Part 16 – 2011 – South African Speculative Fiction Gathers Momentum (April 2012) by Sarah Lotz, Nick Wood & Tanya Barben

2011 has been a bursting year for South African speculative fiction, as it gathers further pace and push from the heralding, punchy impact of Lauren Beukes‘s first two novels. (2011 being split almost mid-year by the Arthur C.Clarke Award being presented to Lauren’s Zoo City.) Either side of this seminal event for South African speculative fiction lies various SF/F/H publishing successes for a growing number of local South African authors.

Nerine Dorman is doing great work in the indie horror world. She has published The Namaqualand Book of the Dead (Lyrical press) and is the editor of the annual Bloody Parchment Anthology. She also collaborates with Carrie Clevenger on a humorous paranormal/vampiric romance series (the first one is called Just my Blood Type). The publishers – Anne Perry and Jared Shurin – launched Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse, with excellent stories in it from a host of SA writers (Sam Wilson, Lauren Beukes, Charlie Human and SL Grey).

The Irish SF magazine Albedo One (Issue 40), published Nick Wood’s alternative history story Bridges, set in a contemporary South Africa where apartheid has survived. Nick also presented an overview of South African speculative fiction at the University of Riverside, California, with one attendee in the audience being the Jamaican-Canadian author and GOH Nalo Hopkinson (who now holds a professorial post at the University.)

South Africa’s spec-fic magazine, Something Wicked, has unfortunately folded, but is bringing out an anthology of the best of 2011 soon:

Although a Malawian writer in origin, Luso Mnthali is currently a South African resident and her story People are Reading What You Are Writing was a clever story within the Moreno-Garcia and Stiles anthology (2011) Future Lovecraft. The anthology’s stories were bound by the engaging conceit of ‘Lovecraftian’ tales set in the future. Again, although not South African, Nigerian-American Nnedi Okorafor posted a fascinating series of blogs about Lovecraft, after winning the World Fantasy Award for her novel Whom Fears Death:

Diane Awerbuck’s highly-lauded short story collection, Cabin Fever, includes a wonderfully creepy and psychologically disturbing story featuring the Mami Wata – when Diane tackles spec fiction, she does it superbly. Additionally, although not strictly horror/spec, Louis Greenberg wrote of Henrietta Rose-Innes’s Nineveh:

Henrietta Rose-Innes, the Caine Prize-winning author of ‘Poison‘, a story about a post-apocalyptic Cape Town, released her third novel, Nineveh, this year. Nineveh is what you might call subtle-spec, an ostensibly literary novel that gets weird when a plague of bugs takes over a hubristic new housing development south of Cape Town. In all her work, Rose-Innes is preoccupied with archaeology: digging away layers of history and meaning, and set squarely in contemporary South Africa and Cape Town where reality is often too bizarre and frightening to fictionalise, it is inevitable that strange things emerge from her imaginative excavations.”

Furthermore, Andrew Salomon was short-listed for the Terry Pratchett Prize for his novel Lun, which explored a variety of themes, including the smart and funny notion of a ‘sanctuary for tokoloshes’. Tom Learmont’s Light Across Time (Kwela Books) explored a novel evolutionary idea for extraterrestrials, back-dropped amongst a heady mix of zany theories and meticulously researched historical events.

Ken Sibanda’s The Return to Gibraltar was a welcome and enterprising SF debut by a black South African author – although he is now American too (Proteus Books). The novel involves an African American protagonist time-traveling to 1491 to help the Spanish Moors resist the Christian ‘reconquista’.

SL Grey’s The Mall (Corvus UK) was a dark and at times savage exploration of the life underneath (or parallel to, or even within) shopping malls, as experienced by a young white man and black woman, thrown unwillingly together by who knows whom – or what…

And, speaking of SL Grey, 2012 brings yet further exciting developments with the publication of The Ward, Grey’s second urban horror novel.

A ‘relative’ of SL Grey, Lily Herne, will follow up 2010’s wonderful YA zombie-SF novel Deadlands, with its sequel, Death of a Saint.

Also making an appearance in February 2012, Cat Hellison’s internationally published When the Sea is Rising Red. Although categorized as YA fiction, it’s undoubtedly a crossover novel, and its political undertones and cliché-smashing heroine have already been much praised by reviewers.

And, against this growing and exciting brew of South African spec-fic writers, Lauren Beukes has secured a spectacular hat-trick of book deals for her next novel, The Shining Girls (due out in 2013 from Random House Umuzi, Mulholland US, HarperCollins UK and Australia; various foreign rights have also been snapped up). As well as penning and producing documentaries and film scripts (including the screenplay for the forthcoming adaptation of Zoo City) she’s currently working on six issues of Fairest, a spin-off of Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series. It’s due in October 2012 and features a dark take on Rapunzel’s legend, set in modern-day and ancient fairytale Japan with yokai, yurei and yakuza.

2012 will also include the imminent anthology The Apex Book of World SF 2, with stories by Lauren Beukes and Ivor Hartmann amongst many others. You can see the TOC at Lavie Tidhar’s site:

Speaking of Hartmann, he plans to launch an African SF e-Anthology; there’s still time to submit, so get writing and go here:

Roll on 2012, for the next thrilling wave of South African speculative fiction…