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)
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