Some people think literature means anything that’s written. Some people think it’s writing that’s good or truthful. Other people try to define literature as a set of reader expectations.

For me, literature is a social process.

Literature is a social process that makes aesthetic judgements and facilitates the production and consumption of writing. Everybody says what they like and that defines what is ‘good’.

Writers are crucial sure, but so are readers, editors, critics, bloggers, fans, agents, publishers – most of them take more than one role.

This anthology traces is about the social process that created African speculative fiction.

Yes, there has always been imaginative storytelling in Africa.

But a defined series of genres that help shape writing? Venues where readers could find the stuff? Where SFF writers could get published and (sometimes) even paid? Awards specifically for speculative fiction by Africans?

No. Not until recently.

Things really took off about 2012. The earliest flickerings were about 2003 – though deep deep roots go back to earlier fantastic writing, and all the way into millennia of African culture.

This is a collection of damn good stories – plus a complete comic and an excerpt from a film script.

They tell tales about how South Africans will market themselves in the future. About how fire came to Uganda. About how two lonely women in the far future can each be writing a novel, one about the other. About how ancient West Africans wrote about the stars. About how superheroes are always political. About how people will in the future mourn their dead.

But each of the 21 stories is also a moment in history, part of the process. It stands for itself. It also stands for other similar stories, or writers who came with them in waves. They stand for the editors who founded venues that gave that story a home.

This is about how African speculative fiction gave birth to itself.

A year-by-year historical review will help tell that story and an Endnote will speculate about how the process may have worked.

Most of the 21 are available only in print. We want to make this fiction available to young Africans where they live – on their smartphones or tablets.

The Manchester Review is based at a university and we know it’s important for students and readers to access work electronically. This anthology will be a resource for seminars, workshops and courses on fiction or specifically African SFF.

The publishers asked that we didn’t include stories already online for free. That worked against younger, frequently female writers. That meant some of the most influential online journals – Omenana or Jalada – could not be represented.

So we end with links to a further 21 stories that are available only online and for free. 21 Today and then 21 Tomorrow.

Prepare to be amazed by, to be challenged by, maybe even to fall in love with African speculative fiction.

21 Today: The Rise of African Speculative Fiction

Part One: Lift Off
‘Branded’ (2003) by Lauren Beukes (South Africa)
‘Warp’ (2004) by Ayodele Arigbabu (Nigeria)
‘Eden’s Burning’ (2008) by Doreen Baingana (Uganda)
‘Doppelgänger’ (2008) by Peter Kalu (Nigeria/UK)

Part Two: Publishing Venues, Workshops and Awards
‘Please Feed Motion’ (2011) by Irenosen Okojie (Nigeria/UK)
‘How Nnedi got Her Curved Spine’ (2012) by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/USA)
‘The Writing in the Stars’ (2015) by Jonathan Dotse (Ghana)
‘Mother’s Love’ (2015) by Dayo Ntwari (Nigeria/Rwanda)

Part Three: Superheroes: Gods and Politics
The Last Pantheon (2015) by Nick Wood and Tade Thompson (Nigeria, South Africa, UK) parts 1, 2, and 3.
Khamzila’s Adventure – graphic novel (2016) by Ziphosakhe Hlobo and Lena Posch, art by Ethnique Nicole Leonards, with afterword by Monde Sitole (South Africa)

Part Four: South African Conundrums
‘Stations’ (2015) by Nick Mulgrew (South Africa)
‘Shame’ (2014) by Nerine Dorman (South Africa)

Part Five: Nairobi Beatniks
‘No Kissing the Dolls Unless Jimi Hendrix is Playing’ (2014) by Clifton Gachagua (Kenya)
‘Elephants Chained to Big Kennels’ (2012) by Mehul Gohil (Kenya)

Part Six: Living in an African Future
‘Sahara’ (2016) by Shadreck Chikoti (Malawi)
‘Land of Light’ (2015) by Stephen Embleton (South Africa)
‘Women are from Venus’ (2015) by Tiseke Chilima (Malawi)
‘One Wit’ This Place’ (2015) by Muthi Nhlema (Malawi)
‘Her Broken Shadow’ (2016) excerpt from shooting script, written and directed by Dilman Dila (Uganda)

Part Seven: Should I stay or should I go? Publishing internationally
‘The Regression Test’ (2017) by Wole Talabi (Nigeria/Malaysia)
‘Herbert Anoda Kudzoka Kumusha/Herbert Wants to Return Home’ (2017) by Masimba Musodza (Zimbabwe/UK)
Bonus new story: ‘The Old Man with The Third Hand’ (2017) by Kofi Nyameye (Ghana)

21 Tomorrow: Key stories available online
A list of links to 21 published in online publications and available for free. With links to online African SFF magazines and SFF- friendly online magazines.

21 Today: ‘The Rise of African Speculative Fiction year by year,’ by Geoff Ryman

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