I was so excited when I first heard about the Afro SF anthology, which has been described by Ivor Hartmann as " ... the first ever anthology Science Fiction by African writers". I remember the first fantasy novel I read (Hobbit). I discovered Sci-Fi much later as a teenager with Ender's Game, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I always loved Fantasy and Sci-Fi for the worlds and characters it created and the endless possibilities - alternate universes, different technologies, fantastic voyages. So when I was contacted by Nick Wood, one of the contributing authors to the edited volume, and asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing a copy, I tried to play it cool, but the truth is, I was extremely excited to read this Sci-Fi anthology by African writers.
In the introduction to the anthology the editor, Ivor Hartmann writes:
"If one looks at the last 50 years of publishing in terms of SciFi and African writers, some real gems have never been collected in one volume ... but the vision I had for Afro SF needed to include the forward thinking spirit embodied so well in SciFi as a genre .... SciFi is highly underdeveloped in African literature as a whole ... [it] is the only genre that enables African writers to envision a future from our African perspective".
Science Fiction is a growing genre on the African continent, but it's also not new, take a look for instance at Nick Wood's overview of South African written science or speculative fiction. What Ivor Hartmann has done in Afro SF is bring together a collection of new and original stories and provide a different perspective to this genre. A few months ago, I listened to "Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa?", a radio documentary on BBC World Service. Well, with this introduction Ivor Hartmann shows us just how present Science Fiction is in Africa and sets the pace going for the rest of the anthology.
While South African and Nigerian authors dominate (there are also authors from the Gambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the diaspora) Afro SF contains 22 short stories*, which just kept on getting better and better with each story I read. As I read, I kept on thinking how well-written the stories were, but also how well-edited the volume was. I couldn't pick a favourite as this anthology had it all, and I loved it all. In Home Affairs by Sarah Lotz robots have replaced corrupt bureaucratic Africans; in Five Sets of Hands by Cristy Zinn an enslaved race lives on Mars; in Heresy by Mandisi Nkomo there's speculation that the South African government destroyed the spiritual realm; in Masquerade Stories by Chiagozi Fred Nwonwu aliens have been visiting earth for centuries, we just mistook them for something else; in The Trial by Joan De La Haye as the world reached the nine billion mark, the courts have been tasked with deciding which members of the society should live, and which ones should die; and in Brandy City by Mia Arderne brandy is the local currency for certain members of society. Yes, there's time travel, but there's also ancestral spirits, technologial advancements coinciding with a world where old cultures still dominate, a teleporter, intergalactic wars, aliens on earth mating with humans, humans in space mating with aliens, and intergalactic poachers. I'm not sure I'm conveying just how much fun it was reading Afro SF, but I really enjoyed each and every story I read.
It's a whopping 400 pages, but don't be put off - it's worth it. As a fan of Sci-Fi, as I turned each page and read more I couldn't help but smile and feel proud that this wonderful collection of Science Fiction stories was written by African writers. This really is a welcome addition to the genre. So if you're a fan of Science Fiction this anthology is a must-read, and if you're interested in exploring more Science Fiction from an African perspective this is definitely worth the read.
All that's left is for me to say a big thank you to Ivor Hartmann for editing this wonderful anthology and to the authors that contributed to this anthology for keeping me entertained for many hours.
The ebook edition of AfroSF will be released December 2012, with a print edition to follow in 2013. You can find out more about Afro SF here.
*I found out later that Tendai Huchu will also be contributing to the anthology, whose story unfortunately wasn't in the version I received.
4.5 out of 5 stars.