Futuristic Themes and Science Fiction in Modern African Literature

Authored by: Dike Okoro

Routledge Handbook of Minority Discourses in African Literature

Print publication date:  May  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367368340
eBook ISBN: 9780429354229
Adobe ISBN:


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According to John Mbiti, Africa’s religious worldview is anchored on the existence of spirit beings, spirits and the living-dead or spirits of ancestors (Mbiti 75). This claim is evident in the narratives by many African fiction writers whose stories incorporate characters and traits found in science fiction or fantasy fiction, two genres often mistaken as one and obviously similar in the ways they explore the supernatural, myths, magic and mystery. Over the years, works of fiction by distinguished authors born in Africa and those with parental links to Africa have embodied features that resonate with SF and fantasy fiction. For example, Ben Okri admits: “T he Famished Road is… a perpetual story into which flowed the great seas of African dreams, myths and fables of the world, known and unknown” (Guardian). In a recent article published in The New York Times, Alexandra Alter describes the novels of Nnedi Okorafor and concludes that they are “Magic, ritual and secrecy are threads that run through… a head-spinning menagerie of otherworldly spirits and deities drawn from Nigerian myths and legends.” All of these bring back the idea of current trends in modern African fiction and the now widely discussed area of Afrofuturism. The statements by Okri and Alter are apt and help to situate the Afrofuturism in their works and postulate the existence of Afrofuturist modern Africa fiction. I argue in this chapter that much as Afrofuturism in fiction exists in America, based on its definition by Mark Dery, it is essentially associated with black speculative fiction written by African American SF writers. A number of reasons have prompted this argument. First, Dery’s definition locates Afrofuturism within the confines of the black experience in the Americas. He states thus: “Speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of 20th century technoculture.”. His definition primarily centers on the existence of black lives in America and has no space allocated to the postcolonial experience in Africa or the myths that exist in indigenous African narratives. I am aware that an argument can be made along the line that the black experience in the Caribbean is similar in myths and spirituality to the black experience in Africa. However, the focus in this chapter hinges on the definition by Dery that isolates the African aspect of Afrofuturism. Therefore, I propose the existence of “Africanfuturism” in modern African fiction, based on examples from specific novels and stories by African writers that are arguably examples of science fiction or fantasy, to argue that “Africanfuturism” does exist and is identifiable in works of fiction by first-generation African fiction writers and the succeeding generations that follow their trail.

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