The BSFA would like to invite everyone to attend our award ceremony for works published in 2019. Join us on Youtube at https://tinyurl.com/BSFAawards on Sunday 17th May. We will be announcing the winners of Best Novel, Best Shorter Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Artwork from 7pm BST. Come along to hear about – and from – the winners.
Eugen Bacon is an award-winning writer of speculative fiction and non-fiction. Her works include Claiming T-Mo (Meerkat Press 2019), Writing Speculative Fiction: Critical and Creative Approaches (Macmillan 2020), Inside the Dreaming (NewCon Press, 2020) and Hadithi and The State of Black Speculative Fiction, a forthcoming collaboration with Milton Davies (Luna Press, 2020). In this essay, she reflects on some of her favourite black speculative fiction.
As an African Australian who’s grappled with matters of identity, writing black speculative fiction is like coming out of the closet. It’s a recognition that I’m Australian and African, and it’s okay—the two are not mutually exclusive. I am many, betwixt, a sum of cultures. I am the self and ‘other’, a story of inhabitation, a multiple embodiment and my multiplicities render themselves in cross-genre writing. As a reader, writer and an editor, I’m increasingly noticing black speculative fiction, and it’s on the rise.
Earlier you mentioned feeling like you were outside of literary circles, and being dragged in. By who? Who’s dragging you?
I don’t know. For a long time, my writing was just about blogging, writing stories from random ideas, and selling to these obscure science fiction magazines. Well, not obscure … but still, I never had any sense of belonging to a generation of writers, you know? The “it” people, or should I say “lit” people right now, are all people I hadn’t met before, hadn’t heard of, and probably hadn’t read much of. Until maybe last year, when I started meeting them after the whole Caine Prize nomination.
So I guess maybe the Caine Prize dragged me into the whole literary circle thing. Before that, I was just like, “I have an interesting idea, there’s some cool robots, and what if the world was like this? Okay, that’s it.” Now, it’s like I have actual fans, and other writers are saying, “There’s all these layers, meanings, and themes in your work.” I was like, “Okay, cool. I mostly thought the robot was cool, but that’s it.”
They see things in your work you didn’t see yourself?
It’s not like I ignore themes or whatever. It’s just, for me, they’re kind of secondary – which is almost the opposite of most writers I know. Most writers I know focus on character and theme. But for me, the idea comes first, and everything else is secondary. A lot of my stories come from just studying things. I see some interesting science thing, and I’m like, “Oh, OK. How would that really work?”
By Dev Agarwal
I went to see Terminator Dark Fate with my regular film going friend, Nik. Despite going to the cinema together since we were kids, we worked out that this was the first time we’d been to see a Terminator film together in the cinema. Given Dark Fate’s poor box office and the fact that Schwarzenegger is 72 years old, this felt like our last chance saloon.
I’ll state my positions now. Firstly, it’s impossible to discuss this film without spoilers, so don’t read further if you don’t want any. Second, I’m a big fan of the original film and have watched it many times. I had been disappointed in different ways by many of the films in the series and I had high hopes of Dark Fate. It came with a pedigree of James Cameron’s blessing, the strategic rejection of the dead ends of earlier films, and it was made by the director behind the popular film, Deadpool, Tim Miller.
Like most franchises that have survived decades, The Terminator films are no longer about one single thing, they combine and rework themes and cultural and social issues. While a principal concern is time travel and the paradox of changing the present by altering the past, the films are also commentaries on machine intelligence, nuclear destruction and individuals striving against a faceless powerful enemy.
By Paul Kincaid.
What a long strange decade it has been. Ten years ago it looked as if social democracy was in the ascendant around the world; today, populist, nationalist, right-wing governments are in power in Britain, the USA, Australia, Israel, India, Hungary, Italy and elsewhere. The world has become a scary, unwelcoming, unpleasant place to live. Politicians took the voters for granted, and voters became tired and disdainful of the politicians, so real life is coming more and more to resemble the dystopias we used to read. Which may be why there are no dystopias on my list of the ten books that I have chosen as representative of the last ten years in science fiction.
Which is not to suggest that politics is absent from the list. Far from it, in fact I begin with what is, I think, the most politically acute novel science fiction has produced this decade: Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson (2014). Published two years before the Brexit referendum, it captures with uncanny prescience the mood of fragmentation and disintegration that Brexit embodies. Startlingly, the three subsequent volumes, which I don’t think Hutchinson had even conceived at the time he wrote the first book, maintain the awareness and the quality of the first. And in the final volume, Europe at Dawn (2018), there is a passage set among refugees on a Greek island that perfectly encapsulates the damage that fear of the other has done to Europe.
By Ian R. MacLeod
It was a pleasure and a privilege to attend this year’s Worldcon in Dublin, and find myself surrounded by friendly, intelligent and well-informed people from across the globe, and in a European city which has clearly risen far above the sour heritage of its theocratic and colonial past. It was also great to meet the many Americans wearing I’m From The USA But I Didn’t Vote For Trump ribbons on their lanyards. What a shame so much of the rest of humanity doesn’t seem to be heading along the same path!
SF for me has always had its heart in the liberal values of the enlightenment, but perhaps right now, with truth seemingly regarded as a mere matter of opinion, and science as just another way of looking at the world, and with our planet heading toward ecological catastrophe as us humans stand passively by in a way which would never convince in any self-respecting novel or disaster movie, it’s time to speak to the future and the things that should matter with an even stronger and angrier voice. If this isn’t the signal for a new New Wave or Golden Age in the genre, I don’t know when we’ll ever get one.
Vector 290 is out:
The last two issues of Vector had themes — #288’s ‘Future Economics’ and #289’s ‘African and Afrodiasporic SF’ — but this issue is once more a Deck of Many Things. Andrew Wallace reveals all about judging the Clarke Award. Christina Scholz recounts linguistic revolutions in Milton and Miéville. Stephen Baxter reflects on AI and Thunderbirds and Paul Kincaid discusses the late great Iain [M.] Banks. Katie Stone reviews Sophie Lewis’s Full Surrogacy Now, while Vector Recommends brings you Paul Graham Raven on Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon and Nick Hubble on Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. We’ve got interviews with Emma Newman and Yoon Ha Lee, and glimpses from SF fandom around the world with reports from WorldCon 2019 and IceCon 2018. We hope you enjoy.
Cover by Andrea Morreau.
By Nick Wood
The sun darkened and the sky burned.
Sirens and smoke filled the air.
I stood in my family’s garden in Pinelands, Cape Town, watching the red horizon blaze and shift, as the neighbouring black townships of Athlone, Langa, and Nyanga were consumed by bullets, tear-gas, and flames. The Soweto Uprising had swept down from Jo’burg in 1976, from a nationwide youth protest opposing the teaching of Afrikaans in schools – which had been met with brutal police killings.
To me, then, as a young white teenage male, facing military conscription, it was as if the whole world could go up in flames.
Not known to me at the time, though, was that the destruction in Soweto included the burning down of the publishing house Africomic. Africomic was the home of South Africa’s first black comics superhero, Mighty Man.
The Mighty Man stories unravelled over seventeen issues, featuring the exploits of a policeman called Danny Ndhlomo, who was injected with a secret alien serum. The serum gave him superhuman strength and speed … and he became Mighty Man.
Superheroes often have secret identities. In the case of Mighty Man, there was a lot more than met the eye. Mighty Man was funded by the Apartheid government, with money shifted from the Defence budget .
The British Science Fiction Association is delighted to announce the winners of the BSFA Awards for works published in 2018.
Best Novel Gareth L Powell – Embers of War (Titan Books)
Best Shorter Fiction Ian McDonald – Time Was (Tor.com)
Best Non-Fiction Aliette de Bodard – ‘On motherhood and erasure: people-shaped holes, hollow characters and the illusion of impossible adventures’ (Intellectus Speculativus blog)
Best Artwork Likhain – In the Vanishers’ Palace: Dragon I and II (Inprnt)