Category Archives: Editorial

Editorial

Better Late than Never

This edition of Omenana is late, over a month late.

It is our intention to publish a high-quality quarterly magazine, however, everything that could delay the production, did. It’s been a crazy four months, but we are happy that Omenana 7 is here now.

In the time between the last edition of Omenana and this one, we were reminded why it is of great importance to continue producing this magazine. Through it, we encourage more writers to look to the extensive materials we have on the continent called Africa for speculative fiction.

I was interviewed by a Nigerian newspaper not long ago and I used the opportunity to dwell on why we are doing this, and how far we intend to take it. You can read that interview here (Speculative fiction is the natural state of storytelling). I also published a science fiction piece titled Family Meeting on the fast-growing literature site, Brittle Paper.

This month, we are happy to introduce stories from new voices and established writers of the speculative on the continent. We hope their stories speak to you as they did us.Also, we are spotlighting Sunny Efemena, who illustrated this edition and has worked on other editions in the past.This edition of Omenana closes with an essay on African sci-fi and literature and its impact on technological advancement on the continent by my co-editor, Chinelo Onwualu.

Meanwhile, we are very happy to announce the start of a partnership with Okadabooks.com, an online publishing portal. All editions of Omenana will now be available on Okadabooks.com, where you can access and download various formats of the magazine. No fear, Omenana remains free, and will remain that way for as long as we can manage.

Enjoy,

Mazi Nwonwu

Editorial: Dreaming Ourselves Awake

I think it’s safe to say that 2016 has been a rough ride. In the space of a few months, we’ve lost a number of iconic entertainers from David Bowie, Alan Rickman, to Jab Adu that it feels like the ground is shifting beneath our feet. In concert with the growing impact of global climate change, a wildly unpredictable presidential election cycle in the United States and a cratering economy here in Nigeria, the world seems a deeply surreal place, and no one knows quite which way is up.

Like the year that birthed it, this edition can also be called surreal. Just like a Fulani warrior princess riding a leopard with a blaster in hand, its logic is dream-like; it is not afraid to throw together incongruous ideas and somehow keep them working. In fact, dreams make up the central premise of many of the stories in our edition, from the impossible dream of loving the wrong person to the idea that our dreams hold the key to our true selves – if only we would pay them more attention.

Our edition is special in many other ways as well. This is the first edition where we will pay our contributors – making us one of the few African literary magazines that do this. We want to thank the Goethe Institut, whose grant last year helped make this possible. However, the funds can only go so far and we will be running a crowd-fund drive before our next edition to try and raise funds for the rest of the year. We do hope you’ll give what you can to help keep this crazy project alive.  This was also the first edition where we got the help of volunteers to help us sort through the slush pile. A big thank you goes out to University of Manchester students, Dr Jan Cabral-Jackson and Shaun Carter – and Geoffrey Ryman for hooking us all up.

It has been a confusing year so far and, as we always have, we turn to stories to help us make sense of it all. Like Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So” tales which gave us fanciful explanations for why the leopard has spots or why the hippopotamus’ skin is so wrinkly, speculative fiction may not have the answers, but they’re fun enough to get us thinking.

Let’s all stay strong.

Chinelo Onwualu

15 March 2016

Why ‘African’ fiction needs to come of age sooner than later

A few days ago, while reading Joe Benitez’s ‘Lady Mechanika’ I was hit by an acute sense of displacement. In a scene set in the Sahara Desert, Mr Benitez had women dressed in the clothing of the desert nomads speaking Yoruba. Nothing in Mr Benitez’s story suggests that the Yoruba speakers are not native to their desert setting, yet they are speaking a language that originates nearly four thousand miles to the south. To understand the displacement I felt, imagine if you were reading a story set in Alaska, but instead of the natives speaking a form of Inuit, they are speaking a bastardised version of Maya, or some other South American indigenous language. Given the setting, a more northern language like Hausa or Berber would have been a safer bet, and had anyone involved in the creation of that story bothered to do any form of rudimentary research, they would have known this.

Joe Benitez’s gaffe is lightweight compared to the treatment Africa has received in speculative fiction as a whole. Recall what always happened in the TV series “Heroes” when a character needed to visit Africa? The vision of the whole continent, 56 countries, over a thousand languages and cultures as diverse and colourful as can be, was usually reduced to a shrubland somewhere in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. And the token African character appeared to have no home and passes his time creating “prophetic” art on rock faces. In all, the world of speculative fiction has largely failed to accurately portray the continent of Africa and, just like Hollywood, it seems to see no need to try.

This is why Africans need to tell their own stories, as this is the best way to own the narrative about Africa and to capture the changing face of the continent. And in this edition we are happy to showcase African stories that remind us of the tales our mothers told us. These stories revive aspects of our culture and belief systems that we thought lost, showing us how they still feature prominently in our urban lore.

Mayowa Koleosho mines the rich vein of Yoruba mythology for his beautifully told tale of two brothers whose relationship is transformed forever in  “Ara and Monamona”. Adanze Asante’s “The Journey” is also a classic tale of transformation; a throwback to those days when people possessed the ability to change from man to animal and back. Pemi Aguda takes this ability to the cityscape of modern Lagos and masterfully retells it. Suyi Davies pushes the theme in a Lagos of the future even more immersed in the digital landscape than we are now in “Breaking The Habit”, and  in “Maki” by Edwin Okolo, transformation travels in its own lane and goes beyond possibilities of the human. And if we ask the question of what is left behind after the change? “Horror in the Bush” by Mandisi Nkomo has the answer, and what an answer it is!

We are grateful for the opportunity to provide a home for these stories because until recently it was hard getting any form of genre fiction published in the few litmags available. Though elements of the speculative were heavy in many books being published here, no one wanted to class their “serious fiction” as “genre”. Nigeria, for example, is a country where literary fiction wields a tight-fisted supremacy over all other forms of literature. But the opportunities offered by Omenana, and other Afrocentric genre magazines using the digital landscape, are gradually transforming a literary society that once sneered at genre fiction.

In all, this promises to be a hallmark edition. It is our fourth edition and final regular edition for the year. We will produce a special flash fiction edition that will berth by November 2015. The project is in partnership with the Goethe Institut for a display at the African Future_Lagos exhibit which will take place from 28th October – 1st November 2015, in Lagos. This edition will also mark the first time we will be able pay our contributors – something we hope to continue in the future.

Hey, almost forgot that we will be at the Ake Arts and Books Festival in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, from the 17th to the 21st of November 2015. Check out more info about the festival here. I will be talking about speculative fiction and all things writing. I will also be moderating a panel discussion called, “Africa Magic: The Rise of Speculative Fiction”, at the festival. Since we will be talking about elements of the genre in African literature and what differences are emerging in speculative fiction between Africa and the rest of the world, among other things, I expect it willbe an opportunity to further the cause of speculative fiction in the continent.

It’s been a wild ride and we thank you all for discovering us and spreading the word.

Mazi Nwonwu

M

Editorial

First of all, we would like to sincerely apologise for the lateness of this edition. We had hoped to have it out by the end of May, but it turned out to be a month of transition, movement and change.

Funny enough, those themes have carried over to the four stories presented in this edition. Each one tells a tale about moving from one state to another – be it from cruelty to remorse, from earth to space or even from the non-human to the human – and not always successfully.

This month, I was fortunate to attend WisCon 2015, the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention in Madison, Wisconsin in the US. It was an eye-opening event full of amazing people with incredibly thoughtful insights into the rapidly-changing genre of speculative fiction. Because, like our stories this month, the genre itself is in the midst of a rather fundamental transformation.

More and more, the future of storytelling is moving away from the established centres of power in West, away from the straight white and male voices that once dominated it. This has caused a great deal of anxiety – and anger – among groups of people who are scared that they are losing their hold on power. In reaction, they’ve started a backlash that threatens to take out some of the genre’s most valuable voices and institutions. I won’t go into it here, but look up: “Sad/Rabid Puppies and Science Fiction” and you’ll see what I mean.

Though these groups often claim to stand for the literary integrity of the genre, scratch the surface and it’s not hard to understand the true source of their vitriol. I mean, one of their most outspoken voices has gone on the record calling black people “savages” and launched sustained racist attacks on writers of colour within the genre.

Thankfully, Omenana stands at the forefront of some of the changes to the genre. By bringing the voices of the African continent into the genre, we are helping to shift the tide even faster than before. You see for much of the history of speculative fiction, Africa was an exotic backdrop for Western stories to play out. Either it was a place of mystery and adventure for intrepid whites, or it was a place of refuge for people of the African Diaspora who longed for somewhere to belong. Rarely was it a place filled with its own people, languages, politics and unique worldviews.

As part of our determination to let African stories speak for themselves, we’ve included a questionnaire put together by students of Maria Barraza’s world literature class at Simon Fraser University in Canada. The class included a reading of AfroSF, the first anthology of African science fiction stories, in their program and students crafted their questions after going through the collection. The authors’ answers are thoughtful, testy and darkly satirical. I highly recommend reading them.

The bottom line is that we are convinced that bringing our African speculative fiction to the world’s attention is more than just telling good stories. It is about bringing a whole new way of looking at things to a genre that has always been about looking askance at the world. Unfortunately, this is time-consuming work and despite our best intentions, we have been unable to meet the schedule for a monthly magazine. Therefore, we will be transitioning to a tri-monthly magazine starting from this edition.

This will mean our next submissions cycle will open in July and our next edition will be available August 31st. We’re very sorry for any inconvenience or disappointment this may cause. We hope that as we grow as a magazine, and gain more staff and resources, this will change. In the meantime, the digital editions of Omenana are now available for free at Okada Books.

Happy reading!

Chinelo Onwualu

Omenana Magazine