Things fall apart. Photo: The mirror
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Nigerians are conversant with the world of fiction. This could clearly be seen in works such as the 1958 novel titled Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and contemporary fiction such as the 2018 short story titled Skinned by Lesley Arimah. However, the same truth might not be accorded to Nigerians mastering the creativity and complexity entailed in science fiction.
Readers have often had the belief that the imaginative and futuristic world of science fiction, which mostly emphasizes advanced science and extra-terrestrial lives, are mostly meant to be written and created by western writers. Indeed, the popularity of writers such as H.G. Wells in his 19th-century science fiction novels titled The Time Machine and The Invincible Man made readers feel the world of science fiction as exclusively made by westerners. It was not until African American writers such as Octavia E. Butler came into the erstwhile restrictive limelight of science fiction that readers across the world began buying into the racial neutrality of the fiction genre. However, the introduction of the Nigerian science fiction writer came much later through the works of Nnedi Okorafor.
In 2015, Nnedi Okorafor gained fame through her published science fiction novella titled Binti, which she eventually made into a novella series. Whether as a result of her mixed-race (Nigerian American) or because of her unique experience, Nnedi Okorafor’s stories often buttress Afrofuturistic themes. Afrofuturistic themes are culled from Afrofuturism which primarily combines components of science fiction with the consciousness or reality of Africa. However, Nnedi Okorafor, as of 2019, began rejecting the term Afrofuturism being accorded to her works. Rather, the writer claimed that her stories belong to a novel genre called Africanfuturism. Nnedi Okorafor intentionally accorded herself the title Africanfuturistic writer since, unlike Afrofuturistic writers like Octavia Butler, her stories delves into indigenous African rituals, as shown in her Binti trilogy.
Tade Thompson also stands as a formidable Nigerian science fiction writer who had since gathered various awards such as the British Science Fiction Award and the Nommo Award. In fact, Tade Thompson’s first novel titled Rosewater won the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2019, thereby crystallising his prowess in the world of science fiction. The writer, who resides in England, has since lengthened his first book Rosewater into a trilogy—the Wormwood Trilogy.
Other Nigerian science fiction writers include Tochi Onyebuchi, who published War Girls in 2019. Onyebuchi’s War Girls is a post-apocalyptic novel that dates 2019 and buttresses on fundamentally indigenous Nigerian historic themes such as the Biafran civil war, colonialism, as well as political exploitation. Just like Nnedi Okorafor, Tochi Onyebuchi often ensures that her characters have Nigerian names like that of Ify and Onyii, the heroines of War Girls. Hence, Onyebuchi’s deliberate inculcation of indigenous Nigerian elements into her science fiction stories makes her an Africanfuturistic writer.
Apart from novels, Nigerians have begun introducing science fiction into the Nigerian film industry. As a desperate effort of fusing science fiction into Nollywood, nine teenagers from Kaduna state in Nigeria began experimentally filming science fiction films in 2016. The teenagers made their short films through the use of smartphones, which they borrowed from their respective family members. The teenage boys also used woods as tripods, since they mostly came from the rural communities in Nigeria.
During a recent interview with the teenage filmmakers, now called The Critic, the group’s editor, Raymond Yussuff, now 19, revealed that they had taught themselves filming in 2015 through reading Wikipedia and watching tutorials from YouTube channels. The now not-so-teenage film producers have since become social media sensations, especially after their exclusive interviews with famous news agencies like CNN and BBC. Also, their short films, such as Another Star Wars Story and Redemption could easily be downloaded through online channels such as YouTube.
With the introduction of works from Nigerian science fiction writers such as Nnedi Okorafor and Tade Thompson, the misconception of science fiction as solely belonging to the western world has begun to unravel. However, there is a need for more Nigerian writers to join the limited available Nigerian science fiction genre as a way of evolving it, and also crystallising the exclusivity termed africanfuturism.
Things fall apart. Photo: The mirror