GLOBAL CONVERSATIONS ON CREATING PAN- AFRICAN SPECULATIVE LITERATURE IN A PANDEMIC
Edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Bridging Worlds features 18 essays from speculative fiction writers, editors, and publishers on the African continent and from the African diaspora.
The titles are engaging, and each essay starts strikingly with white text on a black page. Each follows its own individual approach and focus, some taking the form of interviews. In some essays the anthology’s topic is the central focus, in others it is more or less tangential to other issues involved in “Writing and Editing While Black During a Pandemic”, as Sheree Renee Thomas aptly titled her essay.
“Ghost Girls” by Nikhil Singh may just happen to be the first essay in this anthology, yet the writer’s approach to engaging with people on his walks through cities can be taken as a way for us as readers to approach each writer we go on to ‘meet’. Singh says “Walking is an old way. It unfolds the origami of the world in such a manner as to reveal the unexpected. All the hidden corners unravel, releasing dreams”. As he walks in battered shoes, invisible, welcomed, given the stories and memories of those he meets on his explorations of place and people, so can the reader make their way through this anthology, and though invisible to the writers, still meet with each of them. And as they walk, crossing the bridges of the writer’s words, the origami of multiple worlds unfolds.
In these meetings each writer speaks honestly and articulately about themselves and their personal and professional lives. Though sometimes lyric, sometimes densely packed with meaning, sometimes moving quietly or wildly over the heavy weight of underlying history and emotion, the writing is mostly straightforward and immediately accessible. I did not read this straight through; as in meeting people, it takes a little time to do it properly, to meet a new person and learn something of their struggles, creative life, and the extra challenges the time of covid adds to the body-and soul-numbing difficulties Black people already must deal with on a daily basis.
All these essays are worthwhile reading, and the often intriguing titles draw one in. To mention just a few points of interest from among a very many: finding out about the Voodoonauts Summer Workshop in Yvette Lisa Ndlovu’s essay; Chimedum Ohaegbu’s advice for Black and African writers on submitting stories and on supporting each other’s work; Eugen Bacon on why and how she writes, her prolific output a counter to the world’s unfolding chaos; Edwin Okolo’s and Joshua Uchenna Omenga’s essays on the complex effects of living in the “unending chaos” of Nigeria; “When Words Fail to Save” – this title alone of Shingai Njera Kagunda’s essay said so much and struck home; in his discussion with Geoff Ryman, Wole Talabi on the speculative literature of the African continent remaining true to its sources, growing in world recognition without becoming overly influenced by the West; the inspirational last essay “Wading in the Water” by Nicole Givens Kurtz on drowning in the “ocean of chaos and death”, unable to write fiction in the face of brutal reality, and how she found her way back to living and creating.
Having made the trip through the book, having in a real sense met all these people, the accumulated experience brought a sense of shift, a broadening of viewpoint and connection. The variety of experiences and approaches so clearly and straightforwardly detailed created bridges of understanding. So please, go on walkabout through Bridging Worlds; it is a worthwhile journey.
Bridging Worlds is published by Jembefola Press https://jembefola.com where it is available as a free download in multiple formats.
That the download is offered for free is in itself a result and symptom of the difficulties faced by writers in Africa and many other countries outside the American/Canadian/European sphere of infrastructure https://www.themarysue.com/amazon-deletes-account-tries-to-take-money-oghenechovwe-donald-ekpeki/
Titles and authors included:
“Ghost Girls”, by Nikhil Singh
“Blackness is not Monolithic, But Publishing Is”, by Zelda Knight
“Voodoonauts & Afrofuturist Dreaming: On Creating a Summer Workshop for Black Writers during a Pandemic”, by Yvette Lisa Ndlovu
“2020 Triumphs”, by B. Sharise Moore
“An Interview with Chimedum Ohaegbu”
“Saving My Shadows”, by Eugen Bacon
“Sheree Renée Thomas on Writing & Editing While Black During a Pandemic”
“The Year that Wasn’t, Yet Was”, by Milton Davis
“An Interview with Dilman Dila”
“Expect the Unexpected — WTH?”, by Linda D Addison
“A Quarter in the Abyss: One Writers Jaunt Through the Bowels of Lockdown”, by Tobi Ogundiran
“An Interview with Mazi Nwowu”
“If You Haven’t Noticed, the Dystopia is Already Here”, by Edwin Okolo
“Travails and Choices in a Time of Coronavirus”, by Joshua Uchenna Omenga
“Why 2020 Rocked & 2021 Sucks”, by Mame Bougouma Diene
“When Words Fail to Save”, by Shingai Njeri Kagunda
“On African Speculative Fiction: A Discussion between Geoff Ryman and Wole Talabi”
“Wading in the Water”, by Nicole Givens Kurtz
Review by Fran Eisemann
March 29, 2022
About the Editor
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is a speculative fiction writer, editor, slush reader, publisher, conrunner and more who resides in Nigeria. He co-edited the groundbreaking Dominion anthology which was the first anthology by an African writer to win the British Fantasy award, and was a finalist in the Locus, and This is Horror awards. His fiction has won the Otherwise and Nommo award, twice and been a finalist in the Nebula, Sturgeon and British Science Fiction Association awards.
He edited the first ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology, and is co-editing the Africa Risen anthology alongside Zelda Knight and Sheree Renée Thomas, which will be published by Tordotcom in November 2022.
His works of fiction and non-fiction have appeared and are forthcoming in Asimov’s, Tordotcom, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Galaxy’s Edge, NBC, and more. You can visit his website odekpeki.com and find him on Twitter @penprince
Cover by Dare Segun Falowo