African Spec Fic I’ve Been Enjoying

I’ve been reading a whole bunch (SNAFU), though mostly African Speculative Fiction as it’s Nommo Nomination period. If you’re unsure what Speculative Fiction is, or want to know more about the Nommo awards for African Speculative Fiction, head here: http://www.africansfs.com/ .

For this post, I just want to jump right in. As of writing, the period is pretty much over, and we’ll be moving to the voting stage. You can get updates at the African Speculative Fiction Society’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/africansfs/.

A Spy In Time – Imraan Coovadia (Novel) : A great novel. It’s a mash of time travel and a spy thriller, but written with a ‘literary’ bent. It reads easily and has a number of interesting ideas within. Most interesting to me were time travel and race. Much of the novel grapples with how we might morally judge humanity in the past and present according to our current racial prejudices. It also has an interesting take on the multiverse, and the moral conundrums of racially a charged species such as ours learning how to freely move through the multiverse.

When We Dream We Are Our God – Wole Talabi (Short Story) : Ahhhh, where to begin? I can’t say much about this gem, but if you’re intrigued by AI and the possibility of human hive mind via technology, then this is for you! The story is quite utopian which I really enjoyed that on paper. Since we literally live in dystopian times, it was fresh narratively. In reality though, there’s not enough money on this planet that would make me to willingly hive mind with you crazy fucks! I’ve seen y’all on twitter,ย  and no thanks! But seriously, read this short story.

The Border Keeper – Kerstin Hall (Novella) : I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Two of my soft spots are non-traditional fantasy elements and excellent prose. This novella has both. If I were to identify a fantastical trope, it would be heaven vs hell, angels vs demons, but that is more the bare bones. The world building around it is still rather unique, so it doesn’t feel like a run of the mill angels vs demons type universe. The plot twists and turns quite a lot, perhaps too much at times, so I don’t want to give away too much about that. I don’t want to give away too much about the universe either, as the unique world building is part of the fun, so I’ll just leave the official blurb here.

“Vasethe, a man with a troubled past, comes to seek a favor from a woman who is not what she seems, and must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of Mkalis, the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.”

The Cure – Tariro Ndoro (Short Story) : So again, all bias here, but this a whimsical little urban fantasy tale that also hit my soft spots. It’s set in South Africa (check!), but its not bogged down with over explanations, and language translations (check!). So the prose is nice and fluid. Shout out to the author and editors for that. It covers some great themes, like being an outcast, living in the city, and every South African’s favorite topic of choice after Coronavirus, crime. I mean, it seems silly at this stage of regularly reading African Spec Fic, but enjoying a fantastical short set in a place like Joburg, still really hits the spot!

Tends to Zero – Wole Talabi : Cheated with this one. Said I wasn’t going to read it, as Wole is already on this list, but curiosity got the better of me. The short is fucking brilliant! It’s a dark emotional tale, with themes of mental turmoil, which is my bread and butter I guess. It also plays with the age old trope in weird fiction of cities, and if they manifested themselves in some supernatural/fantastical form. The city in question here is Lagos. It reminded me a bit of a short I published in the Kalahari Review, also dealing with cities manifesting themselves.

The Pop-Intellectual

It has recently occurred to me that it may be time to further our distinctions of the types of intellectuals, or free-thinkers if you prefer *eyeroll*, that exist in today’s society. I believe we can now make three distinctions.

The Intellectual

Gazing into the intellectual abyss.

They tend to look like this dude and hang around libraries and university campuses. They tend to be gathering “data” in “the field” a lot. Often they’re professors or work at non-profit think tanks and research institutions. They like writing books and reeeeeeeealy long articles about reeeeeeally complex stuff and things, that most people don’t seem to care about, even though they probably should. They can be black too. They can be female as well. They can be non-binary. They tend not to have a lot of likes and andย  followers, because, well, you don’t really get lots of likes for being an intellectual, and trying to further human thought. In fact, you generally get told you’re being negative, and should try some tummy tea, or re-aligning your chakras.

The Pseudo-Intellectual

I like to lump myself in here somewhere. Along with the knowledgeable artist , the investigative journalist, the weirdo activist at all the think tank events, who also raps, but also paints, and does community work in Mitchells Plain regularly.

Seeing as I’m making this up as I go, I should note here that when I define this, I’m not using the “Pseudo” part as an insult. It’s just to separate those who dabble in intellectualism (and dabble well), but don’t pursue it full time. You know, you’re Immortal Technique types. You’re highbrow creatives. People who engage with intellectualism regularly but don’t necessarily pursue it as a a career, and probably spend a little less time on campus and more on the internet selling you healthy super-foods, because they studied Botany in a past life or something. People in the economy of likes and followers, but not necessary down with it. People who write philosophical novels and stuff. That kind of thing.

Tariq’s new EP is a banger, and full of intellectual stuff and things.

The Pop-Intellectual

This is the designation I believe we used to give to the Pseudo-Intellectual, but the internet has given us a new breed of super super super mutant pseudo intellectuals, whom we shall refer to as Pop-Intellectuals.

The oh so desperate to be a free-thinker that I absorb everything pop culture tells me because I actually believe pop icons are intellectuals and/or free thinkers. Free thought can only come from those who are rich and famous. A professional philosopher could never have a free thought worth my time, but I better check Billboard’s No.1 pop track for my next dose of Epistemology.

The fake outragers. The, this deep issue is trending now, I better jump on it, and freak out on the internet quick, so I can get likes and more followers (okay fine, we all do that from time to time hehe).

The Pop-Intellectual in their natural habitat. Notice everything around them burns while they remain unperturbed. This is the blind confidence of one with complete faith in their favorite pop-icon, who has confirmed to them that everything is indeed, fine. No further research is required into the ramifications of being on fire if your pop-icon has confirmed to you that fire is harmless.

He Who Should Not Be Named and his cult following.ย  The type toย  gleefully inform you that you can separate art from the artist, and think they’ve blown your mind. Really, I mean really? Wow I certainly never knew that, and I definitely don’t have my own mind, and my own thoughts that dictate when I will and will not decide to exercise my right to separate art from the artist. Oh yes I better listen to that thing you’re trying to force me to listen to, because, OMG, I can separate art from the artist. Amazing.

The Pop-Intellectual doesn’t seem to like books a lot, or the library, or even googling anything they talk about. This is because they apply no rigor to their alleged intellectualism. I mean, who needs research when celebrities are experts on every single topic that ever existed, like ever, since, like, the beginning of all time when the earth was flat and stuff.

They never dig their heels in on a single issue and see it through. They seem to believe they can solve complex issues like racism and sexism, by not going to Starbucks for a couple of days. They’re lazy about real issues. They need them to go away fast, so they can go back to posting about how woke they are, and throw in a misquote of a philosopher like a Ayn Rand (seriously…ewww, don’t abuse philosophy for your narcissism, it’s gross man).

As soon as their favorite pop-icon or corporation issues a weak apology, or new album, all is well, and justice has been restored to world. They take economic advice from famous fashion models. They take medical advice from reality stars. They always have the loudest mouth, but their utterings are void of substance. They’re, as Greg Puciato would say: a mouth without a heart – an action without meaning.