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Friday, 20 February 2015

"Terra Incogonita" Edited by Nerine Dorman

Terra incognita. Uncharted depths. Africa unknowable. Nineteen new short speculative stories from the fringes and hidden worlds of Africa.

Terra Incognita, Short Story Day Africa's latest anthology (edited by Nerine Dorman, published in South Africa by SSDA in association with Hands On Books and available internationally via African Book Collective in partnership with Modjaji Books), contains stories that explore, among other things, the sexual magnetism of tokoloshe, a deadly feud with a troop of baboons, a journey through colonial purgatory, along with ghosts, re-imagined folklore, and the fear of that which lies beneath both land and water. 

The anthology's focus reflects 2014 being Short Story Day Africa's 'year of speculative fiction'. As explained following the announcement of the longlist in August 2014:

"Speculative fiction gives writers a way to discuss issues without wheeling out the tropes and the poverty porn and the Oxfam goats. Earlier this year we sent out a call for all your fantasy, sci-fi, horror, alternative history and magical realism, just about anything that fell into spec fic genre. The them, Terra Incognita, asked writers to take us into unknown places, break moulds, rethink the way we tell our stories."


Short speculative stories from 19 writers
The anthology's writers include South African, Diane Awerbuck, who won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize best first book (Africa and the Caribbean) and the SSDA competition in 2014. Awerbuck was also shortlisted for the 2014 Caine Prize; Ugandan writer, film maker and social activist Dilman Dila, who was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize; and Nigerian Brit, Mary Okon Ononokpono, winner of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for Children's Literature, whose short story in the anthology, Editöngö, gives a glimpse into an earlier version of the opening chapter of her forthcoming adult debut novel.

If you're curious about the cover of Terra Incognita, as I was, the cover follows-on from the anthology's theme of subversion:
" ... In the four years since inception, the SSDA team has developed a survival ethos: to subvert and reclaim ... To subvert ideas about what it means to be a writer in Africa. To subvert ideas about African stories."
In addition to thinking the cover 'just looks nice', the designer, Nick Mulgrew, explains how 'he took to re-appropraiting old ideas about Africa' in this blog post on SSDA's website:
" ... the design is about subverting colonial cartographic tropes, and as well as undermining ideas of Africa as a dark, impenetrable continent, in order to reclaim and reposition them in a more modern, Afrofutiturist context."
Really loving the theme of subversion for both the stories and the cover for this anthology. I've barely got through books published in 2014 and there's already so much to read. 2015 keeps on looking better and better. 

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