I just came across this remarkable African Sci-fi short film called ‘The Day They Came.’ It’s a zero budget 4-minute-long piece which follows a young Nigerian man who strolls outside his house on a calm Sunday morning only to witness the start of an alien invasion à la War of the Worlds. This is apparently the first of a series, and I’m excited to see the upcoming releases. I find particularly fascinating the film’s subversion of the traditional alien encounter set in London or New York and, as in the movie District 9 (2009), relocation to the more familiar geography of a contemporary African city. This short film represents yet another example of the effectiveness of science fiction as a narrative instrument for the next generation of African artists.

Check out the film:

I just ca

This task required us to program a robot to use a wavefront path planning algorithm to navigate a map with obstacles.

Read the full 3bute…

I recently discovered this new 3bute adapted from a blog post by Chris Kirkley (on Sahel Sounds), in which he recounts a visit to an MP3 market on the streets of Nouakchott, Mauritania. Kirkley’s brief but vivid account perfectly illustrates the radical digitization of the urban African landscape over the past few years; the overnight transformation of its cities into the high-tech slums of William Gibson’s vision:

Deeper into the market, past the fancier shops, the stalls are simpler. In concrete boxes plastered with glossy hip hop posters and homemade montages, young men lounge behind computers, blasting music from pairs of speakers directed outwards, in an arms race of sonic amplitude. This is Nouakchott’s mp3 market.

This is no amateur operation. Every computer trails a variety inputs: USB multipliers, memory card receivers, and microSD adapters. A virus scan is initiated on each new connection. Each PC is running some version of a copy utility to facilitate the process. The price is a standard 40 ougiya per song, about $0.14; like every market, discounts are available for bulk purchases.

The 3bute series creator, Bunmi Oloruntoba, will also be producing tributes to each of the five stories shortlisted for this year’s Caine Prize, beginning with Stanley Kenani’s Love on Trial, which was posted on May 27th.

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The Future Fire has been raising funds on Peerbacker for their newest project, ‘We See a Different Frontier‘, an anthology of “colonialism-themed speculative fiction from outside the first-world viewpoint.” The project is a decisive attempt to examine the unique approach of post-colonial culture to science fiction and explore the deeper issues that arise in this arena. This anthology will provide an essential contribution to international awareness of developing world perspectives in relation to the genre:

The initial target of $3000 was surpassed in the first 40 days, so whatever happens now, the colonialism-themed issue of TFF as described below will happen. But if we can reach our new target of $4000 in the next ten days, We See a Different Frontier will not be an issue of a magazine with 7-8 stories, but a full book-length anthology with over 60,000 words of fiction.

Read more…

They’ve since managed to exceeded even their second target, but you additional contributions can still be made through Peerbackers before the deadline expires within the next few days.

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The BookShy blog has a post featuring the covers of important African science fiction titles such as Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City, and Abdourahman A. Waberi’s In the United States of Africa:

The blog also highlights some of the most exciting crime fiction novels to come out of Africa in recent years, including Nii Ayikwei Parkes’ Tail of the Blue Bird, Mukoma wa Ngugi’s Nairobi Heat, and Malla Nunn’s A Beautiful Place to Die:

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Another particularly interesting find came in the form of the Gambian writer Biram Mboob, who it turns out is working on what promises to be a brilliant African science fiction novel — The Stampede. Granta Magazine has published an online excerpt of his novel-in-progress, entitled Harabella:

The Stampede is set in West Africa across different time periods reaching from the distant past, through the early 1990s, to 2047. In this extract, a young Cadet in the Homeland Army finds himself drawn into a treasonous plot to steal a strange immortality virus from the government – in an Africa that has been colonized by the People’s Republic of China.

Read More…

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And finally, regarding my own novel, I’m currently in preliminary talks with an interested UK publisher, and am now considering the possibility of getting a conventional book deal instead of self-publishing as I had initially announced. I’ll keep you updated if and when the deal goes through or otherwise, and I’m very much excited to publish the novel by any means necessary. In the meantime, I’ll be working on a series of new articles on Africa’s exciting and challenging future, and the role that science fiction has to play in shaping that future. Hopefully, we can generate some dialogue on these issues here and eventually take them beyond this blog.

Until then, stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Here’s a new article of mine that’s just been published by cyberculture legend R. U. Sirius on his webzine; Acceler8or. This article is entitled ‘Developing Worlds: Beyond the Frontiers of Science Fiction‘, and here’s the opening paragraph:

Imagine a young African boy staring wide-eyed at the grainy images of an old television set tuned to a VHF channel; a child discovering for the first time the sights and sounds of a wonderfully weird world beyond city limits. This is one of my earliest memories; growing up during the mid-nineties in a tranquil compound house in Maamobi; an enclave of the Nima suburb, one of the most notorious slums in Accra. Besides the government-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, only two other television stations operated in the country at the time, and satellite television was way beyond my family’s means. Nevertheless, all kinds of interesting programming from around the world occasionally found its way onto those public broadcasts. This was how I first met science fiction; not from the tomes of great authors, but from distilled approximations of their grand visions.

Read More…

Be sure to check out some of the other interesting articles on his site as well. Also, I’m currently on holiday in London for a few weeks, and anyone intetested in meeting up a coffee and chat can feel free to buzz me on my gmail. Any time I lose here is being made up for with tons of sci-fi inspiration from this mind-boggingly surreal post-industrial megapolis. I’ll be back with more updates and comments on this insightful experience.

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

The most valuable natural resource to a society’s development is its ore of ideas.

Much more than a brand of esoteric entertainment, science fiction has long been a source of prophetic knowledge that has influenced the destiny of humankind. From ‘1984’ (Orwell, 1949) to ‘Neuromancer’ (Gibson, 1984), the course of history has continually been altered by the ripple effect of this unique brand of ideas on our immediate future.

Already a challenging art form, science fiction is rapidly growing in complexity in the age of high technology, as anyone imagining a future society is forced to explore the consequences of several new trends on innumerable disciplines interwoven through many layers of society. However, each accurate guess proves to be well worth the effort, to ever-increasing orders of magnitude.

Of course, future prediction is old business, having been pursued by the most inquisitive minds throughout human history, from ancient Greek philosophers to our contemporary career futurists. Yet, in the widening grey area between the document in a scientific journal and the novel on your bookshelf, there lies a multiplicity of universes begging to be explored.

Science fiction is a fragile network of bridges between the scientific world and the general public.

It is hardly an easy task to expose the many dynamic relationships between the lab and the street, and less so to fashion them together into a coherent, gripping piece of entertainment. But when well-executed, it allows the average person to grasp the critical underlying factors of these relationships and gain some skill in uncovering these patterns on their own.

Science fiction takes the thoughts of a few individuals and feeds them into the collective processing machine of an entire society. Instead of being confined to a roomful of academics, these ideas are freed into the Darwinian domain of coffee houses and dinner tables, to be prodded and picked apart from all angles until a refined vision resurfaces through natural selection.

Under the guise of entertainment, science fiction spearheads the formation of vital discourses into the complex cause-effect relationships between technology and social phenomena, sharpening the collective awareness of trends within a society. The more people are exposed to these trends, the more they are inspired to study them, and the more they aspire to influence them for the better.

You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re from. Or is it the other way around?

Simply knowing what problems lie around the bend spurs the proactive development of solutions before those problems have time to take root. As we visualize what could be in our future, we gain insight to the implications of the actions we take today, putting our current reality into a grander perspective.

For instance, cyberpunk literature played a significant role in streamlining the regulation of information technology because of the huge discourse community that surrounded cyberspace as it was still in its infancy. The graphic detail in which cyberpunk described the possible abuses of the Internet provided specific objectives to achieve while guiding its development in the West.

This is likely the most recent example of a highly probable scenario being averted just as it began to materialize. There are lessons in here for Africa to learn, particularly as a disturbingly similar kind of situation shows signs of appearing on our continent. And the learning process begins with the simple dissemination of an idea.

A society without science fiction may be standing in the light, but is surely stepping into darkness.

It is clear that exposure to science fiction today has a significant impact on those who go on to build the societies of tomorrow. Had African leaders of the past been given a glimpse of the effects globalized technology would have on our geo-political landscape, we would most likely be living on a vastly different planet today.

As Africa marches onward into the future it is important that we as Africans begin to critically visualize the developments that will take place on our own soil. It’s not enough to import science fiction and translate it into the local languages. Our vision must be based on our own unique reality – cut from the cloth of our own societies and tailored to our specific needs.

It’s about time our youth had a realistic vision of their future, so they know exactly what paths to follow and can be prepared for whatever lies along the way. Africa desperately needs science fiction to expand the frontiers of the African thinker’s imagination, to free it from the past, guide it through the present, and follow it into an unbound future.