Writing Speculative Fiction as an African
I’m busy writing—or, more accurately, editing — the speculative fiction novel I want to read. But I somehow can’t write this story without thinking about its future publication and readers. For me, writing a story that takes place so far into the future can be scary, and this is why:
The expectation the world has put on writers from my part of the world (I live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to represent Africa in our writing can sometimes make some of us feel as if our stories won’t be seen as "authentic."
This sentiment comes at the expense of our wild imaginations. But a story is only as authentic as the storyteller. For example, the physical characteristics of most characters in my work-in-progress are the result of five centuries of mass migrations and miscegenation. In the world that I built, natural disasters have run their course, and wars and political conflicts are still a thing, but I wanted people to need each other to survive, so I removed the biggest prejudice of our time—race.
But don’t get me wrong! People still judge each other based on their looks (at least in Book 1) because there is no way humans will lose all concept of beauty and sex appeal a thousand years from now. To make things easier for myself, I wrote the world as I know it (being diverse) but the humanly “evolved” version.
I went from the idea that if people today aren’t as different from those from past millennia in nature and ideologies as one would have hoped, then in a thousand years we would still have the same ideas of class, relationships, societal norms, and so forth. I'm an artist first and foremost before I'm an African. This helps me reclaim my creative freedom and vision. As writer Taiye Selasi once put it,
“Why must writers from Africa always bear the burden of representing their continent? They should be granted artistic freedom, as other authors are.” (The Guardian, 2015)
When I edit my manuscript, I try to ignore those absurd expectations placed on Africans, although there’s this short story I consider the prequel to the entire series, in which I'm being slightly political as an ode to my country by mentioning war and alluding to the illegal exploitation of the precious mineral of our real-life Wakanda called Coltan by the powers that be. Readers who don’t care would barely notice this feature, since the story is overall SFF with a deep dive into the main character’s mind in what might also be read as literary fiction.
If you want to read this 4900-word story, which I initially wrote for a well-known writing contest called Imagine 2200 by Fix last year (and didn’t win), you need to be subscribed to my email list and you’ll get it in e-book format in your inbox. But for the curious, here’s the blurb plus a short excerpt:
First, the blurb:
Over five centuries, the world regressed with the cessation of all technological advancements to save the planet from the effects of climate change, forcing nearly half of the world’s population to flee their homelands. The world is regrouped into 3 main nations: Norstan, Southverde, and the Aboriginal Nations. The nationless are forced to migrate due to the harsh conditions and will die unless they’re taken in by the inners. Two strangers can save the masses, but there’s a catch.
And now, the excerpt:
Sex is good but getting under a hot blanket when the weather of New Antarctica decides to put society in hibernation is better. The weather sucks but having my nose in a book helps me get over it for a moment. Plus, my older sister Maureen just got back from her trip, and she’s brought an array of concoctions so the family can survive the cold. After each snowstorm, a cold epidemic is a surprise to nobody; we’re sort of used to it at this time of the year. Only this year, the construction of the new Frozen Clusters TM for the growing homeless population has been crippled.
The entire country is on high alert and being responsible for a massive construction project never seemed like a doom call for my family until today. All Southverdian citizens of New Antarctica count on my family’s company to finish building before it’s too late to save the settlers who came from the deserted islands. Our northern counterparts would laugh aloud if they knew my family was currently in our heating cribs sneezing and shivering because we’ve prided ourselves in living in perfectly heated homes. My mother likes to say our heating cribs are the best furniture for ‘high-end igloos’. But technology can’t solve all our problems.
Grandpa’s trust fund is the only thing keeping us from going bankrupt, whereas, if we lived in Norstan, Kruger Corp would have been taken over by the government already.
“I still can’t believe in 3025 our super elitist government hasn’t found a vaccine for neither the cold, nor cancer, yet they want Kruger Corp to tell them the sky’s the limit, even though our lungs are falling apart,” my dad complains in his croaky voice.
Poor guy. “You’re right, Dad,” Maureen says from the kitchen. “If this keeps happening while no one else has mastered the art of mining, smearing, and framing Grey Crystal TM, we might have yet another civil war after barely surviving the first one three years ago.”
None of us dares to add to that statement. We are all afraid of the war. I flip to the next page of my book, ‘The Fall of Markkaa and the Second Infantry of the Terranovar Navy’, thinking about when Maureen wrote us a note after she went to visit my brother-in-law saying he’d started working in the northern united nation of Norstan, and decided to settle there. We all knew what that meant. Maureen, the firstborn, and my favorite sibling would leave us for good. Devotion is something Maureen and her husband, Milo, have in common. He’s a social worker and she’s a nurse. They are both strong, and I will miss them.
In the kitchen, utensils make a rumbling noise; Maureen is busy preparing her killer juice. A smirk of anticipation distorts my lips as I keep reading. Dad blows his nose so loud his brain could come out of it. “I’m so sick and tired; both physically and emotionally. I think I might need someone to replace me at the upcoming summit,” he says, swaddling himself with three blankets on top of his furry nightgown.
Dad likes to overdo it sometimes. “Well, at least we know who’s doing the real work, and it’s not the politicians.” I turn around and look at my mother, wondering what she means by that.
Mom and Maureen walk out of the kitchen already sipping the foul-smelling juice. Kruger Corp Engineering has been the most successful and most trusted geo-design and construction company in the southern hemisphere for two generations. We invented the technology used to mine Grey Crystal TM, a mineral formed through chemical reactions between ice and biomass from the Antarctic ocean floor, with the particularity of incredible insulation properties and the highest melting point of all the elements known to humans.
I love teaching about this technology in my history class where my students love learning about how global warming melted the south poles’ glaciers, a little after the tectonic plates’ movement caused the Antarctic continent to move toward Cape Horn in South America, closing Drake’s Passage. Grey Crystal TM was then discovered by Grandpa during one of his expeditions in the deep crack the migration of the giant iceberg left in the earth’s crust. We finally had a substitute for concrete and a tool to protect people from the sun’s devastating UV rays.
Although millions of children, people with albinism, and the elderly had already died from skin cancers because of extended exposure and insufficient protection from the sun, Grandpa’s discovery started the new residential construction revolution. After the Great Drought began eighty years ago in Central America, Africa, and quickly spread to Asia and Australia, many people ended up losing their lands and were forced to abandon their homes.
Scientists united to raise funds and talent globally to build giant magnetic domes around the Amazon and the Congo basins, because studies had shown that both forests provided a natural breathing pod for life on Earth. But moving to the rainforest meant that much of the wildlife would be displaced to allow humans to build cities, so the Aboriginal residents of both regions broke all political ties with the United Nations, cutting off the rest of the world and threatening to kill whoever would touch the trees or the animals. They also proclaimed themselves Aboriginal Nations (AN) and vowed to protect the wildlife and minimize their carbon footprint.
I was born when all the people who were losing their homes had to move either to Norstan, the northern united nation, or to Southverde, the southern united nation, in 2998. I was twenty-two years old when Grandpa passed away two years before the brink of the civil war, but thanks to his technology and the cities he started developing in New Antarctica, people who can’t go anywhere else in the world can hope to snatch free accommodation in our various housing projects. The only thing that keeps people from making it down south is the huge amount of travel hurdles they’ll have to endure to get here…
Thanks for reading! With that said, if you’d like to read the rest, simply head to mail.theppsclub.co and subscribe!