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The West has history all right—great volumes of the stuff full of dates, and dynasties, revolutions, conquests, genocides, technological breakthroughs, and political movements. Almost by definition history is written, and if it’s not we have to add the word “oral.”

But in a funny way, what we in the West lack is a past—at least what Dilman Dila or Unathi Magubeni mean by a past, one that you can taste or feel in your bones, a past that you still inhabit.

There was recently a kerfuffle over supposed ageism at a major US convention. Older writers like myself were kind of asked to accept that we might not be needed on panels (which didn’t seem to me to be unreasonable). The partner of one of those involved was said to have written, “the past is evil.”

I have no idea if that phrase was actually written—it was a Facebook argument. But the phrase does sum up one extreme end of a tendency that sees the past as something to move beyond. The past is wrong, bad, misinformed, superstitious, unadvanced. It is something in ourselves to be worked through and overcome.

Alongside history, there is the Future, with travel to the stars and brain downloads. Embedded in that somewhere is an unscientific faith in science, and which in its unexamined heart regards scientific results as being truer than other kinds of knowledge.

It seems to me that Afrofuturism has recently been redefined to be both more African, and as something that has its roots in the past.

As Nnedi Okorafor says in her TED Talk, “African science fiction’s blood runs deep and it’s old and it’s ready to come forth.”

--

In chapter twelve: two writers who live in Grahamstown: Samuel Kolawole and Stacy Hardy.



Geoff Ryman is Senior Lecturer in School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester. He is a writer of short stories and novels, and science fiction and literary fiction. His work has won numerous awards including the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award (twice), the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award (twice), and the Canadian Sunburst Award (twice). In 2012 he won a Nebula Award for his Nigeria-set novelette "What We Found." His story "Capitalism in the 22nd Century" is part of Stories for Chip, edited by Bill Campbell and Nisi Shawl and published by Rosarium.
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9 Dec 2019

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