Augment your reading in African speculative fiction with these 21 stories available online for free. Alternatives to ’21 Today’, these stories are among the best in the genre.
2011 ‘Virus’ by Jonathan Dotse (Ghana)
Published first in Jungle Jim, this short story is an excerpt is from the novel Dotse has been working on for five years. It features sharp, clear prose; a cyberpunk ethos, and a clifffhanger ending. Dotse has been an influential blogger and futurist since 2010 on www.afrocyberpunk.com.
2014 ‘Hostbods’ by Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe/UK)
This list will feature a number of stories from the webzine Omenana. Here is a story from Issue One. This resembles the movie Get Out – only the science of taking over a body is better worked out (not difficult) – and it came first. The focus is more on privilege and less on race (though it appears to be set in the USA with an imported African male as the body to be taken over). The twist ending is cleverer than the movie and leaves us with hope. Mr. Huchu was listed by Africa.com as one of Africa’s ten most influential writers. His speculative fiction includes ‘For Sale’ in the first volume of AfroSF, and in Interzone 257, 2015, a lovely fantasy story about writing, ‘The Worshipful Company of Milliners’. His story ‘The Marriage Plot’ is shortlisted for the Nommo Awards. Contents of the first issue of Omenana also included a story from Wole Talabi. Read a short interview with Tendai in 100 African writers.
2014 ‘The Monkey House’ by Tade Thompson (Nigeria/UK)
One of Thompson’s earliest written stories, based on his own experiences working long hours in a London hospital. The story is set in a Kafka-esque business in Lagos. The hero delivers or shreds documents that are all in a language he doesn’t know. Monkey-like faces stare at a worker from ventilations shafts. Are they a threat? Or just a reflection of him? Like so much of Thompson’s work, this is a different story every time you read it. Editor Chinelo Onwualu picked this as one of her favourites. From Omenana issue 2. Read an interview with Tade Thompson in 100 African Writers.
2014 ‘Story Story’ by Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria/UK)
Also from Omenana, issue 2, also picked by Chinelo Onwualu. Set in the modern day but written in an English heavily influenced by Igbo and by folk stories, this is about a woman making it in modern Nigeria. To unbridled joy among her readers, Chikodili was short listed for the Caine Prize this year for ‘Bush Baby’, a horror story in the anthology African Monsters edited by Margret Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas. Read an interview with Chikodili in 100 African Writers.
2014 ‘Montague’s Last’ by Ekari Mbvundula (Malawi)
This alternative history of technology was first published in Omenana, issue 3. Strange Horizons magazine asked Chinelo Onwualu which story from Omenana should be reprinted in their widely read Western magazine. The editor chose this one, making it one of the first stories in the current wave of African SFF to be published in Western media. Read an interview with Ekari in 100 African Writers.
2014 Ta O’Reva by Muthi Nhlema (Malawi)
The engineer/actor turned author may have been learning how to write as he wrote this, and the number of ideas may have slightly overwhelmed him, but this novella is still a gigantic achievement for a literature emerging almost unaided out of its own workshops and talent. Includes a race war in South Africa, Mandela clones being a commodity in the future, a version of Mandela coming back in time, and most bewildering the time traveller merging with time itself so Time becomes a conscious entity. This is an alternative history in which Nelson Mandela leaves the running of South Africa to someone else – and has a happy if forgotten life with Winnie. Nominated for a Nommo Award for best novella.
2015 ‘Where Pumpkin Leaves Dwell’ by Lilian Aujo (Uganda)
This story won the Jalada Prize, and didn’t it deserve it? Alongside Innocent Immaculate Acan, Frances Mwonge, and others, Lilian Aujo is one of a young generation of self-activating women writers from Uganda, who may have benefited from the empowerment offered by Femrite.
2015 ‘A Brief History of Non-Duality Studies’ by Sofia Samatar (Somalia/USA)
Sofia Samatar took an active role in working with the collective on the Afrofuture(s) anthology. This erudite story is a good example of her style. An interview about her award winning novel A Stranger in Olondria is available from 100 African Writers.
2015 ‘A Short History of Migration in Five Fragments of You’ by Wole Talabi (Nigeria/Malaysia)
From issue 3 of Omenana, a review of the history of the travels of black people through history, out to the stars.
2015 ‘The Cylinder’ by Nneoma Ike-Njoku (Nigeria)
I’m not sure the futurist elements are entirely necessary but this is a supple, strong-limbed story about everyday life in future times. Beautiful and concise, it comes in at under 1000 words. Published in Omenana issue X. Ike-Njoku has also published with Brittle Paper, Transition Magazine, The Kalahari Review, Ya Afriika, Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts, and Afrikana.ng.
2015 ‘Love and Prejudice’ by Amatesiro Dore (Nigeria)
Amatesiro is as well known for his mainstream fiction in venues like Brittle Paper, as he is for speculative fiction. Many young writers whatever their personal history are ardent progressives. Despite the conservative politics of some African countries, there are any number of collections of queer African fiction or poetry. This story, also from Omenana issue X, stands for that strain of bold writing, which includes Tuntufye Simwimba’s ‘Tiny Dots’ from Imagine Africa 500 (2015), Diriye Osman’s collection Fairytales for Lost Children and Dilman Dila’s ‘Two Weddings for Amoit’ (2016), long listed for the Gerald Kraak Award. Jim Chuchu has directed SFF short films but is best known for his beautifully photographed (by Abstract Omega) The Stories of Our Lives, an arthouse feature film telling intertwined stories of gay lives in Kenya. The crew went into hiding when it was released, and the producer went to jail. You can view the trailer here. You can read an interview with Tuntufye Simwimba here.
2015 ‘What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky’ by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria/USA)
This beautifully written piece of philosophical fiction is about an infinite equation that maps out the universe and appears to give people powers to fly or to heal. It was nominated for the 2016 Caine Prize and is still available online from the Caine Prize website, but may not be for long following the publication of Arimah’s collection of short stories. The same author was shortlisted again for the Caine in 2017 for a disturbing horror story about a baby woven from hair, ‘Who will Greet You at Home’, still available from The New Yorker.
2015 ‘The Lifebloom Gift’ by Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya)
Another speculative story nominated for the 2016 Caine Prize is about a man Ted Lifebloom who has a unique gift, a different way of thinking. You can share it if you find another person with the Lifebloom Gift – and press on a mole at the back of their knee for 30 seconds. Widely read as a kind of sprung metaphor for neurological difference.
2016 Language issue by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)
‘The Upright Revolution: or Why Humans Walk Upright’ or
Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ.
Africa’s greatest living author? It’s either him or Wole Soyinka. Soyinka is a great advocate for traditional religions. Wa Thiong’o is the great advocate of writing in local languages first and translating into English – on the grounds of clearing your mind, saving your culture, and of producing better prose. This piece of traditional belief speculation was chosen for the Jalada Translation Issue 01. It was first written in Gikuyu, translated into English by the author and then into 23 local African languages (that has now risen to some 50 languages worldwide). Visit the author’s own website.
2016 ‘Tribulations of Seducing a Night Runner’ by Richard Oduor Oduku (Kenya) or ‘Masira Mar Sero Jajuok’
Written first in Duluo, then translated by the author very literally, preserving repetitions and idioms. The result is a story written in particularly vibrant English – read aloud, it could strip paint. Does the narrator fall for a water spirit or not?
2016 ‘Sundown’ by Innocent Immaculate Acan (Uganda)
A magnificently imagined end-of-the-world story from this young Ugandan author. Published in the mainstream, online webzine Munyori, Nominated by the members of the African Speculative Fiction Society for the Nommo Award for Best Short Story.
2016 ‘Wednesday’s Story’ by Wole Talabi (Nigeria/Malaysia)
Provided online by Lightspeed Magazine, this experimental piece of traditional belief speculation in which the days of the week are made into entities who are ‘made of stories’. Wednesday tells us its version of the story of Solomon Grundy. Shortlisted for the 2017 Nommo Awards.
2016 ‘Ndakusuwa’ by Blaize Kaye (South Africa)
Succinct and heartfelt, this story about the human cost of interstellar travel was shortlisted for the Nommo Awards 2017.
2016 ‘The Facility’ by Ayodele Arigbabu (Nigeria)
In some ways a good companion story to Wole Talabi’s ‘The Regression Test’. A story about the singularity with at least two twists. This is science fiction without a trace of action adventure or wish fulfilment. The story was commissioned by the futurology NGO Nesta for its online publication, TheLong+TheShort. And it sees the futurology strain of African SFF come full circle.
2016 ‘Phoenix’ by Ayodele Olufintuade (Nigeria)
In the first issue of Luminous Worlds. Ayodele was the first African author I’d met who identified herself as being a science-fiction author full stop as a profession.
2106 ‘Virtual Snapshots’ by Tlotlo Tsamaase
I wouldn’t have known about this unusual story if someone hadn’t long-listed it for the Nommos. Written in a kind of futuristic English mixed with local idiom, it reminds me a bit of ‘The Machine Stops’ by E M Forster. In a future climate-damaged world, venturing outside machine maintenance and VR carries severe risks. Motherboard is fact/fiction website related to Vice.com, so I reckon that makes it a Canadian publication. Tloto describes herself as ethnic Motswana. In 2014 while an architecture student at the University of Botwsana, she won the Black Crake Award for her novel The Skies Fall. Some of her poetry has been published in Strange Horizons.
On the Borderline
People are less wedded to genre in Africa, so any collection of stories from a workshop or good online journal may well publish some speculative fiction. Here are some of the best online African webzines or literary blogs, or platforms in which African writers seem to take part.
Some key international magazines
The Writivism Festival is organised by the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) and is based in Uganda. The festival theme for August 2017 is Reinventing the Future. Writivism also administers Short Story and Non-Fiction Prizes.
Organizations and groups
Such lists as these are invariably incomplete and partial. I look forward to adding to it.