African Writers, Science Fiction and Fantasy

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.


  1. LOL don’t watch Nigerian movies for inspiration. All you’ll get is a story about juju, cheating husbands and wayward girls who become born again at the end. smhI completely forgot about the Eye the Ear and the Arm! They had it in my secondary school library, but it was so tattered, most of the book was missing. I loved what I read though. Going to order it on Amazon right now. I am a huge fan of all sci-fi/fantasy books – so much that I have no shame in going to the Young Adult/Teen section to make my selections at the bookstore, despite being nearly 21, and God knows I’ll still go there when I’m 30. Those authors write the best stuff. But I digress – another great African fantasy is Ben Okri’s Starbook. I was a little annoyed while reading it because it doesn’t read like you’re typical novel – it’s written more like a myth with many different aspects to it. But, looking back on it, it was a great story, and now I’m looking for the book to read again! I will also check out the Nigerian-American author – that sounds like my kind of book!It’s a shame they don’t want any fantasy. I would recommend, though, for inspiration: Alexander McCall Smith (not African, but lived in Botswana, and writes amazing books about African women :), Chinua Achebe of course, Chimamanda Adichie if you like her (not everyone does) and… Cyprian Ekwensi maybe? There are a LOT of amazing African authors out there. I’m going to try and take a class in African Literature next year so that I have an excuse to read them all 🙂

  2. thank you so much mellowyel…hehehe…i didn’t know Ben Okri wrote fantasy! that’s news to me i know all the other authors. i studied literature in secondary school. i like Chimamanda Adichie and recently bought her latest release. African authors are the way to go but i’m yet to discover them. i’ll be honest i’m very picky and it seems the few books that interest me are in french and i really don’t like reading in french. you see with the Nigerian movies, i’ll watch and interpret them, make them better. the reason i mentioned them is because i don’t have time to read (;___;) but as it turns out i may not have to look to far for inspiration.

  3. lol@mellowyel it is so true! We also had some Ghananian movies in Kenya and the number of times ‘The witches of Ghana’ came up was hilarious. Ah well – let’s see what you do with them eccentric

  4. i didn’t know Ghanaian movies had withces too. yikes that’s sad. and it turns out that i don’t have to torture myself watching Nigerian movies! i’ve found my inspiration!

  5. Was searching out African sf&f when I saw your post. Its really depressing that people try to suppress that part of AfricansI LOVE fantasy and sci-fi and I love writing it. A while back I decided to make all my works purely African. It would be amazing if there was support for this genre.Nonetheless, I suggest all African sf&f writers should pool resources and form a body. Maybe, if society saw we were serious, they'd show some consideration in establishing a market for our genre.Good luck eccentric, and you can take a peek at my blog when you've got a minute: http://www.falltownfables.wordpress.com

  6. falltownfables, welcome and thanks for your comment! i just visited your blog and though i haven't had the time to go through everything, i'm loving it already! i love your suggestion regarding the society, the thing is i'm not sure if there are many other African writers of sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction etc, most of the ones i know are American so they have more opportunities (i guess).i'm off to read more of your fables n__n

Comments are closed.