I have updated my SF in SA page with an article On Writing the Other which appeared in the February issue of the South African speculative fiction e-magazine, Something Wicked: SF in SA 15. This was co-written with Zandile Mahlasela, who helped evaluate my story Of Hearts and Monkeys, which is now freely available here.

Nick Wood - Mar/Apr 2012

It's been a good holiday in Cape Town again - always great to see family and friends! I have added another section to SF in SA (14), an interview I did with the author Tom Learmont, for The World SF Blog.

Of further note, Ivor Hartmann has put out a call for African science fiction, that is, science fiction written by African writers. Submissions can be made here: http://afrosf.submishmash.com/submit. They also have a Facebook page for ongoing posts. So please submit a story (by the end of May this year) if you can, and raise the profile of truly African SF.

This is a short blog, as I am exhausted after completing the first draft of an alternative history SF novel, required by the MA in SF/F course I'm doing through Middlesex University. The book looks at how a prototypic 'mind-reading' device may impact within a South Africa where apartheid remains, as acted out between the main protagonists, a white therapist and a black patient, who goes on the run. It's provisionally entitled Azanian Bridges and builds on Bridges, which was published in 2011 in the Irish SF 'zine Albedo One.In the meantime, may 2012 be a great year for you all!

Nick Wood - January/February 2012.

Mighty Man 5 back cover ad 1975.
Mighty Man 5 back cover ad 1975.

In this blog update, I report on new added material to the SF in SA section (Section 13 - November 2011) as well as a few other items of news. Firstly, Section 13 is about a 'South African' Black-Super Hero, seemingly based in Soweto in the turbulent mid 1970's, who was known as Mighty Man. I have picked up a couple of issues of this comic over the years of collecting comics in South Africa in the eighties and nineties and contributed this researched article to an old comic-swap friend from Cape Town, George Van Der Riet. George has developed a nostalgic blog looking at old South African comics, which is well worth a visit, if you like comics: http://southafricancomicbooks.blogspot.com/ (The article was also commented on at SA Books Live).

Secondly, my new short story, Case Notes of a Witchdoctor was shortlisted for the Aeon 2011 International Awards. There is one more round allowed for submissions - deadline the end of this month, November - and then the short list is reduced to an even shorter list of six stories for the impressive panel of judges. So please, if you have a story you think is speculative fiction, why not submit? My story, Bridges, a Runner-Up in the 2009 Award, was published in Albedo One 40 a couple of months ago.

Bridges has just received a decent review at SF Crowsnest (November 2011). "Bridges by Nick Wood may be the best thing in this issue. It is set in an alternative South African present where apartheid is still in force. A psychiatrist has built an empathy box and longs to connect himself to a black patient with whom he is not making much progress. Ethical dilemmas and the sense of a menacing authority are deftly conveyed and I liked the background material about Obama and Osama meeting with the Russians to negotiate that power's withdrawal from Afghanistan. The fact that the author is a clinical psychologist indubitably helped with the authenticity of this story."

I am also pleased I have a couple of stories due to appear in South Africa. Of Hearts and Monkeys is due to appear over the next few months in Something Wicked Magazine and Lunar Voices (on the Solar Wind) will be featured at some stage in Jungle Jim Magazine. Try and get hold of these good home-grown South African magazines, which both publish excellent overseas and local fiction. Till next time…

Nick Wood - October-December 2011

A brief update and a couple of books:

  1. My story Bridges is now out in the Irish SF 'zine, Albedo One, with thanks to the Aeon International Award. And there's still time too, for anyone interested, to enter for the 2011 Award-the last entry period being the end of November: Go to www.albedo1.com/aeon_award.html . The issue includes a story and Interview with the British author Colin Harvey, tragically recently deceased at the young age of fifty.

  2. The South African speculative fiction imprint Jungle Jim is looking for new submissions go to: www.junglejim.org/

  3. The excellent Something Wicked magazine is looking for new subscribers, with a renewed and reinvigorated online presence: www.somethingwicked.co.za

  4. I'm hoping Charlie Human's novel Apocalypse Now Now will be published sometime soon - he has a sharp short story up at The World SF blog.

  5. Finally, I have a later edition of Probe magazine available for download here. (Probe is the South African Science Fiction and Fantasy Society's magazine, this is issue 142)

Jungle Jim Cover of Issue No1

This month, a fair bit of reading done but only a trickle of writing due to ill health, with much thinking. Many things don't come on demand, no matter how much we may want it. Healing is one such thing. It has its' own momentum, its' own agenda-creating space for it doesn't guarantee it will happen. All things have their own pace, their own particular and implicit story.

Cue two books with widely differing plots but (to me at least) a similar underlying essence, once distilled. We live in a brutal world-a world of such horror that in S.L. Grey's The Mall, the two main protagonists (spoiler alert) choose at the end to return to the harried, fraught and shocking mirror-Mall world. The Mall is a dark and gripping South African satirical speculative fiction novel that bounces between its black-white, male-female narrators, echoing the distorted mirror images and beings in the hidden depths of an alternate shopping Mall. Such little redemption as there is; comes in the form of the relationship that grows between the two protagonists, moving beyond initial loathing towards genuine Eros. There's still hope then, however small...

In Lavie Tidhar's Osama, the 'real world' is so horrific it can only exist as pulp fiction. The central character-a universal 'Joe'-goes in search of the author of the 'Osama' books, in noir detective mode. But there are men out to stop him...

Osama is a deceptively slow, beautiful, dense and detailed read, dripping with rich and resonant references that saturate the text. One is drawn into the central narrative quest with the realisation that this is Joe's raison d'être, a focus he needs to keep returning to, in order to give his life direction and purpose. Around him, a world unfolds as he moves across it, Asia, Europe, America-and back again. Gradually one realises Joe has a shadow existence-he is a 'refugee' or a 'fuzzy-wuzzy', an explorer who hovers on the edge of the world, perhaps 'dead', perhaps liminal, but held together by the intensity of his focus. As, perhaps, are we all?

In a meta-fictional twist at the end a woman attempts to bring the narrator of 'Joe' back to his 'true' identity, citing specific tastes, desires and beliefs. 'Are these Tidhar's?' I wondered for a brief, intrigued moment and then realised that's actually not the point. We constantly create stories about ourselves and others-some are more privileged and powerful and gain greater leverage in the world, but they are not necessarily more valid and 'true'. '(The War on Terror' for instance-whose (W)ar, which terrors?)

As it is, Osama now haunts the liminal world with Joe, where more stories and ghostly people (potentially) proliferate.

As for healing, it's all around us, within and between us-as are death and lands beyond, including 'Nangalima'. Tidhar shows that there are no neat, nor hard and fast borders-both within this world and between this world and others.

Thanks for that Joe; I'll have a drink on you.

Nick Wood - August/September 2011

There's been a good overview of the growing world-wide interest in - and power of - South African speculative fiction in a Guardian article as revealed here. The S.L. Grey book mentioned, The Mall, is now out in the UK, so please go and buy! (The cover is kindly reproduced here, courtesy of authorial permission).

Welcome back as well to Something Wicked (SW) magazine, which has recently started up again after a hiatus of about a year. Issue 11 of this South African 'zine has just been published and so please have a look online and subscribe to try and ensure this local dark fantasy/SF gem keeps going: (Issue 11 has an interview with both 'halves' of S.L.Grey. I am also pleased to report I have sold Of Hearts and Monkeys to SW as a reprint, which will hopefully make its' South African debut in there towards the end of 2011.)

Congratulations are due to Tom Learmont, who has just had his SF/F book Light Across Time published by Kwela Books in South Africa. Yet another sign of the growing local South African storm gathering, in the speculative fiction scene! Finally, I'm pleased to report my story Lunar Voices (on the Solar Wind), published in Redstone Science Fiction last year is now credited as a pro sale by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). It has recently been podcast in two episodes (#266 - 41 minutes in and #267 - 35 minutes in) by Beam Me Up; episode 1 here. Thanks go out to Paul Cole for doing such a good job on this! Onwards and upwards to African SF/F - and Jonathan Dotse seems to know the way, from Accra in Ghana: http://www.afrocyberpunk.com.

Until, next time, read, listen, write...

Nick Wood - July-September 2011

Cover of The Mall by SL Grey (Reproduced with permission)

I have updated the SF in SA articles with number 12, a brief appreciation of Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City, which has deservedly won the British Arthur C. Clarke Award, in my view the UK's premier science fiction award. This appreciation was initially published in the magazine Locus Online recently, in Jeff VanDerMeer's annual international compilation, which also included Sarah Lotz's recommendation for Adeline Radloff's YA novel Sidekick: http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2011/04/an-overview-of-international-science-fiction-and-fantasy-2010/. Big congratulations go out to Lauren for winning the Clarke! Also of note, is Capetonian Andrew Salomon's short-listing for the Terry Pratchett Prize for his novel Lun. Best of luck to Andrew, with the winner due to be announced the end of May!

Nick Wood - May - June 2011

I have some very good news to share this month, with regard to the general state of (South) African speculative fiction. As I mentioned in my Locus article just over a year ago now; 'There is thus a huge variety of South African speculative fiction potentially brewing for the future, as befits a 'Rainbow Nation'.' Well, the South African spec-fic 'stew' now seems to be rapidly coming to the boil!

Firstly, Lauren Beukes has had well-deserved and multiple award nominations for her wonderful second SF/F book Zoo City. She has been put forward for the British Science Fiction Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award - as for the Hugo, it is no doubt already on the nomination list!

Secondly, there has been a fine book recently launched in South Africa, written by Lily Herne, entitled Deadlands. Deadlands is a YA South African zombie novel, set in a post-soccer World Cup ravaged Cape Town. In this inventive and gripping book, the World Cup went off a little less smoothly than the real event, being set ten years after a zombie invasion and war that spiked the mid World Cup celebrations. The outcome of this apocalypse is that people are living in segregated enclaves run with dictatorial certitude and power by a priestly caste who call themselves 'Resurrectionists'. The lead protagonist is Lele de la Fontein, trapped between her step-mother's Resurrectionist beliefs, school and a small, underground anarchic anti-Zombie league. Lele learns to take control of her own fate through her alliance with an outlawed splinter group - 'the Mall Rats' - and the novel moves swiftly towards a clever and powerful resolution. It is an assured and engaging story, its subtext perhaps challenging conformity and the deadening power of political oppression, but never losing its inherent sparkle and energetic drive that should make it a hit with teenagers from South Africa and beyond.

Thirdly, an as yet unpublished novel by a Cape Town writer and archaeologist has been shortlisted for the Terry Prachett Prize - the book is Lun, and it's by Andrew Salomon. I gather this is a great read and will be a well-earned winner, should it be announced so, at the end of May. Good luck, to both Lauren and Andrew! (Lily Herne's turn for nominations no doubt awaits next year!)

Fourthly, I presented in Riverside, California at the Eaton Global Science Fiction Conference on South African speculative fiction - a Friday afternoon slot - http://eatonconference.ucr.edu/schedule/friday.html - where I mentioned further upcoming South African speculative fiction works, including Tom Learmont's 'Light Across Time', due out later in the year from Kwela Books. I also mentioned work by Craig Smith, S.L.Grey's upcoming - and we had a fascinating discussion at the end around the works of Zakes Mda, Lauren Beukes and - as far as I know - SA's first 'Zombie' book, Deadlands. I was thrilled to see Nalo Hopkinson in the audience too, one of the Con's GOHs.

Fifth, a fine short story was published in The World SF Blog by South African writer Charlie Human, called Dance Dance Revolution: http://worldsf.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/tuesday-fiction-dance-dance-revolution-by-charlie-human/ Charlie also has an exciting novel in the pipeline; currently entitled Apocalypse Now Now. Sixth, a YA novella set in Cape Town by Hana Sklenkova has won The New Writer Award and is due for publication in their magazine in July: http://www.thenewwriter.com/prizewinners.htm. The novella is called Cape of Good Hope - congratulations go out to Hana too!

Shall I go on? Or can we all just agree this is a rich and boiling SA spec-fic casserole indeed - or should that be potjiekos?

Nick Wood - March - May 2011

I've just returned from 3 weeks in South Africa, where my father is recovering from neuro-surgery following a fall on his head and consequent subdural haematoma. All involved in his care have been amazed at his resilience and drive to health - may he be blessed with many more years of quality ahead of him, climbing his beloved Table Mountain daily-alongside his life-partner (my mom), with spaniel(s) rushing ahead, looking for dassies to chase!

I've also had conversations with a number of people there around a variety of topics, such as the need to re-establish our connection with nature and the importance of this for our mental health and survival (Ian McCallum). Ian is planning on leading a TRACKS expedition across Southern Africa following elephant trails, in 'the tracks of giants'. The stories and experiences that emerge from this will no doubt strengthen ways to treasure and protect our essential - but in many cases forgotten or repressed - relationship with the natural world/Gaia.

Also discussed was the importance of protecting the diversity of languages and ways of facilitating access to relevant reading materials and resources for many people from disadvantaged backgrounds (Carole Bloch). (See Project for Study of Alternative Education in South Africa: PRAESA. This reminded me of the several writing workshops I'd run in township schools in the past - rather than working through an isiXhosa interpreter, participants preferred to have me conduct it entirely in English - understandably seen by many as the desired language of power and access to the World. The drawback of this is the potential consequential impoverishment of their own rich languages - cue to a blog I wrote some years ago on the disappearance of Khoi-San peoples and languages, marginalized by political establishments out to seize their land and resources.

Both of these issues above are united by the urgent need to protect the world's diversity-in order to protect ourselves. These concerns will no doubt shape my own writing in some way as I pick up the pen again this year, my body and mind slowly regaining strength to write again. I will certainly never take for granted my health again - nor my family, nor others, nor the World beyond and within.

Firstly though, back to work as well, where I have just added to my set of essays on SF in SA, in an essay entitled Our Ancestors are Not Ghosts (part 11). This is loosely about trying to hold back from judging non-Western stories using Western based genre concepts, i.e. respecting where stories come from. And, further, I start to finalise an account of South African speculative fiction for the Eaton Global Science Fiction Conference at the University of California (Riverside) next month (February) http://eatonconference.ucr.edu/2011/speakers.php#NWood.

Finally, two short stories of mine were published last year, potentially eligible for awards, although there was a huge amount of good to excellent material published, with online 'zines now starting to rival the old print giants.

The stories were: Lunar Voices (on the Solar Wind) at Redstone Science Fiction And 'Of Hearts and Monkeys' published in the Postscripts 22/23 anthology entitled 'The Company He Keeps'. In the latter story, I write :"We must learn the words of the monkeys and the crocodiles if we are to survive this burnt but flowering world." p.367. So, to learning and saving words, languages, nature, the world.

And may 2011 be a good year for you.

Nick Wood - January-February 2011

The Apex Book of World SF. vol II. is due for publication in 2011 and has revealed a very exciting line-up of World based authors, with a good African representation this time round:

  • Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philippines)-Alternate Girl's Expatriate Life

  • Ivor W. Hartmann (Zimbabwe)-Mr. Goop

  • Daliso Chaponda (Malawi)-Trees of Bone

  • Daniel Salvo (Peru)-The First Peruvian in Space

  • Gustavo Bondoni (Argentina)-Eyes in the Vastness of Forever

  • Chen Qiufan (China)-The Tomb

  • Joyce Chng (Singapore)-The Sound of Breaking Glass

  • Csilla Kleinheincz (Hungary)-A Single Year

  • Andrew Drilon (Philippines)-The Secret Origin of Spin-man

  • Anabel Enriquez Piñeiro (Cuba)-Borrowed Time (trans. Daniel W. Koon)

  • Lauren Beukes (South Africa)-Branded

  • Raúl Flores Iriarte (Cuba)-December 8

  • Will Elliott (Australia)-Hungry Man

  • Shweta Narayan (India)-Nira and I

  • Fábio Fernandes (Brazil)-Nothing Happened in 1999

  • Tade Thompson (Nigeria)-Shadow

  • Hannu Rajaniemi (Finland)-Shibuya no Love

  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexico)-Maquech

  • Sergey Gerasimov (Ukraine)-The Glory of the World

  • Tim Jones (New Zealand)-The New Neighbours

  • Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/US)-From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7

  • Gail Har'even (Israel)-The Slows

  • Ekaterina Sedia (Russia/US)-Zombie Lenin

  • Samit Basu (India)-Electric Sonalika

  • Andrzej Sapkowski (Poland)-The Malady (trans. Wiesiek Powaga)

  • Jacques Barcia (Brazil)-A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades

Nick Wood - December 2010

My apologies for the long delay in updating this blog, but illness has been enduring and I have concentrated on getting through the day, subsequently writing relatively little. Still, at least I have been able to read - a great African SF/F book by Nnedi Okorafor Who Fears Death; Lavie Tidhar's excellent Cloud Permutations and N.K. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. (I have Jemison's signed sequel The Broken Kingdoms, which I look forward to reading in warmer South African climes soon.)

Just to confirm that my story Of Hearts and Monkeys has been published in The Company He Keeps Anthology (PostScripts 22/23)

Finally, I have added a new piece on SF in SA (part 11) entitled Our Ancestors Are Not Ghosts. I have also added a later version of Science Fiction South Africa's (SFSA) SF magazine Probe (issue 141) - with many thanks to SFSA - which is available for download too. Happy Holidays as the Americans say.

Nick Wood - October-December 2010

Apologies for the update delay but health has been - and continues to be - a pre-occupation. Still, I'm getting to the point where I'm learning to manage it better, and am hopeful that some form of healthy equilibrium will materialise by the end of the year. The illness has derailed any current writing, but I've sent out a few older stories and have met with some success.

Firstly, Lunar Voices (On the Solar Wind) won the Accessible Futures Contest run by Redstone Science Fiction and has been published here- http://redstonesciencefiction.com/. There is an interesting essay by Sarah Einstein on how the contest unfolded, entitled Choosing the Best Possible Future- http://redstonesciencefiction.com/2010/09/possible-future/.

Also recently published is an academic article I wrote on Psychological assessments procedures for Deaf or hard-of-hearing children which was published in the June 2010 issue of Educational and Child Psychology and can be read here.

I have also had a paper accepted for presentation at the Eaton Global SF convention in Riverside California next February- http://eatonconference.ucr.edu/2011/frontpage.php. I will be presenting an overview of South African speculative fiction, with particular emphasis on Lauren Beukes and Zakes Mda

Finally, with regard to reading I have just finished Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death and Thando Mgqolozana's A Man Who Is Not A Man. My deliberations on these will follow next month, amongst other items, including hopefully a more recent issue of SFSA's Probe magazine.

Nick Wood - Jul/Sep 2010.

Lauren Beukes' Zoo City has been released and a glorious follow-up to Moxyland it is too! For my money it's an even stronger, more focused and powerful book. It has a great premise involving both a blurred integration of science and traditional African beliefs, as well as a fantastical and metaphorical link between human and beast. It's narrated by a wonderful central character; who seems to be faithfully represented in the gorgeous cover picture!

Just a couple of other items to report on - firstly, I have a poem published on Ken Macleod's Human Genre Project entitled 'Fragile X': http://www.humangenreproject.com/index.php?id=23. Secondly, the TOC of PostScripts 22/23 has been released, which includes my story 'Of Hearts and Monkeys': http://store.pspublishing.co.uk/acatalog/The_Company_He_Keeps_JHC.html.

Finally, I went to see the film Invictus, which has the two South African leads played by American actors Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman - both excellent actors, especially Freeman - but South Africa has great actors too. I would have loved to see John Kani play Madiba(Mandela). For an inspiring article by Kani, read Will the real South African man please stand up: http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/article230504.ece.

I am not sure when I will next update this blog as my chronic health problems are being extensively evaluated over the next month or so, but I hope to return soon. In the meantime, may your paths be fruitful, healthy and happy!

Nick Wood - May/June 2010

Reproduced with permission

Two big African speculative fiction books are due to be launched in the next couple of months. Perhaps first out of the blocks with a 29 April 2010 release is Lauren Beukes and her follow up to Moxyland, entitled Zoo City. This looks like it's going to be a rollicking, snorting follow-up, albeit a completely different story to Moxyland and set in the grittier and grimier streets of Jo'burg. (It also features a great cover as seen in an earlier blog of mine, below, by John Picacio). For more info from publishers Angry Robot, follow the link: http://angryrobotbooks.com/our-authors/laurenbeukes/zoo-city/.

Feted for a June 1st 2010 release is Nigerian-American Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death. This also sports a great cover and looks to be an exciting and powerful story, garnering early praise and a starred review in Publisher's Weekly: http://nnedi.blogspot.com/2010/04/publishers-weekly-gives-who-fears-death.html. Nnedi is following up on the earlier successes of her previous books Zahrah the Windseeker and The Shadow Speaker.

The wonderful covers on both the Beukes and Okorafor are no mean feat in this era where there has been a tendency to 'whitewash' covers, with a prime example being the 'paling' of the central protagonist in Justine Larbalestier's Liar. As reported by The Book Smugglers, there is a long and unfortunate history to this practice, so it's good to see such strong and authentic covers on the two books mentioned above: http://thebooksmugglers.com/2010/02/cover-matters-on-whitewashing.html

Finally, there has been some online debate as to what constitutes African speculative fiction, with a fine rejoinder by one of the authors mentioned above, i.e. Nnedi Okorafor: http://www.sfwa.org/2010/03/can-you-define-african-science-fiction/ In addition, Charles Tan writes on Where is International SF?: http://www.sfwa.org/2010/03/where-is-international-sf/. And so, if you're wanting to support international SF, what better place to start than the two African spec-fic books above? Furthermore, hopefully coming out later this year is volume 2 of the Apex Book of World SF, focusing on Africa and Latin America. Volume 1 is still in print and well worth getting too: http://www.apexbookstore.com/products/the-apex-book-of-world-sf. Due out sometime in the future is a compilation of Weird fiction by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, who are trawling the world for a truly global collection. So start saving, you're in for quite a treat!

Nick Wood - April 2010.

I've just finished a Cape to Cairo narrative written with a difference - it's entitled Dark Continent My Black Arse by Sihle Khumalo (2007); Umuzi Press; Roggebaai (Cape Town). The book does what it says 'on the tin', i.e. provides a contemporary account of Khumalo's epic journey, made via 'bus, boksie, matola' and what sounds like a harrowing Sudanese desert rail crossing. The 'difference' within the narrative being that it is written by one born and rooted on the African continent, namely an amaZulu man with an eye to demythologising Western 'Afro-pessimistic' images - as Thabo Mbeki used to refer to this.

But Sihle Khumalo is both an engaging and an honest companion - there is direct acknowledgement too of 'internal' problems (e.g. corruption) that contribute towards a number of 'African' problems - although this is certainly a world-wide problem too, as indicated by the expenses claim scandal in what some may consider as the so-called 'heart' of Western democracy, i.e. the UK. Khumalo further observes that African problems are also compounded by post-colonial influences from the 'outside' too, i.e. countries seeking cheap resources to power their own development, largely at the continent's expense.

What further engages is the personal intimacy provided for by the narrator in what sounds like a beautiful but at times difficult journey - no 4X4 vehicle or camera crew for him, or anything like the entourage that followed Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor in their BBC sponsored Long Way Down trip across Africa!

Further stories recently read include two Zimbabwean short-story collections - The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera and Why Don't You Carve Other Animals by Yvonne Vera. The Marechera is a particularly powerful collection by a writer who died tragically early (35 years of age). The Vera is perhaps more understated and subtle, but is beautifully strong and implicitly political too - another early tragic loss, as she died at only forty years of age.

Further of note, it's just past the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species; the ground-breaking book that established the roots of evolutionary theory. A Southern African narrative analysis of authors and stories laced with our animal connections is provided by Wendy Woodward in her The Animal Gaze: Animal Subjectivities in Southern African Narratives. That is, stories in which animals are described with interior lives as suggested by their behaviour and implied in their evolutionary familial links with us - a link reinforced by many 'traditional' mythologies. Authors cited are J.M. Coetzee, Mia Couto, Yvonne Vera and Zakes Mda amongst many others.

Lastly, just to mention that my story Bridges has been awarded Second Prize in the Aeon International Award 2009 - a prize which includes pending publication in the Irish SF Magazine Albedo One. Thanks to the organisers of the prize for this and Grand Judge Ian Watson, who judged all final short-listed entries as completely anonymised! This year's 2010 Aeon Award will be judged by a panel comprising of Ian Watson, Anne McCaffrey, Mike Resnick and Sam Millar. So get in your entries now - http://www.albedo1.com/.

Nick Wood - Feb/March 2010.

Further to my previous health-related post, my health issues are relatively minor - for real courage in maintaining creativity in the face of adversity and disability, please see the Attitude Awards from New Zealand TV, which celebrate the achievements of disabled New Zealanders and includes a focus on New Zealand spec-fic author Glynne MacLean: http://tvnz.co.nz/attitude/s2009-awards-video-3228227. Fuller introductions of all the finalists and an explanation of the Attitude Awards can be found in the half hour Attitude Awards Finalists show.

Just to note by way of update, the cover for Lauren Beukes's new book Zoo City has been released - and both gorgeous and African it is too. If you could 'judge a book by its cover', it looks like a book that will no doubt top even Moxyland. (cover)

Further, an update on what I've read while on holiday with family in Cape Town recently - firstly, Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods - a beautifully written story with science-fiction tropes. On occasion the narrative was ruptured for me by unconvincing scenes such as the interstellar space travel, but perhaps I'm being too literal with what is probably metaphorical usage of standard SF tropes. Secondly, Tom Arden's first book in his Orokon series, The Harlequin's Dance, which is a clever and at times dark fantasy set in a detailed and well-imagined Universe - with perhaps some similarities to eighteenth century England? I have the second book in his series on order.

Finally, if you're looking for more African writing, you can look at online sources such as http://www.afriprov.org/index.php/african-stories-database.html ; Story Time Africa, http://storytime-about.blogspot.com/ and African Writing Online http://www.african-writing.com/seven/.

And, in the interests of widening diversity even further, why not look at stories for the deaf? Signed Stories has picked up a number of awards http://www.signedstories.com/page/index.cfm.

Zoo City Cover

Nick Wood - Jan 12 2010

I hoisted a pile of keys in my hand this morning, but couldn't find the front door one. I trawled left, poked right, prodded both front and back of this jangling pile hanging heavy in my hand, wondering if they had somehow mysteriously bred overnight. There were big keys, little keys, keys with black rubber casings and strange contours that looked as if they could open the doors of perception . . . but no front door key. I was in a hurry, but had no wish to bash my own door down in order to get out. Instead, I decided to stay calm and be systematic about it, on the premise now faltering in my mind that a front door key could not vanish - at least not without good scientific reason, such as someone removing it. (I do write science fiction after all!)

So I sat down, made a cup of coffee and pursued my key hunt, holding each key I looked at in my left hand, working through the massive shifting pile with my right. Finally, I found it, hiding behind a little circular brown tagged key-ring, one of eight cluttering the amorphous pile. My appointment now missed, I gave up the drive to go as it was replaced with a stronger motivation; namely, to look through the pile in order to identify how many keys I actually recognised.

  • Car
  • Front door
  • Inner door

That's it in total, as I have a computer card for my office! Three keys in 28 recognised - I have vague memories two of the unrecognised 25 keys might be from a previous job a decade ago, perhaps being an office and computer key. Maybe. That's still at least 23 keys for which I can fathom no memory or purpose - keys that stalled my day, instead of opening my door and starting the car, as they should have done. Keys which might open the Kingdom of Heaven or Hell for all I knew. But right now, all I needed to do was leave the house.

For those of us on the Gregorian calendar, this is my New Year resolution - to strip this pile of confusing breeding metal to three keys and a free bottle-opener key ring, although it's years since I last saw a bottle-top that it might open. I can manage that at least. I'm old enough now to not promise myself anything more for the year. This is the year that small changes such as these will hopefully gather pace like snowballs in this frozen British landscape, starting a metaphorical avalanche in my life that I hope and pray will improve my health, compromised - thankfully not in anything like terminal fashion - for 30 months now. I practice the techniques I taught when working at the Pain Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town; never realising then just how hard and focused one has to be, in order to get any leverage from these strategies. It's going to take more than techniques to put this to right though - I must uncover the meaning of this illness in a personal/familial/environmental narrative, even if in the end it is just about endurance and the creation of meaning. I need to keep the words rolling - words are life, words are light.

Two stories of mine are due this year at least - Of Hearts and Monkeys will almost certainly be out in Postscripts in the next issue or two and another one is on the short list for an award, which will include publication - should it make the grade. But that's all by the by, the real words of significance drive our daily lives.

May you find the right keys to joy and creativity this year, whether it's the start or not of your own calendar year. (As for me, I have just three.)

Finally, a link to a life riven by real pain and despair - please help if you can - see Lauren Beukes's plea at http://laurenbeukes.book.co.za/blog/.

Nick Wood - January 2010

To read my Blogs dating back to January 2008 with a further link to blogs back to July 2005 please click here.

This page Last Updated 13/03/2012 3:20:05 p.m.

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