I've got Ivor W Hartmann, editor of an upcoming SF anthology, stopping by my blog today for a little Q&A. Welcome Ivor. Tell us a little more about your anthology. How did you go about pulling it together?
The AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers anthology has been a dream of mine for five years. In 2007, I returned to writing after sixteen years armed with serious intent. The first story I wrote (or I should say completed rather) was Earth Rise, a Science Fiction short story. As soon as I looked for somewhere to publish it, preferably an African publication, the harsh realities of African publishing, and publishing for African writers in general, in 2007, became quite apparent. Including the fact, a pan-African anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only had never been published, and thus the dream of AfroSF was conceived.
Long story short, I created the micro-press StoryTime that first published StoryTime: a weekly African literature online magazine, from June 2007 to June 2012. In 2010, StoryTime launched African Roar, an annual multi-genre anthology of African writers, co-edited by Emmanuel Sigauke and I that’s now in its third year. So, by late 2011, I felt the time had come to pursue the AfroSF dream.
If one looks at the last 50 years of publishing in terms of SciFi and African writers, some real gems have never been collected into one volume. Thus, the temptation to have a mix of reprints and original works was very strong (and a lot easier in terms of editing), but the vision I had for AfroSF needed to include the forward thinking spirit embodied so well in SciFi as a genre. Therefore, in December 2011, I put out the call for submissions for original (unpublished) works only.
The first story I received for the anthology was from great and wonderful Nnedi Okorafor, which for me kind of set standard for all submissions that followed — fifty-two in total, so not a lot, but more than I had hoped for and a great start for a first anthology. In this, Lauren Beukes was also of great help when she put the word out on the subs call, and suggested a few South African writers who might be interested.
A word on the selections and editing process I employ. As with the StoryTime magazine and the African Roar's, when I read the AfroSF submissions I was looking for great themes and new ideas well expressed, in this case in the SciFi genre. This is to say, ideas and themes trumped imperfect prose, which I knew from experience could be dealt with in edits — depending on how much time the editor and writer can devote to the editing process. Now, this approach doesn't always work, but what it does do is give writers whose work I selected the chance to work on at least one edit of their story with an editor, and I could see how it went from there.
Although I had StoryTime on hand to publish it, in terms of this anthology being a first and such I did seek bigger publishers who could get it out there in a much bigger way than I can. So, as soon as I had a rough unedited first draft I sent it out and about and did get some interest from a few publishers — which was a good sign for anthology as a whole. However, in the end no one came to the party in any serious way, so I returned to the original plan of publishing it though StoryTime — first as an eBook that will then fund a POD print edition with its sales, this being a realistic, micro-press publishing model I have used with the African Roar anthologies and I know works. However, specific country rights for the anthology will remain open for negotiation and translations, etc., if it does garner any serious interest after the first edition eBook release.
Who's all in it, and what are some of the stories that jump out if you want to tell potential readers more about what to expect?
The confirmed Table of Contents for AfroSF is:
Moom! Nnedi Okorafor
Home Affairs Sarah Lotz
Five Sets of Hands Cristy Zinn
New Mzansi Ashley Jacobs
Azania Nick Wood
Notes from Gethsemane Tade Thompson
Planet X S.A. Partridge
The Gift of Touch Chinelo Onwualu
The Foreigner Uko Bendi Udo
Angel Song Dave de Burgh
The Rare Earth Biram Mboob
Terms & Conditions Apply Sally-Ann Murray
Heresy Mandisi Nkomo
Closing Time Liam Kruger
Masquerade Stories Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu
The Trial Joan De La Haye
Brandy City Mia Arderne
Ofe! Rafeeat Aliyu
Claws and Savages Martin Stokes
To Gaze at the Sun Clifton Gachagua
Proposition 23 (Novelette) Efe Okogu
You know, when you work with writers on stories for an anthology all the way from selection to a final, it becomes hard to have favourites. Each story had something in it that appealed to me initially as a lifelong avid SciFi reader, which was then developed further in edits (where required). So they all became very close to my heart, like having a big extended family.
The AfroSF stories have a bit of everything in the realm of SciFi, from Comic, Military, Hard, Soft, to Apocalyptic, Space Opera, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, Aliens, and even Time Travel, and more, and fairly liberal mixings thereof. The stories represent a diversity of voices and themes specifically rooted in the SciFi genre, from some stellar established and upcoming African writers.
What was your aim in putting the call out for the stories?
To start with, SciFi, like most fiction genres that aren’t Contemporary, except perhaps Romance and Crime to an extent, is highly underdeveloped in African literature as a whole. Now I could go into all the reasons why, but let’s look to the future instead.
SciFi is the only genre that enables African writers to envision a future from our African perspective. Moreover, it does this in a way that is not purely academic and so provides a vision that is readily understandable through a fictional context. The value of this envisioning for any third-world country, or in our case continent, cannot be overstated, nor negated. Science Fiction helps drive social and technological change. If you can’t see and relay an understandable vision of the future, your future will be co-opted by someone else’s vision, one that will not necessarily have your best interests at heart, at all. Thus, Science Fiction by African writers is of paramount importance to the development and future of our continent.
These were the main aims in taking a leap of faith and putting out a call to all African writers across the continent and abroad for this anthology.
Where can folks find the anthology?
AfroSF will hit all the Amazon sites in an eBook edition first in December 2012. Then, depending on sales to fund it, we will release a POD print edition later to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. It will also be signed up to Paperight, a fantastic new company that can turn any photocopy shop worldwide (and especially in Africa) into a budget books printer and seller. So in essence, AfroSF is not only a SciFi anthology in content but in its publishing and distribution too.