‘Is Africa ready for science fiction’

The fantasy writer, Nnedi Okarafor: one major reason African science fiction won’t grow has to do with what the publishing industry considers “literature.”

From the cover art for Nnedi Okarafor's 'Zahra and the Windseeker' (2008).

For a while now I have been hoping to post a link to a blog post by Chicago-based Nnedi Okorafor, a writer of science fiction, about the reception to science fiction among Africans. Okorafor mentions some samples of African science fiction: Ghanaian author Kojo Laing’s collection of short stories and her novels Big Bishop Roko and the Alter Gangsters and Woman of the Aeroplanes. She continues:

Congolese author Emmanuel Boundzeki Dongala has a short story called “Jazz and Palm Wine” (the anthology it appears in is also called Jazz and Palm Wine). In South Africa, science fiction is really percolating; The South African literary journal, Chimurenga, recently had an African science fiction themed issue. Film-wise, there is now ‘District 9’ (I’ve been excitedly anticipating this film for months). And, if you can find it, check out ‘Les Saignantes’ by Cameroonian film director Jean-Pierre Bekolo [and the] Nollywood fantasy film … Across the Bridge.

Like the people she interviews for her post, Okorafor is not very optimistic about the genre’s future on the continent (The interviewees includes Nollywood director Tchidi Chikere, author Tobias Buckell, and Naunihal Singh, a political scientist and fan of speculative fiction.)

You can read the post and the comments here, but I’ll leave you with some highlights:

“Science-fiction will have to adapt itself to the local market,” Singh said. “I don’t think there’s the sensibility for it right now. I remember seeing the Matrix in a mixed crowd of Ghanaians and Americans, this was in Ghana. Even though the room was dark, and there were some 40 plus people there, I could tell who was from where by their reactions to the movie. The Ghanaians just weren’t connecting to it. Bring the Terminator to West Africa, and he’d stop running in a day. He’d sit there and glitch. It’ll be hard to make people afraid of a future where computers take over the world when they can’t manage to keep the computers on their desk running. These are very western stories. On the other hand, classic science fiction, like space exploration stories, would probably work better…assuming it was adapted for the audience. Africans would love to see stories about Africans on a space ship. The idea that Africans might be dominant in the future would resonate so well with nationalism.”

In the piece Okorafor also notes that one major reason African science fiction won’t grow has to do with what the publishing industry considers “literature.”

Further Reading

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