Monday, May 25, 2015

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CHARLES SAUNDERS, MASTER OF SWORD + SOUL (MF Galaxy 027)


Charles R. Saunders is the ground-breaking founding author of the genre called sword and soul, which employs the mythic structure of Eurocentric sword-and-sorcery inside an African-based fantasy setting. As you’re about to hear, Saunders’s innovation arose in response to the profoundly racist dimensions of North American publishing, especially inside fantasy.

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Born in Pennsylvania in 1946, Saunders achieved a degree in Psychology before moving to Canada in 1969. He lived in Ottawa for fourteen years, and since 1985 has lived in Nova Scotia. He’s been a community college teacher, research assistant, civil servant, journalist, editorialist, and copy editor.

Never one to let anyone stop him, Saunders has authored of seven novels including Imaro, The Quest for Cush, Dossouye, and Abengoni: First Calling, and four books on African-Nova Scotian history, including Sweat and Soul: The Saga of Black Boxers from the Halifax Forum to Caesar’s Palace, Spirit of Africville, Share & Care: The Story of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, and Black & Bluenose: The Contemporary History of a Community. 

This episode’s conversation comes from deep inside the catacombs of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. It’s a never-before aired interview we recorded by telephone on August 10, 2008. Saunders discusses:

  • Why come he came to Canada
  • How he achieved an Africentric point of view
  • Why young African-Americans and African-Canadians liked science fiction in the 1990s, despite how much the genre excluded or mistreated them
  • The racist imagery inside science fiction and fantasy including in Robert Heinlein’s novel Farnham's Freehold and in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
  • Contemporary authors of Africentric science fiction and fantasy he admires such as Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, and Carole McDonnell
  • What it’s like to be told by Euro-North American publishers that African North Americans don’t read, and
  • The troubled publishing history of his own classic novel Imaro



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Monday, May 18, 2015

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NNEDI OKORAFOR ON AFROFUTURISM, BARACK OBAMA, AND STEPHEN KING'S SUPER DUPER MAGICAL NEGROES (MF Galaxy 026)

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Nnedi Okorafor is the celebrated author of ten books, including The Shadow Speaker, Who Fears Death, and the forthcoming The Book of Phoenix. Zahrah the Windseeker, Okorafor’s debut novel about a highly technological world based on Nigerian myths and culture, was nominated for the Locus Best First Novel Award, shortlisted for the Parallax and Kindred Awards, a finalist for the Golden Duck and Garden State Teen Choice awards, and it won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature.

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This episode’s conversation with Okorafor comes from way down deep in the archives of The Terrordome: The Africa All-World News Service. I spoke with Okorafor by telephone back on January 18, 2009, but back then aired only a portion of what you’ll hear now. Okorafor talked about many issues, including:

  • Her definition of what Euro-American literary critic Mark Dery called Afrofuturism
  • The appeal of science fiction to African audiences who have for most of the genre’s existence been excluded by it
  • Her thoughts on just how Africentric The Matrix series is, or isn’t
  • And the thesis of her famous 2004 essay called “Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes,” and what it reveals about American literary culture and politics.

We also discuss the powerful effect on self-conception that the American continent-wide rape gulag had on the West Africans who became the African-Americans, which were profoundly different from the effects that mass enslavement had on the so-called “indentured servants”—that is to say, European slaves, not to mention the rest of humanity since slavery existed across the planet.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

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NK JEMISIN, AWARD-WINNING SFF AUTHOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, BLOGGER (MF Galaxy 025)

 

Celebrated novelist NK Jemisin is the author of The Inheritance Trilogy, The Broken Earth Trilogy, and The Dreamblood Duology. Her writing has won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and three Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards. Jemisin’s work has also received nominations for the Crawford, Gemmell Morningstar, and James Tipree, Jr. Awards, two nominations for the World Fantasy Award, three nominations for the Hugo Award, and four nominations for the Nebula Award.

Along with Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor, NK Jemisin is one of the N3, a nucleus of highly influential contemporary writers of science fiction and fantasy. Jemisin is also well-known as a blogger on politics, feminism, and racism; in what writers would call a “day job” and what others would call a full-time career, she’s a counselling psychologist.

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In today’s episode, Jemisin speaks on her craft, specifically:

  • World Building, including what to leave in, and what to leave out and why
  • The importance of a “Beta Readers”
  • Pessimism vs sociopathy in characterisation
  • Why some SFF readers react angrily against the use of unfamiliar literary techniques
  • Fan reactions against novelty, and reader single-mindedness
  • Her alternative to meat-and-potatoes epic fantasy
  • How being a psychologist affects her character creation
  • Outlining vs pantsing
Jemisin spoke with me by Skype from her home in New York City on January 24, 2015.





Monday, May 04, 2015

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NALO HOPKINSON, AFROFUTURIST VISIONARY NOVELIST, ON THE CRAFT OF WRITING (MF Galaxy 024)


The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science calls acclaimed novelist Nalo Hopkinson a luminary in the science fiction community. She is widely identified with Afrofuturism, an Africentric aesthetic movement in music, fashion, film-making, comic books, and novels that draws upon global African aesthetics and histories to imagine new Africentric futures.

As you’re about to hear, Nalo Hopkinson has lived in many regions and communities of the Western hemisphere, making her an insider to many and an alien to many more. She’s the author of ten celebrated books including Skin Folk, Sister Mine, The New Moon’s Arms, and her explosive debut Brown Girl in the Ring, a dystopian science fiction adventure set in near-future Toronto featuring an African-Canadian heroine and the orisha gods of Nigeria and Benin who are central to the New World African cultures and religions of the Caribbean and South America.

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In many ways Hopkinson and fellow author Tananarive Due novel helped re-launch Afrofuturist literature, and broke ground for novelists such as Nnedi Okorafor, N K Jemisin, Andrea Hairston, and Daniel Jose Older, and the Kenyan science fiction filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu. She’s now a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside in the only dedicated SF writing programme anywhere in the English-speaking world.

In this episode, Hopkinson discusses the craft of writing, addressing:

  • Her stance on pantsing vs. outlining
  • What unites the work of Terry McMillan, Neil Gaiman, and Ursula Leguin
  • The importance of symbolism, and
  • The experience of readers misreading what she’s written

I began our discussion by asking Hopkinson about her work at the University of California Riverside. Note that at one point we’re discussing the Terry McMillan novel Waiting to Exhale and the movie adaptation directed by Forrest Whitaker, and unfortunately neither of us can remember the title, and later Nalo graciously cites my own novel The Coyote Kings but without naming it.

Hopkinson spoke with me from her home in Riverside, California by Skype on November 30, 2014.