Nnedi Okorafor: Redefining the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genre.
Words: Venetia Faye
Nnedi is a first generation Nigerian-American and rightfully uses her roots to influence her work. Being a University Professor, a PHD holder and having various novels/comics under her belt, it is great to see African imagery within a very white dominated genre. Nnedi’s describes Nigeria as her “muse” and this is so clear, through her ability to weave African culture into visionary images.
Her debut novel ‘Zahrah the Wind Seeker’ released in 2005, is set on fictional planet of Ginen, follows thirteen year old Zahrah an intriguing character who has some unique abilities. One of them being able to float in the air and has dreadlocked hair full of vines. With all of Ginen’s technology being made up of vines, Zahrah is a one of a kind. With this being Nnedi’s first novel, it is a trail blazing adaptation of fantasy; most specially through the use of familiar African imagery and character traits throughout. It is importance for these images to be conveyed especially for young children, growing up reading these stories; they can see themselves represented in a positive light.
There have been many novels, novellas and short stories Nnedi has released since then. With her critically acclaimed novella ‘Binti’, winning both the 2016 Nebula Award and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella. Another novelist that is also bringing these stories to life is NK Jemisin, who has also won a Hugo Award for best novel two years in a row. Both of these women are great writers to have in today’s society, although there are very few black women writing Sc-fi and Fantasy, both writers are contributing massively to the uprising of African fantasy and science fiction.
Okorafor is also a self-proclaimed fan of comic books, and is not afraid to show it, her contribution to the Marvel franchise through her storytelling is so refreshing to see. With recently landing a three issue comic storyline for ‘Marvel’s Black Panther’, many are excited to see what Nnedi does with this iconic Marvel superhero. From attending Comic Con with her daughter and partaking in the panels, she is eager to interact with the audience that indulge so much in her work. Nnedi didn’t read much sci-fi growing up as she failed to find relatable images; describing the stories as seeming like “a very sterile, white male world”. Nnedi felt that she would fill the void that she felt growing up; by creating stories she could identify with, while uplifting her community.
Nnedi Okorafor has more exciting times ahead, as we recently got news of her 2010 fantasy novel, “Who Fears Death” being optioned for a TV series on HBO. The project will be executive produced by Game Of Thrones creator George R.R Martin and former Source Editor-in-Chief Selwyn Seyfu Hinds will adapt the novel into a screenplay. We look forward to seeing how they bring this story to the small screen.
Follow Nnedi Okorafor on Instagram @nnediokorofar
Words: Venetia Faye