“The World Is Paying Attention”: 6 African Writers on BSFA Awards Shortlist

Two of the finalists appear in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, co-edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki.
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Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora.

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora.

The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) has announced the shortlist for its 2020 awards. There are six African writers on it—four in the short fiction category and two in the novel category. There were eight Africans on the longlist.

Two of the four shortlisted stories—Dilman Dila’s “Red Bati” and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s “Ife-Iyoku the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon”—appeared in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, edited by Ekpeki and Zelda Knight.

There’s Tobi Ogundiran’s “Isn’t Your Daughter Such a Doll,” published in Shoreline of Infinity. And there’s Eugen M. Bacon’s “Ivory’s Story,” published by Newcon Press.

The two novels are Club Ded by Nikhil Singh and Water Must Fall by Nick Wood. They are both South African. They are up against formidable writers—four-time Hugo-winning writer N. K. Jemisin is on the list for The City We Became. There’s also Gareth L. Powell, too, a two-time BSFA Award for Best Novel winner. Powell is on the list for Light of Impossible Stars.

This is an interesting time for speculative fiction writers on and from the continent. “They’ll be seeing a lot of us around,” Dominion co-editor Ekpeki told Open Country Mag. Ekpeki’s shortlisted story was written in 2019, during a very tough and defining time. It was also the year he won the Nommo Award for Best Short Story by an African.

Tobi Ogundiran agrees with Ekpeki. “It means the world is paying attention,” he told Open Country Mag. “It can’t be debated that speculative fiction coming out of Africa and the African diaspora is fresh and imaginative.”

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Ogundiran is more than excited. “It feels surreal.” His shortlisted story was written in 2017, inspired by one by Helen Oyeyemi. It was one of the first two stories he wrote when he started taking writing seriously. Although it was a runner-up for the Bloody Parchment Competition in 2017, it was in June of last year that it found a home.

In speculative and science fiction, “It is a great moment for Blackness, for Africanness,” Ekpeki said. “It’s the first time that writers resident on the continent are being shortlisted. For a work published by an African publication, edited by an African editor. It’s definitely never happened before.”

The winners will be announced during this year’s Eastercon, “ConFusion,” which will be held from 2—5 April 2021.

Open Country Mag congratulates these writers.

Visit here for the full shortlist.

Ernest Ogunyemi
Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí was a staff writer at Open Country Mag. His works have recently appeared/are forthcoming in AGNI, Joyland, No Tokens, Olongo Africa, The Dark, Fiyah, Agbowó, Southern Humanities Review, Minnesota Review, McNeese Review, Down River Road, and West Trade Review. He is the curator of The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology.

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