Abstract

abstract:

This paper examines a number of African-authored narratives (novels and film) in the light of recent thinking about futurism and the role of speculative fiction as a means of envisioning the future. Uppinder Mehan, coeditor of the first ever anthology of "postcolonial science fiction and fantasy," So Long Been Dreaming, notes that postcolonial writing has rarely "pondered that strange land of the future" and warns, "If we do not imagine our futures, postcolonial peoples risk being condemned to be spoken about and for again" (Mehan 270). Kodwo Eshun, in a seminal essay, expands on this to argue that, while the "practice of countermemory as . . . an ethical commitment to history, the dead and the forgotten" has traditionally relegated futurism to the sidelines of black creativity, this has been progressively challenged by "contemporary African artists . . . [for whom] understanding and intervening in the production and distribution of this dimension constitutes a chronopolitical act" (292). The paper proposes that this chronopolitical act (what in literature we now call speculative fiction) has its roots in African modes of storytelling that draw on myth, orality, and indigenous belief systems that lend themselves to the invention of personal mythologies, the rewriting of history in the light of future realities, and the use of extrarealist or magical phenomena as part of the everyday. Since these elements characterize many novels not thought of as speculative, this suggests that futurism has been a strain in African writing from its inception. The turn from mythic revisioning to speculative fiction as a distinct and recognizable genre in the 21st century has notably been embraced by women writers such as Nnedi Okorafor and Lauren Beukes, in whose work gender/femininity is a determinant in the projection of imagined futures. The paper examines how speculative narrative strategies in a range of texts are brought to bear on specific historical situations on the African continent (those characterized, for example, by genocide, civil war, cross-continental migration, urban dereliction, xenophobia, violence, and the occult) and the potential futures to which they point. The paper argues, therefore, that such narratives, rather than being relegated to the category of fantasy, deserve attention as key indicators of futuristic thinking.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2044
Print ISSN
0034-5210
Pages
pp. 1-19
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-03
Open Access
No
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