African SFF 2018 by Geoff Ryman

Geoff Ryman (2018) by Bill Clemente

Calendar year 2018 was dominated by the over­whelming success of the movie Black Panther, which drew a whole new audience to cinemas in cit­ies like Nairobi and Lagos. It inspired a sugar-rush of love, a hastily retitled Nol­lywood rip off, and a small mini-backlash from those who rewrote Wakanda’s history to make it more credibly African. Elsewhere in film, the Nigerian short Hello Rain, adapted by CJ Obasi from a Nnedi Okorafor story, made a stir at international festivals such as the London Film Festival.

Not so much happened with novels. An American publisher gave us Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a YA novel that was taken up by Ouida Books in Nigeria. Crown of Thunder, the second volume of Tochi Onyebuchi’s series, ap­peared just in time to complement his win of the Ilube Nommo Award for Beasts Made of Night (2017). In South Africa, fantasy and surrealism from black writers contin­ued to gain prominence in the form of Jah Hills, a slipstream novel by Unathi Slasha. Imraan Coovadia’s long-awaited A Spy in Time finally appeared. The final novella in the Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor also came out this year.

It was a good year for single-author collections, something that has been relatively rare for African speculative writers (exceptions being Helen Oyeyemi, Dilman Dila, and Ayodele Arigbabu). From South Africa came the collection Intruders by Mohale Mashigo. Mame Bougouma Diene’s Dark Moons Rising on a Starless Night explored a more horror-influenced strand of African fiction. A literary writer not much known outside of Nigeria, TJ Benson had a new SFF collection We Won’t Fade into Darkness appear from Nigerian publisher Paressia. Award-winning Lesley Nneka Arimah’s collection What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky included the title story and “Who Will Greet You at Home?”.

Right at the tail end of 2018, the third volume of the AfroSF series edited by Ivor Hartmann included new stories by such regulars as T.L. Huchu, Mazi Nwonwu, Wole Talabi, Mandisi Nkomo, Dilman Dila, and Mame Bougouma Diene.

Omenana produced two issues in 2018, providing great fiction from Mirette Bahgat, Osahon Ize-Iyamu, Tiah Marie Beauti­ment, H.J. Golaki, Blaize Kaye, Tariro Ndoro, Ray Mwihaki, Derek Lubangakene, and Reimy Divingu.

It was a good year for Africans selling short stories to Western outlets. Dare Segun Falowo had stories in F&SF and The Dark. Osahon Ize-Iyamu appeared twice in Clarkesworld, Robot Dinosaurs, and Fiyah, Wole Talabi in F&SF, Innocent Chizaram Ilo in Strange Horizons. Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald appeared in Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Tlotlo Tsamaase appeared in Apex, and Dilman Dila was published in The New Orleans Review.

Walter Dinjos, a young creative writer and editor, had stories appear in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Future Science Fic­tion Digest. This last was published in December 2018, sadly posthumously. This young, respected writer had also founded Sub-Sahara, an online SFF magazine based in Nigeria.

Fantastic fiction did well in the mainstream Awards. The Caine Prize nominations included a slipstream story by Wole Talabi, “Wednesday’s Story”, which won the related Caine Reader Prize. Wole also won the Nommo for last year’s “The Regression Test”. Stacy Hardy’s “Involution” was short-listed for the Caine and went on to win the Writivism Award. The Caine Prize An­thology for this year included speculative fiction from Dil­man Dila, Awuor Onyango, and Eloghosa Osunde.

Reynaldo Anderson took to the road in Africa, discussing what Afrofuturism might now mean and where it could go next. Nearly every literary festival seemed to make men­tion of comics and SFF. The Ake Festival hosted the second Nommo Awards for speculative fiction by Africans. The nominees for work published in 2017 are listed on the African Speculative Fiction Society’s website at <>.

This and more like it in the February 2019 issue of Locus.

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