiently, so here it is: In addition to the number of projects I’m involved in (and the FT day job), I’m now MANAGING EDITOR of the new professional online magazine, UNCANNY: A MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY! I’m unbelievably excited and honored that Lynne Marie Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas asked me to join this fantastic new project of theirs. I’ve been a fan of their work ever since picking up Chicks Dig Time Lords on a whim a few years ago, and it’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know them as friends and colleagues.

We have an award-winning line up of contributing authors, poets and artists who have committed to providing stories, essays, poems and art for the first six issues of Uncanny Magazine, which will run on a bimonthly basis. Contributors include Neil Gaiman, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jim C. Hines, Liz Argall, Carrie Ann Baade, Galen Dara, Emily Jiang, Diana Pho, Kameron Hurley, Charlie Jane Anders, Ken Liu, Amal El-Mohtar, and so many more.

You all know how much I love SF/F and the geek community, and getting to be managing editor for a publication like this is a dream come true. I can’t wait to put my stamp on what promises to be a stellar publication.

But this can’t happen without your help – we’re raising funds for the first year of operations through Kickstarter and we have until Aug. 28th to meet our goal of $26K. Please feel free to share our Kickstarter and help spread the word. We have nifty backer rewards, including a copy of the first issue, postcards of cover art by Tran Nguyen and Julie Dillon, shinies by Rachel Swirky (one of our authors for year one!), manuscript critiques by select authors, and even dinner with the editors and Uncanny contributing authors!

Thanks for all your support and for helping us bring the Uncanny to life!

There are many awesome people on board with this project beyond those listed above. PLUS great prize offerings for supporters (I’m offering a manuscript critique, blog post, Google Hangout or even an awesome dinner at a convention where you can pick my brain in person.)

Find out more info & contribute to their Kickstarter here.


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Exclusive sneak-peek inside Katherine Gleason’s ANATOMY OF STEAMPUNK


Steampunk fashion is all about possibilities. At the beginning of this year, I sat at a tea shop with Katherine Gleason, sipping our brew and speculating about what we’d like to see in a fashion book. We wanted something more than just rehashing whatever you’d find after Googling “steampunk.” We wanted to show the dynamic potential of steampunk fashion — that it was more than neo-Victorian. More than skinny pale waifs. More than looking or acting a certain way. More than reinforcing the value of a colonialist past.

And it was definitely more than Victorian science fiction.

By demanding “more,” a host of a questions presented themselves. Where does steampunk fashion come from? And when? Made by who? And, of course, how can novices and dabblers join in on the fun?

Over the course of the year, I’ve had the pleasure to see this book develop, and on the eve of its publication, one lesson can be taken from this. Fashion cannot be a summation of things — it is a compilation of creation. More than OMG that dress, but OMG that designer! That model! That performer! That person!

This is the connection between good fashion and good fiction: both tell stories about people that draw you in.

I hope you enjoy discovering these stories.  Katherine and the talented contributors she worked with are more than just names and faces, but highly imaginative individuals who are offering pieces of themselves. They come from all walks of life: high-end designers and professional artists to cosplayers to hobbyists to street performers and protesters.  There are people of color (as designers, models and performers!), people young and old, people of different abilities, people from all over the globe.  Their joys, their lives, and their dreams are the parts that build an Anatomy of Steampunk.

Two excerpts from the book are below. The first is the Foreword written by  K.W. Jeter, the science fiction author who coined “steampunk”, and my Introduction to the book. The second is a Beyond Victoriana exclusive sneak-peek of what else this book has to offer.

Please enjoy, and spread the word!


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Visiting Academia: Roger Williams University Lecture “Re-Racing Steampunk: Race, Memory & Retrofuturism”

Visiting Roger Williams last Tuesday was an amazing opportunity and a great pleasure to present there. Dr. Jeffrey Meriwether, along with professors Laura D’Amore, Charlotte Carrington, Sargon Donabed, and Debra Mulligan were all immensely welcoming and kind.

That morning, Dr. D’Amore picked me up from the Inn, and she explained that the university has started a new social justice initiative to embrace the historical impact of its founder. That fall, they had their Social Justice Week to initiate conversations across campus. The History department in particular, wanted to contribute to this new venture in innovative ways; hence, the invitation to speak at their campus.

During my visit, I gave presentations to Dr. Carrington’s American History (where they just started a unit on African-Americans during the American War for Independence) and Dr. Donabed’s History of Religion courses (where they are currently studying Western perceptions of indigenous practices versus indigenous perspectives themselves).  Afterward, I held “office hours” in the department lounge for students to come and talk about steampunk, and ended up having a long involved discussions about cosplay, Legend of Korra, and Fullmetal Alchemist. Then came my public lecture at 5PM — and look, I have evidence that it happened!

The video is about 50 minutes long, but the lecture runs until 36:53. Afterward is the Q&A with the audience. Additional pictures from the event can be seen on Tumblr and Facebook. The PowerPoint presentation used in the video can be viewed  here.

That evening, I had dinner with several faculty members and other guests, including a reporter from Venezuela brought in by Dr. Paola Prado from the Journalism department to speak about reporting under Hugo Chavez’s regime. Needless to say, right before my lecture, the news broke about Chavez’s death, and that was one of the many topics we discussed during the meal.

It was a whirlwind trip, but I enjoyed myself so much. Already, I’ve gotten some very positive feedback (and quite a few new followers, pleasantly enough.) Thanks again to everyone at Roger Williams for being fantastic hosts!


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Gearing up for 2013: A Steampunk Convention Listing on

Gearing up for 2013: A Steampunk Convention Listing

2013 is the year to get ready for some pseudo-time-travelling, what-if wanderings, and speculative festivities of the dapper variety. I have a list of 39 steampunk and steam-friendly conventions and one-day events from around the world, gathered with help from Kevin Steil, the Airship Ambassador.

Since new steampunk cons spring out of the gearwork every so often, if I had missed yours, please drop a comment (and email me about featuring it for my monthly steampunk events roundup).

All descriptions taken from the convention website or Facebook page.

[Read on]

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2012 in Review

World Map, 1799

World Map, 1799. Click for source.

Oh, 2012, what a year you have been.

Got my Master’s? Check.
Got academically and commercially published? Check. Check. Check. (You can even find my publications on EBSCO and references to Beyond Victoriana in articles on JSTOR!)
Toured the country as a guest at over 10 conventions and special events, including the premiere of new conventions OctopodiCon & Steampunk Empire Symposium as well as returning as a professional guest at Dragon*Con and an official panel at New York Comic Con? Check, multiple times.
Gotten bowled over by the recognition for the work that Beyond Victoriana has done? Check.
Returned to curate’s Steampunk Week for a second year in a row? Check.
Connected with an engaging and intelligent group of fans from around the world? Undoubtedly, so (and thank you!)

Beyond Victoriana’s been active on many different levels. This year, BV created a Tumblr to signal-boost outside content related to history, fashion, sci-fi, technology, and notable PoC (today and yesterday).  There’s also Facebook if you prefer.

As the blog turns toward its fourth year, I’m considering major changes to how the blog will be run in 2013. The details are in the works, but stay tuned. For a bit of fun, below the cut are some stats about Beyond Victoriana from the web-minions at WordPress, and a sneak-preview of what’s up for 2013.

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition #10

Here be some links and news of note that caught my eye. And, if you have any to share, don’t hesitate to share them on Beyond Victoriana’s Facebook page, or email me.

First of all, a glimpse at the early cover for the upcoming academic anthology Steaming into the Victorian Future, edited by Julie Anne Taddeo, Cynthia Miller, and Ken Dvorak and published by Scarecrow Press.  I’ve contributed a piece to this volume, and you’ll also find writings from other well-known steam academics, including Dru Pagliassotti, Mike Perschon, Catherine Siemann, and an introduction by Jeff Vandermeer, all commenting about steampunk as a subgenre and as a subculture.

And I finally gave in and got a tumblr for Beyond Victoriana (Jaymee, you’re welcome). Follow me, drop a message in my Ask Box, or watch me re-blog to my heart’s content. There isn’t much on there yet as I figure out themes and suchlike, but that will soon change.

Oh, and if you are planning to go to San Deigo Comic Con next week, I won’t be there, but my fellow compatriots at will be! Plus, they will be giving away newspaper editions of that feature a variety of articles, including my essay about Vietnamese identity and steampunk “The Ao Dai and I.”

Enough with the self-promotion — more links after the jump!

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #9

Haven’t done one of these in awhile, but here are some pertinent links for sci-fi & steampunk-related events and causes…

First of all, this month in the US is African/African-American History Month. Beyond Victoriana has done features relating to this event in the past (check out our stuff on Black Victoriana in 2010 and African/African-American Heritage series in 2011) and this year I want to spotlight a venture by Alicia McCalla: The State of Black Sci-Fi 2012 blog carnival. She along with several other writers talk about where they see black sci-fi right now and where it is going. There’s a lot of food for thought on all of the contributors sites; so please check them out at the link. Plus, a shout-out to Valjeanne Jeffers’ post on why she loves steampunk and Balogun, the author of the steampunk/alt- hist book Moses: the Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, wrote about why he hearts steam too.

The annual Con or Bust Fundraiser is now open! Started by fans from the feminist convention WisCon to help raise money for people to color to attend SFF conventions, Con or Bust has raised thousands of dollars in support of a more diverse fandom since it started in 2009. You can read more about their history and go ahead and bid on some awesome stuff!

Did you know that Steampunk Magazine #8 has just come out? Well, if you don’t have a copy in your hands right this second, you can buy one or download the issue from their website.

A bit old, but the book Postcolonialism and Science Fiction is coming out, and i09 posted an excerpt from the introduction. I’m intrigued.

Emilie P. Bush, friend of the blog, has a children’s book coming out on Feb 28th: Her Majesty’s Explorer. The illustrations are adorable, and you can see them in the book trailer below.

Did you know that my intellectual comrade-in-arms Jaymee Goh is hosting a monthly series of interviews with people of color in steampunk? Already, she’s interviewed Native steampunk Monique Poirier, Maisarah Abu Samah, editor of the Singaporean steampunk anthology Steampowered, and author Stephanie Lai.

Speaking of interviews, I recently did one with Decimononic about steampunk jewelry. At first, I was honestly puzzled why they’d request me, but Jose and Irene are both jewelers from Spain who are running a series of interviews that explores the various ideas associated with steampunk and art. So I end up talking a lot about the historical formation of subculture, cultural appropriation, and my love of Russian things. Check  it out here.


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More than Turkey Day Nostalgia: An Indigenous Links Round-Up

Marty Two Bulls, ‘First Thanksgiving’ Click for source.

As a woman of color and as an American, I realize that some holidays just work to mythologize a past that I can’t be really proud of. Thanksgiving in the US is one example, of course. I still think, however, you can be thankful and reflective (after all, this is really what the day is about: acknowledging our pasts) without candy-coating our national history. So, some linkage below!

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International Women’s Day: A Brief History

International Women's Day logoDuring the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, causes for gender equality were being raised by men and women throughout the world. In 1909, under the helm of the Socialist Party of America, the first National Women’s Day was celebrated in the United States on February 28th. In 1910, at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, influential German socialist politician Clara Zetkin proposed that a day be set aside in every country where women can organize and advocate for their demands for social equality. The following year, Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland celebrated International Women’s Day on March 19th, 1911. About 1 million men and women attended rallies in those countries and others to advocate for equal rights and pay.
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