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Review: AfroSF – Volume 3 – edited by Ivor W Hartmann (StoryTime Publishing)

You might remember that I reviewed the first volume of AfroSF back in 2013, and although I missed the second volume, I was glad to be able to read and review this third volume.

This anthology features writers also had work published in the first and second volumes – voices who have quickly become a well-deserved barometer of the growth of African Science Fiction, and writers I haven’t read before.

The anthology opens with Njuzu from T.L. Huchu, and explores the roles grief and long-held beliefs co-mingle off-planet. The tale is heartfelt and gentle, exploring a mystery not easily understood – but the mystery of the tale adds to the sadness and Huchu leaves it up to the reader to decide whether the mystery is important or not. Follow Tendai and his work at @TendaiHuchu.

The Girl Who Stared at Mars by Cristy Zinn explores how we always take with us what we’re trying to escape from. It is a lyrical, soft and yet intense read which many, many readers will love, even though it might call upon some of their own painful memories. Head over to cristyzinn.com for more info about Cristy and her work.

The EMO Hunter, by Mandisi Nkomo, explores a variety of themes by way of a kind of cyberpunk personality-crisis meditation on the extremes of climate science or beliefs. Sounds like a bit of a mouthful, but the tale works on both the detailed, character-focused level and the more encompassing top-down level. Visit thedarkcow.com for more info and Mandisi and his work.

The Luminal Frontier, by Biram Mboob, is one of the best time travel tales I’ve ever read. One thing that has always bugged me about time travel is the inherent paradox at the heart of every plot – and Biram answers this in a mind-bending manner even Christopher Nolan would be blown away by. I will be very surprised (and both saddened and angered) if this story doesn’t appear in Best Of’s and Mammoth Book Of’s later this year. Mind-blowing stuff! Follow Biram at @BiramMboob.

The Far Side by Gabriella Muwanga seems almost unfinished, or perhaps ‘unfocused’ would be a better description. The tale follows what a father will do for his child, and on the face of that, works – but the story is marred by the sometimes almost childish reactions and spitefulness of the main character, which leech a bit of the emotional strength of the story. Still, it will make readers think, and succeeds.

Drift-Flux by Wole Talabi is a great example of how much one can cram into a short story to make it exciting, pacey and entertaining. There’s a wonderful feel of The Expanse and Firefly to this tale, and the main character’s Nigerian-Idoma roots play an important part in the plot. It’s well-written, with great pace and excellent action. Check out Wole’s site for more info about him and his work.

Journal of a DNA Pirate by Stephen Embleton is a nasty, vicious, exciting tale – it shows how of group of extremists plan to ‘reset’ humanity, and works well enough despite what some may think is excessive swearing and, perhaps, the story’s setting. The ideas present and how they were explored have definitely put Stephen on my keep-a-look-out-for radar.

The Interplanetary Water Company by Masimba Musodza was a bit of a disappointment; the tale opens with what reads like a pages-long infodump to set the scene, and by the time I was done with that I wasn’t really interested in reading it further. It also features terms which would be more at home in 1940’s pulp SF – but without communicating that nostalgia to the reader. But even though it’s the weakest tale in the anthology, it remains entertaining and clever in places. Check out more of Masimba’s work at @musodza.

Safari Nyota: A Prologue by Dilman Dila is a wonderful example of how a self-contained story can feel as if it’s part of a greater narrative without leaving the reader feeling as if they’ve missed something. The tale takes place on a generation ship, transporting colonists to a new world, watched over by androids, and explores morality and the price of choice from a synthetic (yet identifiable) point of view. The short story is also part of a larger project, so head over to Dilman’s site for more info.

Parental Control by Mazi Nwonwu is a complicated and emotional tale, taking place both in virtual space and the real world, and explores the core of what makes a family – or what most believe ‘family’ means. It hits hard, so be prepared to think about this tale and what it leaves behind.

Inhabitable by Andrew Dakalira is an unwieldy tale in which the themes of camaraderie, the struggle to survive and betrayal don’t retain enough of their power to be really effective. It’s as if there was too much to fit in, and some of the story’s meat was removed in editing to stick to a wordcount. That might not be the case at all, in fact, but it’s the feeling I got from reading it. Nonetheless, Andrew is now also a writer I’ll be watching out for.

Ogotemmeli’s Song by Mame Bougouma Diene is pure, joyous and far-seeing space opera. One of my favourites from this anthology, and also something I hope Mame is considering expanding into a saga. This is the tale that captures the heart and soul of AfroSF. Check out Mame’s Twitter for more info.

If there’s one thing anthologies such as AfroSF continue to show, it’s that Science Fiction (or more broadly, Speculative Fiction) has depths and colours unheard of or imagined, and that we all (humanity) continue to share the same core loves and needs and hopes and fears – as well as the capacity to imagine. I truly think we are only still witnessing the birth of non-Western Speculative Fiction, and AfroSF is a small but important part of its continued expansion and growth. Nicely done, authors, and Ivor. 🙂

8 / 10

Click here to order your copies of AfroSF Volume 3, here  to read a great review from Jared Shurin on Tor.com, and check out the StoryTime site here.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Anthology Review: AfroSF – Science Fiction by African Writers (edited by Ivor Hartmann)

I’m sure you’ve all seen the posts I did for this anthology – an interview with Ivor and three posts spotlighting the authors who had stories published in in (post 1, post 2 and post 3), and now, finally, here’s my review! Just in time for the paperback edition, which is available! 🙂

It goes without saying that I will refrain from saying anything about my story in the anthology, other than I’m lucky that I have one in it. 🙂 Let’s get into the review, shall we?

AfroSF is an awesome look at the talent of African Futurists and Fantasists; one might expect to be subjected to preaching in this anthology, perhaps focused on what Colonialism did to Africa, perhaps regarding the lengths to which the developed West seems to want to keep Africans uneducated and labour ready. But that’s not what this anthology is about – it abounds with optimism, ingenuity, fresh looks at SF tropes we’ve come to take for granted. It looks at many subjects – the bonds of a family, extremism, exploitation, how important community and respect is, how easy it is to give up everything we cherish for a quick fix. It takes the reader and pushes them into situations they will probably never face but which echo, nonetheless, and more importantly  force the reader to wonder and ask questions.

‘Moom!’ by Nnedi Okorafor is a wonderful, bitter-sweet tail revolving around the experiences of a swordfish; it’s a tale that echoes the many experiences mankind has had with industry and the pain of these interactions. She captures beautifully the cycling emotional turmoil of fear, anger, resolute action, understanding, revelation – it’s a short tail, but one beautifully told, the ideas beautifully expressed. 🙂

‘Home Affairs’ by Sarah Lotz is a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, and scarily believable tale that examines the bureaucracy of a government department – in Sarah’s tale, the emotionless, uncaring civil servants have been replaced, with terrifying and comic consequences; definitely a tale that will resonate with anyone who’s ever hated standing in a que while waiting for a bored civil servant to get to them. Which is everyone. 🙂

Tendai Huchu’s ‘The Sale’ is actually a damned scary tale – a look at what the world might be like in a decade or two, when Corporations -massing more money than any government on the planet- run everything. How far will we go, the story seems to ask, to ensure that our lives are peaceful and productive?

‘Five Sets of Hands’ by Cristy Zinn is a tale that will resonate with many students of history, especially people who have studied slavery and its various incarnations – and it also asks the question: “When we spread out onto new planets and create new colonies, when we find strange new faces looking at us, will we find something new for humanity to explore or will we be forced to face every dark aspect of ourselves?”

‘New Mzansi’ by Ashley Jacobs was one of my favourite tales, a story that fans of Lauren Beukes’ ‘Moxyland’ will definitely enjoy, too; it follows one man’s quest to make sure that his friend, Lion, get’s the medication he needs; it’s filled with amazing and yet useless technology (much the same as the tech we use today – I mean, we can’t feed ourselves wirelessly, van we?), a country that seems to be suffocating under the pressure of its history – I wouldn’t at all mind reading an entire novel, or series, set in this future South Africa.

‘Azania’ by Nick Wood is pure SF gold – great, conflicted and memorable characters, a limited and contained setting (which adds to the tension that permeates the tale), and a plot for the characters that will define not only their lives but ensure the continuation thereof; excellent story!

‘Notes from Gethsemane’ by Tade Thompson is a look at the loyalty between brothers, how any government wanting to keep people out of a place will fail, and how something strange and beautiful can hide in plain sight – excellent SF!

Sally Partridge’s ‘Planet X’ is an excellent look at how  the people we almost never meet in SF tales -those walking the streets, waiting at the traffic signals, working in the kitchens of fast-food joints, living in shacks and taking taxis to work, how these people might experience something world- and life-changing, like the discovery of a a new planet in our solar system, and how that discovery might affect a society that struggles daily with xenophobia…

‘The Gift of Touch’ by Chinelo Onwualo can best be described by what I said to Chinelo on Facebook just after I finished reading the story – if Firefly ever returns to our screens, Chinelo should write some of the episodes. 🙂 I definitely want more of these characters! Excellent, funny and a real adventure in space. 🙂

The Foreigner by Uko Bendi Udo tells a tale of belonging and the right to have rights; here we have an asylum-seeker who is very young and stubborn, and you’ll probably cheer as I did at the end of the tale. 🙂

‘The Rare Earth’ by Biram Mboob is excellent – not many SF tales can pull off an injection of religion, but Biram manages to do it very well; it’s intense and thoroughly thought-provoking, with a messianic man at the story’s centre who is also the leader of an insurgent group. It’s tense, action-packed, and a tale that lingers.

‘Terms and Conditions’ by Sally-Ann Murray is a tale that looks at what could happen if Big Pharma was in charge of everything; it’s a melancholic  affecting tale, an exploration of the many answers to the question, “What might you do to survive? To live?” Very good!

‘Heresy’ by Mandisi Nkomo is one of my favourites in the collection – as close to proper South African SF as it comes; satirical, thoughtful, funny, it also pokes fun at the government and a particular former Youth League leader, while also poking fun at  science and religion at the same time. Excellent! 🙂

‘Closing Time’ by Liam Kruger is an excellent time-travel tale, and trust me, Liam’s tale is unique – no-one has ever travelled the way the main character does!  It’s not only strangely cautionary but sparsely, beautifully written, too. 🙂

‘Masquerade Stories’ by Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu is an excellent exploration of tribal customs and their origins; just how might the tribe be affected if the origin wasn’t African, or even earthly…?

‘The Trial’ by Joan De La Haye is thoroughly terrifying – being a writer or a poet in Joan’s world might just cost you your life! It’s a dark look at a South Africa that has fallen to leaders bereft of the gift of imagination and empathy, tensely written with a hard ending – excellent!

‘Brandy City’ by Mia Arderne is a dark tale, a tale of car-modification, a new and oddly intriguing form of prostitution, how alcohol can come to be the answer to everything, and the end. Memorable, especially in the way the characters swirl together toward’s the tale’s hectic climax!

‘Ofe!’ by Rafeeat Aliyu is probably the best example I’ve ever read of what African superheroes might be like – flavours of exploitation and oppression abound in this tale of a dangerous weapon and a targeted minority, and though it does seem to end a bit abruptly it’s still entertaining. 🙂

‘Claws and Savages’ by Martin Stokes is an excellent tale that looks at a problem many African countries face – that of infinitely richer tourists hunting for sport, but takes it off-world and introduces the reader to a bastard; thoroughly engaging!

‘To Gaze at the Sun’ by Clifton Gachagua was a tale of the price of war and survival, the pain of parents releasing their children into the world, and the exploitation and misunderstanding that occurs when we lose sight of the humanity of others; affecting and sadly beautiful.

‘Proposition 23’ by Efe Okogu deserves all the praise it has already received and will receive – practically an epic in it’s own right, it’s the tale of freedom fighters, infiltrators, martyrs, those who are curious enough to become caught in their own traps, and the simple yet deeper pleasure of disconnection – excellent!

This anthology is truly ground-breaking and excellent, taking the reader beyond our solar system, backwards and forwards into time, on journeys towards distant stars and planets, putting the reader in the minds and behind the eyes of warriors, dreamers, prophets, mothers, fathers, children… Entertaining and vibrant, it announces the African Futurists and Fantasists are every bit as good as their world-wide counterparts, and I’m sure it’ll put many new writers on the radar of SF fans everywhere! It goes without saying -yet I’ll say it anyway- that I’m damned proud to be associated with this excellent anthology! 🙂

9 / 10

AFROSFa

 

To order AfroSF, click here (Kindle Edition) and here (paperback) for Amazon US, here (Kindle Edition) and here (paperback) for Amazon UK, and for readers in South Africa, order your copies from Kalahari.com. 🙂 If you’re on Facebook, check out the publisher’s page at Story Time, and you can also interact with the authors and with Ivor at the AfroSF page. AfroSF Volume 2 has already been announced – check out this page for details!

Thanks to Ivor and all the contributors for such an excellent anthology! 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Reviews

 

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Contributor Spotlight (Part One): AfroSF – Science Fiction by African Writers (edited by Ivor W Hartmann)

Hey everyone, hope this Monday’s been good to you so far. 🙂 I’d tell you how late I slept but I’m not here to make you jealous. 😉

I am here, today, with the first post in the series that will spotlight the authors who’s stories will be appearing in AfroSF – in case you missed Friday’s post, AfroSF is the first Science Fiction Anthology comprised of stories from African writers, and with the interest already shown in the anthology AfroSF is not only already ground-breaking but sure to be one of this years not-to-be-missed Science Fiction publishing events. 🙂

AfroSF features authors that have already been making names for themselves in the Speculative Fiction field -Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz, Sally Partridge, Joan De La Haye, Tade Thompson, to name but a few- but also writers with stories that Ivor Hartmann knew he couldn’t pass up. 🙂

So, let’s get into it, shall we? In no particular order:

Liam Kruger

I’m a 22-year-old student and writer, currently living in Cape Town; I’ve done stuff for Itch, New Contrast, FHM and 2oceansvibe – and I won the ‘Bloody Parchment’ short story competition in 2010, so I’m pretty excited to see the other genres coming up locally with AfroSF. My story, ‘Closing Time’ is narrated by a fairly unpleasant, unreliable alcoholic who has begun to discover that *his* blackout drunk isn’t anything like *your* blackout drunk. It’s about identity and fate and the kind of stuff you get to play with in SF that looks sort of obvious in realist prose.

S.A. Partridge:

As a writer of predominantly youth fiction I was surprisingly excited about the AfroSF concept. I grew up on a diet of science fiction, mostly the satirical stuff like Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin and Douglas Adams, but I’ve never actually explored the medium myself. My imagination was instantly captured by ideas about parallel worlds, and extraterrestrial visitors. Its a lot tougher than it looks and it took a forest’s worth of scrap paper till I found an idea that stuck. Funnily enough, instead of going the deep space route I decided to stick with what I knew – setting the story in the real world, and focusing the action around the human cast. As tempting as a race of vampiric space invaders was, I’ve always found human beings to be the most devilish of villains, which is why in my story, Planet X, I play on the fear of my characters. Fear is a weapon far worse than anything our would be invaders can hit us with. I hope this doesn’t give too much away.

Interests: Cats. Books. Cooking. Procrastinating

Bio: S.A Partridge is the author of the award-winning youth novels The Goblet Club, Fuse and Dark Poppy’s Demise. Sally has been the recipient of the MER Prize for Youth Fiction, the SABC I am a writer competition and is an IBBY Honour list author. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans in 2011 and is one of Women 24’s hottest up and coming South African authors.

Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu

My name is Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu. I am Igbo, then Nigerian. I introduce myself as Mazi Nwonwu and I am very saddened by the fact that I have to explain to people, even my fellow Igbos, that Mazi is equivalent to English Mr, a title not a name. The reason I have to explain at all is not far fetched: my culture is fading, fast, eroded by modernity. I write to capture as much as I can of this culture, to save as much as I can. I am a writer of prose, poetry and everything else in between, minus drama. I used to work as a magazine editor, now I am a freelance writer–until the next steady job comes that is. My greatest peeve is that I have to hang on to the name “Fred” because my body of work before December 2012 carried that Germanic name as my first name. I am a PAN-Africanist.

My story “Masquerade Stories” is an attempt to play with my culture and bring it to for again using an unlikely medium: science fiction. In Igbo tradition, masquerades represent the spirits of ancestors and the earthly representatives of the gods of my fathers–but, what if these masquerades are modeled after aliens? what if these aliens still walk among men? So you have teen boys boys in a far future, a cultural revival, and of course, omniscient aliens in a tale where the past meets the future.

Mia Arderne

Mia Arderne is a fiction writer and artist. Her subject matter, in both visual and literary fields, interfaces the erotic and the magical. She is currently studying towards a Masters degree in Creative Writing at the University of Cape Town.

My story paints a vision of futuristic erotica. It is a tragedy set a century from now in an era of excess, desperation and collective alcoholism. The town under my microscope is Bellville. The narrative explores the commoditisation of human beings, alternate currencies and the reduction of women to culinary delights.

Mandisi Nkomo

Bio: Mandisi Nkomo is a budding (hopefully) writer, musician, and arranger. He is a class A nerd, who enjoys beer and live music. Being a class A nerd, he is obsessed with anything that stimulates his vast imagination; from books, to manga, to games, to Melodic Death Metal bands who growl about Norse Mythology. He currently resides in Cape Town South Africa, where he completed his Honours Degree, in Justice and Transformation, with a specialization in Conflict Resolution, at the University of Cape Town in 2011. After a ‘slight’ change of heart, he decided to pursue a Specialist Certificate in Arranging, through the Berklee College of Music’s Online School. Mandisi spends most of his time pondering ways to get a steady income, while writing fiction, music, and drumming in local bands.

Feel free to follow Mandisi’s profane and rude musings (you have been warned) on twitter, or at his blog. Also don’t be shy to check out his latest compositions and like his current Cape Town based band Callout.

About Heresy: Heresy is part Sci-Fi, part political satire, with a light sprinkling of fantasy. It takes place in a near future where South Africa has risen to Super Power status, and is engaged in a space race with China. The space race results in some dire or not so dire consequences, depending on your views. It was actually a departure from the type of stuff I have written before, which is ironic, since it’s my first accepted short story. Somewhere in my head, I’m hoping it reads like a Coen Brothers movie: funny on the outside, with serious, haunting undertones. Eitherway, I hope it’s enjoyed, and I’m extremely excited to be a part of the AfroSF team.

Tade Thompson:

My name is Tade Thompson and my roots are in Western Nigeria and South London. I live and work in South England and I’m old enough to remember watching Captain Scarlet on TV. I read everything and it’s difficult to say which writers influence me. I tend to work under a unified influence field which comprises books, music, theatre, comics, art, movies, gourmet coffee and amala. We’re talking about Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Haruki Murakami, D.O. Fagunwa, Stephen Baxter, John Cassaday, Frank Quitely, Hanif Kureishi, Moebius, John Lindqvist, Salvador Dali, Eric Berne and so on. I have been known to haunt bookshops and libraries. I love drum ‘n bass, jazz and Vivaldi.

My story in the AfroSF anthology is called ‘Notes from Gethsemane’. The title comes from one of the two great traitors in Western philosophy (Judas and Brutus), but the story is really about brotherhood, family and making do under difficult circumstances. It’s a near-future story and as such the world is recognizable but alien at the same time. It’s set in Lagos, Nigeria, but you don’t have to have been there to appreciate what’s going on.

Here’s a list of the authors and stories that will be appearing in AfroSF:

‘Moom!’ Nnedi Okorafor
‘Home Affairs’ Sarah Lotz
‘Five Sets of Hands’ Cristy Zinn
‘New Mzansi’ Ashley Jacobs
‘Azania’ Nick Wood
‘Notes from Gethsemane’ Tade Thompson
‘Planet X’ S.A. Partridge
‘The Gift of Touch’ Chinelo Onwualu
‘The Foreigner’ Uko Bendi Udo
‘Angel Song’ Dave de Burgh
‘The Rare Earth’ Biram Mboob
‘Terms & Conditions Apply’ Sally-Ann Murray
‘Heresy’ Mandisi Nkomo
‘Closing Time’ Liam Kruger
‘Masquerade Stories’ Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu
‘The Trial’ Joan De La Haye
‘Brandy City’ Mia Arderne
‘Ofe!’ Rafeeat Aliyu
‘Claws and Savages’ Martin Stokes
‘To Gaze at the Sun’ Clifton Gachagua
‘Proposition 23’ (Novelette) Efe Okogu

The next post spotlighting the AfroSF contributors will be up on Friday. 🙂 Don’t forget, AfroSF will be published in early December! Hit up Ivor Hartmann for any further info!

Until then,
Be EPIC!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 8, 2012 in AfroSF, Spotlight

 

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Africa Rising: AfroSF – Science Fiction by African Writers (Edited by Ivor W Hartmann)

So thrilled, proud and excited to share this news with you! 🙂

But first, let me introduce you to Ivor Hartmann, the brains, guiding light, my editor and publisher behind this exciting project; Ivor helped me with awesome edits to get ‘Angel Song’ even better than it was!

***

Ivor W. Hartmann, Zimbabwean writer, editor, publisher, visual artist, and author of Mr. Goop (Vivlia, 2010). Nominated for the UMA Award (‘Earth Rise’, 2009), awarded The Golden Baobab Prize (‘Mr. Goop’, 2009), and finalist for The Yvonne Vera Award (‘A Mouse amongst Men’, 2011). His writing has appeared in African Writing Magazine, Wordsetc, Munyori Literary Journal, Something Wicked, The Apex Book of World SF V2, and other publications. He runs the StoryTime micro-press, publisher of the African Roar annual anthologies and AfroSF, and is on the advisory board of Writers International Network Zimbabwe.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background, your reading tastes?

I’m a Zimbabwean writer, editor, publisher, and visual artist, primarily at the moment. I’ve also been a Fine Art painter — oil on canvas, abstract surrealism mainly — for seven years just out of high-school, went into organic farming/permaculture for six years, then Visual SFX and music video directing until 2007. After co-writing a SciFi movie script for fun, I decided it was time to return to the writing field, which led me to what I’m doing now.

I’m currently reading Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor, and here’s my last ten books or so read, which should give a good idea of my reading tastes: The Apex Book of World SF 2 – Ed. Lavie Tidhar, Open City – Teju Cole, 2312 – Kim Stanley Robinson, The four Space Odyssey books – Arthur C. Clarke, Mona Lisa Overdrive – William Gibson, Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro, Operation Shylock: A Confession – Phillip Roth, Underworld – Don DeLillo, The Crying Of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon, and Cosmopolis – Don DeLillo.

Have you been writing since you can remember or was it something that grew with time?

I first started writing when I was fourteen — a blood-soaked werewolf tale that scared the hell out of my demure English teacher got me started — and continued to do so until I was nineteen. At which point I had two choices that appealed to me, one was writing, the other was fine art. Fine art won out, but mainly because I felt the need to experience the freedom and richness of life beyond school as much as possible before I could start to write about it seriously. A good idea, who knows, but when I did get back to writing sixteen years later armed with serious intent, I had certainly accumulated a vast hoard of personal life experience to draw from.

Please tell us a bit about your writing, do you have a favourite genre to work in, and what about that genre makes it your favourite?

Characters, concepts, and underlying themes, are the kings when I write, so usually I don’t think about what genre it might be by the time I’m done. However, they do end up a fair bit in Speculative and Contemporary Fiction, and of Spec Fic, SciFi more than Fantasy/Horror/etc. I’ve always had a soft spot for SciFi in both reading and writing. There is a freedom of imagination SciFi gives you from what has, is, happening, to what could happen, and yet is still grounded in the realities of our universe, in as much as we currently understand them, which advances daily.

You’ve had stories been published in various anthologies and journals – is there any experience that stands out, hopefully in a positive way? And what do you consider to be the most important lesson you learned?

My first short story ‘Earth Rise’ was accepted by Something Wicked and then edited with Vianne Venter. This was my first editing experience and Vianne’s professionalism, patience, and skill, set the tone for the editor and writer I wanted to become.

Perhaps, the early understanding (the earlier the better), when first getting into writing, that while writing is a solitary pursuit, publishing is a team effort.

You’ve also become a respected editor – what have you learned about the craft of writing through editing?

I’ve learnt more from editing and writing over the past five years than all my 34 years of reading. But to be fair not by that much. Between reading, writing, and near daily edits, I have seen my understanding of the craft grow and mature more than I thought possible. But no matter how much one learns, there’s always more to learn, it’s a never ending process — even a genius takes ten years to just master a field, never mind what comes beyond that. In general, I’m a great believer in learning by doing, and this autodidactic approach in areas that interest me has served me well all my life.

AfroSF is the first anthology of its kind – can you talk about the process of how you got it going?

The AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers anthology has been a dream of mine for five years. In 2007, when I returned to writing the first story I wrote (or I should say completed rather) was ‘Earth Rise’, a Science Fiction short story. As soon as I looked for somewhere to publish it, preferably an African publication, the harsh realities of African publishing, and publishing for African writers in general, in 2007, became quite apparent. Including the fact, a pan-African anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only had never been published, and thus the dream of AfroSF was conceived.

Long story short, I created the micro-press StoryTime that first published StoryTime, a weekly African literature online magazine, from June 2007 to June 2012. In 2010, StoryTime launched African Roar, an annual multi-genre anthology of African writers, co-edited by Emmanuel Sigauke and I, that’s now in its third year. So, by late 2011, I felt the time had come to pursue the AfroSF dream.

If one looks at the last 50 years of publishing in terms of SciFi and African writers, some real gems have never been collected into one volume. Thus, the temptation to have a mix of reprints and original works was very strong (and a lot easier in terms of editing), but the vision I had for AfroSF needed to include the forward-thinking spirit embodied so well in SciFi as a genre. Therefore, in December 2011, I put out the call for submissions for original (unpublished) works only.

The first story I received for the anthology was from great and wonderful Nnedi Okorafor, which for me kind of set standard for all submissions that followed — fifty two in total, so not a lot, but more than I had hoped for and a great start for a first anthology. In this, Lauren Beukes was also of great help when she put the word out on the subs call, and suggested a few South African writers who might be interested.

A word on the selections and editing process I employ. As with the StoryTime magazine and the African Roar’s, when I read the AfroSF submissions I was looking for great themes and new ideas well expressed, in this case in the SciFi genre. This is to say, ideas and themes trumped imperfect prose, which I knew from experience could be dealt with in edits — depending on how much time the editor and writer can devote to the editing process. Now, this approach doesn’t always work, but what it does do is give writers whose work I selected the chance to work on at least one edit of their story with an editor, and I could see how it went from there.

Although I had StoryTime on hand to publish it, in terms of this anthology being a first and such I did seek bigger publishers who could get it out there in a much bigger way than I can. So, as soon as I had a rough unedited first draft I sent it out and about and did get some interest from a few publishers — which was a good sign for anthology as a whole. However, in the end no one came to the party in any realistic way, so I returned to the original plan of publishing it though StoryTime — first as an eBook that will then fund a POD print edition with its sales, this being a realistic, micro-press publishing model I have used with the African Roar anthologies and I know works. However, specific country rights for the anthology will remain open for negotiation and translations, etc., if it does garner any serious interest after the first edition eBook release.

Why Science Fiction?

SciFi, like most fiction genres that aren’t Contemporary except perhaps Romance and Crime to an extent, is highly underdeveloped in African literature as a whole. Now I could go into all the reasons why, but let’s look to the future instead.

SciFi is the only genre that enables African writers to envision a future from our African perspective. Moreover, it does this in a way that is not purely academic and so provides a vision that is readily understandable through a fictional context. The value of this envisioning for any third-world country, or in our case continent, cannot be overstated, nor negated. Science Fiction helps drive social and technological change. If you can’t see and relay an understandable vision of the future, your future will be co-opted by someone else’s vision, one that will not necessarily have your best interests at heart, at all. Thus, Science Fiction by African writers is of paramount importance to the development and future of our continent.

Why, in your opinion, does the publishing industry in South Africa and, indeed, the rest of the continent, seem to not want to get behind SFF the way, say, Crime Fiction has been supported and encouraged?

Mainstream African publishers go for the lowest risk with highest return to their investment, this being Textbooks, Nonfiction, and a far third Contemporary Fiction. Historically, in general, it is writers and independent publishers who create and develop new (or underdeveloped) genres. Mainstream publishers will only climb aboard when the market has already been created or at least well seeded. Crime Fiction over the last twenty years and especially the last ten in South Africa is a classic example of this in action.

AfroSF has a very good chance of helping to lead Africa’s SF writers into a long-term attention-grabbing position in the field of short form and, with time, novel-length SF – what are your wishes, your dreams, for this anthology?

The main aim of this anthology was to encourage African writers to break out of the comfort zone of Contemporary fiction and develop all the other genres that are underdeveloped in African literature. The simple fact is we can’t all be the next Dambudzo Marechera, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Zakes Mda, etc. There are over one billion people on the African continent, if only 0.001% are or become a writer, that’s ten thousand writers. In other words, more than enough writers to explore every possible genre and perhaps make some new ones too.

Looking at the list of contributors for AfroSF, it’s obvious, and wonderful to see, how diverse it is – how, if at all, does African SF differ from SF written by non-Africans? What do you think we bring to the genre?

African writers bring our unique perspectives, and importantly, our unique African mythologies to bear when we write. These perspectives and mythologies are a refreshing change and voice sorely needed in the wider world of fiction dominated by Western perspectives and mythologies.

What’s your advice to African Speculative Fiction writers considering, for example, that the Agent doesn’t seem to have a role or place in our continent’s industry?

The pleasure of African publishers is that for the most part any African writer can approach them, with no agent required. This means that until you break into the international writing scene one doesn’t actually need an agent to start with. I don’t have an agent, I don’t look for agents, and agents tend to come calling when they can see there’s a profit to be made from taking you on. So until then keep writing, and keep approaching African publishers with your work. In the end, your work is what will speak for you in the loudest voice.

What can readers expect from AfroSF, what kind of reading experience? Multi-sub-genre, for example?

The AfroSF stories have a bit of everything in the realm of SciFi, from Comic, Military, Hard, Soft, to Apocalyptic, Space Opera, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, Aliens, and even Time Travel, and more, and fairly liberal mixings thereof. The stories represent a diversity of voices and themes specifically rooted in the SciFi genre, from some stellar established and upcoming African writers. If you love SciFi, you’re going to love this anthology.

Finally, we know that AfroSF will be released in December: early, middle, just in time for X-Mass?

AfroSF will hit all the Amazon sites in an eBook edition first in early December 2012. Then, depending, we will release a POD print edition later to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. It will also be signed up to Paperight, a fantastic new company that can turn any copy shop worldwide (and especially in Africa) into a budget books printer and seller.
***

I read through these answers just before I set them in this post and I’m extremely excited about this anthology! Definitely something that I’ll start reading as soon as I’ve got an eARC, and of course, review. 🙂

AfroSF is the first ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only that was open to submissions from African writers all across Africa and abroad. It will be released in December 2012 in an ebook edition first and later a print edition.

Here’s a list of the authors and stories that will be appearing in AfroSF:

‘Moom!’ Nnedi Okorafor
‘Home Affairs’ Sarah Lotz
‘Five Sets of Hands’ Cristy Zinn
‘New Mzansi’ Ashley Jacobs
‘Azania’ Nick Wood
‘Notes from Gethsemane’ Tade Thompson
‘Planet X’ S.A. Partridge
‘The Gift of Touch’ Chinelo Onwualu
‘The Foreigner’ Uko Bendi Udo
‘Angel Song’ Dave de Burgh
‘The Rare Earth’ Biram Mboob
‘Terms & Conditions Apply’ Sally-Ann Murray
‘Heresy’ Mandisi Nkomo
‘Closing Time’ Liam Kruger
‘Masquerade Stories’ Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu
‘The Trial’ Joan De La Haye
‘Brandy City’ Mia Arderne
‘Ofe!’ Rafeeat Aliyu
‘Claws and Savages’ Martin Stokes
‘To Gaze at the Sun’ Clifton Gachagua
‘Proposition 23’ (Novelette) Efe Okogu

Starting Monday (8 October) I’ll be doing a series of posts spotlighting some of the authors – a bit of background on them and their stories to get you all excited. 🙂 Many names you’ll already know (Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz, Tade Thompson, Sally Partridge, Nick Wood, Joan De Lay Haye), and most you will get to know and hear plenty about. 🙂

By the way, if you’re also a reviewer and would like to review this anthology before or around its release date in December, let me know or contact Ivor directly. 🙂 And if you’re an SF author who would like to read AfroSF and perhaps offer a blurb, again myself or Ivor can help you out. 🙂

So, until Monday,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Announcements, Spotlight

 

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