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African speculative fiction with Chinelo Onwualu

‘We need to include all voices.’

This podcast was set up to increase the conversation around a marginalised group in speculative fiction: women. But women aren’t the only marginalised voices in the industry. Fireside Fiction recently published a report on the embedded racism in the SF publishing industry, including this revelation:

In 2015, of 2,039 stories published in 63 magazines, 38 were written by black writers. 38. That’s not even 2 percent.

Speculative fiction can and should be an inclusive genre… So what’s holding us back? I sure as hell don’t have the answers, but I wanted to learn more. As such, I approached Chinelo Onwualu, an African speculative fiction writer, editor of an African SF online magazine, and outspoken advocate for the African Speculative Fiction Society. I wanted to know how the findings of the Fireside Report aligned with real life experiences of a Black writer.

ChineloChinelo turned out to be one of the most interesting conversational partners I’ve ever had. I can’t deny that I knew shamefully little on the subject of African writing and the racism authors have to deal with, but now that my eyes are open to these issues, I am excited to explore this space.

In the course of our discussion, we discuss the societal permissions given to certain groups about what they can and can’t write about, writers not wanting to be defined by your ‘African-ness’, the hopefulness in much of African SF, Sword and Soul as a fantasy sub-genre, and why writers keep imagining the same racial and gender dynamics in speculative fiction worlds.

Authors and texts mentioned in this episode include:

  • Ben Okri: The Famished Road
  • Nnedi Okorafor: Zahrah the Windseeker and Binti
  • Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness
  • Charles R. Saunders
  • Sarah Lotz
  • Lauren Beukes
  • Captain America: Civil War

For those interested, you can listen to the Sami Shah interview on the Midnight in Karachi podcast here.

If you’re interested in anything we discussed in this podcast, please show your support by donating to the African Speculative Fiction Society and helping to promote the Nommo awards.

You can read more from Chinelo at Strange Horizons and Omenana.

Chinelo Onwualu is an editorial consultant living in Abuja, Nigeria. She is a graduate of the 2014 Clarion West Writers Workshop, which she attended as the recipient of the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship. She is editor and co-founder of Omenana, a magazine of African speculative fiction and lead spokesperson for the African Speculative Fiction Society. Her writing has appeared in several places, including Strange Horizons, The Kalahari ReviewSaraba, Brittle Paper, Jungle Jim, Ideomancer, and the anthologies AfroSF: African Science Fiction by African Writers, Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond, Terra Incognita: New Short Speculative Stories from Africa, and Imagine Africa 500. She has been longlisted for the British Science Fiction Awards and the Writivism Award. Follow her on twitter @chineloonwualu.

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