I’ve been a compulsive reader all my life, and some of my favorite authors have written about Africa, Nobel Prize winners Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer and Wole Soyinka; the filmmaker, Ousemene Sembène, the novelist Chinua Achebe. But like most Americans, I have read very little by people my age or younger, especially contemporary African writers living in Africa. This is why I am particularly delighted with the chance to fill this gap with our first Buy-to-Unglue campaign, for Lagos_2060 .
I hope that any Ungluers who read science fiction (and we know from your wishlists that there are a lot of you who do) will be just as intrigued as well.
This anthology is a window on Africa from the point of view of Africans. The stories are written in English by young men and women who live and work in Lagos in 2014. Perhaps there is a future Nobel Prize or Nebula Award winner among them. The volume includes some original illustrations by the Nigerian publisher, DADA, which is also a design firm.
Some tales have the action-packed plots of fan fiction and comics. Some are lyrical and some philosophical. Some set the scene for a longer novel or the beginning of a movie. Some are funny, some romantic, some include English pidgin conversations, which is like the Carribean dialect. Each story in Lagos_2060 shares one premise: to imagine the megacity of Lagos 100 years after Nigeria’s independence from British Colonial rule:
“It was 60 years into the third millennium and work still defined Lagosians. You were either working or you were nothing, worse than an area boy and not to be seen within the city.”
- Mango Republic by Terh Agbedeh
Even where Lagos has become an economically powerful city-state, advance weaponry and environmental disasters may make a new Civil War inevitable.
“They raped the ocean and it obliged them by giving birth to a dream city.”
- Cold Fusion by Ayodel Arigbabu
In most of these stories, climate change has wrecked havoc, turning frogs from the fragile, first to die, the “canary in the mine,” into creatures which kill with a poison touch.
“Even if we shut the water ways, it might do very little to stop the attacks. Some of the attacks occurred inside houses. These frogs are able to squeeze into tubes way smaller than they are.”
- Amphibian Attack by Afolabi Muheez Ashiru
Oil has been exhausted. Solar power and water recycling has been balanced to create carbon neutral energy sources, but not enough to reverse global warming in the surounding countryside. The Sahara — where no food can be grown — creeps further and further south, while the ocean rises under a city already dependent on floating buildings and artificial islands.
Robots have arrived in Lago. Stepford wives can also be Stepford husbands, or Stepford workers.
“Do you want a gynoid that looks like a woman? A Superbot? An ASIMO?…We can make it look just like you.”
- Metal Feet by Temitayo Olofinlua
Even in the face of time travel, people have the same emotions as always:
“I want to be here when you wake up, you have been gone for so long, you need to behold a beautiful sight, you need to smell love, feel love.
I know I am not wrong, because I have known you deeply for a very long time. We just haven’t met.”
- A Starlit Night by Kofo Akib.
Lagos_2060 fills brings new voices to the “commons” our global village, ones which imagining Africa hurtling into a future which is determined by its own mix of tradition and innovation, culture and technology, utopia and dystopia.
“There is definitely space for that kind of writing, African science fiction and fantasy…there is so little of it here in the western market…so it’s like nothing, like a big hole that needs to be filled.”
Most of the science fiction about non-European cultures has tried to reimagine the often destructive relationship between European culture and Indigenous peoples has been written by authors from the West, such as Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Years of Rice and Salt. There is a new generation of writers like Cory Doctorow and Nick Harkaway who also pay attention to the economic and technical interconnections of First and Third Worlds. But we have rarely heard directly from writers outside North America and Europe. One of the key things that drew me to Unglue.it as a “book nerd” — the only member of this start up who can’t code — was the potential ease of access to writers from all over the world.
If this is one of the things that makes you an Ungluer as well, please go to https://unglue.it/work/128685/ and buy and download an ebook of LAGOS_2060 in the format of your choice. Then tell us — and tell these young authors — there is a worldwide audience watching and listening to what they have to tell us about their life and literature.