Science Fiction In Africa

In June, the BBC program Your World showcased science fiction in Africa in the episode “Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa?“. I finally listened to the downloadable version today and enjoyed it very much. Science fiction’s unmatched role in exploring human lives and our intersection with philosophy and technology seems perfectly suited to exposing vast ranges of experiences that occur in Africa. I am often dismayed that global science fiction doesn’t penetrate markets here, or is not translated into English at all. The exposure the broadcast offers for African science fiction is valuable and I hope it’s a small push to bring more works to us.

Is science fiction coming to Africa? Or is it already here? Lauren Beukes, South African author and winner of the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction in 2011, investigates.

Beukes hears from film-makers Neill Blomkamp (South Africa – director of the international hit District 9), Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya), blogger Jonathan Dotse (Ghana), writer Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/USA) and others on how their particular experiences have influenced their work.

Science fiction often explores the interaction between people and technology. In Africa that theme plays out in surprising ways, from making an appointment with a traditional healer over email, to women in remote villages collecting water while chatting on their mobiles.

It’s this mix of magic and technology, challenge and innovation that shapes the science fiction coming out of the continent.

Leaving behind the traditional visions of a high-tech Tokyo, futuristic LA or dystopian New York, and challenging clichéd views of the entire African continent, this is a science fiction being told by the people who live there.

Two resources for world science fiction, that I highly recommend, are Lavie Tidhar’s The World SF Blog and International Speculative Fiction. Though the latter hasn’t yet focused on Africa, I hope it will showcase some translated works from that continent soon.

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