accra-medium

Accra (Working Title)

05/28/2011

Writing a novel is like watching a tree grow in real-time. It can be a genuinely wholesome and fulfilling experience, but it’s mostly a slow and agonizingly painful process, especially after you’ve come to love the little world you’ve created and can’t wait to share it with the big one. This month marks exactly two years since I got an itch to write a sci-fi novel, and even though I’m still months away from the finish line, at the current stage of development, I’ve never been so close. The next few months should mark the final stage of this arduous journey. In the meantime, I happen to be a firm believer in shameless self-promotion, so in this blog post I’ll be dropping a few hints of what you can expect from the upcoming novel.

Which shall henceforth be known as Accra.

Unless my publisher comes up with some bright ideas. But I’ve recently started to consider taking the path less traveled–that of self-publishing. Since my father’s untimely passing just over two months ago, I’ve begun to have the sneaking suspicion that life may in fact be too short to sit around waiting for some benevolent cartel to lend me a printing press, when technology empowers me now more than ever to circumvent that quaint bit of bureaucracy. I know there’s a much higher commercial risk involved in self-publishing, but it seems more in tune with my personal values to continually adopt emerging technologies and evolve beyond outdated models. Either way, I’ll be giving the idea a lot of thought in the coming months.

And now, for a brief description of the novel.

Accra is a speculative fiction novel set in the year 2057 AD, at a time when neuroscience has reverse-engineered the brain to uncover the inner workings of the human mind. Two-thirds of the world’s population have been implanted with biocores–organic microcomputers that interface between the brain and cyberspace, linking billions of people worldwide to the wireless Grid.  The novel is a threefold narrative that weaves together the stories of a desert soldier, a data thief, and a cyber-crime investigator who are thrust into the heart of a dark conspiracy in one turbulent night on the fast-paced, hi-tech streets of Accra.

And a similarly brief synopsis.

A teenage girl leaves her home in a coastal village to find work in the city of Accra, but after months of failing to find employment she is led into the dangerous world of cyber-crime, where her life quickly begins to spiral out of control. A retired cyber-crime investigator is called in by the Accra Police Force to deal with a cyber-terrorist threat, but the series of inexplicable occurrences that follow lead him to the blood-stained trail of a sinister plot in the corridors of power. These two stories are inextricably linked with a third; the gradually unfolding memories of a mercenary soldier, narrating a life of struggle and oppression in the heart of the Green Sahara; a story which culminates in a star-cross’d quest for freedom and justice, where all roads lead to the city of Accra.

A traditional cyberpunk dish prepared with African spices and served by the fireside.

Accra is equal parts mystery, thriller, and adventure, corresponding roughly to each protagonist’s storyline. The Sahara Desert will be prominently featured in the novel, incorporating some minor techno-ecological adjustments, as you might  imagine. Naturally, the Accra metropolis will be the setting for the most part of the novel. My love for Africa and it’s unique heritage will be conspicuously evident on a page or two, but my vision of a future Africa is by no means boiled down to guns and roses. Accra is an earnest attempt to paint a plausible and comprehensive near-future scenario for the continent as a whole, and that means working out the nitty-gritty implications of diverse existing trends into the future and documenting the results; be they good, bad, or ugly.

About the writing process and final product.

Most of the time I have spent on this novel has gone into developing the story world, as well as the plot and narrative structure, which form the centerpiece of the story. It should be complex and labyrinthine enough to make your head spin, but simple enough to make you go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the end. It should ultimately leave you with more questions than answers, or conversely, with more answers than questions. Expect lots of action, drama, hard science, black magic, dark romance, and transhumanist philosophical quandaries, but above all, expect the unexpected.

Whatever that means.

I hope I haven’t given away too much, or conversely, that I haven’t been too cryptic. There’s a lot more that I haven’t said or even hinted at, but like any writer who’s worth his ink, I’d do well to save the best for last. Finally, I have a serious question for anyone reading this: Would you advise me to search for a traditional, prestigious paperback publisher, or be a cowboy and self-publish online? I’m not trying to skew the results, but the latter would mean the novel being available by the end of this year.

Yours Truly,

AfroCyberPunk

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23 Comments

  1. Kate Elliott says:

    I don’t think you have to rule out either one at this stage. You can seek tradition publishing while at the same time preparing (but not releasing) an online version. Then if the former doesn’t pan out, you can go with the latter.

  2. Well, I’m eagerly awaiting the story!

  3. Jonathan says:

    That’s a really good point, Kate… one might even say that it sounds like a plan :)

    Hold on, Brian, the story is on the way..

  4. I am looking forward to this novel, hope you can finish and publish it every way you can and are able to!

  5. Johnny Laird says:

    Excited for you to have even come this far, Jonathan. So looking forward to one day seeing your book in print.

    J

    • Jonathan says:

      I myself am extremely excited to have come this far, but let’s see how far this thing can go still :)

  6. Burgeri says:

    Sold!

    In whatever format you are releasing it in :)

  7. John, Accra sounds like an exciting novel. I would love to get a copy when its published. The plot is quite interesting and I am sure you will tell the story well.
    On the publishing side, I am also going to recommend you to self publish a copy on amazon kindle, its free and you can sell it there and amazon will keep comission… no harm because you will get phenominal exposure there. Sorry to hear about your dad. Are you running his press now? I am planning to write too, but nothin as close as your work.
    Wish you luck.. keep in touch

  8. Akosua says:

    You can look at both forms of publishing, wider reader base.

  9. Tyler D says:

    looking forward to Accra. I was thinking of writing a sci fi set in Africa also, but it seems like you’ve pretty much got it covered. I think africa is a great untapped sci fi resource, but remember, it’s not just the setting of a story that sets it apart.

  10. Hi man. Just my 2c worth: Too many self-confessed Authors(tm) get into the false debate over ‘Mainstream or Internet?’. When in fact the most Neocyberpunk thing to do might be to 1) Question if the label ‘Author’ or even ‘Writer’ even fits what your actually doing – andor should fit.. and 2) Ask if and how your best aligning yourself as an artist with the directions bleeding edge Internet (Sub)culture is already heading in.. After all, if one’s W/Ritings deal with complex, subtle & futuristic ideas, why necessarily & automatically seek to confine those forms to any one particular medium – whether paper or virtual? A useful metaphor for the ‘fuzzy boundary’ nature of being an artist in this bio-digital age is good old Brian slaphead Eno. Try describing his ‘job’ – the fact it / he can’t easily be pinned down is perhaps exactly the same way we (/African) Neocyberpunks should thinking about their im.material. -Henry Swanson

    • Jonathan says:

      Sorry for the very late reply, Henry, but I’ve meant to respond to your comment for a while. I confess that I, like countless other (self-confessed) authors have a profoundly irrational obsession with the printed word. However, I believe that art transcends form and is only ever constrained by the limitations we impose in our attempts to define it. I also agree that the print vs cyberspace debate is largely centered around a false dichotomy, but as a fairly inexperienced writer/author/artist, I’m inclined to play it safe (at least, for now), and then gradually begin to explore some of the more innovative/interactive ways of telling (parts of) a story. My ultimate dream/fantasy is to create an expansive parallel universe that intersects with ours through various forms of art; everything ranging from hyperlink fiction to ARGs and beyond. Whatever happens, I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

  11. Benson Grayson says:

    Having tried self-publishing my own Science Fiction yarn “My Troubles With Time,” on Kindle. nook and IPAD I would suggest you think it over carefully. It is very hard competing against the vast sums the big book publishers spend to adverise their books. If no one hears of your book, no one will buy it. If you decide to go this route, spend a lot of effort and as much money as you can to have your adverising blitz hit just as your book becomes available.

    • Jonathan says:

      Benson — thanks for the advice. I can imagine how difficult it must be, but the prospect of even a modest success is quite tempting. I’m taking your words into consideration.

  12. Tosin says:

    Good luck dear. Try for a publisher. If that fails, be ready to learn some business and network well to get even modest sales.

  13. Josh W says:

    That sounds excellent! just the kind of thing I’d like to read!

    I’ve been buying things off people who use print on demand direct publishing for months, so I’d go with that, so long as it doesn’t jeopardise your ability to publish the book with a big company later. You’ll probably only get so far without them, but maybe you can switch over as direct sales reach saturation?

  14. [...] novel, Accra, as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle. If this is your first time hearing about it, Accra is a psychological mystery/thriller set in near-future Africa, during a time of widespread [...]

  15. frank says:

    The synopsis sounded great. Hope you find the best way to promote it; I know you will.

  16. Jonathan, I think your novel sounds extraordinary, important and exciting. Don’t underestimate what you are doing here. I think that book buyers and online readers are different audiences. I have no doubt that Accra will be available in book shops and on Kindles in the near future. You probably can’t mess it up by publishing anywhere as the quality of your work will get you your audience, but I think you should aim for the top. I think you should research and identify the best agents in the world, NYC or London, the agents of Philip Roth and Martin Amis and Junot Diaz, and whoever else you might admire. Call them directly, send them the opening chapters, discuss the future with them. You already have a following and a startling vision and this website is your calling card. As long as your writing is up to it, I think mainstream agents/publishers would be foolish not to buy into your vision. My feeling with publishing via Kindle first is that you should approach it like Dickens – use it to lure and to gain audience and maybe even feedback…Maybe just publish one storyline or a short story’s worth of content? A discrete thing that is satisfying in itself to readers but maybe not the whole novel? I don’t have a kindle, I am not a publisher, I’m just a reader and I’m analogue – I read and love physical books. I would only be able to find your work in a bookshop or via amazon, but I’d decide to buy a novel based on a compelling first chapter, which I might have read on the internet. Is your decision based on whether the profits come directly to you, or are you just unsure that the mainstream would publish you, or are you just hungry for feedback/readers? I would analyse what you want and go from there. BTW have you read Dhalgren, by Samuel R Delaney? You might enjoy. You probably already have. Best of luck, Helen

  17. Another thought…although you may prefer to publish in Africa first, what about sending a chapter/story to the NewYorker?

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