Abaddon, a SF Poem

Poetry

Earlier this week, the Winter 2019 issue of Illumen magazine was published and made available for purchase. In this issue is my first poetry sale (!). The poem in question is titled Abaddon. My poem is published alongside fellow writer and poet, Jasmine Arch, who is also a friend and in my critique group, INK-ubator.

Illumen is a SFF poetry magazine published by Alban Lake Publishing, an indie publishing company.

Back to the poem. What is it about, why the title, and why would you read it?

Abaddon explores the final moments before a star implodes and a human on the planet orbiting it, one of those few who have survived until that point, before inevitable demise. Along with her are the last of the plant life, slowly withering. They only have a few minutes and it’s spent in silent reflection.

The poem was the result of poetry challenge given by Damian Jay Clay, a friend and fellow member of INK-ubator. His challenge was to decide on a consonant and find 50 words ending on the same phonetic letter. With those words, construct a poem where each line ends on one of the words, never repeating. And as an extra challenge, prevent any lines from rhyming. I chose the letter “N” as phonetic in “sun”. And “abaddon”. The title needed to be the same as the last words of the lines.

So why “Abaddon“? It means “destroyer” and I found it fitting to write about. What’s more destructive than a star? And the dichotomy of its nature was what made the concept of a dying star more tantalising. The idea struck from inspiration due to Unleash The Archers‘ song titled Time Stands Still, specifically the chorus. Further influence for the poem came from the character Abaddon the Despoiler from Warhammer 40k and his Black Crusades (which I find relevant to today’s socio-political climate, though the poem is removed from this).

What to know more? The issue can be found right here: Illumen Winter 2019 print and Illumen Winter 2019 ebook.

But why should you check it out? Hey, I’m not going to tell you why you should or should not, I’m highly in favour of leaving decisions to the individual to make. Though, I will make an argument for it. Illumen is indie backed, and Alban Lake does a lot for emerging writers and established authors in a market otherwise difficult to break into. Illumen is also focused on the SFF in poetry, which is relatively new and as yet has little support on the overall. Not to mention the importance and significance of speculative fiction in our history and our future, which your support will help keep relevant and thriving. Your support would also support me, as well as other writers in SFF.


Image created with Canva

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Types of Science Fiction: An Overview of the Literary Genre

Articles

From 1818 with the publishing of the first modern science fiction novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, science fiction (SF) as a literary genre has blossomed and captured the imagination of readers. SF flourished during the 50’s to 70’s, branching into various sub-genres. In the 2010’s, approaching the 2020’s, SF has seen as boost in reader and writer interest once again.

As we step into a new era of science fiction, let’s have a look at the established sub-genres and those starting to develop in their own niches.

The Sub-Genres

I will not name all the sub-genres as there are many, and several overlap with those I’ll be looking into as well. In this list, you may find you know many of these sub-genres and discover new ones to escape into. I will also include examples of literary works in each sub-genre as reading recommendations to test the waters with, so to speak.

Cyberpunk

Perhaps one of the favoured of science fiction sub-genres, cyberpunk stays strong in various works of literature such as in Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. This sub-genre shows alternative means of human development and evolution using technology to achieve a higher standard of life and living. From cybernetic implants to virtual realities and futuristic technologies, such as robots and androids along with sophisticated artificial intelligence, cyberpunk caters to the uptopian and dystopian possibilities of advancing technology.

Biopunk

From genetic engineering to organic technologies, biopunk appeals to the natural in advancing technology and the improvement of life and lifestyle. Biopunk can be considered the opposite of cyberpunk in the matter of artificial versus natural, though the means to achieve both technologies are acquired through human (or sentient) intervention. Technically, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is a work of biopunk, focusing on the element of biological manipulation as the science element. Neuromancer by William Gibson, while cyberpunk, has elements of biopunk and the sub-genre’s influences stemmed from this novel.

Space Opera

Space Opera is a sub-genre of science fiction popularly known by the Star Wars franchise created by George Lucas and 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. This sub-genre is iconic for voyages through space and the adventures that follow, often between landing on planets or space stations. The stories of the space opera sub-genre tend to be large and as vast as space itself. Drama is also a key element in the stories of space opera, sometimes leading to chivalry between characters. Notably, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series employs space opera to a major extent, with several other science fiction sub-genres blended into the books.

Hard SF

In hard science fiction, the sub-genre places focus and importance on the plausibility of the natural sciences within the story, to an extent where most — if not all — of the science is plausible. Works such as The Martian by Andy Weir and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton showcase plausible science within complete stories. While a small niche enjoyed by few readers, the sub-genre of hard science fiction yet thrives, marking a return to interest in the 21st century, which arose during the 60’s and 70’s as an established type of science fiction.

Social SF

Also called soft science fiction, social SF places focus on the social sciences rather than the natural sciences. Works in the social science fiction sub-genre analyse and critique issues and matters within society from various points of view of subjects in the social sciences. Novels such as 1984 by George Orwell and the Earthseed series by Octavia E. Butler take a look at the implications of social discourse. This sub-genre flourished in the 60’s and 70’s as well, alongside hard SF, and is marking a return within young-adult dystopian science fiction.

Post- or Neo-Apocalyptic

The settings that mark apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic science fiction involve great catastrophes that affect most or all of the world, often showing the collapse of modern civilisation and a fight for survival. This sub-genre is icon with works such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke where the destruction of the world is imminent. Whether due to social matters of from natural science influence, post- and neo-apocalyptic works display the end of the world as it is known, in a utopian or dystopian manner.

Steampunk

While often shown in fantasy works, steampunk is very much a type of science fiction where the world follows an alternate timeline to use steam-powered or analogue technology instead of electricity as the main form of technology. Another sub-genre of science fiction was born from steampunk and is known as dieselpunk — using diesel-fueled technology instead of steam. Known through works such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series by Alan Moore as well as The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, steampunk brings a 19th Century Victorian atmosphere to the setting.

Military SF

Works of military science fiction showcase military rank, rule, and structure as the prime setting for adventures within the plot. Works such as Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein show how civilisation has turned to military leadership above other forms of government. On the other side of the political spectrum, The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells focuses on the military — under civilian government — and their efforts. Military science fiction explores present day warfare or futuristic battles as key elements to the story.

Dystopian

Mostly used as a setting in science fiction, dystopian fiction is also a sub-genre of its own. In contemporary science fiction, dystopian SF is popular within young-adult fiction and often blends with social science fiction to show a speculative future that criticises current social matters. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Maze Runner by James Dashner are works of literature that combine the natural sciences with social sciences to show a dystopian future marking this sub-genre.

Emerging Sub-Genres

As technology evolves and advances, bringing both fascinating and terrifying concepts, new sub-genres of science fiction rise with it to speculate and critique on the future or alternative present of these technologies. Blockchain technology, while being around for approximately a decade already, is only recently beginning to surface within works of fiction.

Sub-genres of blockchain SF include Steempunk — where the focus of science lies in the Steem blockchain, such as with the Hard Fork Series produced through the literature and efforts of users on the Steem blockchain. A new form of cryptopunk is another emerging sub-genre that focuses on cryptocurrency and the blockchain and its consequences as with (ID)entity by P.J Manney.


What sub-genres do you enjoy and what about them appeals to you? Perhaps a fascination with evolution and genetics, or the fantasy that appears to live in advancing technology? I’d love to know, along with any recommendations for books and stories on your favourite science fiction.

Review: The Storm, by David Drake

Book Reviews, Contemporary Books

Be Warned: Here be No Spoilers

Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative

The Storm follows the adventures of Lord Pal of Beune, a Champion of Mankind. Much like Lancelot’s humble beginnings but a better version of him. A much better version of him. Lord Pal navigates the world, between pockets of what is known as Here and the waste where the Not Here manifests at times. A bizarre world, for certain, but it fits so well.

I’m not quite sure how to explain the book without revealing everything, it’s just one of those books you have to read yourself and come to your own conclusion on what the story is like, how it makes you feel. This is the second book of the series, however it is written in such a way that not reading the first book doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re missing out on something vital. Drake has written this story to make it complete within this book as a stand-alone.

That said, I’ll give my review based on mulling over my thoughts for a couple of weeks. Yes, it’s that complicated. But the story isn’t, which is interesting. David Drake has a way of evoking a certain feel with his writing that has me reeling trying to figure out and analyse it. Drake’s writing is, frankly, beautiful. It’s smooth, if it had a physical texture, and easy to follow. But the voice of the story, the way I hear it in my head, is something I cannot explain.

Favourite Character:

Oh, by far my favourite character is Pal. He’s so real, relateable,humble, modest, and human. And yet, his strength is visible, I don’t mean physical strength either. His will power seems to seep out from the text. A character I truly care about.

Favourite Scene:

I don’t have one specific scene I enjoyed above others, though I thoroughly enjoyed every scene where Pal interacts with May, his consort. The wit, the human reactions, and the squabbles between them are so real and very entertaining.

Favourite Line:

“That seemed to be her standard method of breaking tension. It was a good method.”
– Lord Pal’s thoughts, the context of which you’ll have to read to find out. Trust me, it’s brilliant.

Overall:

The Storm is, by far, one of the most intriguing and different stories I’ve read and I’m honestly not sure how to express how I feel about it. The book definitely has an Arthurian feel and vivid, wild world-building that I’m absolutely enamoured with. I’ve never read science fiction, or any speculative fiction, like The Storm before. Suffice to say, I’m speechless.

I love the world, love the characters, and the plot is solid. I can’t find a fault (which I naturally try to without meaning to), and that says a lot. I am mind-blasted, to say the least. And yet, I don’t know if I love the book or not. I do, but at the same time not really. It’s confusing. I can’t stop thinking about it and find several things in daily life that remind me of some aspect of Drake’s world and characters.

I know, I’m rambling but I can’t help it. Writing this is the most difficult review I’ve had to do.

This story will stick with me for my whole life, I’m certain of it. Which is very rare, only a handful follow me in the back of my thoughts. The Storm is nestled in there alongside Asimov’s The Last Question, Lem’s Solaris, Clarke’s Childhood’s End, and Okorafor’s Binti; stories that have a profound influence on me.


The Storm, by David Drake, published by Baen Books, is available for pre-order and will be released on 1 January 2019.

Image from Baen.com

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Review: A Star-Wheeled Sky, by Brad R. Torgersen

Book Reviews, Contemporary Books

Be Warned: Mild Spoilers Here

Genre: Military Science Fiction

A Star-Wheeled Sky begins with a full and proper space-opera setting, in the ship called Daffodil. In a couple of pages of the prologue, we quickly get the gist of the factions at play, a rough idea of humanity’s progress in expansion in the galaxy, and the sense of the alien through the Waypoints. A hole lot of of essential world-building that I, for one, thought was executed well.

Shortly after, we’re introduced to the characters Zuri Mikton, Garsina Oswight, Wyodreth Antagean, and Golsubril Vex, and later a few more. And the conflict rises from the worlds, this great mystery of a new Waypoint that just showed up. The narrative shows this isn’t normal and, considering they’re in the midst of a war, not good. Torgersen uses several of his various characters to give another piece of the world and the puzzle through their eyes as the story progresses toward the climax, blending in the information almost seamlessly.

Favourite Character:

By far, the character that I enjoyed reading the most was Elvin Axabrast. He’s complex and well developed. Hard on the outside but soft within. He sees life simply but is also able to acknowledge the various complexities that are attached to daily living and history. The strong silent type here works and it’s because he’s a war veteran with a family attached history he’d rather everyone not say anything about. I was delighted when he got his own chapter from his point of view and got more of a feel for his personality.

Favourite Scene:

The scene I most enjoyed, though there are many I wanted to pick, was the part near the end of Chapter 16 when Captain Loper revealed how Wyodreth used to be as a young adult. This scene resonated as the most relateable and as an important message for people to think about. In the scene, Loper’s reveal gives Wyodreth a new perspective on his preconceptions of the Lady Oswight. The point wasn’t that she’s young and new to adventure, trying to make her own mark in the universe and being bossy in the endeavour, but that people should consider others and reflect on their own behaviour, thoughts, and past in order to see the other person’s perspective and try to understand them.

Favourite Line:

“I’ve forgotten more in my time than you could ever hope to know in yours. And that’s depressing, you understand? Why go through the trouble to teach yourself something, when you’ll have to decide to eventually to let it all fall away again later? Took me at least a couple of centuries to figure that out.” – Lethiah.

What Worked For Me:

I particularly enjoyed that space battles weren’t instantly full-on contact, taking several hours from detection of the enemy to reaching firing range. The feeling of “silence” during the battles is believable and appreciated, and Torgersen’s pacing is wonderful.

What Didn’t Work:

It could have been a more immersive story if I didn’t have to break out of the flow every now and then from the authorsplaining or repetitions of information already revealed. Of course, I read the ARC and this might be corrected in the final print version.

Overall:

I experienced disorientation each time I had to pause reading to tend to real life mundanes. It felt like I was ripped from hundreds of lightyears away back to Earth in a few minutes. As much as it has it flaws, I found the story hyper immersive. When I realised I was half-way through, I didn’t want it to end.

A Star-Wheeled Sky is like some mash-up of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Battlestar Galactica series (remake). All-in-all a riveting and enjoyable military sci-fi story packed with action, suspense, and mystery. Though I am disappointed with the lack of resolution at the end. If this is the first in a series, it might not be so bad and what I’d expect of a cliffhanger ending. That doesn’t hold in a stand-alone book for me. I do hope there’ll be sequel.

And to top it all off, Alan Pollack’s artwork for the book’s cover is spot-on true to the scene it’s based on and brilliantly made.


 

 

A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen, publishing under Baen Books, comes out in December 2018 and is currently available for pre-order.

 

 

Image retrieved from Amazon.com

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Inception: A Study of Greg Egan’s In The Ruins

Short Story Reviews

INCEPTION


Greg Egan is one of the hard sci-fi authors I always enjoy reading, and picking one of his stories to study was something I intended to do for a while. I believe that taking a good look at the work of authors you love as well as those you aren’t familiar with is beneficial in learning—through reading—to become a better writer.

The short story I chose isn’t something published in the mainstream, but is still a great piece of writing. I’m referring to In The Ruins, which is available to read on Egan’s (weird) website.

I recommend first reading the short story before continuing here so that your mind can be blown and your brain itching like someone got in there (as mine was when I first read it). Reading it will also put a lot of the points I make into context and, in this way, help with understanding this particular writing device of inserting thoughts into the reader’s mind.

Reading it beforehand isn’t compulsory, however, and you’re welcome to follow along without doing so. As I said, I recommend it. If you do wish to read it first, please note that comprehending the science isn’t necessary so don’t worry about it. I didn’t entirely understand some of it, either.

Discussion

In the short story In The Ruins Egan uses knowledge as the focus of the reader’s attention, sending them through a problem that gets solved as it leads the reader along a journey with the main character. And the background of the story is that of a satirical and dystopic look at a future world—one of anti-intellectualism.

“Dance, rap or stand-up?” Emma asked the slender girl in front of her in the queue. It was a joke: dance, obviously.

“Physics,” the girl replied.

“Er—” Emma gestured at the sign on the door. “Obviously. But what mode?”

At first it may seem that the background critique on contemporary society Egan delivers is the inception I’m referring to, but the obvious focus can just as well be used for the incepting thought as anything obscure or subtle.

Was the critique the inception of thought, or was it the knowledge?

“You think this has no applications?” Ghada was amused. “It might strike you that way, but it’s not the case. Describing the figure that these velocities form is one route to a deeper understanding of any inverse-square force — including the electrostatic force in an atom. With a bit more work, this problem offers a short cut to the energy levels of hydrogen…”

Interestingly, Egan uses info-dumping in the dialogue to distract from the obvious focus of the knowledge. Of course, with his choice of knowledge—math and physics—many readers may be immune to the power of suggestion employed in this piece, and probably not follow the story entirely. This will instead make the social critique of the background stronger than it would be if the focus remained with the knowledge. In this case, the inception comes in through the humour Egan uses to deliver the critique of a not-all-that-far-fetched possible future.

Glory days? Emma was indignant. “You do know that twenty million people live-streamed the makeover episode of American Poopy-head?”

“Yeah, that sums it up.” Ghada laughed sadly. “The only way for a scientist to be halfway palatable in your culture now is through a kind of ritual self-abasement…”

Observations

As with Egan’s short story, info-dumps can work if they’re executed well. In The Ruins seems to use them deliberately for the purpose of distraction and inception. The inception in this case is to get the reader to focus on the math as the characters explore it and eventually reach a point in which the main character’s arc develops and resolves.

Through the distraction and immersion, the reader unknowingly learns something new—math and physics—as we follow along to the climax as resolution. The use of visuals for the math also caters to the immersion and allows the reader to follow the incepting device with ease.

Take-Aways

The inception device isn’t exclusive or unique to science fiction and can be found in many genres, and it can be delivered in varying degrees like in Octavia E. Butler’s Bloodchild. How a writer incepts an idea into someone’s mind is generally their own preference. Some use red herrings while others use intricate sub-plots that tie together—better analysed as the Hansel and Gretel move in leaving breadcrumbs everywhere.

Inception in inception, or just a suggestion? Either works if the writer can get into the heads of readers and tickle their brains while delivering a satisfying and complete story. The point of the inception device is to further ensure the story is memorable.

After all, a reader who remembers is one who will return.


What did you take away from the story? Was the inception effective, and if not, do you think it could have been executed better? If you know of other examples of this device employed well, share it in the comments. I’d love to see more of it and I’m always up for reading great stories.

Contact

Fiction, Micro Flash Fiction


James leaned over the car door. “Where’re you from?”

“Lemon-5.” Her black orb eyes glistened.

“I could drive away and leave you be.” He took a drag off his cigarette. “But where would that leave me in the pursuit of knowledge?”

He chuckled and turned his key in the ignition.

A lot of people wonder, at one time or another, about whether we’re the only sentient life in our cosmic neighbourhood. Whether we’re alone in our little corner of the known universe.

Statistically, there is bound to be other sentient life around us. Physics and math pretty much point to it. Several planets have been found potentially favourable to hosting life. Sure, mostly for basic life—microbial and probably not much more. And these planets are general in what’s called the Goldilocks zone, the area around a star where planets in orbit within are far enough away from the star but not too far, depending on the type of star.

So if there is such a possibility, and not a small one at that, why have we not yet encountered any other life—sentient or basic? Obviously, at this point, our technology is not yet advanced enough to confirm the existence of basic life even in our own solar system. Then what of sentient life? Surely there would be something sent out to space by alien lifeforms trying to communicate, to find out if they’re not alone?

That’s a good point and it’s logical. It’s what we would do, within our thinking conventions. And that, right there, is the snag. It’s what humans would do. Not necessarily what other lifeforms would. But that doesn’t really answer the question, only broadens our ability to consider.

Officially, no one knows why we haven’t made contact or observed life. We can’t know until we actually do. It’s a catch-22 situation. But we can speculate—theorise.

Consider, for a moment, the vast distance between the Earth and the sun—Sol. 149,6 million kilometres. Now, the distance between Sol and the Kuiper Belt surrounding the edge of our solar system, in where Pluto orbits, ends at 50 AU (astronomical units, where 1 AU is the distance from Sol to Earth). For further perspective, Sol’s closest solar neighbour is Proxima Centauri which is 4.24 light-years (LY) away—where 1 LY is about 63 239 AU.

That’s pretty far away.

Consider, then, that perhaps—if a sentient civilisation has been trying to contact us—they’re too far for their signals to reach us. And by the time they do—if they do—they would be long dead. Not to mention that, in this case, any contact to us would be one-way. There probably won’t be anyone around to hear our response by the time it reaches the origin location.

Or perhaps, just maybe, they have made contact already but our human tendency to discard consideration for the Other has been the reason we still wonder if we’re alone and why the universe is so quiet?

This little thought experiment (and not-so-little critique on humanity) was inspired by Jayna Locke‘s Fifty Word Challenge where the prompt this week was “lemon”. I encourage every writer—starting out or professional—to join in this fun but challenging initiative.


 


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For Them

Fiction, Micro Flash Fiction

How far would a parent go to ensure their child’s future? Given the resources and tools to secure that future, many would go to the edge of the universe and back. But what if it would cost the lives of millions?


The words ‘danger: biohazard’ illuminated the dark bunker. Another global riot alert popped up on her laptop, and she looked at her sleeping toddler.

Leaning over, she kissed the boy’s forehead. “For you.”

These children deserved a peaceful world. This one was over.

She pressed the button, releasing the virus.

It’s called the maternal instinct but the desire, and sometimes urge, to protect the child is also seen with men. Why this instinct? Biologically, it can be argued as ensuring the survival of our genetic make-up. This would make the most sense as the protection of young is something we can observe nearly consistently with most mammals. It is further evident with the hormones released that secure bonding to our offspring.

Perhaps due to the frequency, variety, and amount of hormones produced in the body from the double X chromosomes that it’s called the maternal instinct as opposed to paternal or even—more accurately—parental instinct.

Or is it a matter of socialisation, of conditioning? Realistically, it’s because of both biology and social construct.

But just how much do other reasons for parental instinct factor into the individual’s reasoning to protect their children, either consciously or subconsciously? Say, for instance, the concept of immortality. Arguably, the need to immortalise oneself is a common feature among people, and it translating into assuring the survival of offspring plays in both the point of ensuring genetics are carried down and the social aspect of lineage.

What if immortalising oneself through reproduction is a stronger need than the two factors the idea stems from? To what length, then, would a parent go to guarantee their child’s survival and future?

This was a short, short science-fiction story that explored the idea of ego misinterpreted as the parental instinct.

 

 


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Of Man and Machine

Poetry


This was my entry into a poetry contest held on the Steem blockchain, where the prompt was to write a poem with two segments—each segment being different from the other—while the title reconciles both. A juxtaposition.

I chose the concept of man and machine—biological versus artificial—as my theme. Another difference formed out of it as well: emotion versus logic—irrational and rational.

Numbers and lights make up your mind.
No tears nor smile show in those eyes.
“Will you ever know me—truly know me?”

I work my hands bare, the sores show.
You stare and run your programs.
“Can I ever teach you—truly teach you?”

Your body, silicon and alloy,
stays motionless; curved perfectly.
“Will I ever have you—truly have you?”

A soft touch, my skin meets yours–
artificial and biological.
“Will you ever feel this—truly feel this?”

Stepping back, smooth limbs twitch.
Neon green eyes glow, staring.
“Will you ever see me—truly see me?”

                      #

Processing sensory input:
appendages one through five.
Zero, one, one, zero, zero…

Analysing data fragments
of contaminated area.
Compiling information sets/

Optics detect subject’s structure,
Applying Pi—non-symmetric
formation of facial features.

Source identified: Dr Ohm—
Relationship: creator.
Human; flawed, emotional.

Gesture received. Location: arm.
Calibrating expectation…
Error 404: Not Found.

South Africa: Science Fiction in Conquest

Articles

As mentioned in Strange Horizons magazine: 100 African Writers of SFF: Part Six


This beautiful country of South Africa has seen much in the way of disaster1, 2 and atrocities3, 4. It is a nation of colour, vivid and diverse, but tainted with the blotches of our history5. Healing is a slow process, hindered by the fear of change and acceptance, and we as South Africans constantly seek mediums through which we can express our discontent in the crippling social matters of the past that yet bleeds through to our present after decades of democracy.

One medium speaks out, its voice growing louder the longer society stifles. Still, in its infancy, science fiction (and speculative fiction in general) struggles to make its voice heard. That is changing. We have seen the reemergence of the genre over the last decade and a burst of interest hitting the public in the recent five years. And why shouldn’t it be a major genre? Science fiction, the genre of inspiration and of warning, allows for the critique of social issues and current events within possibilities and solutions. Through it we can escape, not to a utopian fantasy realm, but to hope, understanding, and reason.

It starts, again, in 2009 with the release of District 9. Neill Blomkamp’s alien film hit the world with a fury which glimpses at the rage from South Africa’s Apartheid era. Packed with not only action but blunt, loud social critique on racism and discrimination, it was a pioneer in New South African science fiction. The success and sentiment are followed shortly by Lauren Beukes in 2011 when she won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award for science fiction with her novel Zoo City. From then we started to see a rise of science fiction literature in South Africa.

Over the following five years, several sci-fi authors emerged from the dark, screaming their message through their works. From racism, sexism, and transgender rights, South African science fiction fights for equality and liberty. It pleads and threatens for a society free from persecution, injustice, and discrimination. A voice in the crowd deaf to any genre outside of the dictated . We cannot change the world with our words, but we can change their hearts.

The Authors of Our Future

We South Africans have so much to say, so much to warn about. We see the future of society. We remark on current events, directly and indirectly influencing social discourse. We look to the past and speculate on its future outlook. We are South Africans; rich in story, rich in wisdom, rich in change. At least that is what we wish to accomplish. Through literature, we step closer to reform.

AfroSF is a science fiction anthology of authors across the African continent, catering to speculative fiction as well. It was established in 2012 with the release of the first volume featuring Nnedi Okorafor, S.A. Partridge, Chinelo Onwualu, Nick Wood, Tade Thompson, Cristy Zinn, Ashley Jacobs, Sarah Lotz, and Tendai Huchu. Edited by Ivor W. Hartmann, AfroSF helped break in South African science fiction to the world, followed by the second volume, AfroSF v2 in 2015.

Another major player is the Science-Fiction and Fantasy South Africa club. Established in 1969, it has been a contribution of great influence and to sci-fi authors in SA. SFFSA holds an annual short story competition for SA writers, called the Nova Short Story Competition. Winners of which have their stories published in their long-standing magazine, Probe; a great source of SA sci-fi.

South African science fiction is not quite like any other, involving elements of African technology and medicine, fears and superstitions different from the more widely known Western elements. As such, science fiction in SA often veers into other genres of the speculative fiction range. Our plausible covers a wider spectrum.

South African science fiction veers into other speculative genres; our plausible covers a wider spectrum.

What is African Science Fiction?

Science fiction as a genre is commonly defined as:

  • “…fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.”6
  • “…an imagined future, especially about space travel or other planets.”7
  • “…a form of fiction that deals principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals.”8

While most of the aspects are relevant to and feature in African science fiction, the standards are lacking and exclusive of the various cultures in Africa and how they influence African technology and society. In sum, science fiction is plausibility within a speculative format.

African sci-fi, however, has a broader sense of what is plausible, often blurring the line between science fiction and fantasy. One could argue that the plausible rests within reality (I.e chemistry, physics, astronomy, etc) but reality comprises psychology, sociology, politics, and philosophy as well, all of which are equally fundamental elements in sci-fi. For many South Africans, the tokoloshe is as much a part of reality as gravity is. Whether or not the creature exists according to physical science is up for debate, but within the social sciences, its existence can be seen much in the same way as we observe dark matter: through its interaction with the observable.

For the instances as above, African science fiction has been broadly classified as speculative fiction; the encompassing genre that includes sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc. The world is yet to recognize African sci-fi within its ranks of hard or soft (social) science fiction, without the inclusion of sub-genres such as cyberpunk or biopunk as quasi-scientific explanations of the elements considered as fantasy within African fiction.

Because sci-fi, in general, is already difficult to define, African sci-fi struggles to have its voice heard or regarded as “real” science fiction. Among other countries throughout the continent, South African science fiction helps to illuminate the importance of African sci-fi as an aspect of the genre, through fiction markets both local and abroad.

Publications

There is more, another side of the literary tale: the worlds of literary magazines, journals, and anthologies. AfroSF and Probe were mentioned as contributors to SA sci-fi but they are not the only gateways for local emerging and established authors.

AfroSF is an anthology by StoryTime: African Publisher, formed in 2007 to combat the lack of African literary magazines. Another anthology they produced was African Roar, from 2010 to 2014. StoryTime continued in a weekly fiction magazine of the same name.

Probe, the magazine by the Science Fiction and Fantasy South Africa club, being the more established and prolific, has been able to adapt the change of times and technology, releasing their magazine in digital format since 2006.

Something Wicked Magazine, established in 2006 (ending in 2012), curated pieces of science fiction and horror short stories from authors across the globe. It was one of the markets for South African speculative fiction and the entry gate for several local authors.

FIYAH Literary Magazine is a new initiative aimed at promoting African speculative fiction, giving a voice to people of colour in and from Africa. Founded in 2016 and based on FIRE!! Magazine, FIYAH has released a few issues and are working on many more.

Omenana, launched in 2014 with their first issue, is a thriving literary magazine for African authors of speculative fiction in a paying market. With nine issues already published, Omenana opens doors for more sci-fi from South Africa and the entire continent.

Chimurenga is a Pan-African journal of the creative arts platform, promoting the arts in various themed issues since the journal’s first publication in 2002. From comics to non-fiction, to literary and genre fiction pieces and poetry, the magazine has published several South Africans and their science fiction along with many large African authors.

JungleJim Fiction was a colourful literary magazine for African speculative fiction. From the release of their first issue in 2013, they have published another twenty-five by 2016, opening the door to local sci-fi authors.

Short Story Day Africa features an anthology of short stories from across the continent, allowing the voices of Africa to tell their tales and opening the door for science fiction and other speculative genres. The non-profit organisation launched its first prize competition in 2013. They have released several anthologies since, featuring South African sci-fi.

PEN South Africa, the local branch of Pen International, while not dedicated to speculative fiction, has published South African science fiction pieces in anthologies comprised from submitted pieces to their literary prizes. The organisation also encourages local talent and authors.

And The Authors?

For a (near) complete list of published South African authors with literature in science fiction, see here. By near, I mean that I may have missed someone. A list of local authors of short and stories published in literary magazines, journals, and anthologies across the world from the last decade with the reemergence of sci-fi in South Africa, can also be found in the above link.


With much appreciation and thanks to the African Speculative Fiction Society for their list of African authors.


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