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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Meet: 'An Indigo Song for Paradise' by Efe Tokunbo Okogu

Today brings the final part of this extra, extra special 'Meet' series with the novella An Indigo Song for Paradise by Efe Tokunbo Okogu. 

Efe Tokunbo Okogu is a Nigerian writer who was born in the UK on Dia de los Muertos. He now lives in Mexico where he is developing various projects in the areas of holistic health, body-mind activation, spiritual science studies, and multi-disciplinary artistic expression. His words have been heard live and published in various magazines, literary journals and anthologies in digital and print form. His novelette, Proposition 23 was nominated for the 2013 British Science Fiction Association awards, translated into Italian, and is available online. He believes that life is real SF and far stranger than anyone can conceive.

There is a lot going on in An Indigo Song for Paradise, and I have so many questions to ask, but I’ll start with, how did the story came about?
First up, I'd like to give a shout out to the Jaguars in the Cave, kicking cosmic ass on the daily. As for the novella, the story began with the line, ‘My father always told me no one owes you a living. I took that to mean “fuck off kid” so I did, signed up to TerraCorp straight outta high school’ ... Everything else just flowed from there.

Paradise City also seems like a pretty fucked up place with evil corporations ruining the environment, brainwashing us, not caring about children (which brought to mind what’s happening in Flint), gangs everywhere and so on. 
Could you speak to the themes of corporate greed, evil corporations and so on in the story? And is our only way out a xombie apocalypse?
The evil machinations of the greedy people who run most of the world’s corporations and indeed governments is a theme that is increasingly entering the public mainstream consciousness. I recently found out that the richest 62 individuals in the world own as much wealth as the poorest 50%. If those 3.5 billion people were to meet those 62 people face to face, what do you think would happen? 

Really, Really, Really Rich. Image via CNN Money
Thanks to sites like Wikileaks, Conspiracy Theory is proving itself to be Conspiracy Fact about how the system operates. Intentionally poisoning the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the minds we operate in order to make a profit and keep the people from seeing the truth or believing it when they do hear it might appear to be clever tactics, but those responsible forget that they must also suffer the consequences for the whole world is an intricate and finely balanced interdependent ecosystem.

In other words, we are one being, each of us akin to individual cells in a larger organism. Those who forget this truth lose their ability to empathize with others and begin to act on selfish desire alone without consideration for the consequences to the rest of organism, similar to cancer cells. Rather than blame or demonise them however, we should understand that THEY are sick with a spiritual malady which affects most human, and the only cure is for each of us to be the change we seek in the world. Meanwhile, 50% of the planet's wildlife has gone extinct in the past 40 years alone thanks to human activities so the sooner we start the better because I have no doubt that if we do not clean up our mess, mother nature will do it for us. The last time such a drastic move was necessary, there was a great flood, stories of which are found in ancient myths and legends throughout the world. The next time will probably be fire in order to purify the non-biodegradable plastic, fragments of which have been found in plankton, the base of the planets's entire food chain. Can the Apocalypse be avoided? Only God knows.

Also, what is Paradise City?
Paradise City is a city on an alternative Earth, a dark and stark mirror to our own reality. In 2003, Nick Bostrom published the 'Simulation Hypothesis' according to which,
   
‘A technologically mature "posthuman" civilisation would have enormous computing power. Based on this empirical fact, the simulation argument shows that at least one of the following propositions is true:

   1. The fraction of human-level civilisations that reach a post-human stage is very close to zero;
   2. The fraction of post-human civilisations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero;
   3. The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.

 If (1) is true, then we will almost certainly go extinct before reaching post-humanity. If (2) is true, then there must be a strong convergence among the courses of advanced civilisations so that virtually none contains any relatively wealthy individuals who desire to run ancestor-simulations and are free to do so. If (3) is true, then we almost certainly live in a simulation. In the dark forest of our current ignorance, it seems sensible to apportion one’s credence roughly evenly between (1), (2), and (3).

Unless we are now living in a simulation, our descendants will almost certainly never run an ancestor-simulation.’

Paradise City is in Amerika, but the language of the huemen’s especially made me think this was set in a post-apocalyptic American city. This also brought to mind racial tensions - especially as the elite (the vampires) are white and the heumen’s are Black - could you speak to the themes of racial divides and tensions in the story?
One of the names of Paradise City is Amerika. It is located on a continent shaped like a gun which probably looks similar to Africa but as I stated, it is set on an alternate earth where the people speak like Americans. The reason for this is simple. In our world, the USA was built with the blood, sweat and tears of African slaves and the American Empire is till this day, run on the blood sweat and tears of African (and other non-white) slaves. Many of these modern day slaves live under the same conditions as the slaves of yesteryear. Most of them are given the illusion of freedom but nevertheless waste their lives slaving for the system in exchange for bad health in body and mind.

In Paradise City, as in our world, a minority population of Vampires live by sucking the blood (metaphorically speaking) of the rest of the people. As I mentioned earlier, the richest 62 people own as much wealth in our world as the poorest 50%. The fact that the vampires in Paradise City are white and the remaining huemen are people of colour was my way of addressing the racial divides and inequalities in our world. Till this day, the average person of colour has to work far harder to survive and thrive than the average white person. Till this day, the average person of colour is far more likely to be brutalised by the government (especially via the police or institutionally racist policies) than the average white person. Till this day, the portrayal of people of colour by the mainstream media are full of the kind of racist barbs that cause little black girls to think of white barbie dolls as beautiful and dark skinned ones as ugly so they use harmful chemicals to bleach their skin and straighten their hair, denying the sun/kissed blessings of their roots. Till this day, the educational system around the world teaches a distorted view that places the white race above all others. Till this day, the commonly used map of the world shows Africa as being far smaller than it is in reality as a psychological tactic to make Africans seem inferior. The list goes on and on and on...

There is also a lot of activism going on in the story, but I wanted to ask about what I felt was activism through music – there is also lot of music in this story. What was the significance of music in An Indigo Song for Paradise?
Music is a primordial and primal thing that touches people on a deep level, beyond the conscious mind, which is why it is an effective tool which people can use to free their minds from the false belief systems they have been programmed into them by the educational system, the media, the corrupted versions of religion, the legal system and society in general.
Music and Activism
Final question (which I’m asking everyone) what’s next?
Good question. The short answer is I don't know. With any luck, the long answer will be the apotheosis of wonderful.

... and that's a wrap on this series of interviews centred on the five AfroSFv2 novellas, with a protest story that has a lot of activism embedded in it. Thank you Efe Tokunbo Okogu for taking the time to answer the questions.

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