Pat Rothfuss on WHO FEARS DEATH

Gotta love Pat. :-) Read his blog post here

In other news, I just got an email from one of my top literary idols, Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o (he wrote my favorite book of all time, Wizard of the Crow, also Petals of Blood, Devil on the Cross, etc...he rocks so hard). Anytime I hear from him, I get all fidgety. I still haven't read his email. Gimme an hour. :-)

The Tigritude of a Story, by Nnedi Okorafor

this essay was originally posted here.

My mother, my sister Ifeoma and my brother Emezie flew with my father's body back to Nigeria for his burial. When they returned, I learned through my siblings about the way widows were treated within Igbo custom, even the ones with PhDs...like my mother. I was again infuriated. And I was reminded yet again of why I was a feminist.

A year later, I went to Nigeria for the one-year memorial where I met my cousin Chinyere's fiancé Chidi. His last name was Onyesonwu. I was intrigued. I knew "onye" meant "who" and "onwu" meant death. I wondered if it was an ogbanje name (these names often have the word "death" in them). I'd always been interested in the concept of the ogbanje. Amongst the Igbos, back in the day, girls who were believed to be ogbanjes were often circumcised (a.k.a. genital mutilated) as a way to cure their evil ogbanje tendencies.

I asked my cousin's fiancé what his name meant (I thought it would be rude to ask if it was an ogbanje name. Plus it was his last name, not his first.). He said it meant, "Who fears death." That night, I changed my character's name and the title of the story. When I did that, it was as if the novel snapped into focus.

During that trip, I touched my father's grave. I heard stories about the Biafran War and arguments about how what happened during this civil war was indeed the genocide of the Igbo people. I saw death on the highway and thanked the Powers That Be that my daughter (who was some months over one year old) was asleep. I got to watch the women in my father's village sing all night in remembrance of my father. My maternal grandmother, mother, daughter and I were all in the same room at the same time—four generations. My sister Ngozi and I visited the lagoon that seemed so huge when we were kids but was really quite small. It was populated by hundreds and hundreds of colorful butterflies.

I wrote, conceived and incubated parts of Who Fears Death while in my father's village, sometimes scribbling notes while sitting in the shade on the steps outside or by flashlight when the lights went out. I wrote notes on the plane ride home, too. When I think back to those times, I was in such a strange state of mind. My default demeanor is happy. I think during those times I was as close to sad as I could get.

When I got back to the States, I kept right on writing. Who Fears Death was a tidal wave and hurricane combined. It consumed all of my creativity and sucked in all the issues I was dealing with and dwelling on. It mixed with my rage and grief and my natural furious optimism. Yet when it came to writing the story, I was more the recorder than the writer. I never knew what was going to happen until my character told me and my hands typed it. When I finished Who Fears Death, it was seven hundred pages long. A Book 1 and a Book 2. Don Maass (my agent) felt this size was too great and suggested that I pare it down. This process took me another two years.

One of my favorite quotes is from one of my greatest idols, Nigeria's great writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka: "A tiger does not proclaim its tigritude. It pounces." This tiger of a story definitely pounced on me without proclamation or warning. I'm glad I was ready for it.

Okorafor profiled in Publishers Weekly

A Nigerian Sorceress Makes Her Way
By Mikki Kendall -- Publishers Weekly, 4/12/2010 12:00:00 AM

Nnedi Okorafor’s gentle demeanor is so disarming that it’s impossible not to relax in her company. The Chicago State University professor has a sweet smile, three graduate degrees, numerous awards and prize nominations for her writing, and a razor-sharp mind that is changing the face of speculative fiction. The latter soon becomes apparent when the discussion turns to genocide, rape, female circumcision, fantasy, and Nigerian culture.

Born in the U.S. to Nigerian immigrants, Okorafor, 36, grew up in the same suburb of Chicago where she now resides with her own daughter. As a child, she was mostly interested in sports and the sciences, dreaming of becoming an entomologist, but she was always fond of reading, and by age 12, she found her mind had been “corrupted by genius white male storytellers” like Stephen King and Clive Barker. “I was working my way through the library reading whatever caught my eye,” Okorafor recalls fondly. “I read a lot of books that I definitely had no business reading at that age.” A writing class in college sparked her creativity and while obtaining an M.A. in journalism and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English, Okorafor began to write the stories she always wanted to read.

Okorafor’s books feature the cultural and social touchstones of her youth: Nigeria, strong girls and women, and the strange, beautiful lives of plants and insects. The YA novel Zahrah the Windseeker (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), which won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, is a classic magical quest set in a world in which Earth is a legend and everything from clothing to computers grows from seeds. In the Parallax Award–winning The Shadow Speaker, her second YA, a Muslim teen in West Africa must avert interplanetary war.

Okorafor’s first adult novel, Who Fears Death, which will be published in June by DAW Books, combines science fiction and fantasy in the story of Onyesonwu, a young sorceress making her way in a postapocalyptic future Saharan Africa where men use rape as a tool to eradicate a culture on the genetic level. “Who Fears Death addresses the push and pull in African culture that powerful women face when their culture has certain duties and beliefs that can stifle them,” Okorafor says.

As she channels the past, present, and future into one complex tale, Okorafor walks a fine line between sincere respect and unstinting examination of tradition: mixing futuristic technology with magic rooted in the beliefs of Nigerian, Tanzanian, and other African cultures, exploring why many women willingly practice female circumcision and see it as a necessary rite of passage even as others find it horrific.

These somber themes seem a drastic departure from her previous work, but Okorafor refuses to gloss over the realities on which she builds her fiction. “What initially brought me Onyesonwu’s character,” she explains, “was reading a Washington Post news story: ' “We Want to Make a Light Baby”: Arab Militiamen in Sudan Said to Use Rape as Weapon of Ethnic Cleansing.’ I wondered what these children would be like, what would their struggles be, how would they survive, who would they grow up to be. And that’s when Onyesonwu came to me to tell her story.” Okorafor adds, “I am not trying to be shocking or exceedingly graphic. Onyesonwu’s story was told to me in just this way and she is not one to tell lies, embellish, or mince words.”

Okorafor’s upcoming projects include a YA novel that Penguin will publish in 2011, Akata Witch, with a focus on the tension between African-Americans and Africans as well as “deep, deep Nigerian witchcraft”; two screenplays in collaboration with award-winning Nigerian film director Tchidi Chikere; and a science fiction novella set in Nigeria. She also has plans for another adult novel. “I’ll know what that one is about when I start writing it,” Okorafor says. “When it comes, it’ll come like a tidal wave.”


Author Information
Mikki Kendall is an occasional adult and constant writer.

yeah, yeah

yeah, i suck. haven't been updating this page but with facebook, myspace and twitter...it's a lot! not ot mention the 3 novels i'm working on. i'll try to do better here in the future...maybe. heh.
nnedi
  • Current Mood
    blah blah

No SF or F for the Penguin Prize for African Writing? What?!

 

Ok, I’ve got a serious gripe. 

Penguin recently announced an award for African writers called The Penguin Prize for African Writing

"Through this award Penguin aims to highlight the diverse writing talent on the African continent and make new African fiction and non-fiction available to a wider readership."

"Novels of freshness and originality that represent the finest examples of contemporary fiction out of Africa will be considered."

Yet, there is this stipulation: "Submissions in the children’s literature, science fiction or fantasy genres will not be considered"

My first reaction: No science fiction or fantasy genres? WTF?! Well, why the heck not?!

My second reaction: So…just how many Africans are even WRITING fiction directly, openly categorized as “science fiction” and “fantasy”? Sooooo many that this has to be said?

My third reaction: Would novels like Famished Road, Icarus Girl, or Wizard of the Crow be rejected?

My fourth reaction: A prize with this kind of stipulation is openly disrespecting science fiction and fantasy as literature. Good Lord, I felt like I was back in my PhD program again.

My fifth reaction: This will do wonders in inspiring African writers to write science fiction and fantasy (I’m being sarcastic).

My sixth reaction: Well, the judges for the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature were open-minded enough to choose my fantasy novelZahrah the Windseeker. So, :-P!

Ok, my sixth reaction was me being a bit of an a**. Sort of. There’s a bit of truth there, too. Science fiction and fantasy ARE literature. It’s reductive and blind to think otherwise. 

If I sound like I have a real chip on my shoulder with this issue, I certainly do. Long long story, and a long long history with this issue.

I doubt I’ll submit to this prize, but only because my forthcoming novel will be published by Penguin and, well, I think this prize would better benefit someone whose just coming up. I’m happy that the prize exists. It sounds wonderful otherwise. 

If I were submitting, I’ve got a “magical realist” novel that I would send, sure. But it’s unfortunate that if I wanted, I couldn’t send my fantasy novel titled the Legend of Arro-yo which is set in 1929’s Southeast Nigeria, touches on the Igbo Women’s War, deals with female circumcision, and colonialism.

More on my take on SF and Africa in the next few weeks. I’m going to
write something Nebula Awards Blog. I've just got to cool down and gather my thoughts.

Nnedi http://x.myspacecdn.com/images/blog/moods/iBrads/indescribable.gif

 

 

From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7

Just wanted to let you know that my short story, From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7, has just been published by Clarkesworld Magazine. Read it online here.

This story is closely linked to the world of Zahrah the Windseeker...in an odd way. It's about a woman in pursuit of something strange.

There will also be an audio version of it available later this evening.

Sorry for the cross-posting. :-)

¨°º¤ø„¸ ¸„ø¤º°¨¸„ø¤º°¨
¨°º¤ø„¸ Nnedi Okorafor ¸„ø¤º°¨
¸„ø¤º°¨
nnedi.com..°º¤ø„¸
¸„ø¤º°¨¸„ø¤º°¨¨°º¤ø„¸¨°º¤

Sold my latest short story. :-)

FYI-I just learned that my latest science fiction short story, From The Lost Diary of Treefrog7, has been accepted into Clarkesworld. :-D!

This story is easily one of my weirdest stories yet. I almost didn’t finish writing it because I felt it was so out there. Thanks to the encouragement and critiques of a few writer friends I continued on.

It's also a story that is oddly linked to my first novel
Zahrah the Windseeker.

I’ll keep you posted about when From The Lost Diary of Treefrog7 will be available.
Nnedi

A Muslim feminist response to The Shadow Speaker

This was a thought-provoking article on my novel The Shadow Speaker from a Muslim feminist website called Muslimah Media Watch.


“The Shadow Speaker” features Muslim protagonist of 2070

Who says young adult fiction about Muslim girls can only be contemporary or historical? Nnedi Okorafor’s 2007 novel shows that Muslim teen lit can venture into the realm of the future. Young adult novel The Shadow Speaker explores science fiction and fantasy with a story that plays out in a futuristic, magical universe with worlds beyond Earth. It does so starring a Muslim protagonist, 14- to 15-year-old Ejii Ugabe.

In Ejji’s world, it is 2070. And instead of a futuristic Britain or America, Ejii lives in Niger. She is black, but this is not a “race novel.” English is but one of the many languages she speaks, which include the more useful Hausa and Arabic. Ejii lives in a world post-”Peace Bomb.” Nuclear war led to the release of these bombs, which aimed to spread peace by causing mutations in the human population. (The goal to make people so different they wouldn’t be able to unite against each other.)

What the bombs did was release magic into the world. This is a world of desert magicians, screaming storms that intend to kill lone travelers, and talking camels. And Ejii, as a “shadow speaker,” has a special talent: She can tap into the thoughts of feelings of anything or anyone, from plants to murderous chiefs...

http://muslimahmediawatch.org/2009/02/10/the-shadow-speaker-features-muslim-protagonist-of-2070/