South Africa: Science Fiction in Conquest


Science Fiction in Conquest

This beautiful country of ours has seen much in the way of disaster1, 2 and atrocities3, 4. It is a nation of colour, vivid and diverse, but tainted with the blotches of our history5. Healing is a slow process, hindered by the fear of change and acceptance, and we as South Africans constantly seek mediums through which we can express our discontent in the crippling social matters of the past that yet bleeds through to our present after decades of democracy.

One medium speaks out, its voice growing louder the longer society stagnates: science fiction. Still, in its infancy, science fiction (and speculative fiction in general) struggles to make its voice heard. That is changing. We have seen the reemergence of the genre over the last decade and a burst of interest hitting the public in the recent five years. And why shouldn’t it be a major genre? Science fiction, the genre of inspiration and of warning, allows for the critique of social issues and current events within possibilities and solutions. Through it we can escape, not to a utopian fantasy realm, but to hope, understanding, and reason.

It starts, again, in 2009 with the release of District 9. You’ve heard of it, right? Of course. Neill Blomkamp’s alien film hit the world with a fury which glimpses at the rage from South Africa’s Apartheid era. Packed with not only action but blunt, loud social critique on racism and discrimination, it was a pioneer in New South African science fiction. The success and sentiment are followed shortly by Lauren Beukes in 2011 when she won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award for science fiction with her novel Zoo City. From then we started to see a rise of science fiction literature in South Africa.

Over the following five years, several sci-fi authors emerged from the dark, screaming their message through their works. From racism, sexism, and transgender rights, South African science fiction fights for equality and liberty. It pleads and threatens for a society free from persecution, injustice, and discrimination. A voice in the crowd deaf to any genre outside of the dictated popular. We cannot change the world with our words, but we can change their hearts.

The Authors of Our Future

We have so much to say, so much to warn about. We see the future of society. We remark on current events, directly and indirectly influencing social discourse. We look to the past and speculate on its future outlook. We are South Africans; rich in story, rich in wisdom, rich in change. At least that is what we wish to accomplish. Through literature, we step closer to reform.

AfroSF is a science fiction anthology of authors across the African continent, catering to speculative fiction as well. It was established in 2012 with the release of the first volume featuring Nnedi Okorafor, S.A. Partridge, Chinelo Onwualu, Nick Wood, Tade Thompson, Cristy Zinn, Ashley Jacobs, Sarah Lotz, and Tendai Huchu. Edited by Ivor W. Hartmann, AfroSF helped break in South African science fiction to the world, followed by the second volume, AfroSF v2 in 2015.

Another major player is the Science-Fiction and Fantasy South Africa club. Established in 1969, it has been a contribution of great influence and hope to sci-fi authors in SA. SFFSA holds an annual short story competition for SA writers, called the Nova Short Story Competition. Winners of which have their stories published in their long-standing magazine, Probe. A great source of SA sci-fi.

South African science fiction is not quite like any other, involving elements of African technology and medicine, fears and superstitions different from the more widely known Western elements. As such, science fiction in SA often veers into other genres of the speculative fiction range. Our plausible covers a wider spectrum.

South African science fiction veers into other speculative genres; our plausible covers a wider spectrum.   Tweet:

And what of published authors? For a (near) complete list of published South African authors with literature in science fiction, click here. By near, I mean that I may have missed someone and if so, don’t hesitate to point them out in the comments below!


Next I will report on the literary journals, magazines, and anthologies that host South African science fiction, showcasing more of our authors in short and long form stories. If I have missed anyone or any new releases are out since this was published, please let me know in the comments below. I wish to keep this up-to-date for future references and search queries.


References:

[1] Sharpeville Massacre, 21 March 1960 | South African History Online http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/sharpeville-massacre-21-march-1960

[2] The June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising | South African History Online http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/june-16-soweto-youth-uprising

[3] Black Concentration Camps during the Anglo-Boer War 2, 1900-1902 | South African History Online http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/black-concentration-camps-during-anglo-boer-war-2-1900-1902

[4] Women & Children in White Concentration Camps during the Anglo-Boer War, 1900-1902 | South African History Online http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/women-children-white-concentration-camps-during-anglo-boer-war-1900-1902

[5] A History of Apartheid in South Africa | South African History Online http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/history-apartheid-south-africa

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