100 African science fiction writers you should be reading

Canadian/British science fiction and fantasy author Geoff Ryman, author of the incredible novel WAS, has begun a series in which he profiles 100 working science fiction and fantasy writers in Africa, place by place, starting with Nairobi.

Ryman's series is based on his travels in each of the countries he covers, interviewing writers, hanging out at their events, and getting a sense of the local SF publishing scene. The writers' profiles include selections from their writing and brief interviews, along with Ryman's own smart commentary.

Many of the writers Ryman meets were also included in Africa39, 2014's groundbreaking anthology of 39 stories by sub-Saharan writers under 40; and Afrofuture(s), a 2015 theme-issue of the literary journal Jalada; also prominent is Kwani?, an anthology publisher that specializes in science fiction.

Ray Mwihaki

I walked with them to the boat stand. They didn’t seem to mind my presence or maybe they didn’t see me. The thought of invisibility made me smile. I was living vicariously through them. The thought and anticipation of their suffering fed my innermost hunger. This was happiness greater than I had felt ever before and it was only getting better. Now that I had tasted the beyond, I appreciated life and fed on the miseries of life. The one thing I craved from humanity was recognition. No one left a plate out for the unseen. I wanted them to scatter in my presence, to notice me in the least. To leave me little sacrifices to ward off my evil. The movies had lied to us. The living did not feel a sudden shiver when we touch them or walk past. They walk through you and never laugh at the jokes you work eternity to come up with. Good thing is, we eventually get the last laugh.

—“Soul Kiss”

Ray Mwihaki’s favorite music is the soundtracks of old gang-related games—the kind that used 40s to 50s jazz. She makes mixtapes of them. She is much influenced by Datacide, a German website that publishes papers, discussions or stories. “It’s a controversial, grungy publication, really heavy with no filters, nothing polished or pretty.”

Ray is the manager and sub-editor of Manure Fresh, the first hardcopy publication of the group blog Fresh Manure.

Ray wants Manure Fresh “to rival the standards set by Jalada or Kwani? but have stories that don’t fit, less polished stories, we want a rawness.” Clifton Cachagua says, “If you want the most experimental writing in Nairobi, then get Manure Fresh, the book.”

The book has a title of its own, Going Down Moi Avenue (a reference to Going Down River Road by Meja Mwangi). The first issue featured a story written entirely in Sheng, the local mixed language—part of the general impatience with writers who focus on the needs of Western publishing. Ray’s own story was about an underground club that you find by searching for clues and messages around Nairobi. You will have to come to Nairobi to read it, however—it’s available only in hard copy.

100 African Writers of SFF — Part One: Nairobi [Geoff Ryman/Tor.com]