I think handing in an essay is one of the best times in a student’s life. It is just pure joy to realise that you don’t have much work left…until you remember that you have other work due soon. *Sigh* I’m taking the opportunity to relax though I hardly am able to because I’ve got so much on my mind!
On to the main topic of this post, Penguin South Africa has announced a R100,000 prize for African Writing! I decided to take a chance and enter the series and I was so excited. Yes I was excited before I noticed the fine print; they don’t want sci-fi or fantasy stories. I wonder why they don’t want these stories, I mean, if they want originality these stories go there. I mean what could be cooler than an African sci-fi story. I just don’t understand…I still want to enter the competition though but it seems I’ll have to limit myself. I’ve got several unfinished stories on my laptop and all are sci-fi/fantasy. I tried to come up with a good story yesterday but it is not working. Any time I think of a story it always ends up being sci-fi or fantasy. For example, I thought I’d write a story about an African woman with an identity crisis but in trying to figure out how the woman finds herself there turned out to be lots of magic and other activities in the realm of that-which-we-cannot-see.
My friend once told me that magic originated in Africa. He mentioned this to express his unhappiness on the lack of African sci-fi/fantasy authors. I agree with him to me magic is something that is essentially African I don’t think I can write a short story or a book without some supernatural influence. African sci-fi/fantasy authors are few in number and I do wish to find more. Last year, I discovered Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, a Nigerian-American who helped awaken the African sci-fi/fantasy author in me. I bought her first book Zahrah the Windseeker and loved it! Not only was it set in the Ooni Kingdom, it features a badass female who faces her fears to rescue a friend. It is a really amazing book and was the first of its kind for me. I had read The Eye, The Ear and The Arm which although is set in Zimbabwe is not written by an African author. I wish sci-fi and fantasy were encouraged and I wish there were more African writers in these genres.
I can’t help but be pessimistic; I believe that I know what the judges of the Penguin prize are looking for. They are looking for originality as they say in their announcement but at the same time they are looking for a story that reflects everyday African life. I’m not sure if I’ll be good at that because my head has always been in the clouds even when I was growing up in Nigeria. I’ll work on my writing and watch lots of Nigerian movies as ‘research’. Maybe I’ll be inspired that way though I seriously doubt it, I usually cannot stand Nigerian movies.