My Favorite African Science Fiction and Fantasy (AfroSFF) Short Fiction of 2016

Masai Cyborg (Image Credit: Rodrigo Galdino – https://www.artstation.com/artist/rodrigogaldino)

 

I think 2016 has been another good year for African speculative fiction, exploring existence in strange, interesting and wonderful ways.

This year, the African speculative fiction society (ASFS) was launched, the Nommos award for speculative fiction was announced, Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/USA) won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best Novella, Acan Innocent Immaculate (Uganda) won the Writivism Short Story Prize with a science-fantasy story, Lesly Nneka Arimah’s (Nigeria) spec-fic story was nominated for the Caine Prize, Walter Dinjos (Nigeria) won 2nd place in the L Rob Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, Unathi Magubeni and Andrew Miller’s (both of South Africa) novels which are both speculative works were nominated for the Etisalat prize for literature, Omenana is now in its 8th issue, AfroSFv2 (edited by Ivor Hartmann) and African Monsters (edited by Margret Helgadottir and Jo Thomas) both published December 2015 continued to make the rounds and gather good reviews, there are excellent new novels by Sofia Samatar (Somalia/USA), Tade Thompson (Nigeria/UK) and Nick Wood (South Africa), a new collection from Lauren Beukes (South Africa) as well as a slew of Africans featured in top genre magazines and anthologies from Clarkesworld, Strange horizons, Apex, Lightspeed… the list goes on and on. The year also saw the worldwide release of the Imagine Africa 500 anthology edited by Billy Kahora (Kenya) and Published by Shadreck Chikoti (Malawi).

All this activity means there is plenty of material to be considered for the inaugural Nommo awards next year. Which is excellent.

Personally, I am a huge fan of short fiction. I read far more short fiction than I do novels. I also write short fiction myself. And like I mentioned last year, I really like ‘Best-Of’ SF/F short story recommendations and lists. I’ve found some of my all time favorite stories on lists such as these.

So in view of all this activity, and in the interest of fueling discussion and analysis of African speculative fiction stories in general, here are my favorite African speculative fiction short stories of 2016, in no particular order.

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  1. Ndakusawa” by Blaize Kaye (South Africa), Fantastic Stories of the Imagination 

This amazingly crafted story of love, loss and parenting is a bullet to the heart. At less than a thousand words, it is the shortest story on this list but by far one of my favorites. This is a universal story of a small South African family – a man and his curious, brilliant daughter whose intelligence opens her up to opportunities that keeps putting distance between them physically but not emotionally. In the end, the physical distance becomes incredible, it may be her scientific brilliance that brings them together again. Highly recommended and will be in my nomination list for the Nommos, perhaps even the Hugo.

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I have to say, Blaize Kaye seems to be an expert at crafting short stories with a punch – you should also check out his “Revision Theory” in Nature, and “Return to the Source” in Zetetic.

 

  1. Transit” by Derek Lubangakene (Uganda), Imagine Africa 500  

One of my favorites in this anthology. Set in Kampala, 500 years in the future, this is an action-packed, fast-paced, and unapologetically pulpy high-concept thriller with a well-realized world painted in context. There are no infodumps or ‘as-you-know-bobs’ which some of the other stories suffer from but there is enough for the reader to figure out what is going on and enjoy the ride. In this world, all the men on the continent have been made impotent, and The Hegemony, run by women, controls everything. But when a man finds he has a son, he enlists the help of his mother who used to work for the Hegemony to get the child to a safe place. It features droids, photon guns, molecular displacement teleportation devices and much, much more. The story is so much fun with action on every page and also a lovely twist at the end. I also like that the world in the story isn’t described as a full-tilt dystopia and although there is a protagonist, no one is painted as outright good or evil. Recommended.

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  1. The Mama Mmiri” by Walter Dinjos (Nigeria), Beneath Ceaseless Skies 

Walter Dinjos, second place winner of the Writers of the Future Contest, delivers this story of a twin seeking revenge against the man who has sacrificed his twin brother to the spirit of a river across which a bridge is being built by foreigners from England. Dinjos does a great job of building up suspense and highlighting how the people of the village are being betrayed by their own for the benefit of the foreigners, something that resonates with the colonial experience. Although the story is linear and the villain comes across as a bit of a caricature, the quality of the writing and the spiritual, emotional, horror, fantasy, colonialism and revenge elements make for a powerful story. Recommended.

 

  1. Dream-Hunter” by Nick Wood (South Africa)Omenana Issue 6

One can always count on doctor of clinical psychology and professional writer Nick Wood to deliver a complex, socially conscious and intense story with powerful, disturbing imagery and still make it an exciting and fun read. In this story, the protagonist is a mixed-race (English father, Zulu Mother) Dream-Hunter with a complicated history, who works for the Justice department in the UK, using technology to enter people’s subconscious in order to find evidence that they committed (or did not commit) a crime. On this particular mission however when he enters the dreams of the brutal killer “Sledgehammer Jones”,  who is accused of killing his wife, our protagonist comes face-to-face with aspects of himself. 

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In the twisted dreams of this man, his past, the very concepts of right and wrong, violence, vengeance, guilt and even justice are interrogated. It’s a brilliant story and immediately I read it in Omenana, I knew it would still be on my list of favorites by years end. Highly recommended and will probably be in my nomination list for the Nommos.

 

  1. Virtual Snapshots” by Tlotlo Tsamaase (Botswana), Terraform 

In this very metaphorical story, set in a future Botswana, extreme environmental damage has made it difficult to live in the real world and so most people put their bodies in a sort of stasis and upload themselves into a virtual existence called digiworld. This keeps their cost of existing down. In order  to walk the actual Earth, one has to pay for everything… clean air, water, UV protection, everything.

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The protagonist is a young woman who isn’t really loved by her family and can barely afford to live in digiworld, but is summoned out of digiworld and into the real world when her mother becomes ill. We follow her on this journey and her interactions with her family which are not quite as expected. The story is relentlessly sad and bleak but beautiful and full of wonderful imagery. It may not have a tight plot or a water-tight central conceit but as a metaphor for modern life, societal exploitation, family relations and the struggle of an individual to make one’s way in the world and find a place in family and society, it works brilliantly, mostly because the writing is so poetic and honest. Recommended.

 

  1. One Wit’ This Place” by Muthi Nhlema (Malawi), Imagine Africa 500  

After some sort of war 500 years in the future where the geo-engineers fail to save the world from devastating climate change, a soldier returns home to his wife. He is traumatized, she hides a secret and the earth is changing in terrible ways that affects their lives for the worse. The opening is gripping, the characterization is deft, and the themes – war, love, death, home, climate change, and infidelity – are explored through the interaction between the couple brilliantly. One of the things I loved most about this story was the use of an evolved language – part pidgin, part truncated words (for example the Oce is the Ocean and the Sah is the desert). Of course language in 500 years will be different from the way it is now and it’s done well, so the reader is never lost. The end is tragic but earned and every aspect of the story has an unfortunate beauty to it. Highly recommended.

 

  1. SunDown” by Acan Innocent Immaculate (Uganda), Munyori Literary Journal 

SunDown is a fascinating bit of science-fantasy that tells the story of Red Sun, a young albino boy awaiting the death of the sun in Nakasongola, a remote region of Uganda. It takes place in the year 2050 and some of humanity has already fled the Earth which will surely die with the sun but only the ‘right’ kind of people, “geniuses with perfect genes” were allowed onto space ships to search for a new home. Red Sun, and the others left behind have features that apparently aren’t quite ‘right’. From here the story explores loss, science, religion, abandonment, mortality, and what it means to be human, through Red Sun’s memories and interactions with the others left behind. It’s a thoughtful story that thrives on mood and feeling (no reason is offered for why the sun is dying 5 billion years ahead of schedule or how Earth survived the evaporation of its oceans during the early red giant phase or why it collapses to a black hole when our sun doesn’t have nearly enough mass to ever become a black hole, etc, etc.) But who cares? Red Sun, Nyambura, Askari, The dwarf, these are all great characters, the writing is confident, beautiful, enjoyable and the subject resonates. In that way, it is a bit like Lesly Nneka Arimah’s “What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky”. ‘SunDown’ won the 2016 Writivism Short Story Prize. Recommended.

 

  1. The Wild Dogs” by Mandisi Nkomo (South Africa), Lights Out: Resurrection 

In this story, a Swedish woman leaves her country and family and volunteers to go to South Africa in order to help fight a strange new disease consuming Cape Town and turning its victims into something horrifying. She arrives and finds out that the place, the disease and the people, are not what she thought they’d be and is forced to come face to face with monstrous inhumanity and her own relationship to it as an outsider. I edited this original story for the collection “Lights Out: Resurrection” and I really enjoyed its pace and its themes on policing, politics, race, poverty, and healthcare. I know an editor is not supposed to have favorites but… forgive me. Of the original stories in the collection, I really, really liked this one most. Recommended.

 

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  1. Rusties” by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/USA) and Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya), Clarkesworld Magazine

Set in Nairobi after mechanical traffic robots called Rusties have been deployed, the story follows a woman who considers one Rusty in particular, her friend. This friendship, along with the actions of her cheating boyfriend, inadvertently triggers unrest when natural emergence of a kind of sentience among the networked robots, a solar flare and human mistrust of the intelligent machines collide. The story has a big concept, scope and world but a small, intimate focus, on the woman’s relationship with the Rusty. While this means the story has some slabs of infodumping to explain the situation, it also means that the story never gets boring or goes off on a tangent and we keep caring about the narrator through everything. To be honest even the infodumps are quite interesting. The subject of emergence intelligence/sentience is one I really enjoy and is the subject of a story I just finished writing as well so I loved reading this exploration of the concept by two of Africa’s finest creative minds. I think you will too. Recommended.

Fun fact: This story is inspired by the real-life situation in Kinshasa where the government installed giant solar-powered robots designed by Thérèse Izay Kirongozi to control traffic and mitigate their poor urban planning.

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  1. Screamers” by Tochi Onyebuchi (Nigeria/USA) in Omenana Issue 8

I first read this story when the awesome editors at Omenana, by some fortunate accident, sent it to me instead of an edited version of my own story ‘The Last Lagosian’ which appeared in the same issue. I opened the file, realized it wasn’t my story but kept reading anyway. I literally read the whole story standing in the middle of my kitchen, staring at my phone, unable to stop. This is an incredible story that explores policing, family, anger, art, generational and societal injustice, migration, desensitization, frustration, terrorism and weaponized emotion.

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I won’t even bother summarizing the plot because at its heart the story is not so much about the mechanics of what is happening, but about the way it makes the reader feel. I think the whole story is one big metaphor. The author even seems to allude to this with the story’s opening.

“When Dad talked about the Screamers, I thought maybe he could’ve been a writer. We were different like that. I was never too good at metaphor myself.”

Tochi, unlike his narrator, is very good at metaphor and as far as metaphors go, this is bullseye. I enjoyed this story and I highly recommend it.

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So that’s it. What were your favorite African speculative stories of 2016?

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Postscripts: Notes and Other Thoughts: –

  1. Of course I didn’t include any of my own stories. That would have been silly. I did however write quite a lot of short fiction in 2016, you can find those HERE, if you like, and make up your own mind about them.
  2. Needless to say (and yet, here it is, being said [written, but you get the point]), this is a personal list, and I certainly don’t think these are the definitive ‘best-of-the-year’ as some clickbaiters would have you believe. These are simply my personal favorites based on my own reading, tastes and what I’d recommend to anyone shopping for African spec fic from 2016 to read/consider.
  3. I have a natural preference for science fiction over fantasy, horror or any of the other speculative sub-genres so this list is probably biased in that direction.
  4. I’d love to see more East and North African SFF being published. I suspect there’s a hotbed of potential and talent in Kenya, Ethiopia, Algeria, Egypt, Somalia… and many others, that I just don’t get to see. Maybe I’m not yet clued in on the circles. Anyone with information and links to books and magazines from those regions in general, please let me know.
  5. There are several stories published in 2016 that are on my radar and I suspect I will really like as well based on their descriptions. But just haven’t gotten a chance to read them yet. I’m sure I will, eventually. But if you can, check out:
  • The Apologists” by Tade Thompson, Interzone (Science Fiction)
  • Omoshango” by Dayo Ntwari, Lightspeed: People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue(Science Fiction)
  • When The Trees Were Enchanted” by Masimba Musodza,Winter Tales (Fantasy)

And let me know?

UPDATE (20/12/2016): I have now read “The Apologists” by Tade Thompson and I loved it. While it doesn’t particularly focus on Africa or African characters, it has a brilliant premise and a great protagonist. I wrote a review HERE.

  1. Near misses – stories that I have read and enjoyed and that could easily have been on the list as well if 10 wasn’t such a convenient number for such lists. Check them out too.
  1. If there is an African spec story published in 2016 which you thought was spectacular and you don’t see on this list, then check this one. And if you still don’t see it there, then please let me know by filling this form or commenting below.

That’s it for now.

Live long and prosper.

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2016 Eligibility Post.

I’ve been told that this is a good thing to do come years end. Heh.

Still, I have a put out quite a bit of work in 2016 that may be eligible for various award-type nominations and stuff in 2017, so I suppose it’s not a terrible idea to make a list for those interested.

This is that list.

 

Short Stories:

(If you only have the time or energy to consider one short story, I’d suggest you choose “Wednesday’s Story” it’s the most seen and most [well] reviewed of the lot so far.)

 

Novelette:

  • I, Shigidi” – Abyss and Apex, October 2016

 

Related Work:

 

Editor:

 

I think I’m also eligible for the Campbell.

Fun.

 

The inaugural Nommo awards for African Speculative fiction will be given out this year and then there’s always the Hugo and Nebula and Campbell and Caine and BSFA and several others… so if you read any story, anywhere that you loved this year and you’re eligible to nominate or vote for any awards, I encourage you to do so.

Here is a helpful list of published African Speculative Fiction, sorted by year and a short list of my own 10 personal favorites.

That’s it for now.

Live long and prosper.

 

Thoughts and Stuff: Early June

So May 2016 has come and gone and it certainly took its sweet time. It was a good month, I think. So much work. Lots of ups and downs but in terms of fiction, mostly good.

My essay ‘Why Africa Needs To Create More Science Fiction which was published in Omenana earlier this year, got reprinted in iAfrikan.com, a website focused on technology in Africa. I really like their site. You should check them out. The essay is also being translated to French and will be reprinted in that language by french Science fiction magazine Galaxies. Which is cool.

I’ve also been working with Geoff Ryman on a small project to list as many Science fiction and Fantasy short fiction by Africans and 1st generation people of African descent as possible because its important to record and promote these stories as best we can, lest they be ignored. Its being hosted by the good folks at Omenana.

Speaking of short fiction, I’ve had a bunch of my own fiction published recently:

Wednesday’s Story, which is a story about the days of the week made flesh and the stories they tell, is in the hugo-nominated magazine Lightspeed. It contains: forest spirits, time-travel (sort-of), Solomon Grundy, a tortoise, a dragon, a sentient tree-man, and other fantastical things. Its a sequel to my earlier story ‘Thursday which is in the Kalahari review. Its gotten decent reviews in a bunch of places, not everyone liked it but it was recommended by Rich Horton of Locus magazine, which is pretty excellent since Locus is one of the premiere magazines covering the SFF field.

I also have a story in the ‘Imagine Africa 500′ anthology (which I am really looking forward to reading too). Mark Bould reviews the collection here. (Side note: Mark writes some of the best essays and reviews of African SF work out there. His review of ‘African Monsters is one of my favorites) My story is called ‘Necessary and Sufficient Conditions’ and its about one man’s quest for revenge set after a long and brutal singularity war in a new, technologically dominant Africa. His revenge is linked to the reason Africa has become the way it is and this unravels with the story. I have another version of this story with a different ending which I really want to publish somewhere else once this anthology has made the rounds. Maybe somewhere, sometime, next year? Let’s see.

More science fiction from me. Futuristica Vol. 1 which contains my story ‘If They Can Learn’ in which a technical resolutions officer is suddenly called to Nigeria to find out why her company’s cyborg policeman just killed an unarmed teenage boy, is out now. I got the idea for this story after hearing about the shooting of Laquan McDonald and the circumstances surrounding that incident. My name is on the book cover, which is nice. I’ve read the entire anthology myself and its great. There was only one story I didn’t like. Most of the stories are very interesting with lots of cool science fiction ideas of the future and the anthology deliberately includes stories from all over the world so we get a great broad perspective.

Also my story ‘Nested‘ which appeared in hugo-nominated magazine SciPhi Journal, was reviewed favorably by Tangent Online. Cool.

Other thoughts:

I haven’t really liked this season of Game Of Thrones so far. The writers seem to be speeding to the end of the story and taking shortcuts. Having events happen suddenly and too conveniently.

I’m really looking forward to Lightspeed Magazine’s “PoC destroy” issues. The science fiction issue is out this month. Horror and Fantasy follow later in the year.

I’ve taken up an interest in rocketry and planetary dynamics. Lots of equations. Lots of fun.

The NakedConvos’s The Writer competition which I help set up is running smoothly and has produced some great stories so far. I cant pick sides or favorites. May the best writer win.

I’ve recently rediscovered my love for Juno Reactor after almost a decade of not listening to them. The 2008 ‘Shango album is amazing. And I’m not just saying that because its named after the thunder Orisha and has some afrofuturistic sound-based songs on there. I really like just like the album. Pistolero may be my favorite on there.

OK. That’s that.

Cheers people.

My Favorite African Science Fiction and Fantasy (AfroSFF) Short Fiction of 2015

Image via Paul Lewin
Image via Paul Lewin

I have always loved ‘Best-Of’ SF/F short story collections, lists, anthologies. ‘The Hugo Winners’ anthology originally edited by Isaac Asimov was where I first found most of my favorite authors. There is something about stories that move someone enough to want to collect them in a group and say to someone else, “Here, you should read this.”

I’ve also enjoyed the fairly recent and ongoing popularization of African science fiction and fantasy and I’m looking forward to more and more of it being published, read and discussed.

2015 has been a good year for African Science Fiction and Fantasy (or AfroSFF, as seems to be the consensus abbreviation). The year saw the release of Jalada’s Afrofutures anthology, Issues 2, 3, 4 and X of the new and excellent Omenana and  Short Story Day Africa’s Terra Incognita. Still to come are AfroSFv2 (edited by Ivor Hartmann), African Monsters (edited by Margret Helgadottir and Jo Thomas) and Imagine Africa 500 (edited by Billy Kahora and Trine Andersen). So much good stuff to read and more to come.

[Full Disclosure: I’ve also written a few AfroSFF stories published this year, I have a story  forthcoming in Imagine Africa 500 and was meant to have one in AfroSFv2 but it got pulled by the editor a few days before the official announcement.]

So in the interest of fueling discussion and analysis of AfroSFF stories in general, here are my favorite AfroSFF stories of 2015 in no particular order.

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1. “eNGAGEMENT” by Richard Oduor Oduku in Jalada’s Afrofutures.

This story of  listlessness, youth, love, virtual reality, longing and weddings set in Nairobi is very afro-cyberpunk and very insightful. Hilarious in parts and deathly-serious in others, this story stayed with me long after I read it. Highly recommended. 

2. “How My Father Became a God” by Dilman Dila in Terra Incognita.

I liked this story because of its style. Its told in typical African folktale language but quickly reveals itself to be something more. Mark Bould compares it to Pan’s Labyrinth, and its easy to see why. It features a Ugandan mad scientist, a journey into an ‘evil bush’ and a plot by male family members to marry off an under-aged girl who runs off to a fantastic place. The story is relentless, interesting and exciting to read. Recommended. 

3. “Look At Me Now” by Sarah Norman in Omenana, Issue 2.

I’m a huge fan of Omenana and their second issue was something spectacular. I still think its the best one they’ve put out. This story in particular follows an African woman  living in the UK who finds that she can turn invisible when she is upset. She goes on a series of typical African-in-diaspora misadventures before returning home to use her power to change things. The story ends violently and strongly. And oh what an ending.  I suspect the story appeals to me so much because it details a lot of the typical African-in-foreign land experience and frustration filtered through a unique and strange lens.

4. “The Monkey House” by Tade Thompson in Omenana, Issue 2.

This brilliantly written, Kafkaesque story of an office worker in 80’s Lagos blends with a folktale involving the Monkey to produce a story that leaves layers of itself on your skin, haunting you in the best possible way. I’ll be nominating this one for a Hugo. Highly recommended.

5. “The Worshipful Company of Milliners” by Tendai Huchu in Interzone, issue 257.

This is a rich and imaginative story, taking the metaphor that every writer wears a unique hat and making it literal. Huchu analyzes the creative process via this premise through the Milliners – fictional characters who make the writers’s unique hats in an old brick factory in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. I’ll be nominating this one for a Hugo. Highly Recommended. 

6. “Who Will Greet You At Home” by Lesly Nneka Arimah in The New Yorker.

I’ve always wanted to use the call-and-response as a device in a story but never had a plot that lent itself to that. This story does. Arimah’s man-free story of  Nigerian women who literally choose the material they make their daughters from and have them blessed to life by their own mothers is wonderful, strange, horrifying and deeply insightful. I honestly did not like the violent ending she chose for the story but I understand why she ended it that way. A great story. Highly Recommended. 

7. “Last Wave” by Ivor Hartmann in Jalada’s Afrofutures.

Far future science fiction story in which a historian from a galaxy-conquering technological species finds and listens to an ancient recording from the last human who happened to be African. It is thematically similar to another story I really enjoyed this year, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Children of Dagon” and I think its interesting to read the two as companion pieces. The way Hartmann reveals how mankind was wiped out and who replaced us as well as the origins of the historian himself are done expertly and engagingly. The writing is clear and unaffected and the idea is big and relevant. This is the kind of classic science fiction I really enjoy and it was my favorite of the issue. I’ll be nominating this one for a Hugo. Highly Recommended. 

8. “The Closest Thing To Animals” by Sofia Samatar in Fireside fiction

It was very difficult to pick my favorite Sofia Samatar story of 2015. “Those“, “Tender“, and “The Closest Thing To Animals” are all great stories and in some ways, quite similar but the last is the one I enjoyed the most. The story is science fiction about artists, disease, quarantine, depression and an anxious Sudanese expatriate who feels that she is constantly abandoned. Its difficult to describe Samatar’s stories because they are always so layered and metaphorical. This one is no exception. Samatar is one of the few authors who write in this way whose work I really and consistently enjoy. The characters are strong and memorable, the story is enjoyably strange and the themes explored are very modern. Highly Recommended. 

9. “Devils Village” by Dayo Ntwari in Roses For Betty and Other Stories (also in Munyori Literary Journal)

Set in a near-future Northern Nigeria in the grip of insurgency, a female mercenary equipped with high-tech exosuit armor finds that things are not what they seem. Propaganda, Commercial warcraft, Islamic fundamentalism, The fog of war, all these things come to play in this fast-paced, confidently-written African military science fiction story. Recommended. 

10. “Discovering Time Travel” by Suleiman Agbonkhianmen Buhari in Jalada’s Afrofutures.

This story is memorable primarily for its style. It has a brief opening, and brief closing, both just long enough to establish a narrator and a scene and in the end, provide closure. The bulk of it is told entirely in dialogue between two people which works unexpectedly well. Time travel stories are notoriously wonky things but this one manages to be engaging and interesting throughout. Recommended.

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A few things to note about this list:

  • I’ve not included any of my own stories. Obviously. I think that would be unbearably silly and the worst kind of ego masturbation imaginable.
  • This is a personal list, I do not claim these to be the ‘best-of-the-year’, these are simply my personal favorites based on my own tastes and what I’d recommend to anyone shopping for AfroSFF to read.
  • As mentioned, there is more to come in 2015 so I’ll update this post as the release dates come around and I sink my eye-teeth into the stories.
  • I’ve read a lot of AfroSFF this year but I doubt I’ve read everything so please, if there is an AfroSFF story published in 2015 which you thought was spectacular and you don’t see on this list, let me know in the comments. If its something I haven’t read, I will hunt it down and may update the list depending on how much it moves me.

So that’s it for now. I hope to read more stories and possibly expand this list to 20 by the end of Q1 2016 once I catch up with most of what is released in the year.

 

Image via Paul Lewin

Welcoming Omenana – Africa’s Own Spec-Fic Zine

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.

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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:

  1. a monthly magazine with regular subscribers,
  2. also available in paper print,
  3. a paying market (possibly even an SFWA qualifying market),
  4. 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,
  5. 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.

10 Thoughts On “Interstellar”

I saw Interstellar two days ago.

I enjoyed it. I really did. It was beautiful and interesting. But I wasn’t blown away. In fact, some parts of it actually made me cringe.

There are many great things to say about the movie. Sadly there are a few obviously bad ones that are made worse by the fact that Nolan really should have known better. He is better. 

Here, in summary, are my 10 first impressions. Before I forget them.

(WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

1. TARS and CASE are the real MVPs

TARS & CASE

2. The scenes of space are beautiful. Stunningly so. The visual representation of a wormhole, the stark wilderness of alien planets, the curvature of space-time, the almost-impossible-to-imagine look of a black hole, it is all amazing to see on screen.

bh

3.  At some point,  it devolved into a hackneyed horror movie tropefest. I mean, we had: One dreamy white male lead, a hot girl, a black guy, and some comic relief. They go to spacecraft in a stark wilderness (a cabin in the woods … but in space). They get attacked/killed off one by one. Black guy dies first. Hot girl survives. Dreamy white man almost dies but doesn’t. Shows up to save the day. Need I say more?

4. It is in many ways, a mirror image of Kubrick’s 2001: A space Odyssey.

5. It is in many ways, nothing like Kubrick’s 2001: A space Odyssey.

6. OK. I’ll explain. Its as though Nolan took the very  deliberate and thoughtful 2001, mirror imaged it and then attached a cheesy, emotion laden story onto it. (I actually recognized references and scene sort-of-reproductions from 2001 in Interstellar, also TARS and CASE are almost the exact opposite of HAL 9000 and… there is a lot more. You can read a direct comparison here). And while that might have worked well if the cheese had been minimized, there is too much of it. The movie works. Don’t get me wrong. It has heart, but arguably too much heart.

matt

7. Professor Brand’s deception at the end about his magic ‘equation’ was an absolutely pointless and unnecessary plot twist. It also wasn’t handled very well. It would have been fine as a simple go-to-find-new-planet-and-come-back movie. (it would have also been shorter)

8. Absolutely loved both the fact and the way that they showed how gravity (and also velocity) can distort time. Also, the silence in space. And the exact timing of achieving zero-G as well as the way centrifugal force is used to create artificial gravity. Also loved the way they showed the curvature of space. And the huge tidal waves on the planet next to the Black hole. Basically, I loved (most of) the depiction of correct science in the film. (Neil Degrasse Tyson comments on the science of it here)

9. There was only one woman on the mission, a brilliant and thoughtful scientist by all standards up until the point where they make her have a stupid, pointless and irrational argument about wanting to go to a planet because she is in love with the man there? Really? You had one woman, only one woman. Did she really have to be a trope?

anne

10. It made me think. A lot. About the physics of it. About the meaning of it. About the motifs and the art of it. I’m still thinking. And that is how I know I enjoyed it.

I’d happily recommend it.

These Words Expose Us: An Anthology Released for sale

It has not been easy but it has been done.

I edited a book for TNC and its finished and now available for sale.

I’d like to say a big thank you to all the contributing writers for their contribution and for their patience; for their stories and for their art.

I’m quite proud of what we have achieved with this book.

In it, we have story contributions from from a mix of excellent writers, –  Farafina alumni, The Naked Convos columnists and ‘The Writer’ competition alumni. The cover design was done by TNC in-house art stories columnist Tokunbo Aworinde and it looks beautiful.

The official press release is HERE

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Tokunbo and Osemhen (one of the contributing writers) were on Titi’s On Air Book Club on Inspiration 92.3fm last Friday in Lagos. I wish I could have been there but ah well. You can listen to the radio interview HERE.

These Words Expose Us: An Anthology is available for pre-order now from www.thenakedconvos.com/shop or via telephone on 08029332491.

It is also available for purchase on Amazon: http://goo.gl/EZxZMr

Available for kindle: http://goo.gl/IS8SV4

And available for purchase via the OkadaBooks app: http://goo.gl/BgyTHx