AfroSFv3 is the latest in a series featuring the best speculative fiction coming out of Africa. Many of the writers featured here are well-established in the anglophone SF world, having published stories in African, US, and UK-based markets like Omenana, F&SF, Interzone, The Apex Book of World SF, and others. These voices from across Africa—including the Gambia, South Africa, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe—address some of the more important scientific, technological, and social issues that our planet faces today: the future of the human species, environmental threats, the future of AI, and terrorism. In AfroSFv3, adventure-thrillers rub shoulders with space operas while psychological explorations complement science fantasies. Any and every reader can find something to love in this excellent anthology.
As I’ve said, the themes, styles, and perspectives are wonderfully varied, but a few specific groupings emerge that loosely structure the anthology: stories about family and loss, humans living off-Earth, the shape of future technologies, and war and terrorism. T. L. Huchu’s “Njuzu” and Gabriella Muwanga’s “The Far Side” both ask what happens to families once they’ve left humanity’s home planet. While the former offers us a tragic tale about a woman trapped between the old and the new, and struggling to understand the loss of her son, the latter raises the issue of who will be allowed to leave Earth once the planet becomes too toxic and alternative colonies are available. Each story demonstrates the strength of a parent’s love for their child, and the lengths they will go, Earth or no Earth, to protect them.
Along these lines, the four “off-Earth” stories present dark potential futures for those leaving the home planet. Mandisi Nkomo’s “EMO Hunter” is a SF thriller about self-styled “Earth Mother Knights” fighting organisms that ultimately destroyed Earth and are apparently infesting humanity’s new home. At its core, though, “EMO Hunter” is a story about deceit and betrayal, with one woman having her abusive EMO-hunting husband cloned but leaving out his violence and intensity in the process. In Cristy Zinn’s story about a Mars-bound terraforming crew, “The Girl Who Stared at Mars,” one woman works through her trauma and conflicted feelings about her father in a kind of holodeck, while trying to maintain her sanity on the crew’s one-way trip to the Red Planet. Dilman Dila’s multimedia project “Safari Nyota” (of which the story included here is just one part) takes the damaged-generation-ship trope and adds a tantalizing twist involving “womb-tombs,” android doppelgangers, and complicated questions of identity; while Andrew Dakalira’s “Inhabitable” explores the first-contact theme and the ways in which alien technology and human gullibility can threaten the Earth.
A few of the stories in this anthology consider the kinds of discoveries and new technologies that humans will make in the future and their effect on human morality and family structures. In “The Luminal Frontier,” Biram Mboob masterfully manipulates our understanding of space and time by crafting a story about a kind of “non-space” that is both a transporter and time machine, an underground slave trade, and consciousness-entanglement as a remedy for overpopulation on Earth. Masimba Musodza’s “The Interplanetary Water Company” explores what happens when scientists, trying to solve a water-shortage issue on their planet, accidentally kill most of its inhabitants and then try to atone for it by trying to solve the problem in a new way. And in a unique take on alternative family structures, Mazi Nwonwu’s “Parental Control” imagines the discrimination and identity crisis that one young man must face, having been born to a human and an android.
Stories about violent conflict between mega-corporations or powerful political entities and rebel groups form a core part of this anthology, inviting readers to think not just about future conflicts over resources or power but also current struggles. In the adventure-thriller “Drift Flux,” Wole Talabi imagines a future in which one political group has defeated its rival in the attempt to unite the solar system. When a small rebel group hijacks a ship with the highly advanced “Adadevoh drive” and threatens to destroy Earth, one cargo-ship crew must rely on advanced prosthesis technology and courage to stop them. Instead of advanced engine technology, the rebels in Stephen Embleton’s “Journal of a DNA Pirate” turn to viruses in an effort to kill off most of the DNA-manipulating human population and return to Earth and the species’ “original” form. Mame Bougouma Diene’s powerful “Ogotemmeli’s Song” takes as its starting point current Chinese investment in and control of various parts of Africa to imagine a future Eastern Chinese Republic and Western Chinese Empire destroying the African continent when it unites around the successful use of renewable energy. The weapon turns the murdered people into various compound gaseous elements that migrate into space and then fight back against the mega-corp ships attempting to mine the outer planets.
These twelve stories prove that the first AfroSF anthology, which came out in 2012, was just the beginning of a crucial addition to the world’s growing corpus of speculative fiction. Non-western anglophone SF, written in African countries as well as India, Malaysia, Israel, and the Philippines, offers readers all over the planet stories about the challenges of our times and the ways in which we can successfully adapt to the future, even as we recognize humanity’s limitations. With the founding of the African Speculative Fiction Society in 2016, and subsequent awards and new magazines that call attention to new fiction from Africa, we should feel confident in anticipating more excellent anthologies like AfroSFv3 in the future.