Something excellent started last week. A new African Speculative Fiction Magazine. (Speculative fiction is an umbrella term that covers Science fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Slipstream, Magical Realism and other related genres of literature)
As someone who has been reading stories from foreign spec-fic mags since I was a young teenager, I’m very pleased to have my own story Crocodile Ark published in the first issue of this new African Spec-Fic Zine – Omenana – edited by Mazi Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu.
I know many Africans who have been trying to write spec-fic without any clear sense of the genre and its forms (I also tried to do it with my now defunct The Alchemists Corner column on TNC but I was undirected and the audience wasn’t quite right). Mazi and Chinelo have now taken a small but supremely significant step with creating Omenana; giving a place for all the scattered, isolated pockets of African writers that venture into spec-fic in their blogs, skirt it in their books, and occasionally publish it in other magazines, to converge on and call home.
The first issue features 2 Science Fiction stories (HostBods by Tendai Huchu and my own Crocodile Ark), 1 Horror Fantasy (The 4:15 Appointment by Rafeeat Aliyu) and 1 Magically Real Fantasy Story (A Winter in Lagos by Saratu Abiola). It also includes Art (Mami Water: Calm Waters) by Kelsey Arrington, an interview with comic maker Ibrahim Ganiyu, An editorial on Speculative Fiction in Nigeria: The Journey to Being by Mazi Nwonwu and an essay called The Unbearable Solitude of Being an African Fan Girl by Chinelo Onwualu.
The response to the magazine so far has been very positive. Omenana has been embraced by the spec-fic community. Chinelo’s heartfelt Essay ‘The Unbearable Solitude of Being an African Fan Girl‘ has resonated with many and reverberated around the internet, gaining an outpouring of support and serving as a beacon to African fan girls everywhere. Even my own story Crocodile Ark was recognized by i09 in their i09 Newstand Best Stories of the Week for December 1 – 7 along with amazing stories from Strange Horizons and Tor.com; magazines which I regularly read and enjoy and am extremely proud to be mentioned in the same article with.
This all bodes very well for Omenana and I expect the next issue to be even better, even more interesting and hopefully be just as well received. Of course, there is a lot more to do to uplift Omenana so it can fulfill the dream of a true, proper African spec-fic zine. I personally long to see the day when Omenana is:
- a monthly magazine with regular subscribers,
- also available in paper print,
- a paying market (possibly even an SFWA qualifying market),
- an African spec-fic hub having other pioneers of African spec-fic (such as Ivor Hartmann, Nnedi Okorafor, Nick Wood, Tade Thompson, Sofia Samatar, and many others whom I haven’t mentioned) on its editorial board to ensure continuity,
- nominated for a Hugo or Nebula Award.
But these are big dreams and they are at least a few months or even years ahead of us. For now, we have our stories, we have our home. This is a magazine I can get behind wholly and completely. And I intend to keep sending in my stories, as long as they will have them. You should too, if you like spec-fic. Here’s wishing Omenana a very long and successful run.