And here is the trailer!
Over at io9, we have Lauren Beukes‘s short story, Branded, available to read – one of the 26 stories now available in The Apex Book of World SF 2. Check it out and consider buying the anthology – direct from the publisher or via Amazon or Amazon UK!
We were at Stones, playing pool, drinking, goofing around, maybe hoping to score a little sugar, when Kendra arrived, all moffied up and gloaming like an Aito/329. “Ahoy, Special K, where you been, girl, so juiced to kill?” Tendeka asked while he racked up the balls, all click-clack in their white plastic triangle. Old school this pool bar was. But Kendra didn’t answer. Girl just grinned, reached into her back pocket for her phone, hung skate-rat style off a silver chain connected to her belt, and infra’d five Rand to the table to get tata machance on the next game.
But I was watching the girl and as she slipped her phone back into her pocket, I saw that telltale glow ‘neath her sleeve. Long sleeves in summer didn’t cut it. So, it didn’t surprise me none in the least when K waxed the table. Ten-Ten was surprised though. Ten-Ten slipped his groove. But boy kept it in, didn’t say anything, just infra’d another five to the table and racked ‘em again. Anyone else but Ten woulda racked ‘em hard, woulda slammed those balls on the table, eish. But Ten, Ten went the other way. Just by how careful he was. Precise ‘n clipped like an assembly line. So you could see. – continue reading!
The South African Mail & Guardian reports on the recent science fiction and fantasy in the city panel from the M&G literary festival in Johannesburg:
South African writers who dare to venture into the fantastical are accused of writing “untruths”, said Gwen Ansell, chairing “Science Fiction and Fantasy in the City” at the M&G Literary Festival.
Ansell and panellists Tom Learmont, Lauren Beukes, Louis Greenberg and Sarah Lotz put the spotlight on “speculative fiction”: an umbrella genre encompassing science fiction, horror, fantasy, the supernatural, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. South African Neill Blomkamp’s blockbuster movie, District 9, is a cinematic version.
Ansell suggested that such fiction could instil a sense of “wonder and hope” in young readers because it explored a world of endless possibilities. She called on local publishers to promote the genre because “children need to stop reading Charles Dickens”.
Lotz, author of Dead Lands (a young-adult horror novel about a zombie apocalypse in the mountainous suburbs of Cape Town) said South African fantasy is rooted in an awareness of sociopolitical issues. Not necessarily an attractive combination for those who read only “to escape”.
Greenberg agreed with Ansell that the most successful stories juxtapose fantasy and horror with familiar settings. “You don’t have to make up environments. There’s enough in South African cities to scare us,” he said.
Greenberg and Lotz co-authored the horror novel, The Mall, under the pseudonym SL Grey. “We took an existing city [Johannesburg] and created a new one beneath it, one that feeds off it like a tick,” said Lotz.
Beukes, author of Zoo City, which won the world’s premier science fiction prize — the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award — said overseas recognition was not enough. She called for greater local support for science fiction — not only from publishers, but from literary scholars, parents and readers.
Beukes celebrated the “subversive nature” of urban fantasy in South African literature. “It allows writers to critique and educate about the human condition in an interesting and creative way,” she said. Beukes compared this with other countries, where the genre tends to be more “conservative”, and full of “castles, kings and princesses” — references that are “removed” from South African children.
Ansell and her panel’s vigorous presentation of the merits of the genre proved to be a pre-emptive riposte to a later festival session in which literary scholar Leon de Kock derided speculative fiction as “a cute and fuzzy thing”.
Ansell hailed the influence of social media in making books more accessible to local readers. The new technology, she said, should challenge publishers to reduce the prices of books in stores.
Angry Robot Books have teamed up with Amazon UK to offer a range of their e-books for just 99p over the summer, including several of their international titles! The promotion runs throughout July and August.
Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (South Africa)
The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar (Israel/South Africa)
South African author, winner of the recent Clarke Award, Lauren Beukes‘ new story, “Unathi Battles The Black Hairballs” (originally published in South African anthology Home Away in 2010) is now available to read online at SFX Magazine:
Unathi was singing karaoke when the creature attacked Tokyo. Or rather, she was about to sing karaoke. Was, in fact, about to be the very first person in Shibuya’s Big Echo to break in the newly uploaded Britney come-back hip-hop remix of the Spice Girls’ classic ‘Tell Me What You Want (What You Really Really Want)’.
It was, admittedly, early in the day to be breaking out the microphone, but Unathi was on shore leave, and the truth was that she and the rest of Saiko Squadron weren’t up early so much as they were still going from last night, lubricated on a slick of sake that ran from here to Tokohama.
Unathi stepped up onto the table in their private booth, briefly giving her madoda a flash of white briefs under her pleated miniskirt. When she was on duty as Flight Sergeant of the squadron, she kept strictly to her maroon and grey flightsuit or the casual comfort of her military-issue tracksuit.
In her private life, however, Unathi tended to be outrageous. Back in Johannesburg, before she’d been recruited to the most elite mecha squadron on the planet, she hung out at 44 Stanley and Newtown, where she’d been amakipkip to the max. Named for the cheap multicoloured popcorn, the neo-pantsula gangster-punk aesthetic had her pairing purple skin-tight jeans with eye-bleeding oranges and greens, and a pair of leopard-print heels, together with her Mohawk, added five inches to her petite frame.
In her newly adopted home, she tended towards Punk Lolita. And not some Gwen Stefani Harajuku-wannabe Lolipunk either. In civvies, she wore a schoolgirl skirt cut from an antique kimono that had survived the bombing of Hiroshima according to the garment dealer’s providence and she’d grown her hair out into little twists that were more combat-friendly than her Mohawk. But the highlight of her look was a pair of knee-high white patent combat boots made from the penis leather of a whale she had slaughtered herself. – continue reading!
Over at the Guardian, a nice article on South African science fiction:
As you might expect, a lot of South African writing is informed by the country’s own recent history – how could it fail to be? Apartheid rears its head in one form or another both in Zoo City, where the animalled are segregated, and in The Mall, where the “browns” find their way from our world to the book’s nightmarish mirror-world. And that, perhaps, is part of the attraction: speculative fiction works best when it refracts real life through a fantastical lens, and magnifies, and perhaps tries to make sense of, the mundane. South Africa has had a lot of real life in the past few decades.
Beukes is certainly doing her bit to put South African SF on the map. With SL Grey coming up next and their fellow authors grabbing a lot of attention, it might well be that South African spec fiction is going to be this year’s Scandinavian crime novel scene for British readers. – read the full article.
SF Signal interviews Lauren Beukes, who recently won the Arthur C. Clarke award. Here’s an excerpt:
SFS: Why do you not address race directly in your books?
LB: I do. It’s there in every situation. It’s implicit, and that’s my experience of it, and that’s my friends’ experience. You know, it’s not something that always comes out in ordinary conversation. It’s just there. It’s omnipresent in society. No-one would ask a British novelist, why didn’t you bring in the council estates? Why didn’t you deal with the immigration issue? It’s because it’s part of the background texture. It’s always interesting to me when people worry about that, because it is there.
Editor’s Note: Congrats to Lauren Beukes for winning the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award.
Writing The Other is a sensitive topic. It should be. Not least because it’s so often been done so very, very, badly.
But the truth is that unless you’re writing autobiography, any character you write is going to be The Other.
I am not a serial killer. (Unless my multiple personalities are hiding something from me.) I am also not a 50s housewife, a parking attendant, a car-jacking reality TV star, a Ugandan email scammer, a Tokyo mecha pilot, or a future-world stubborn-as-heck gay anti-corporate activist. And even though my novelist friends Thando Mgqolozana and Zukiswa Wanner like to joke that I’m a black girl trapped in a white girl’s skin, I’m not Zoo City’s hip, fast-talking, ex-journo, ex-junkie black Joburg girl protagonist, Zinzi.
I don’t have a lot of patience for authors who say they’d be too scared to write a character outside their cultural experience. Because we do that all the time. It’s called using your imagination.
The other people I don’t have a lot of patience for are the ones too lazy to do any research. I heard a radio interview recently with a poet who had written a whole book of verse about the sex workers in Amsterdam’s red light district and the incredible empathy she had for these women and how she tried to climb inside their heads to really expose the painful reality of their experiences.
Number of sex workers she interviewed or even tried to engage in a casual chat to get that in-depth insight into the painful reality of their experiences?
Sometimes imagination isn’t enough on its own. People are people. We love. We hate. We bleed. We itch. We succumb to Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs and traffic makes us pissy. But culture and race and sexuality and even language are all lenses that shape our experiences of the world and who we are in it.
The only way to climb into that experience is to research it, through books or blogs or documentaries or journalism or, most importantly and obviously, talking to people.
I was lucky to have good friends like Lindiwe Nkutha, Nechama Brodie, Verashni Pillay and Zukiswa Wanner who were all willing to take me round Johannesburg AND read the manuscript afterwards to make sure that I got the cultural details of the people – and the city – right.
I read books on Hillbrow, like Kgebetli Moele’s Room 207, watched documentaries and movies and turned to Twitter to get expert first-hand info on city details like storm drain entrances and good places to dump a body (!).
I chatted to music producers and journalists to understand the South African music industry and interviewed refugees like Jamala Safari to get insight into what he’d been through (and referred him to my publisher when he mentioned he’d written a novel about his journey from the DRC to Cape Town).
I visited the Central Methodist Church where 4000 refugees were sheltering in the worst conditions that were the best possible option for them in that moment, got bounced from The Rand Club, paid for a consultation with a sangoma (who diagnosed a dark shadow over my life and recommended I sacrifice a black chicken) and did follow-up interviews with other traditional healers to make sure I was on track on the details before I twisted them to my fictional purposes. And I spent a week just walking round Hillbrow and talking to people.
As my official “culture editor”, Zukiswa Wanner busted me a couple of times on inaccuracies – almost all of them on inner city living details, like Zinzi stopping to buy a single Stuyvesant cigarette from a street vendor. “No ways, dude, I’m sorry, it would be a Remington Gold. That’s the cheap generic,” or providing the correct slang for the ubiquitous plastic woven rattan suitcases used by refugees: “amashangaan”
“But is Zinzi black enough?” I asked her, after going through all the notes in her commissioned reader’s report which hadn’t addressed the point even once.
Zukiswa laughed at me. It hadn’t occurred to her.
“Oh Zinz is hip and black enough,” she said, “Fuck anyone who questions that. What does that even mean? Don’t worry about it. I too am going to be catching flak. I write purely from the male perspective in Men of the South so you’ll have company.”
No-one (yet) has given me flak for being a white South African writing a black South African. And Zukiswa’s Men of the South was just short-listed for the Herman Charles Bosman prize. She says she only gets flak from people who assume she’s a man and that Zukiswa is a pseudonym.
In the end, I think my question should never have been “Is Zinzi black enough?” but “is she Zinzi enough”? Because it’s not about creating one-trick ponies that reflect some quintessential property of what we think being Other is about. It’s about creating complex, deep, rich characters driven by their own motivations and shaped by their experiences.
People are different. There are things we don’t get about each other. Usually it’s because we haven’t asked.
And then write.
Congratulations are in order to South African author – and contributor to the forthcoming The Apex Book of World SF 2 – Lauren Beukes, who is nominated for the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novel, Zoo City! Locus report the full list of nominees.
Our first story highlight for the year! You can click on the Short Story Highlight tag to see previous posts, where we highlight various stories by international writers.
Fantasy Magazine starts off the season, with South African writer Lauren Beukes‘ story, Ghost Girl:
You think of a city as a map, all knotted up in the bondage of grid lines imposed by town planners. But really, it’s a language—alive, untidy, ungrammatical. The meaning of things rearranges. The scramble of the docks turns hipster cool and the inner city’s faded glamour gives way to tenement blocks rotting from the inside. It develops its own accent, its own slang.
Sometimes it drops a sentence. Sometimes the sentence finds you. And won’t shut up.
I’m walking through the gardens on my way to an exhibition on Pancho Guedes, the crazy post-modern Mozambican-Portuguese architect, because that’s my major if you hadn’t guessed (only 3 ½ years to go). A voice drifts down out of a tree and says, “Hey, cute student guy, wait up…”
A girl drops down from the branches where she’s been perching like some tree frog in black. She starts strolling along behind me, imitating my walk like a bad mime.
I turn, irritated. “What are you doing?”
“Attaching,” she says. “It’s what the dead do when they get lonely.” – continue reading!