The weird worlds of African sci-fi
July 10, 2015 1:04 PM   Subscribe

African sci-fi features all manner of weird and outlandish things, from crime-fighting robots to technological dystopias. But could they be closer to predicting the future than they realise?
posted by infini (24 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a Lauren Beukes interview from 2013 which made me completely rethink the economics of Elysium. Okorafor is on my must-read list.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:26 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd like to see Jean-Pierre Bekolo make more SF films. His last was ten years ago.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:50 PM on July 10, 2015

This is great... I am sharing with the Global Voices African writers subgroup.
posted by Nevin at 2:03 PM on July 10, 2015

made me completely rethink the economics of Elysium.

Apparently Blomkamp said he based Elysium on Vancouver, where he has been based in the past.
posted by Nevin at 2:05 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Here's a video of Lauren Beukes at Webstock in 2012. Includes a great quote, something like, "Those who can't imagine the future are doomed to fuck it up".
posted by maupuia at 2:11 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

But could they be closer to predicting the future than they realise ?

Science fiction has predicted the future ? Oh, when ? A cannon launching men to the moon in Jules Verne ? Earth by David Brin, stands alone in predicting aspects of the internet and the end of privacy but he was in on the ground floor with Arpanet and not all that far ahead of the curve. But who else saw that coming, hmh ? Science fiction is more about its own time than what is to come.
posted by y2karl at 4:25 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Okorafor really took me for a good trip with Lagoon. The city and the people were just as rich and exotic to me as the aliens, and the many other directions and themes it brings really put it in an almost magic realism category, as if Marquez had written sci-fi.
posted by nickggully at 4:44 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spider the Artist is online. The actual robots in those pipelines are pretty creepy too.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:35 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Science fiction has predicted the future ? Oh, when

"Shortly before his intuition about an atomic bomb, Leo Szilard had been reading The World Set Free by H. G. Wells--a novel about a German invasion of France and the use of atomic bombs in a global war, a novel written in 1913 but set in the 21st century. Wells called his radioactive element Carolinum: "once its degenerative process had been induced, [Carolinum] continued a furious radiation of energy, and nothing could arrest it." In 1913, Wells was already writing about radioactive decay, half-lives, burning cities, even about deforestation, diminishing supplies of coal and oil, and the rush toward bankruptcy. And he inspired Szilard. Wells wrote--and Szilard read--of the final achievement of a world government and the abolition of atomic weapons--the "world set free." "The catastrophe of atomic bombs shook men...," Wells wrote, "out of their old-established habits of thought." And it was H.G. Wells who gave us the phrase, "a war to end all war." Wells was partially right: when fear doesn't paralyze us, it shakes us, commands our attention, and gets us moving, but fear alone is not enough to change our habits of thought. And fear cannot replace ethics."
posted by clavdivs at 7:06 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

Not totally unrelated: the subversive science fiction of hip hop.
posted by chrchr at 8:17 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Imagine your on the night shift. Your job, to watch over GRF-100, the worlds most advanced computation device. Young billy is about to send blueprints via electronic cable near the speed of light, certainly the speed of sound. Before sending his data, billy types into the interface keyboard a simple question: pawn to Knights four.
But billy wasn't playing chess.
"Who is this?" He frantically typed.
"John, from Technical, William"

But who could it be on the secret line just in its infancy. Dialing control center, Billy was about to enter

The Bytesize Clone.
posted by clavdivs at 11:48 PM on July 10, 2015

I really appreciate how many posts there have been about African, indigenous, and other interesting branches of science fiction over the last months or year.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:41 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Dip Flash above. I would have been really unlikely to have found this post on my own, but I'm glad to have read it.
posted by newdaddy at 5:40 AM on July 11, 2015

OK, clavdivs, I stand corrected. And by what an example. Serves me right for making an instant unthoughtout cranky derail, too, and that to an aside to an interesting and excellent post.

Oh, I would argue the point in general, perhaps, but the time and place, this is not.
posted by y2karl at 12:25 PM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love you too karl
posted by clavdivs at 9:47 AM on July 12, 2015

Infini, that could easily be the basis for another (and with a few more links, amazing) FPP.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:27 PM on July 13, 2015

I'll keep a look out for stuff for another one, this piece was very short. Dzekashu MacViban and I follow each other on twitter and that's how this came to my notice (Look! :) I'm sure there'll be something interesting with multiple links soon enough.
posted by infini at 1:48 AM on July 14, 2015

Perhaps it'll be on how digital media is allowing a thousand literary flowers bloom - this was my latest discovery.
posted by infini at 1:53 AM on July 14, 2015

Oh, I would argue the point in general, perhaps, but the time and place, this is not.

I think it's worth a slight derail to praise the domain. I get what you're complaining about, but we often do lose track of things that could be called 'prediction' and the extent to which the "bad" predictions of the past help to create our present.

African SF (and Chinese SF for that matter) has a particularly important role to play in that regard.
posted by lodurr at 5:39 AM on July 15, 2015

FPP on Chinese SF???
posted by infini at 6:13 AM on July 15, 2015

A Chinese SF post would be fantastic. Talking with people about it is frustrating for me, because it's a MASSIVE space, but we get so very, very little of it in the west. Basically it seems like if you don't read Chinese, you just can't really appreciate the scope of it.

I know someone who could do a great one, but AFAIK he's not on MeFi and would be hard to convince. We tried to persuade him to write a series of blog posts about the Five [#?] Kingdoms mythos (which he was involved in creating), but he demurred, saying other people could do it better.

But maybe if someone who knows a bit about it (and ideally a lot more than me) could prime the pump, we could get Chinese-readers coming out of the woodwork a little....
posted by lodurr at 6:35 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the meantime, I now have an Rwandan Sci-Fi author following me = do I need a brand new day?
posted by infini at 11:06 AM on July 15, 2015

Good lord, its turning into an Ask. But this is the better thread -

Which authors and books would you recommend to up and coming African Sci-Fi authors?
posted by infini at 11:14 AM on July 15, 2015

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