Nick Wood – March/May 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Thirdly, an as yet unpublished novel by a Cape Town writer and archaeologist has been shortlisted for the Terry Prachett Prize - the book is Lun, and it's by Andrew Salomon.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 - - 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: 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: 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