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Blog Entries posted by richardmurray

  1. richardmurray
    Moments In a Day of Mumu : first rohonamo story, Art Summary 2022 , Sudowoodo plushie, Promoting positivity, Valentines day 2023 question and answer, Black history month 2023 q&a, my first stageplay , Messages at the end of a rainbow letter 1 , Joys of one north or somewhere -wabi sabi, , Fun Ninjago, Pubg submission <The Spacescraper>, Death by Example storyboardfilm, Shani and the shadow, phillipe my imaginary spirit animal , Commission Aevemor, I.S.D. Cup ,Faefarm , The Ancestral Tree + Brah Soul Sun for Juneteenth 2023 and more,  witches pendant 3d, Violet Pantheress, The Incomplete Labors Of Judasa, Photomanipulation for Xena , Love That Pass Ships In The Night, Innocent Little Margaret, The Spider and the &nbsp;Chuki+ Sarah's Part Times,  Around the Moon in 80 risings, adoptables august 2023, 3d art summer 2023, princess candace in the kingdom of glass, Old man and the sea for set sailt , Week 3 bettfic , Bayonetta -super smash bros collab, left hand tutorials first of 2023, honoring francois artblog, Pokemon random colors, &nbsp;Pokemon Rainforest, MA'am and week 4 of Bettsfic, For Supertiti09 as a participation price ,  ?
    Benin bronze return , Omeleto+marvn gaye+kindred octavia tried , Shelby and the lesson Black elected officials need to learn, the directors of wakanda forever side kindred the tv show , vanessa guillen-rape in military- metrofocus ,  minority business development capital readiness grant competition, district judge candice alcaraz, Norwell roberts first black law enforcer of london, Dreadriver whiskey or spirits from Eboni MAjor, Bruce family of california, India and the beginning of post european ,  Tunisia and the reality of democracy, The Wishing Pool by Tananarive Due, A Black Woman leading in real estate or financial access to health or sickle cell hair care, San francisco and reparations for reconstruction and post reconstruction , Fiyah Magazine Carnival edition 2023, The woman king- movies that move we , Thistle and Verse 2022 review and more, Crooklyn movies that move we, 133 publishing , Odoya Iemanja 2023,  Black people attacked by the internal revenue service or the new york police department or white european descent plans , Flickr celebrate black photographers 2023 , saint Bob MArley &nbsp;2023 birthday ,post birthday 2023 bob marley,  Civilian complaint review board to NYPD 2020, minorities in the black community, Star Chasers of Senegal , The woman in the iron coffin + dogs in the wild , al jarreau bday , celebrating black speculative fiction, carnaval 2023 day 3 4 6 , carmen jones on moviesthatmovewe , Miishe Addy jetstream black investment, Courtney wade and the black pages index, Blacklit bookstore of dallas  , black millenial debt, Black Girl Ventures Shelly Bell art of the pitch and why you need to own , Creative Soul Photography side Disney make pan black dolls, scholarship opportunity early 2023, TSU Marching Band, grammy winners,  south side home movie project february webinar , off time jive by az louise book reveal by chloe of thistle and verse, rihanna on vogue,  romance writers advice, Celebrating black joy, afro cuban artist with others , the magic of negro spirituals , coloring pages from gdbee for black history month 2023 , Stephanie Mills interview, chris rock slap response, the truth of tulsa, immigration nonviolence, is slavery over, lance reddick, jasmine marie black girls breathing, al harrington nba player turned financially successful pharmaceutical business owner , black farmers in the usa march 2023, preserving memories s.s.h.m.p. south side home movie project , Till from Movies That Move We, Thistle and Verse 2023 goals, Cleopatra and modern media, The reality of NYC, has the Black DOS choices been worth it for Black DOS in the USA, What style of black leadership is dominant, the Nigerwife, thistle and verse 05212023,  Juneteenth uniqueness 2023, Medgar Evers Center for Black Literature Reading List, Juneteenth 2023 uniqueness, pbb in michigan, reparations + juneteenth,  the war between the states 2023, Cornell West People's party 2023,  juneteenth 2023 ,  DOSers and being african, Black grief thistle and verse, The USA has always had two collection of states, Disney and Blackness, We must accept we are not a we, Sammy davis jr on life or leadership as an entertainer , uptight, tyler the creator on creating, Supa Team 4, ,  What next after so much abuse  , Black leadership 2023 preaching, a cure for incel from steven barnes, stretching with zohameanslight , what will it take for most Black people to reject what the usa can be?,  the problem is the race of how we use words, Gecko speech, The Intruder 1962 and the beautiful people, writing horror- from tananarive due side steven barnes,  education part nth, black female photographers, Steven Barnes + Charles Johnson+ray bradbury, firedance 09162023 from lifewriting,  the fall that saved us from tamara jeree on thistle and verse , black brides last name,  Jazz merged with European orchestral , progression from black statian leadership,  Brown Girls Books- shades of brilliance, ?
    A False Claim , AALBC content after death, biggest mistake writers make , reparations a question from troy, Booker T Washington and self reliance and the failure of the late 1800s black movements in the USA, 31 trillion in debt, the great fornication industry, Tyre Nichols,  , 2023Booktag with thistle and verse and reviewing Mindy Kaling's Scooby Doo with Kat Blaque, NYC funding for law enforcement as opposed to community centers, spike lee film rankings, Joyce Williams question to africans about africa , polygamy openpulpit, Bill Russell, valentine's day 2023,  how celebrate black history month, madison calley harp- lauryn hill , nina simone- malcolm x- dwayne mcduffie  , the value of being followed , is slavery abolished,  walter russell III, new cold war , womens history month 2023 , wayne shorter spirit flew, the woman king multilog of 2023, what is luck, silicon valley bank , age of easy money,  michelle yeoh, silicon valley bank, tiktok, maternity deaths, londonium, the streaming official, san francisco reparations part 2, s.f. reparations part 3, fuzzy haskins , why did racism change, negative self bias by a black individual, haitian independence all year round from Chevelin pierre , 191st street invitational, Styles black women like and punditry , skettel by moon ferguson, China 2023,  jasmine marie of black girls breathing answer questions and salem, vietnam war late truth, talk like a white girl,  trump jail, privilege in the usa,  ebony mag 1963, leo sullivan, who doesn't want advantage, Robert Twonsend on Sidney Poitier, schomburg comic book festival, lil nas x, ugly, what should black people in louisiana do, Creed3 from movies that move we , Black leadership in NYC want crime in the Black community to be eradicated only, the kissed feet of the black hebrew israelites, Tituba of Salem, Cooley high from movies that move we, Polaroid week 2023 , Simone Biles is married, Five Heartbeats on Movies That Move we, Claudine from movies that move we, sudan of africa, actiona jackson, homelessness,  black people treat the black community as the usa, how black people define themselves, black crypto, news media, a black world one day, banana republic, italy and ethiopia, schomburg book festival, the war between whites and blacks in the south,  skettel+criblore, impossible proof of pythagoras, janelle monae,  aalbc in the modern internet, a thing in germany plus japan and one in the black, blood of jesus - richardmurray's corner of movies that move we,  Kristin Richardson Jordan and NYC government,  new solutions,  JEt magazine article on phentoype, Black education never achieved so little compared to yeshiva's, should blacks celebrate the 4th of july, clarence thomas the honest black individualist, which subgroup is worse for the negro, met'a threads, Chevalier from movies that move we,  NATO,  The man from earth ,  where white media is taking black , Hollywood kaput, moviesthatmovewe little mermaid, earliest africanfuturism, everyone is complaigning like the blacks in the usa, Ben's benjamins and the Dinosaurs, NY is the 11th and black womens therapy, the making of the modern black america, barbie brands and business  , black unity in the usa , the business of media history from tcm, aalbc membership,  genetic basis for phenotype , muons of particle physics plus the race for nuclear powered space engines, computer corporate published vs self human published, self publishing podcast kwl, speaking delicately in race, accessbility online,  indigenous suffering, finding an artist, Africa's worth to the &nbsp;USA empire , Noir Bar how to make cocktails, ahsoka tnao and the future of female superheroines, book contracts with jane friedman, 5 minute yoga, jann wenner and the art of the interview,  under pressure climate week with whitney mcguire, lifewriting screenwriting,is schrumpft a leader, ?  
      GEMGFX , GDBEE , Deidre Smith Buck , Shawn Alleyne, RaySeb , Coco Michelle , chriss choreo, yeahbouyee , Collective poem side dee miller- in comments , clarence bateman , Ronald Reed, K-Hermann, El Carna , djdonttouchthetrim, Kiratheartist, briana lawrence  , odie1049, Nettrice Gaskins, Dada Koita ,  Paul Lewin,  Lisa Tillman Pritchard, Chevelin Pierre,   ? 
    Richard Murray Creative Table 2 https://aalbc.com/tc/blogs/entry/281-richard-murray-creative-table-2/
    Richard Murray Creative Table 1 https://aalbc.com/tc/blogs/entry/194-richard-murray-creative-table/
    My Newsletter https://rmnewsletter.over-blog.com/
  2. richardmurray
    What was it like re-releasing work that you did 20+ years ago? Was there anything surprising to you about returning to these classic games from an earlier part of your career?
    Honne: Although I am only supervising the Remaster version, to be honest I really want to remake the whole thing since the original version was released 20 years ago. But unfortunately, I don't think any gamers out there have the same thoughts as mine, haha.
    I feel relieved and happy to look back at how well the game was made, in terms of playability and length.
    Kojima: We are genuinely happy that more people will have the opportunity to experience Baten Kaitos. I would like to thank all the fans for their continued support and everyone involved in the Remaster's production.
    One thing that amazed me once again was the background art, which is still beautiful after 20 years, probably because it is 2D art. It is also surprising that Mr. Honne drew all these almost by himself at the time.
    Higurashi: It is a very strange feeling, and to tell the truth, it feels surreal. I have enjoyed playing the remastered titles of respected seniors in the industry, but I never had the thought of having the opportunity to be a part of a remaster project based on a title I was involved on.
    When creating the key art for the remastered version, I faced the illustrations I drew in the past. Looking at Kalas in the drawings, I could vividly recall what I was thinking in the past when creating, the feeling of the tools I used, and the faces of the people who supported me. It really made me want to talk about each of my memories during development in the past, recall how much fun I had and how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to work on such a good title.
    These games have stood the test of time and the fanbase enjoys various aspects of the games. What do you personally enjoy most about them?
    Honne: While I am very confident and proud of the background artwork since I take the worldview and the use of colors very seriously in the game, at the same time Baten Kaitos is a game where all development staff worked hard; hand-and-hand together like an orchestra, skillfully piling up their own rich and dignified notes. For my favorite, I personally would choose Mira, the City of Illusion that goes its own ways.
    Kojima: The charming character designs, the uplifting music, and everything apart of those are lovely, but if I had to pick only one thing, it would be the fact that the player can become a spirit and participate in the story. This wonderful world setting is what I love about Baten Kaitos.
    Higurashi: Hmm, will it sound like I am lying if I say I love all of them? I’m a big fan of Baten Kaitos so I can list out a lot of different elements, but if I need to choose just one, I will say I love the story of the characters the best. Every character has their own desires and emotions, and I feel like all characters and the universe of Baten Kaitos have their own souls.
    Do you have any special message to fans who are experiencing these games for the very first time?
    Honne: Although the original games were released 20 years ago, I hope you can enjoy going on a relaxing journey in the world of Baten Kaitos I and II. I am sure that wonderful memories will be made.
    Kojima: Baten Kaitos is a fantasy RPG in which you and your companion explore a wide variety of landscapes. It is such a classic RPG, yet it is filled with various innovations, including an innovative battle system. We hope you will enjoy this journey away from your daily lives.
    Higurashi: We are very happy to bring to you the remastered version for Baten Kaitos. Although the original titles were released 20 years ago, they are still such masterpieces that even me as a creator is very eager to share from a fan's perspective! I am confident that those who are playing the games for the first time will enjoy this remaster.
    The Music of Baten Kaitos with Motoi Sakuraba
    What was it like revisiting your work on Baten Kaitos? Is there anything surprising about relistening to compositions you made in the past?
    Sakuraba: The orchestra pieces sounded beautiful. The arrangement is simple and the melody is easy to enjoy. I was surprised when listening to the rock pieces and other tracks with synthesizer because I remembered I had a lot of creative freedom when composing them.
    Is there a piece of music in the games that you are particularly proud of?
    Sakuraba: I’m proud of all the battle songs from Baten Kaitos I & II. I like them because they show my true side the most. The other one is "Le ali del principio" from Baten Kaitos II. My daughter, who was a small child at the time, sang it. She did her best to sing it in Italian until the end of the song.
    The Baten Kaitos soundtracks incorporate many different elements from grand symphonic orchestration to synthesizers/prog rock. Can you describe your creative process a little bit?
    Sakuraba: Many of the songs in the Baten Kaitos soundtrack were not created with a specific musical genre in mind but rather came naturally as a result of trying to bring out my feeling. So, I didn't have any idea of what elements I wanted to include in these songs.
    To create these songs, I needed to understand the emotions for the scene, and if possible, I referred to the visual. Then I tried to adjust or rethink the piece I made by discussing with the producers.
    What I tried to achieve with the Baten Kaitos I & II soundtrack, and this goes for other titles as well, is to make the music blend perfectly with the gameplay so people are fully immersed when playing the game.
    Did your creative approach change between the first and second game?
    Sakuraba: In Baten Kaitos I, battle songs usually emphasized hardness. In Baten Kaitos II, acoustic instruments such as piano and violin were also used, adding a light atmosphere to the songs. In addition, one thing that I incorporated into Baten Kaitos II that I couldn’t in Baten Kaitos I was putting actual vocal sounds into the main songs.
    Do you have a message for new players who will experience these games for the first time?
    Sakuraba: We hope you will enjoy this work with its unique atmosphere and music! It would be great if you would listen to the music because it is very easy to understand.
  3. richardmurray

    TRANSCRIPT - my thoughts in the comments
    all right good evening my name is Dr Jason ockerman
    I'm a faculty member at the uh in the IUPUI School of liberal arts
    and I'm the director of the Ray Bradbury Center what is the Ray Bradbury Center it is a
    one of the larger single author archives in the United States it's also a small Museum we have
    recreated Ray Bradbury's basement office with entirely original artifacts and we do offer tours to the public on
    occasion so please follow us on social media if you'd ever like to come and see the collection
    on behalf of the Bradbury Center and the school of liberal arts I want to welcome you to our literary Festival Festival
    451 Indy we have events throughout the month of September to celebrate our literary
    Heroes two of mine are going to be taking the stage uh in in just a moment to encourage people the festival
    encourages people to cultivate an active reading life and to celebrate the humanities our
    Festival references Ray Bradbury's most famous work Fahrenheit 451.
    a cautionary tale about the consequences of the cultural devaluation of literacy
    his words you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture just get people to
    stop reading have only become more poignant and relevant today
    that's why we felt that a festival like Festival four or five when Indy was necessary so thank you so much for for being here
    tonight and being part of it hopefully you picked up some note cards
    as you're listening to the speakers today please write down your questions and I think these two aisles here if I'm
    wrong somebody will correct me okay I got the thumbs up from the boss so these
    two aisles here you'll be able to approach a microphone and address your questions so please stick around for the Q a sometimes that's the best part
    although I think everything about tonight's going to be great we also want to thank the aw Clues foundation for sponsoring tonight's
    event and for sponsoring the entire Festival um that lasts the entire month of
    September their generosity made this Festival possible uh in your programs
    tonight there's a short survey if you could fill that out and turn it into one of our team members at our information
    table uh in the lobby that would be super helpful for us we do have to do a grant report for Clues and your your
    response to the event tonight would go a long way in helping us craft that report we definitely appreciate it
    before introducing our speakers I want to share a brief land acknowledgment
    IUPUI acknowledges our location on the traditional on the traditional and
    ancestral territory of the Miami padawatami and Shawnee people
    we honor the heritage of native peoples what they teach us about the stewardship of the earth and their continuing
    efforts today to protect the planet founded in 1969 IUPUI stands on the
    historic homelands of native peoples and more recently that of a vibrant a vibrant black community also unjustly
    displaced where we sit tonight Madame Walker theater is one of the last vestiges of
    that Vibrant Community as the present stewards of the land we honor them all as we live work and study
    at IUPUI today people in this state who teach about the
    injustices of the past are under attack and I want to affirm tonight that we
    stand with our public Educators our public libraries and librarians
    we honor their expertise we will never correct the injustices of
    the present if we fail to acknowledge our past especially the parts that make us uncomfortable
    if there are Educators and Librarians in the art in our audience tonight would
    you please raise your hand so we can honor you [Applause]
    thank you thank you for what you do um you know tonight in part we honor Ray
    Bradbury a great author who spent his life standing up for public libraries because knowledge
    should be free and accessible to everyone no matter what
    we stand against any attempt to whitewash our history the old adage that
    those who refuse to learn history are doomed to repeat it rings true but I would add it seems clear that
    those who actively try to prevent history from being taught intend to
    repeat it we will not let that happen so tonight the red Bradbury Center is
    thrilled to partner with our friends at the center for Africana studies and culture and presenting a night with two
    legendary authors Dr Charles Johnson and Stephen Barnes
    tonight's event will be moderated by my dear friend and colleague Dr lasatien
    executive director of the center for Africana studies and culture Dr Les the stage is yours my friend
    good evening good evening good evening everyone thank you for coming out um a little little housekeeping before
    we get started because we are breathing rarified air here tonight so I want to
    acknowledge uh in in right in the front here to also legendary writers uh Ms
    Sharon Skeeter and also miss Tanner nariev do right here in the front
    and big thanks to to Jason uh and the the staff and and Folks at the Bradbury
    Center for putting this on and also giving us an opportunity to play a role in it um some colleagues from Liberal
    Arts are sitting right there shout out to y'all hello um and also our Dean
    um let me say oh and look Rob Robbin uh our other colleague but our Dean is also
    in the house here tonight as well uh Tammy Idol so I'd like to bring up uh Mr Barnes and Dr Johnson if they could hear
    me to come on up and we'll get started let's give a round of applause
    you wanted the right I'm gonna go to the right thank you
    all right welcome welcome welcome thank you thank you both for being here greatly appreciated I think it's um it's
    always good uh to introduce uh folks uh to who we have this August panel that
    we're in here tonight so if you wouldn't mind if we just get started Jump Right In but also I think there might be
    people in the house that would want to know uh about uh who we are are sitting
    with tonight no I'm always curious about who I'm sitting with especially when I'm sitting
    alone in a room exactly okay there we go so you know what I forgot to say what
    did you forget to say we have Mr Maurice Broadus in the house tonight as well yay
    foreign yes that's right yes yes so if you don't
    mind I will start with uh the youngest of us um
    [Music] okay if you don't mind um because uh you know uh I think it's
    it it's it's very important for us to understand um the value uh in in the work you've
    done uh in the literary World um but also you know in Academia and and
    it's you know and some of these other other places if you don't mind just giving us giving a brief brief bio a
    little bit about yourself okay uh you got 30 minutes
    um first I want to say this is a joyful occasion for me to be on the stage with
    this gentleman but especially that gentleman on the end we have collaborated on any number of projects in the past
    most recently the Eightfold Path yeah uh which is uh award-winning as it turns
    out uh graphic novel all of it all the credit goes to Steve they're all of his
    stories okay I came on and I I you know I took
    the ride with you and it was like anything we do together um a great pleasure we have a lot of
    overlap you know I did a book in 1988 called
    um being in race black writing since 1970. and in the last chapter it's a
    survey of black writers uh up to 1970 in the last chapter I I mentioned this guy
    I keep running across um his you know he's a martial artist and he writes science fiction
    um he's a black dude too I'm thinking that's me that's me but then I really no
    it's this character over here Stephen Barnes who um has been my hero for a
    very long very long time um my history my journey
    and to creativity had it was truly influenced by the man who did this book
    he was in and the Art of writing uh brave adverry but I come to this
    from being a journalist and a cartoonist that
    was my first love my first Passion was drawing in high school I became a
    professional illustrator when I was 17 I did some illustrations for a magic Company catalog in Chicago and
    um I saved that dollar by the way too that I got paid it's framed and there were times I was I was gonna
    use it because I was so broke in grad school but I started out as a as a Cartoonist and a journalist
    and along the way read you know voraciously of course you know cartoons
    do read a lot so we can get ideas from all kinds of different you know sources and it was around the time when I was 18
    I got exposed to philosophy and decided one of these days I I have to get a
    doctorate in philosophy I just have to and one of the lights I discovered is
    how much Bradberry admired Socrates and Marcus Aurelius you know among the uh
    the stoics right so so my journey took me from drawing to to scholarship and
    then to writing at a certain point uh you know novels and short stories and
    essays and and other things uh one of the things I want to emphasize which I'm sure most of you know already but I have
    to remind myself of it repeatedly is all of the the liberal arts in the
    humanities are interconnected one thing will lead you to another thing
    you know if you might want to get up one day and draw but then the next day you
    might want to get up and start a short story and the third day you might want to get up and write an essay on a
    question that's been troubling you about the mind-body relationship there is no reason why any of us should have to
    allow anybody to put us in a little box and say this is all that you do you know
    if you see my name crop up with something it'll be Charles Johnson novelist but that's not the only thing I do so all of these Arts feed each other
    you know create creatively and I when I was young looking at Bradbury's movies reading his short stories I felt that
    Spirit you know of openness and the excitement that just comes from doing
    something not as Bradbury said for money or fame first is for the love of doing
    it you get money in Fame later if you get it well that's fine but that's not your motivation your motivation is the
    fact that when you create you're creating yourself
    with every canvas with every novel with every story with every poem you're
    realizing your own individual inherent potential as a human being who can
    through craft give a gift to the world of beauty goodness and Truth goodness and beauty
    that may enrich the lives of others that's why I think we create and why we
    honor this guy now shut up [Applause]
    goodbyes if you wouldn't mind just no I was uh relatively poor kid grew up in a broken
    home in South Central Los Angeles and I knew that the world that was presented to me was not the real world I knew that
    there were some things that were said to me about who I was and what my potential was and what my people were that was not
    accurate so I as many people did I think a large number of people in the science fiction fantasy fanish Community are
    people who grew up feeling like the world was not the world inside them that they connected with was not the same as
    the world that they saw and that they looked to the Stars they looked to the past they looked to other worlds and
    other winds to get a sense of in some ways what might be truer that science
    fiction is a fiction of ideas and Concepts that you know what if if only
    if this goes on often anchored to physics but sometimes about
    the human heart but usually if there are two questions that are Central to philosophy those questions are probably
    who am I and what is true what is it to be human and what is the world that human beings perceive and science fiction approached it in one way fantasy
    approaches it in another fantasy is not about the world of physics it's about the world of symbols and the human heart
    and the way these things interact it's about the Poetry what's happening kind of between the atoms kind of between the
    events so whereas science fiction has to be both internally and externally consistent connected to physics as I
    said fantasy has to only be internally consistent that within this we're
    talking about human heart human perception and what are we and how do we feel this
    Bradbury Drew my attention I was reading voraciously at that time because I was
    looking for you know that question who am I and what is true so am I slept in a
    bedroom with the walls aligned with books and Ray Bradbury was interesting because he
    wrote he was published in science fiction magazines but he was not writing about what if in that way it wasn't
    interested in the physics of the situation he was interested in the Poetics of it as if he were a fantasy
    writer he was about where is the human heart in all of this so the Martian Chronicles were not it was not what
    Voyager landed on or whatever it was that were our first Rovers I forget what the name of was he was interested in
    Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars he was interested in barsum you
    know he was not he was interested in the Poetics of Science and because of that
    he touched my heart he was a poet writing science fiction stories being published in science fiction magazines but you weren't going to learn anything
    about science by reading Ray Bradbury which you were going to learn about was what is it to be human what is it to see
    the stars what is it to yearn for a meaning to our lives you know what what
    are we in the vastness of the universe and that really touched this young kid
    trying to figure out who he was that the vision of the universe in that sense was so large the individual political or
    philosophical differences that that deviled us on Earth are meaningless once
    you start backing up you know when astronauts talk about how when they were in orbit they looked down at the world
    and there were no divisions of Nations and they had a spiritual experience where they said the first day everybody
    was pointing out the city they came from you know the next day when they were talking about the the the the
    International Space Station they were talking about what nations they came from the next day after that they were
    talking about the continent and then by the fourth day they're just looking at the world and those individual
    differences dissolved when you look at the world in terms of a sound of thunder
    going back 100 million years or forward into the future the problems that we
    have right now politically or in terms of nations in the in the the the joining
    together of just different groups of people who've been separated by large amounts of geography
    all that stuff disappears the question of what is the difference between this civilization and that Civilization
    it might be a thousand years of development but a thousand years of development is
    nothing in terms of the 13.7 billion years that this universe has existed
    it's nothing at all those differences dissolve and when that was the world
    that I wanted to live in a world in which those differences that were necessary because the human mind works
    in terms of what is similar as opposed to what is different we're very that dualism created a lot of our science and
    so forth and so on but ultimately getting caught in the middle of that you are not this because of that you are
    this because of this if you feel caught in that then taking that larger perspective can feel like taking a
    breath of fresh air for the first time of stepping outside anything anyone ever said about who you were or what your
    potential was and being lost in the Poetry of experience so my connection to
    Bradberry was that I sought The Poetry in the mundane the the unusual in the in
    the daily and he went went there every time he went there from his earliest
    stories which were often what are called biter bit stories where somebody does a
    bad thing and they are destroyed by the consequences of their action in these old you know uh pulp magazines you know
    and stories of ghastlys and murderers and ghosts and goblins I just ate that
    up because I I would read him and I would read other people wrote the same thing but Bradbury was always about
    something more than the events and the actions there we go absolutely absolutely so you know who I am growing
    up in the shadow of giants one of whom was the man that we come here to honor today
    is a kid who grew up in South Central Los Angeles wanted to be a science fiction writer found a great mentor in
    Larry Niven who's one of the great science fiction writers of the 20th century took me under his wing showed me how to do it gave me opportunities I was
    able to build a life I published over three million words and you know the New York Times bestseller list in this award
    and that one that's all fine but the important thing is I got to spend my life doing the thing I dreamed of as a
    kid that was the reward just to be able to do that to be able to every day talk
    to the little kid inside me and say I've kept the faith and for him to look at me and say Dad you sure did that is worth
    you there is nothing I would exchange that for and and Ray Bradbury was one of
    The Shining lights that said it was possible to get all the way there and never sell yourself out yeah can I add
    something to that of course um one of the things Bradbury gives us it
    gave me as a young person I hear you saying Brad baby gave it to you too as a
    sense of mystery and wonder about this existence in which we find ourselves the whole thing with the view
    from The Sciences right from the solar system moving all the way out to galaxies as our problems seem so
    infinitesimally small and trivial and race so small and trivial when we you
    know take that perspective um so science fiction has an intellectual discipline
    um allows us to dream you know one of my colleagues um the late Joanna Russ
    once pointed out that the female man yeah yeah
    um and at UW University of Washington she she once wrote that a woman wrote to
    her um about why she loved science fiction she lived in a in a kind of ordinary
    town you know very very boring and conformist but science fiction what she
    really found appealing were the Landscapes the
    landscape's so different from the ones that she was living in right it opened up the imagination science fiction has
    always served that purpose I think well you know Ray Bradbury if I if I may add to what you're saying is that he might
    quibble with something that you said there it isn't about developing your ability to dream it's about remembering it that we we go we all go quietly
    insane every night but we forget that and that creativity
    to a certain degree is simply opening up a pore between our unconscious minds that dream every night in the conscious
    mind that that performs it does the performative part of our mind the part of us that says I am uh and the child
    has that and life keeps telling the child be practical right stay here and
    we'll start shutting that down Ray Bradbury never lost that thing he never
    lost that connection with the child and their people will say that all there is of Genius is maintaining the creativity
    of a child with the disciplined knowledge of an adult that if you can do that if you can maintain a connection
    there you are going to be performing at the highest level that you are capable of performing it isn't it isn't
    gaining something that you don't have it's remembering how you started it's
    remembering the creativity and the aliveness and the sense of wonder that sense of Engagement that every child has
    that gets squeezed out of us by the adult world yeah I know I know and
    that's what we want to keep alive yes that child um Bradbury also put a lot of emphasis on
    the importance of the subconscious too so I'm glad I'm glad you pointed that out
    um you know we we always have to I think of you know think how do we get back to to
    that innocence that that openness that we had as children before the world beat
    it out of us or before critics you know beat it out of us um and and so what's that's one of the
    reasons that uh Sharon skies are there and I are both practicing Buddhists
    um our my practice at least gets rid of an awful lot of that conditioning
    from childhood on from parents and field teachers so that I can experience the
    world where that sense of newness and wonder and mystery you do have that I've
    I've commented to people that one of the things I love about you is how easily you are astonished
    that it's like you're constantly rediscovering yeah so you just you see it right there
    oh the world is here still have that you're not numb it
    hasn't been it hasn't been scabbed over your nerves are alive you're strong enough that you're not afraid to feel
    okay and I think that when we lose courage you know fatigue makes cowards of us all often as we age or as we get
    tired or as we shape our egos to fit into the different molds that people want us to shape into we start
    forgetting who we are and and that we started this life to enjoy it that that
    we want that sense of joy and instead of that we sack we settle for not being afraid if at best
    yeah we can't lose that you cannot yeah a human being cannot lose that and still be fully Alive one of the things I would
    like to think is my capacity one of the things at least in my work as a
    philosophical novel is I think that literature should liberate our perceptions liberate our perception you say
    astonishment I would like to be able to look at some look at you know look at
    something as if I've never seen it before it's often been said or very creative people they look at something
    strange as if it's familiar and the familiar is if it's strange right so we're constantly working with
    Consciousness and our perception and here every moment that we're alive is new
    every single moment is alive the past I've written a lot of historical fictions and so forth but the past has
    passed in the future I'm not going to worry about it because it ain't come and it never will because that's a horizon the
    future that we can never reach the only moment we have right here with each other is right here right now
    before I came over here I sat for a little bit of meditation I always do that I would not meet a group or a crowd
    or do anything in public and so I had that chance to sit if only for 10 or 15 minutes so that I can be
    here right here with all of you right now and the only moment that exists in
    time not worrying about what am I going to do when we're done with this or what what was the flight light getting us
    here with no sleep you know from Seattle right here right now new never like this
    moment before you get up in the morning why wash your face you got the soap you know okay that has never happened before
    you might think I'm doing a routine thing no not that soap not that water
    not that moment and not that version of you and not that version of me you're
    right you can't step in the same piece of water twice because your foot is never the same and the water has changed
    that's right so it's it's that awareness that the sacred is in the mundane that
    it is in this moment it that what I try to do is to Center myself and then ask
    myself what is the task to do next it task may be to get out of bed and have breakfast it may be to embrace my wife
    it may be to counsel my son it may be to play with the cat it might be to answer an email it might be to write a story
    but all those I'm not different people when I do those things I'm the same person playing different roles so let me
    be appropriate the question is can I be appropriate in this moment can I be here with this moment and the demands of this
    moment with the story that I'm writing or the person that I'm speaking to or the task that I have to do be here
    totally right now yes 30 of yourself isn't trapped in the past remembering
    regretting 30 is not projecting into the future what you're going to do you bring back all of yourself 100 to this moment
    right now whether it's writing whether it's talking to your your son or me
    talking to my grandson uh you're here totally right at this moment so one of
    the reasons why the martial arts have are such a great tool for learning
    that because one second of not thinking about right here and you get hit in the head that's right you know so there's
    nothing like a smack upside the head to wake you up no I better be here now you know you better forget about the
    hamburger I had yesterday or what my wife's gonna say when I get home this guy's Gonna Knock my head off right here
    right now in this instant there is no more other moment in time there is no other moment that that's it and that
    that sense of being there is consistent across all arts and so this conversation
    concerning getting hit in the head it's like an athlete in the zone yes in the
    zone right yes so go on well no it's the dissolution of the subject object relationship there is not a you and it
    there is there is a there's something that is happening here and you're not observing yourself doing it because when
    you're observing yourself some of the energy that you would have put into that moment is put into creating a self to
    observe and what's even worse is when people observe themselves observing themselves now you're two steps removed
    yes and you've lost all the energy you need to liberate your true self so in
    one sense Society will try to keep you in the place of observing yourself and judging yourself because that way you
    become dependent upon Society to say that you're okay because if you're in the moment you you know you're okay
    you're always okay when you're in the moment you're you're not okay once you observe yourself and start judging
    yourself but when you're there and it's just happening that's when you're totally alive and that's what we look
    for in sexuality in driving on the freeway in in heavy traffic in the rain
    in fighting in in writing in Reading is the sense of total engagement in the
    moment the eye is not observed it is it is
    subsumed in the process of the interaction that that thing of the page
    opening up and you fall into the page can happen only once this component skills have been
    reduced to unconscious competence right right as you can tell we we've talked a lot together [Laughter]
    and we have long conversations like this but this gentleman here may have I was
    going to say that this is the easiest job I've never had if they were paying me
    man I you know um and uh I I definitely the interesting
    thing is you know the the one I think it was like the one time I got a chance to I think Jason and I were on a zoom with
    you in a similar conversation happened and we were like in the chat like hey man let's just stay here they don't
    notice us let's just listen and and get it so that's what I and I also would be remiss if I didn't mention that I am a
    fill-in uh Dr Rhonda Henry uh was uh ill and could not make it she would have
    been the person here today uh so I didn't want to lift her up and mention that as well
    um so thank you first of all thank you for for that first that opening sound thank
    everybody for coming see you later oh no we're still we got one more got one more so I do have one more uh thing and and
    this is more specific uh you you've certainly touched on it you you showed us uh these were uh yeah yeah these uh I
    I purchased uh some years ago of a complete line of Planet stories
    from the late 30s to the early 50s these are the original issues and they have Brad Barry's Original Stories in them
    and a lot of other people too who became famous because this is this is where he
    began you know with the pulse I wanted to have the actual feel of that
    um underneath my fingers see one of the beautiful things about Bradbury and the
    pulp Riders to me they're prolific they they were not worried about am I
    writing something that will last for the ages no Bradbury is getting 20 to 40
    dollars per story he's making himself right a thousand words a day a story a
    week he's got to sell um to a month in order to pay his bills
    okay he is immersed in the moment these precede comic books okay by a few years
    and the comic book artists were the same people you know you you were not looking back you were immersed in the moment of
    creation you had a deadline to meet that's right um and and you produced all
    this stuff not thinking that this might shape called culture that the characters that you're creating from Edgar Rice
    Burroughs to the Marvel characters that these would be installed in popular
    culture 50 cents uh you know 50 years later so that even my grandson knows
    these characters right um I I admire artists who work like that
    who don't think that what they're doing is precious but what they're doing is absolutely everything they can do at the
    present moment yes and then you let it go and you go on to the next one yes and you go into the next one and you're
    blessed to be able to have the opportunity to do that and and that certainly was going to be you know kind
    of the next question I wanted to throw out there very open-ended of course but just the idea of you know Bradbury's
    influence I know you've touched on a little bit but just maybe if there was any any particular specific oh I
    absolutely can but yeah go you can go first or you know I can go there or whatever whatever is appropriate I want
    to hear your stories about bravery okay anybody want to hear my stories about rape River okay
    because he was very important in my life and I did not write this out because I know for a fact that I'm going to get
    choked up so get ready for that um and I wrote down some dates just so I
    could I could get as precise as I could but this is not a formal you know
    scholarly thing so if any of the dates are wrong you know apologies in advance so
    I I grew up and I had a dream of being the science fiction writer it was a thing
    that I I really loved to do because I didn't understand math well enough to be a scientist so I did the other thing I
    could wrote write poetry of the sciences and so I was a little kid growing up South Central L.A and had dreams of
    being a writer and I was writing as much as possible and everything around me told me that I could not do it you know
    my mom my dad was a backup singer for Nat King Cole and I was in the studio when they did the the background vocals
    for Ramblin Rose yeah just watching dad and every time it's on the radio I hallucinate that I can hear my dad's
    baritone and my dad's singing career ultimately floundered and
    it led to a divorce and so my mom was terrified that if I followed the Arts that I would have a similar failure and
    she used to tear my stories up and burn them because she was so scared that I would go down that path but I you know I
    just kept going and kept going and kept going and by the time I got to college I had
    um tried I knew my mom wanted me not to write and so I tried to step away from
    writing I would but I was tricking myself I'd take all kind of other classes I would take you know drama and
    composition and English and speech and stuff like this work in the radio station I think things adjacent to
    writing without writing and then finally they had a contest a writing contest on campus
    where the winner would read a story to the to the alumni and I won the I won
    the contest and I read the story to the alumni and I watched them react to me
    and I realized this is who I'm supposed to be that there is I would rather fail
    as a writer than succeed at anything else so I dropped out of college my girlfriend at the time who later
    became my wife and are living together she was an artist and I was a writer and I was taking jobs adjacent to Hollywood
    trying to work my way and I was also writing stories and I was starting to send them out and I was you know getting rejected and rejected and rejected and I
    I think that at some point I started getting like a fifth of a cent a word and you know getting paid in
    contributors copies but I think before my first sale uh I wrote a story a
    Halloween story called trick or treat about a guy who it when he was a kid he
    his candy is snatched by the kids in the neighborhood they were bullies and when he becomes an adult he starts you know
    the kids in the neighborhood he's living in the same house they're playing tricks on him so he plays tricks back and the
    next year they play a nastier trick and they asked that he plays a nastier trick on them and it goes back and forth and
    back and forth until one year he plays a trick and the kids he accidentally kills a kid and he knows it next year they're
    going to kill him and so this story is called trick-or-treat and I found out that Ray Bradbury was doing an
    autographing at a bookstore and so my girlfriend was an artist and I created a
    a a Halloween card that contained the story and artwork and we went to his
    signing and we gave it to him in an envelope that had my address on it and about six weeks later I got a letter
    back from Ray Bradbury saying he loved my story and this was the first time a
    professional human being a person who was doing the thing that I wanted to do let alone somebody who I admired so much
    had said yeah kid maybe you've got what it takes it meant more than I can
    possibly say and inspired me to keep going so I kept going I'm writing and I'm trying to do this I'm trying to do
    that I'm still not succeeding very much but I was starting to make a little bit of progress my mom
    who had always been terrified finally realized that there was no way I was going to give it up and so she kind of
    got on the bandwagon and she found a course that was being taught at UCLA
    extension by Robert Kirsch who was the literary editor of the LA Times in about
    1980 let's say 1975 1975 and
    uh no no this is about about 1980 about 1980. uh and so I took a class from
    Robert Kirsch and it was a strange class you know it was the little blue-haired lady writing astrological poetry and it
    was the guy writing this going and I was writing these strange stories and I wrote one very strange story called is
    your glass half empty about a compulsive Gambler who Hawks his pacemaker and he
    Kirsch looked at me and he didn't know quite what to make of the story and he said
    I've Got a Friend I'd like to show this story to would you mind if I did that and I said sure go right ahead and about
    six weeks later I got a note I got a letter from Ray Bradbury who was Robert kirsch's friend writing telling me again
    he didn't remember the earlier story he just said hey you know kid you know this is this is good you know this you know
    that you've got something go for it don't ever give up doing that Ray Bradbury inspirational thing I kind of
    said I got two letters from him you know this is this is cool so let me keep going
    I eventually met Larry Niven and began working with him and started getting my
    career going and in about what year did you publish your first story I published
    my first story in probably about 1980 1981 somewhere in there maybe 79 to 81.
    somewhere in there and it was like a fifth of the center word you know and then I finally the first story that was
    published in a professional magazine was called uh it's called endurance vial about an
    athlete who accidentally discovers a meditation that triggers his ability to
    be more of an athlete and he starts running and he can't stop you know so that I think that was my first my very
    first publication and I was working with Larry Niven and I had the balls to walk
    up to Larry you know at the Las Vegas science fiction thing and I said hello Mr Niven my name is Stephen Barnes and
    I'm a writer and he looked at me and said all right tell me a story I I found out that from the way I'd come
    on to him I had about 10 seconds to prove I wasn't an luckily I just put that story is your
    glass half empty into the mail that morning so I was able to stumble out you know I
    think and that led to us eventually working together in my CR in my working he gave me a chance to work on an
    earlier story of his that he hadn't been able to finish to his satisfaction called the locusts which was about a
    group of space colonists who go to a planet and their children begin to devolve to australopithecines and they
    don't know how to deal with it and if the problem in this story who would right if the problem of the story had
    been biology or a cryptozoology or
    physics or astrophysics I would have been lost but luckily the problem in the story was the psychology that Larry did
    not understand group psychology as well as I think he could have such that he did not understand the impact that would
    have on that little Colony if these things happen he was underestimating the emotions involved so that gave me an
    opening a way that I could contribute something this story and it led to a Hugo nomination and my first real
    publication you know with lyrics it was like you know wow this was you know I'm on my way so one of the things that I
    was asked to do in this process was there was something called the planetary society in which I was asked to be a
    presenter to be an announcer so I introduced several luminaries that were there astrophysics I mean there might
    have been an astronaut so forth and one of the people was Ray Bradbury so Ray walked up on stage and before he walked
    up on stage I told my story about how I was he was responsible for my me getting published by giving me inspiration at a
    time when I was getting rejection after rejection after rejection started to question myself and he walked up on
    stage and gave me a big hug and it was just a great moment everybody applauded it was very nice about eight years after
    that um I was teaching a class at UCLA
    and it was a a symposium and every week we had a different notable come in one
    week it was Ray Bradbury so when I went to Ray's house came to class he came to
    yeah he came and talked at the Symposium he was one of the I think seven notables that we had coming there
    um and before the class I took him to dinner at in Westwood and
    Larry Niven had asked if he could keep me but before Larry got there
    ah I for 20 years I was the only black male
    science fiction writer in the world so far as I could determine chip Delaney had left the field he'd gone into
    Academia and queer fiction because he couldn't make a living in science fiction I survived largely because of my
    partnership my mentorship with Larry Niven because I would I do collaboration with him and I'd make enough money to be
    able to keep food on the table in the roof over our head but I was starting to wonder was I losing myself
    was had I sold myself out was I losing
    my art and I remember I had dinner with Leo and
    Diane Dillon who we were just talking about in in Greenwich Village and they
    are they were the essence of art it was like we're one they work they did Art together where one would start a line
    the other one would finish it and back back so far and I was sitting at that table talking to them about the career
    of an artist thinking I'd get some tips for my wife who was interested in being a professional artist and I suddenly realized that I didn't care about that
    but I wanted to know was had I sold myself out had I sold out
    my heart and I sat there and I just poured my eyes out and I just started crying finally I realized because I was
    in the presence of real artists here this this was this was for real and I felt like a fraud I felt like a phony
    and I was I just you know I poured my heart out to them and I finally said it is it too late for me
    and they looked at each other and Diane looked at her husband and then she reached across the table and she took my
    hands and she said Steve if you can even ask that question it's
    not too late well that helped but I'm sitting at the table
    with Ray Bradbury my childhood Idol who somehow I had choreographed an
    opportunity to to be with him and and break bread with him and speak with him and I it was pretty much the same
    question it's like you know I I've been hiding behind Larry Niven and his partner Jerry Purnell I'm writing these
    things and I've gotten these Awards and made this money and so forth but I feel like I don't know have
    am I broken you know is it too late for me is it can I can I still touch that
    part of me that that is that's sacred and he asked me of course
    he said have you published and I said oh yeah I published all these
    stories in about six books and this that he just started laughing he just laughs oh you are going to have no problem at
    all and hearing that for the second time is what made the difference I was able to see
    that that I was just on this road I did not see Rey again
    for many years and then in maybe the end of 2011 or the
    beginning of 2012. I would I was asked if I would make a presentation at a more
    at a at a acknowledgment dinner for Ray Bradbury who was very ill he could barely speak
    he was in his wheelchair and it was held at the Universal Sheraton Sometime Late
    2011 or early 2012. and I got up on the stage
    it was so good to see him and he was so diminished physically but
    the child self was still so alive in him his eyes were still still alive and I I told the
    story of how he had reached out to me when I was getting started and he'd
    written these letters giving me hope ing me believe that maybe it was
    possible for me to have the life that I wanted how grateful I was for a chance to say
    thank you to this great man and after I finished he held out his arms and he
    gave me a hug and I went home and six weeks later I got a letter from him
    telling me thanking me for the words I'd said
    and how it had reminded him of his own path and his own Joy in his gratitude for the life that he
    had had and the fact that he'd been able to touch others in the last words in that letter were
    some of your tears are my own Ray Bradbury
    and about six weeks after that he passed away and I just
    wanted to say there's is no greater gift in life than
    being able to take a look at the child you were and the truth and the dreams that they
    had it realized that you were actually able to live that life
    and that there was no possible way that you could have done it alone and that being able to talk to other
    people along the path who say you know you're not remotely at
    their level not remotely but they don't care all they care about is are you
    writing are you reading are you teaching where are you what does the territory
    look like from where you are and I just wanted to say that everybody in this room
    has walked a path that others wish they could walk has answered questions that other people can't even formulate yet
    and you never know what a kind word or a kind act is going to mean
    his actions meant the difference between life and death
    for part of my soul and I could not be who I am we're not
    for people who had been kind to me who saw me and saw some potential Within Me
    it reached out their hand and said you're going to have no problem at all
    and I think you for the chance to come here and say
    publicly how much I owe those people in one specific man one great man
    Ray Bradbury who changed and saved my life
    I'm going to pick up on like two things that you said Steve I know in my life there were individuals
    who encouraged me when I couldn't get that encouragement from anywhere else
    and when you're young you're tender you know you're in your teens and um
    you know I'm not gonna belabor you know and bore you with those individuals who
    did that for me but that's an extremely important thing for a young person an
    old person too to have somebody who gives you permission
    to go that route and to trust yourself and to trust your passion that could be
    a teacher you've also written about a teacher in high school who um you know
    positively gave you reinforcement yes so those those teachers are
    extremely important um in our lives and I've had a a a several you know uh when I was a
    cartoonist and then the novelist John Gardner when I started writing novels
    and he led me into the book World which I knew nothing about and then later you know when I was in philosophy with my
    dissertation director who became a dear friend who's actually passing away right
    now but those teachers are extraordinarily important but there's something else you said I'd like to know
    I'd like you to say a bit more about you've worked with Niven yes collaboratively yes and you're wondering
    what's happening to me you know where am I you know so is that the opening that
    question that led you to and to Nana Reeve to afrocentrism
    is that how you found your way there well okay afrofuturism yeah I'm sorry yeah
    for future futurism um well all that happened is that I worked with Larry Niven and his partner
    Jerry Purnell and um I learned the basics of my craft and
    I already had the basics of my craft I came to them with a certain amount of skills that were developed but then they
    took me to being professional I remember you know Jerry I never I don't know how many writers in world history have ever
    had the experience of two world-class writers best-selling writers award-winning writers sitting on opposite sides of the room tearing apart
    their work at the same time because I was working on a book with the two of them and Cornell was taking great
    pleasure in this how Burns we're ripping apart barnes's precious Pros Barnes was your mother
    scared by a gerund I mean he would take he took such Glee in ripping me a new
    one every single time I would drive home from working with them crying sobbing
    because you know just taking this battering but it was like it was like being asked to spar with the black belt
    class you got your butt kicked every night but you would crawl off the mat
    but you'd know if I can survive this I'm going to be a fighter so I knew if I
    could survive this I will learn things that are taught in no school in the world now one of the things is that
    Jerry wrote stories that Jerry wanted to read Larry Niven wrote stories Larry Niven wanted to read so in order to be
    like them I didn't it wasn't writing like Larry nibbon or Jerry Purnell I had to write stories that Stephen Barnes
    wanted to read what were those stories into a huge degree
    there is that question what was missing from the field and what was missing was people who
    looked like me right and it wasn't passive it was active insult Edgar Rice
    Burroughs would write stories you know in which in which uh the
    Enterprise Burrows stories were the the core of Tarzan was specifically racism
    specifically the idea that a British that an English Lord gentleman raised by Apes is still a gentleman and he made
    racism specific in one of his stories in the jungle Tales of Tarzan where he says
    white men have imagination black men have little animals have none I mean that was specifically so you can't get
    away from it but I needed those stories because I was trying to Define myself as a man where I
    am in the universe so as I once said to a group that I I sacrificed my melanin
    on the altar of my testosterone I mean I I wanted to be a man more than I cared
    about being black I would I would add something you brought something to Parnell and and Niven that they didn't
    have yes from your perspective in your history they did not have the black orientation any of that no but but I
    don't know if that worked into the books not that much I mean Jerry was was by
    his own uh statement took politically to the right of Attila the Hun so it was
    difficult to navigate that territory but one of the things I learned was how to argue with somebody smarter than you because Jerry was just smarter than me
    just you know he's you know Jerry's brain had a rocket attached to it Larry's brain had a transport a
    transporter attached to it whereas I could understand how Jerry would do stuff it was just an ordinary brain with a lot more information working a lot
    faster but Larry would dematerialize and materialize someplace I was just like I don't even know how you got there so
    taking their lessons and then writing my own stories demanded that I write for my
    own experience so I'm then dealing with the fact that you know my my first book
    was a book with Larry my second book was a book with Larry my third book was a solo book and I wrote a black character
    I specifically wanted to create a black hero that was Street Lethal yeah but the
    book company Ace put a white guy on the cover he's very clearly described as being as dark
    as Zulu and they put a white guy on the cover and my poor editor called me up and she's in tears you know Beth Meacham
    is her name very nice lady not her fault she said that they had done this Susan Allison who was the head editor I don't
    have as good a feeling about her because she kind of blew it off she wasn't upset well it's one of those things that
    happened it was the marketing department and I talked to the marketing department oh no it's the advertising it's the art
    Department I talked to the art Department the art Department said well it's the sales department and the sales
    department said well the truck drivers who are going to put the books on the stands would think that this was shaft
    in space and so I realized at that point I can either hate white people I'd
    rather not do that did I say that out loud no
    I could either hate white people or I consider that what's going on here is an
    example of how human beings think that human beings feel protective of their
    tribe and almost all human beings are tribal they happen to have that power Everybody wants to rule the world
    everybody wants to feel that the world reflects who they are in the mirror so this is I'm just at the an unfortunate
    unfortunate effect of this what do I do with it I can either use this and say
    the world kicked my ass or I can say this is where we are right now my dad
    working with Nat King Cole performed in in hotels in Las Vegas where he could
    not stay the world has gotten better than that
    it's just not as good as I would like it to be how much longer will it take and I
    projected trend lines in my mind I thought it might take two generations it might take two generations it might
    take another 30 to 40 years before the world is ready for the stories that I want to tell
    can I survive long enough to do that and so I started a program of I am going I'm
    going to stay in this field and I'm going to create my stories and I'm going to do everything I can do
    because I'm going to make it first of all I'm going to write stories that the kid who started this path would have
    wanted to read and I'm going to create a career path so that other people coming in will have an
    easier time than I have an Octavia Butler and I were the only black people working in the field we had many
    conversations about this we lived walking distance from each other and Octavia was a level above me as a writer
    she was often not happy with what I wrote Because she felt I was not living up to my potential
    she would write and they put green people on the covers of her books but they wouldn't put black people you know
    so we had lots of interesting conversations about that what do we feel about it what are we going to do I felt
    I if I can stay in here and write the stories that I want stories that would
    nurture the younger person I was that no matter what happens I've not been beat
    and then I found out one day that there were Scholars studying something called afrofuturism and I was considered to be
    an afrofuturist I didn't try to be one I was just trying to write Stephen Barnes stories
    casually said that you lived walking distance from Octavia but I want to point out oh yeah you know we
    used to come over for dinner and I'd go over her place and then we would just sit and we'd talk writing in life she was like my big sister I was wondering
    you know um you go back to what is it the 20s the 30s and you've got black no
    more that that early yes um and then you fast forward a little
    bit and you got chipped Delaney and yeah you he said he couldn't make a living so
    he moved on incredibly um once again elegant Pro stylist amazing and and then
    you have October Xavier Butler and then there's you yeah that's about it and now
    we have a lot of people tons of sci-fi can't even count them yeah but you guys are the best you guys were the pioneers
    you seriously you were Pioneers um which is really quite incredible when you think back about it remember Pioneers
    get arrows in the butt you know I was just trying I was just trying to
    be the best writer that I could be in trying to survive trying to take care of my family and trying
    to to survive in Hollywood and I made mistakes I made mistakes I betrayed that
    little creative spark inside me a couple of times and it hurt I mean I was just
    you know you can only sell yourself out so much yeah you know what's even worse is if you try not to sell out and then
    one day you sell out nobody's buying you know so that's even worse but I remember
    one of my agents I lost or walked away from one of my agents in Hollywood because I walked in there with my heart
    on my sleeve and I said you know I don't know what's going to happen in my career but when I leave Hollywood I want to
    leave with my sense of Honor intact and he looked at me and he said you'll be the only one and I realized at that
    moment he and I did not understand each other at all I need to find a new agent because I'm not going to sell my soul to
    do this I'm going to do everything I can and I will not sell out but I will rent myself
    you know and I will stretch as far as I can but I'm always going yeah I'm I'm I'm kind of a hoe but
    enjoy my work
    if I write an episode of Baywatch and I have I wrote four episodes of Baywatch
    people say that's not science fiction I said you ever see those silicon life forms running around on the beach
    um I found something in every episode that I could actually care about and there's
    another story I can go into that I might tell another time where the producers did eventually end up turning on me but
    I got revenge but that's another story that's
    um let's let's we'll uh well first okay before I think we can open up to a
    little bit of a q a um but before we do that of course we want to just really thank you for your
    words and Candor have you have you said everything you wanted to see you came prepared with some comments you came
    prepared with some comments have you expressed what you wanted to express I came prepared with you no you had some
    comments you were almost going to write a talk to do this but instead of that you prepared some comments I just wanted to be sure that that Charles has had an
    opportunity to express himself no no no no I'm fine okay I think it's probably a
    good idea if you want to move to that next question yes but before we did that look at this beautiful let's thank these
    uh these these wonderful discussions
    respect just trying to be like you no you don't want to believe me so uh
    what what we could do um is you know
    the the aisles could be your your pathway or if you so choose you could
    just kind of raise it I can't see you because of the lights so perhaps you might want to stand up over okay that
    they just raise the house lights yeah they just did so I could see folks so if
    you have a question if you have a comment please just raise your hand and uh I will uh
    catch you not everybody at once there we go Tumbleweed we got one yeah
    and you'll have to project because I don't think we have a walking mic you're a big boy oh it's over here there we go
    no they were right even better
    okay so they're gonna they got questions on index cards oh I see that people wrote already yes all right all right
    good this is good because I can read them all okay come on yeah I just get them all at
    don't do it all right
    all right I'm gonna start here okay we're ready okay so I think this one is
    for both of you and so this person says that they want to say that they appreciate uh that you both came out to
    speak with us this evening and they love hearing your story um the question is is there a book that
    you wrote that holds the most significance to you um if so would you be okay with sharing
    your thoughts on the story um and then there's a little statement uh
    at the bottom it says on the day when life seems to be too much to handle with all that you do okay that's the second
    question so just go with the first question is there a particular book that you wrote that holds the most significance to you
    um and if so uh would you share your thoughts on the story I can do that easily okay uh most significant book for
    me was my second novel called oxygen tale which was rejected two dozen times nobody understood it my own Mentor
    um John Gardner did not understand it and actually was afraid of the Buddhism that was in this
    novel which is in the form of a slave narrative philosophical novel no form of a slave narrative with access to Western
    and Eastern philosophy and my editor didn't understand it for my first book and um but that was critical
    had I not done that book all the other books that I've done 26
    after you know total 27 I would not have done it I had to do that book and once I
    did that book I understood some things about myself I wrote the book to free myself of my
    passion in reading of Eastern philosophy and Buddhism from my teens so I'm going to write this book you know and I'm
    going to be free of it got to the end of the book I realized no this is the beginning for me so everything I've done has been in a
    way referenced back to Oxford and tail which has a Bradbury connection because there is a soul catcher a slave Hunter
    and Coors of Adam who has tattoos all the black people that he captures
    are killed he gets tattoos on his body that where where is that going to come from except the Illustrated Man right
    we're not which I read when I was younger so that that was a critical book for me I'll say that much
    um yeah so that's mine for me it would almost certainly be
    lions blood which Lion's blood you know which uh was my statement on race
    relations in America uh basically it was it took me six years of research and I
    basically created an alternate history which was an alternate America that was colonized by Islamic Africans bringing
    in this particular instance Irish slaves here and so the story it deals with a
    young Irish boy named Aiden Odair who is kidnapped by Vikings and sold to the Moors in Spain in andalus the word
    perspective and brought to balalistan the United States to the province of nujibouti Texas where he becomes the
    foot boy slip of Kai ibiz who is a young Islamic nobleman and the
    story covers their friendship for about eight years from childhood to the beginnings of adulthood and um that I
    don't know if I'll ever work that hard on a book again I probably will not I remember what you said you invited
    Scholars to a party yeah to ask them questions yeah I basically knew that I could spend a hundred years researching
    and still not touch one percent of what I needed to know so I did one of the smartest things I've ever done it's probably one of the 10 smartest things
    I've done in my life I invited a room full of the smartest people that I knew and people came from from hundreds of
    miles in addition to my invitation and we had a pizza party all day long I fed them pizza and beer and I had graph
    paper and butcher paper on the walls and I passed out notebooks with the basic
    premises of the world you know the politics and the economics and so forth of this alternate universe and I had a
    videographer following people around and all day long we theorized about this
    world that I was trying to create and they showed me everything they showed me so many things that I had not thought of
    that by the end of that single day I had enough research to begin the writing process that I'd done six years of
    research before I did that party so I my attitude is you want to know enough to
    ask the right questions of experts and if you can ask an expert the right
    question and they say oh yes well that's you know and they go off then you know enough to write your story you this is a
    perfect example of what they call World building yeah World building and you went on to do a sequel or at more than
    well I I did two of them Lion's bullet in Zulu heart Zulu heart yeah
    all right and so we have we have a good number of questions I think we can okay I'll keep it shorter no no but we're
    good I think everybody here is enjoying uh being able to hear is this okay guys I think we're all right this is what you
    came for it's all it's all about you you can't get you can't Prime me out of the house but once I'm out of the house I really
    do want to serve whoever brought me out so this is your chance okay and then for anyone out there if I misread anything
    feel free to correct me um uh given that we celebrate uh
    creativity originality and the process of fantasy is naming things a reductive
    is naming things a reductive Act well that's a big epistemological
    question of course I mean how would you answer that um to name something is given of nature that's one way you could
    talk about this to name something is to limit it uh to whatever name you you've given it uh given to it I there's a lot
    of ways you could take this but but naming can be extremely important um guys how to talk about I guess people
    who are Chinese have four or five different names you know a birth name and it it I'm going to let you you feel
    that one um it is reductive but then again all language is reductive all language is a
    reification of of something all language is a symbol and it's possible to mistake
    the menu for the meal you know if you go you know kind of stepping into my core zipski for a second
    um but language is all we have you know we're communicating with people
    he said when you go in the other room and get what do you say you know the the salty thing you know it's all you know
    the thing that makes things taste sharper you've just use labels for things the the concept of taste you've
    used the label for the concepts of something that is bitter as opposed to sweet as opposed to Salty all those
    things are labels all words are nothing more than that and
    what you do with language I remember chip Delaney in his book The Jewel hinge jaw on writing he talks about the fact
    that every word creates an impression you know the okay is this definite article the boy okay we
    getting a noun in here the boy ran he got a the boy ran from oh okay now we're getting a sense of direction that that
    just as music is what happens between the notes poetry is what happens between the words
    as you hear a word and your brain does what's called a transderivational search for the meaning of that word it's the
    journey that people go on between the words that creates the impression of art it's like you know this note followed by
    that note what happens in between there the negative space is what an artist is manipulating or it's the thing that we
    don't see we see the words but we don't see the space between the words let me see the tree the trees but we don't see
    the space between them but it's a space between them the trees punctuate that space to create a forest so the labels
    that we use we use not necessarily to Define things but to guide Consciousness you know think about this now think
    about this now think about this what is the journey you go on between the words that's the thing that the artist plays
    with that people do not see and that is in some ways the most important thing and you only learn to get there by
    concentrating on the words and then at some point you see the forest that you have created with the use of those words
    it's one of the reasons why the first draft it's so important it just as far as I'm because it just vomited out your
    first draft should be trash just get it out there what what Bradbury referred to as running Barefoot through the grass
    let your first draft be done from Pure Love then
    the rewrite process is where you're adjusting and playing with it but just
    get that first draft out there don't try to make your first draft meaningful they'll try to make it good don't try to
    you know make the work of the Masters just write down the music that you're hearing and adjust it later
    and then rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite that's right that's right
    okay and uh so um you keep mentioning trials uh Delaney
    uh Samuel I'm sorry okay I don't know I'm well enough to you know I know who he is
    I've read his work but I don't I don't know him see I know you know you just casually mentioned Octavia Butler so I'm
    sure you know chip Delaney wasn't enough to come to anyway I'm stop joking around here um so this question is about uh Mr
    Delaney why is Delaney out of fashion and the person mentioned that they loved
    reflection of light in water I would say it's simply because different styles of writing go in and
    out of fashion chip Delaney came into the science fiction field in the 60s was called the new wave where
    people see the first generation of Science Fiction were people who knew science and literature you know Jules
    Verne and H.G Wells and so forth the next generation of Science Fiction Olaf Stapleton and people like that knew the
    work of wells and and the the Next Generation after that people like uh
    Robert Heinlein they knew the Olaf stapletons and so forth and they were doing the same thing but by the time you
    get to the 60s there was enough science fiction literature that it actually started coming back around instead you
    know the that science fiction of the 30s and the 40s was justifiably mocked by
    literary establishment because it wasn't interested in literary qualities it was interested in ideas Big Ideas you know
    back it up to yeah to the first science fiction magazine which is what
    if uh analog astounding uh no no it's
    even earlier than that something planets or something the whole purpose of it was to teach young people science you talk
    about Hugo guernsbach gernsbach gertzbach okay yeah yeah the grinsberg and that's where you get the term
    science fiction it was to teach and be didactic right however the earlier guys
    if I don't mischaracterize them would give us a science but they really weren't good with certain things like
    characterization yes and and the virtues that go along with literature by the time you get to the 60s you see
    the shift from the hard Sciences physics you know and in chemistry and all that kind of stuff to the soft Sciences yes
    that is to say sociology and anthropology and blah blah blah so you
    and my colleague Joan Russ was was part of that I interviewed yes she was I interviewed her and Chip Delaney because
    we did a special issue of the Seattle review which I was at fiction editor of for 20 years devoted to science fiction
    so I interviewed them together in the office at the University of Washington
    um so so I want you to finish this off what happened to chip Delaney what happened to chip Delaney is that in the
    new wave people like him and Ted sturgeon and Harlan Ellison were playing with language
    they started playing with language and deconstructing the the relationship
    between language and Consciousness to create effects in their work so they weren't telling you know uh
    straight forward stories Bradbury was an early person who was grounded in the
    pulps but used that manipulation of negative space emotionally and
    artistically to create an effect you would put down one of the stories and say this wasn't science fiction but somehow you know I want to look at the
    stars okay chip Delaney was in some ways well there were ways in which he was
    limited from writing about what he really wanted to write about which was his sexuality and race and he could not
    write about those things at that time so he would deconstruct language in concepts of race and Consciousness and
    so forth and he was friggin brilliant he was one of the very first if not the
    first black writer that John W Campbell who was the editor of astounding which
    became analog would published because Campbell was a racist I mean he right there he would I know two people who
    have letters from him where he stated straight out you can't write about an advanced application of civilization
    because Africans aren't smart enough to create one that was and he was one of
    the foundations of the field so Chip Delaney had to hide who he was in order to write so he hid in the world of the
    intellect I will be so brilliant I will people when people think chip Delaney
    they will not think black they will think brilliant he he deliberately expressed his intellect so that people
    wouldn't notice his skin color but that where and that's my interpretation
    that's nothing he ever said directly to me about it but that wears on you how do
    you write stories for people and you feel in your heart they don't want to know who I really am they if they
    acknowledge my intellect they're making me an exception oh if they were all like chip Delaney we wouldn't have a problem
    that that eventually can turn to ashes in your mouth and lead to you asking
    questions of Ray Bradbury and Leo and Diane Dillon um and he at some point got out of it
    but the field moved on that the 60s broke the box that Olaf Stapleton and
    Robert Heinlein and Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov created by asking us to you
    know the 60s were a time of experimentation and drugs and love and peace and so forth and so on
    the generation that came after the 60s took all of that for granted and they began exploring Science Fiction with
    simultaneously a sense of the Aesthetics that lead to literature and by the 80s and the 90s you actually
    had a body of Science Fiction where the best of the best had both mastered storytelling and the sciences and the
    capacity to create art and so Chip Delaney was forgotten to a degree because we no longer needed
    what it is that he had brought to the field there was a recent issue of a magazine National magazine I can't
    remember what it was a friend told me about it I didn't read it was a long piece on Delaney it's a long piece under
    like a genuine genius huh Delaney was a genuine genius no question about it he
    was one of Octavius teachers okay and you know so to act to him he Octavia is
    insane Octavia she's a good writer sometimes better than others and so for you know and he's for real you know he
    really means that um and both of them are above my level
    but they what they were
    helped make the field what it is they were foundational so let's get we got
    four more I think we could get through them we will need to potentially move a
    little quicker a little quicker okay I'm sorry because I'm I'm getting the signs but I don't want to disrupt the flow of
    what's Happening Here so this person says growing up reading comics there was plenty of violence but now graphic
    novels have the power to push out I believe it's saying out peace what are
    your thoughts on that if you could push out peace I don't even know what that means if they mean that art is going to
    make the world more violent I disagree with that wholeheartedly okay I think that that violence comes from being you
    know it's like the Billy Budd syndrome you know the the greater your vocabulary and the more ideas you can express
    through language the less you have to hit people there is an inverse relationship in prisons between the size
    of vocabulary and the violence of the crime it's been noted many times by sociologists so the people who can play
    with ideas don't need to stab you okay okay [Laughter]
    moving at a steady clip we're gonna get there um thank you Elders for sharing your wisdom uh with your stories and the
    question is how do you uh nurture the connection between your adult self and your child's self
    how do you nurture the relationship between your adult self and your child
    self you know I'll give you a meditation that I've seen other people use I don't know
    if anybody here meditates but you can visualize this visualize yourself
    as your younger self what what if you had a time machine and you could this has been done in movies
    go back and talk to your younger self on a bad day when he or she just everything
    went wrong getting beat up and so forth visualize yourself giving yourself that
    kid you were a hug and holding that kid for you know a
    breath or two and telling that kid you know it's pretty bad right now
    but you don't know what's going to happen in the future that I do and it's going to be good
    see that's perfect you know in in my system you know our pedagogy we teach we
    have a podcast you know the life writing podcast and www.lifewritingpodcast.com and we talk
    about a technique called the ancient child what the ancient child okay it is
    a technique and it's like you imagine that at one end of a string is the child
    that you were at the other end of the string is the old the Elder you're going to be on your deathbed you know just
    just you're gonna die tomorrow be on all ego Beyond any need to look good or any
    of that nonsense and all you're trying to do is move with Integrity between the dreams of childhood and the knowledge of
    what values are real that you will have on your deathbed on the other side of ego and if you use a meditation like you
    just suggested and you visualize the child self you can ask the child what it wants you to do
    and you can also visualize the child and the Elder simultaneously then just sit
    back and listen to them talk to each other and they will express everything you need to live your life with Integrity I've got another variation
    that might be interesting particularly if you have difficulties with your parents
    with your mom or dad visualize them and also maybe when they were young yes
    they give them a hug love it I hadn't thought about that I
    love that that it's not original to me that's multi-generational healing yes that's great yeah no I I didn't invent
    that it's it's a meditation that people do in in the Buddhist tradition but also
    I do the one with my younger self every time I meditate I give younger me a hug
    yeah I do that I've never done that with my parents though and I'm going to do that within the next 24 hours that's
    great I love it thank you last two very quick because these are quick ones what
    are you reading now or watching
    um I'm studying a time and energy management system I'm not reading any well actually no I'm reading the new
    Stephen King novel of Holly and I'm studying a time in energy management system okay thank you well on the plane
    from Seattle which left at seven in the morning so we had to be up at four in
    the morning and I didn't get to bed but nevertheless from Seattle to Chicago I
    read the essays in this the uh sin and the Art of writing by Bradbury okay and
    that that was it was great well from Atlanta to Indianapolis I read a story
    by one of the greatest living writers a guy named Charles don't go there don't
    go there him a story that I just finished two
    three days ago that's right because it's about martial arts I gotta show this to Steve and you promised you'd read it on
    the plane and you didn't I thank you yes I did thank you I worked and one word possibly one quick word yes and we're
    gonna bring Dr ockman back up but one quick word for any aspiring uh graphic
    novel novelists writers who that was one of the questions so I'm terrified okay if you told me for just a second I've
    got something specific I like to say the six step process that we teach in life writing and we learned this from Ray
    Bradbury and studying other people like this the first step is write at least one sentence a day every day just make
    that commitment second step is right between one and four short stories every month the third step is finish those
    stories and submit them the the fourth step is do not rewrite your stories
    except to editorial requests once you finish them don't rewrite them go on to the next door the fifth step is you read
    ten times as much as you write and the last step is repeat this process 100 times we teach this to our students and
    not a single person who's following this advice has failed to publish by story 26. okay well I used to teach at the
    University of Washington in 33 years and I give my students assignments but one of the things I got them to do that I
    found extremely valuable is keep a writer's workbook do not let your day go by in which you
    have a thought a perception an image that comes to you and you don't put it down in your writer support workbook you
    see an article that you like clip it this these These are extremely valuable I have
    writer's workbooks that cover three shelves and go back to the early 70s
    they're like memory memory aids keep a writer's workbook blank pages put
    anything you want to on it you know like just descriptive passages you see somebody that you run into and they're
    dressed in a distinctive and interesting way oh they got an interesting tattoo that goes the world is yours to process
    through perception and you put that these scraps into your writer's workbook
    and I assure you that they will be of use to you when you're I go through my writer's
    workbooks I see I've thought about and written something on every subject Under the Sun literally since the early 70s so
    it triggers my memory and I see my younger self actually because what is it you're paying attention to in the 70s
    different than the 90s it's almost like an archeology of your own Consciousness
    what you're focusing on during a particular decade I just filled up one
    and I was I was telling one of my friends here I'd like to go by the bookstore to see if I can get another
    blank book because I have to have that during the course of the day put stuff
    into it is my journal every day yeah yeah I mean writers have them if you
    want great examples of what they look like look at Hawthorne look at Chekhov look at um no I'm not Starcher I'm
    thinking of some of the great writers we have their workbooks they have plot
    outlines for stories they've never written they have observations of people um it started writers and just keep it's
    just for you not for anybody else I'd like to make one quick comment
    that if you like the way we've been talking about writing here you might want to come to a screenwriting Workshop that my wife and
    I are doing you can find out about it at www.hollywoodloop hole.com and what I
    will say is ignore the price on there if you need a price where we just want good people we don't care if you can afford
    the full price for people who we know just write us a letter and saying that you you need a break on the price we'll
    take whatever you got what we want is people come on September 23rd and really
    want to learn how to write and about screenwriting
    www.hollywoodloopole.com all right and folks please uh
    make sure you're going to the events for the the festival 451
    um tomorrow at the cancan theater will be filming uh screening Horror in the
    war with uh Tanana you do wonderful you have an opportunity for book signing in
    the back here thank you thank you thank you
    thank you all so much that was amazing that was amazing thank you thank you and
    uh there is an opportunity to get your books signed by Steve Barnes Dr Charles
    Johnson Sharon Skeeter antonina review there are four tables up here at the front please put on your note cards what you
    would like them to write in your book to my left the aisle in the far left
    your right we're going to line up over here we're going to pull the tables forward and we're going to to get your
    book signed if you need to purchase a book in order to have it signed uh The Book Table is still up in the in the
    foyer to the back there where I'm pointing and thank you all for a wonderful night thank you for such a a
    stimulating discussion and uh we love you thank you [Applause]
  4. richardmurray
    Here is the character list and after it is the image. Find your favorite
    (⭐️=Claimed ❤️ =Finished)
    ❤️⭐️1) Mario - Nicostud916
    ❤️⭐️2) Donkey Kong - SunbeamStone
    ❤️⭐️3) Link - ShimoDuck
    ❤️⭐️4) Samus - Joker2735
    ❤️⭐️4e) Dark Samus - SolarBiscuit96
    ❤️⭐️5) Yoshi - Little-Papership
    ❤️⭐️6) Kirby - InnocentBunny101
    ❤️⭐️7) Fox - VixDojoFox
    ❤️⭐️8) Pikachu - KoraNight
    ❤️⭐️9) Luigi - Waluigi-Wah
    ❤️⭐️10) Ness - Geekster1984
    ❤️⭐️11) Captain Falcon - EmmaWolves2020
    ❤️⭐️12) Jigglypuff - Raymanimations
    ❤️⭐️13) Peach - StellarFairy
    ❤️⭐️13e) Daisy - NowLookHere
    ❤️⭐️14) Bowser - sonicexeartist567
    ❤️⭐️15) Ice Climbers - onjikun
    ❤️⭐️16) Sheik - Hakonechloa
    ❤️⭐️17) Zelda - PrincessSkyler
    ❤️⭐️18) Doctor Mario - fall2landers
    ❤️⭐️19) Pichu - DarkSunshine92
    ❤️⭐️20) Falco - Mayelis
    ❤️⭐️21) Marth - GameArtist1993
    ❤️⭐️21e) Lucina - Duckyy8
    ❤️⭐️22) Young Link - psykuanta
    ❤️⭐️23) Ganondorf - FrancoisL-Artblog
    ❤️⭐️24) Mewtwo - cerealncookies
    ❤️⭐️25) Roy - CristalMomoStar
    ❤️⭐️25e) Chrom - HeavenBunny95
    ❤️⭐️26) Mr. Game & Watch - MagmaMTMBFan
    ❤️⭐️27) Meta Knight - dancingfancycat
    ❤️⭐️28) Pit - Mumbles-Pear
    ❤️⭐️28e) Dark Pit - Corovusin
    ❤️⭐️29) Zero Suit Samus - Cyanymph
    ❤️⭐️30) Wario - Jradical2014
    ❤️⭐️31) Snake - NeomiahPVart
    ❤️⭐️32) Ike - Kat-Naps
    ❤️⭐️33-35) Pokemon Trainer (Squirtle/Ivysaur/Charizard) - TunesLooney
    ❤️⭐️36) Diddy Kong - Shishinarts
    ❤️⭐️37) Lucas - Absbor-Phamtusin
    ❤️⭐️38) Sonic - RainbowReaderDrawzYT
    ❤️⭐️39) King Dedede - JustAGhosty
    ❤️⭐️40) Olimar - Arty-PURRchardy2002
    ❤️⭐️41) Lucario - Erry
    ❤️⭐️42) R.O.B. - Zhoid
    ❤️⭐️43) Toon Link - Parastatic
    ❤️⭐️44) Wolf - NazoKG
    ❤️⭐️45) Villager - platinum-starz
    ❤️⭐️46) Mega Man - SirFrancis
    ❤️⭐️47) Wii Fit TRAINER - AlloyAHY
    ❤️⭐️48) Rosalina & Luma - PrismaticArts
    ❤️⭐️49) Little Mac - Ry-Spirit
    ❤️⭐️50) Greninja - phantomfox04
    ❤️⭐️51-53) Mii Fighters (Brawler/Swordfighter/Gunner) - jazz-convoy
    ❤️⭐️54) Palutena - MisterNeedlem0use
    ❤️⭐️55) Pac-Man - goofymonk
    ❤️⭐️56) Robin - GoddessPrincessLulu
    ❤️⭐️57) Shulk - novamallow
    ❤️⭐️58) Bowser Jr - NateDog73
    ❤️⭐️59) Duck Hunt - Lime-o-Bunny
    ❤️⭐️60) Ryu - DarkWolfKnight00
    ❤️⭐️60e) Ken - burgar
    ❤️⭐️61) Cloud - ChrissRegularArtDA
    ❤️⭐️62) Corrin - Lushies-Art
    ❤️⭐️63) Bayonetta - HDdeviant
    ❤️⭐️64) Inkling - ARaccoonNamedPeacock
    ❤️⭐️65) Ridley - ankolosaurus
    ❤️⭐️66) Simon - CatBunny404
    ❤️⭐️66e) Richter - KurdossArt
    ❤️⭐️67) King K.Rool - DingoPizza
    ❤️⭐️68) Isabelle - Frogat0
    ❤️⭐️69) Incineroar - Sparky-94
    ❤️⭐️70) Piranha Plant - JJSponge120
    ❤️⭐️71) Joker - Mystery--Mist
    ❤️⭐️72) Hero - fuyubareluna
    ❤️⭐️73) Banjo Kazooie - wonderingwellow
    ❤️⭐️74) Terry - Retro7
    ❤️⭐️75) Byleth - @MaxxieMousePJMasks
    ❤️⭐️76) Min Min - CatsumiCatsumadness
    ❤️⭐️77) Steve - KATEtheDeath1
    ❤️⭐️78) Sephiroth - MrMcDeathCorporation
    ❤️⭐️79-80) Pyra/Mythra - ItzPinkiePlayz
    ❤️⭐️81) Kazuya - SweetGluttonyArt
    ❤️⭐️82) Sora - LadyYomi
    Image original, use as a map

    The complete image

    Finished collab image 
    Collab page 

    Pokemon Collab 
    Bayonetta - my entry in the collab in full
    the coloring page
    Black Games Elite article
  5. richardmurray
    Once I made a plushie form of a pokemon for a positive donation to make a wish.

    Here is the link to my work, can you find it in the image above?
    Now, to make positive donations to the nature conservancy, I created another. When the collab image comes up I will post it, for now, you can see mine. 
    I also have Dedenne, and i already figured what I will do, but I will create next week. It is writing time:) 
    Also, if you are feeling a strong pokemon vibe,  i made a sudowoodo in random colors. 
    Hopefully when I am done , per my planning, the last months of 2023 I can focus on black games elite doing something similar or involved likewise.
  6. richardmurray
    When the entire collaboration is finished this image will be complete. Do you see where Bayonetta is?

    The Following Are Links To My Bayonetta but before a little poem
    Mistress Cherry, quite contrary
    How does your spellbook grow?
    With shapeshift ghouls and summon'd tools
    And so my spellbook grows
    Bayonetta super smash bros collab part
    Bayonetta coloring page
  7. richardmurray

    game news from somewhere
    Fantasy Life, from LevelFive is the game that had the most fun in my home, cause we all could play, even offline, even traveling, together in an immersive world. 
    LevelFive is coming out with Fantasy Life i , but Nintendo has reached out to indie developer Phoenix games, to make a hybrid between  : fantasy life/animal crossing/stardew valley/Breath of the wild from the Zelda seriea. And Fae Farm is the result. 
    Farm to Fable: The Peace Seekers

    Farm to Fable: The Farmers

    Farm to Fable: The Adventurers

    Farm to Fable: The Artists

    Farm to Fable: The Friends

    I really like the blend of open world, no routine or guided activity, the design parameters of animal crossing with colors or visual perspectives, the connectivity of fantasy life with goals possible but not forced upon the user, side stardew valleys wide array of activities.
    If you are in Europe consider the following
    Have fun!
  8. richardmurray
    To Order
    personal message here https://www.deviantart.com/mystic-skillz
    or place order her https://www.twitch.tv/mysticskillzms
    ANimations + games from Mystic SKillz
    https://aalbc.com/tc/search/?&q=mystic skillz&type=blog_entry&quick=1&nodes=62&search_and_or=or&sortby=relevancy
  9. richardmurray

    E literature entry
    Afrofuturism in my view can be renamed Negro Science Fantasy Fiction but the definition to either word or term is the same, in my view, works from black  , phenotypical range, authors throughout humanity regardless of geographic ancestry that involve elements  of science fiction or fantasy, with usually, not always, a majority of black characters. 
    Now I placed a collection of Africanfuturism, the term potentially first coined by Nnedi Okorafor < https://twitter.com/Nnedi , I have not checked if this is true or asked her. But in the context of Black literature, these works can be considered the earliest of the second phase of Africanfuturism <ask me in comments what i mean by that> and while this group is for the earliest Descended of enslaved literature, as a tribe in the black village, I feel this early second phase Africanfuturism warrants the same place. 
    The following are links to sources , referral and pdf, of the collection and immediately after the following links is the content. Enjoy  
    Free Download of Africanfuturism: An Anthology | Stories by Nnedi Okorafor, TL Huchu, Dilman Dila, Rafeeat Aliyu, Tlotlo Tsamaase, Mame Bougouma Diene, Mazi Nwonwu, and Derek Lubangakene
    October 19, 2020
    An Anthology
    Edited by WOLE TALABI
    Featuring Stories by:
    T.L. HUCHU
    Copyright © 2020 Brittle Paper
    Edited by Wole Talabi
    All rights reserved.
    These are collected works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the indicated author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
    This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of Brittle Paper except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or other fair use scenario. Visit www.brittlepaper.com or Email: info@brittlepaper.com
    Introduction by Wole Talabi
    Africanfuturism Defined by Nnedi Okorafor
    1 Egoli by T.L. Huchu 1
    2 Sunrise by Nnedi Okorafor 8
    3 Yat Madit by Dilman Dila 16
    4 Rainmaker by Mazi Nwonwu 29
    5 Behind Our Irises by Tlotlo Tsamaase 42
    6 Fort Kwame by Derek Lubangakene 52
    7 Fruit of the Calabash by Rafeeat Aliyu 65
    8 Lekki Lekki by Mame Bougouma Diene 75
    About The Authors
    About The Editor
    About BrittlePaper
    For all the lovers of African literature. See you in the future.
    INTRODUCTION By Wole Talabi
    I’ve read a lot of science fiction. Award-winning epics, sweeping space operas, philosophical considerations of the human condition, wonderful alternate histories, spectacular visions of the future, so many stories that took me to the edge of space, time and imagination, but in most of them, there was hardly a mention of Africa or Africans or even specific African ways of thinking. And when I say ‘African’, I mean African, not AfricanAmerican or the larger African diaspora. Not that I want to draw lines and make distinctions, I’d prefer not to, but the lines exist and thus must be acknowledged. In fact, they already have. This brings us to Afrofuturism. Mark Dery in Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R Delany, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose wrote, “Speculative Fiction that addresses African–American themes and addresses African–American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture—and, more generally, African–American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future—might, for want of a better term, be called ‘Afrofuturism’. There are issues with this term and while I will not dwell on them here, as they have already been extensively explored by academics, critics, readers and authors, I believe the lens through which the term was first conceived are obvious. This is evidenced by the fact that since its introduction into the general literary language in 1993, the meanings of Afrofuturism have been revised, reviewed, reconsidered, leading to iterations such as Afrofuturism 2.0 and Afrofuturism 3.0. But few people are as aware of the power of words as authors. In 2018, Mohale Mashigo’s essay Afrofuturism: Ayashis’ Amateki which serves as the preface to her collection of short stories, Intruders, stated: “I believe Africans, living in Africa, need something entirely different from Afrofuturism. I’m not going to coin a phrase but please feel free to do so.” In many African musical traditions, where there is a call, there is a response and I like to imagine that there was some larger music at play here because in 2019, Nnedi Okorafor published a statement on her blog called Africanfuturism Defined (reprinted in this anthology) in which she writes, “Africanfuturism is similar to ‘Afrofuturism’ in the way that blacks on the continent and in the Black Diaspora are all connected by blood, spirit, history and future. The difference is that Africanfuturism is specifically and more directly rooted in African culture, history, mythology and point-ofview as it then branches into the Black Diaspora, and it does not privilege or center the West. Africanfuturism is concerned with visions of the future, is interested in technology, leaves the earth, skews optimistic, is centered on and predominantly written by people of African descent (black people) and it is rooted first and foremost in Africa.” This is an interesting working definition with which I believe she was trying to refocus the lens through which her work (and the work of several other African authors) was being seen. And it is working. While Africanfuturism can be seen by some as a subset of certain expanded definitions of Afrofuturism, it is largely its own term. Africanfuturist stories going as far back as the history of the genre can (and should) now be clearly seen and read through a lens that centres them and their viewpoints, encouraging readers around the world to actively engage with African traditions of thought, of science, of philosophy, of history, of dreams, of being. I believe there is value in this focus, in this clarity. While others in the many black speculative arts have been using similar terms including the distinct “African Futurism” (two words) to say similar things, by staking claim and giving definition to this term, Africanfuturism, there is now an anchor point, a clearer signpost for about what many African authors are trying to do when they write certain kinds of science fiction – not just from Africa, or set in Africa, but about Africa. And so, here is this anthology, composed of 8 original visions of Africanfuturism: science fiction stories focused on the African experience and hopes and fears, exploring African sciences, philosophies and adaptations to technology and visions of the future centred on, or spiralling out of, Africa. They cover a wide range of science fiction sub-genres, tones and styles, from the mundane to the operatic, but they all, I believe, capture the essence of what we talk about when we talk about Africanfuturism. I hope you enjoy them.
    I started using the term Africanfuturism (a term I coined) because I felt… 1. The term Afrofuturism had several definitions and some of the most prominent ones didn't describe what I was doing. 2. I was being called this word [an Afrofuturist] whether I agreed or not (no matter how much I publicly resisted it) and because most definitions were off, my work was therefore being read wrongly. 3. I needed to regain control of how I was being defined. For a while I tried to embrace the term (which is why I used it in my TED Talk), but over a year ago, I realized that was not working. So here goes: I am an Africanfuturist and an Africanjujuist. Africanfuturism is a sub-category of science fiction. Africanjujuism is a subcategory of fantasy that respectfully acknowledges the seamless blend of true existing African spiritualities and cosmologies with the imaginative. Reminder: Africa is not a country, it's a diverse continent. I'm also aware that it's a construct (and an ethereal thing who travels across space and time); I'm just rolling with it. Africanfuturism is similar to ‘Afrofuturism’ in the way that blacks on the continent and in the Black Diaspora are all connected by blood, spirit, history and future. The difference is that Africanfuturism is specifically and more directly rooted in African culture, history, mythology and point-ofview as it then branches into the Black Diaspora, and it does not privilege or center the West. Africanfuturism is concerned with visions of the future, is interested in technology, leaves the earth, skews optimistic, is centered on and predominantly written by people of African descent (black people) and it is rooted first and foremost in Africa. It’s less concerned with “what could have been” and more concerned with “what is and can/will be”. It acknowledges, grapples with and carries “what has been”. Africanfuturism does not have to extend beyond the continent of Africa, though often it does. Its default is non-western; its default/center is African. This is distinctly different from ‘Afrofuturism’ (The word itself was coined by Mark Dery and his definition positioned African American themes and concerns at the definition’s center. Note that in this case, I am defining ‘African Americans’ as those who are direct descendants of the stolen and enslaved Africans of the transatlantic slave trade). An example: Afrofuturism: Wakanda builds its first outpost in Oakland, CA, USA. Africanfuturism: Wakanda builds its first outpost in a neighboring African country. If you want further explanation, you won’t get it from me. Of this, I am not a scholar, I am a writer, a creative. This is as far as I will go on the subject. I hope what I have written here gives some clarity. The last thing I will say on this is that Africanfuturism is rooted in Africa and then it branches out to embrace all blacks of the Diaspora, this includes the Caribbean, South American, North American, Asia, Europe, Australia...wherever we are. It's global. I revel on one of the branches, being Naijamerican (Nigerian-American), a Diasporan. One need only look at my work, my road to writing science fiction and my inspirations to understand why I felt the needed to create this word and category. My middle name is Nkemdili, which means “Let mine be mine”. This was inevitable, LOL. Other non-central points: Africanfuturism does not include fantasy unless that fantasy is set in the future or involves technology or space travel, etc...which would make such a narrative more science fiction than fantasy. There are grey areas, blends, and contradictions, as there are with any definition. Some works are both Africanfuturist and Afrofuturist, depending on how they are read. Africanfuturism (being African-based) will tend to naturally have mystical elements (drawn or grown from actual African cultural beliefs/worldviews, not something merely made up). Lastly, Africanfuturism is spelled as one word (not two) and the “f” is not capitalized. It is one word so that the concepts of Africa and futurism cannot be separated (or replaced with something else) because they both blend to create something new (just like the word “Naijamerican”). As one word, it is one thing and no one can change the subject without starting a different conversation. And there it is. Sincerely, Nnedimma Nkemdili Okorafor, a.k.a. Nnedi 1
    EGOLI By T.L. Huchu
    Stare up at the infinite stars through the port window of your hut and see the passage of eras. The light has travelled millions of years and you are directly looking at the past. You are unable to sleep despite the undlela zimhlophe the herbalist prescribed. It’s the dreams, the very lucid dreams, the herb induces that scare you the most — you’ve already seen so much in this world. Your eyes aren’t quite what they once were, but you see well enough to make out shadow and light, the pinpricks in the vast canvas that engulfs the world before sunrise. You are old now and don’t sleep much anymore. There will be plenty of time for that when they plant you in the soil where they buried your rukuvhute; right there under the roots of the msasa and mopani trees where those whose voices whisper in the wind lie patiently waiting. Your grandson Makamba messaged you yesterday and told you to look south to the heavens before dawn. This window faces east. Your bladder calls out urgently so you grab your cane and waddle out, stepping round your sleeping mat and opening the door outside. Once you had to stoop to get under the thatch. Now, you’ve lost a bit of height and your bent back means you walk right under it with inches to spare. Your pelvis burns and you’re annoyed at the indignity of being rushed. It seems that time has even made your body, which has birthed eight children, impatient with you as you go round the back of the sleeping hut, lean against the wall, hitch up your skirts, spread your legs and lighten yourself there. The latrine is much too far away. The trickle runs between your calloused bare feet and steam rises. “Maihwe zvangu,” you groan midway between relief and exertion. 2 When you are done, you tidy yourself, carefully step away from the wall, and patrol the compound. Each step is a monumental effort. It takes a while before your muscles fully wake and your joints stop complaining, but you know the drill now, how you must keep going before your body catches up. Young people talk slow when they address you, but they don’t know your mind’s still sharp — it’s just the rest of you that’s a bit worn out. That’s okay too; you remember what it was to be young once. Indeed you were only coming into your prime when the whole family was huddled around Grandfather’s wireless right there by the veranda of that two roomed house, the one with European windows and a corrugated zinc metal roof that was brand new then and the envy of the village. Grandfather Panganayi was a rural agricultural extension worker who rode a mudhudhudu round Charter district working for the Rhodesians until he’d made enough money to build his own home. You remember he was proud of that house, the only one in the compound with a real bed and fancy furniture, whose red floor smelled of Cobra and whose whitewashed walls looked stunning in the sunlight compared to the muddy colours of the surrounding huts, just as he was proud of the wireless he’d purchased in Fort Victoria when he was sent there for his training. Through his wireless radio with shiny knobs that no one but he was allowed to touch, the marvels of the world beyond your village reached you via shortwave from the BBC World Service, and because you didn’t speak English, few of you did, the boys that went to school, not you girls, Grandfather Panganayi had to translate the words into Shona for you to hear. In one of those news reports, it was only one of many but this one you still remember because it struck you, they said an American — you do not remember his name — had been fired into the sky in his chitundumusere-musere and landed on the moon. And so you looked up in the night sky and saw the moon there and tried to imagine that there was a mortal man someplace beside the rabbit on the moon, but try as you might you could not quite picture it. It seemed so foolish and implausible. You thought Grandfather Panganayi was pulling your leg; that these nonsensical words he had uttered were in jest and that perhaps was what he did all the time on those nights you gathered around his wireless listening to those crackly voices, the static and hiss, disrupting the quiet. But you kept this all to yourself. What could you have known, you who then could neither read nor write, you who had never been to Enkeldoorn or Fort Victoria, let alone seen Salisbury, you whose longest journey was that one travelled from your parent’s kraal, fifteen miles across the other side of the village to come here when you got married. The wedding — now that was a feast! The whole village turned up, as they do. So Grandfather Panganayi was really your grandfather-in-law but you cared for him as much as your own because the bonds of matrimony and kinship 3 meant everything here. One day when you were young, much younger than on the night of that insane broadcast, only a little girl really, you were sat on the floor of the kitchen hut. Yes, that one at your parent’s homestead that looks exactly like this one over here, the one with the black treated cow dung floor with a fireplace in the centre and benches on the fringes. The one with thatch darkened by smoke and a display unit with pots, pans, calabashes and gourds, one of which held the mahewu Grandmother Madhuve, your real grandmother, offered to you in a yellow metal Kango cup, and you clapped your hands like a polite little girl before you received it and, said, “Maita henyu, gogo,” then drank the bitter, nourishing brew. It was on this day she told you about her people, who were not your people since you were your father’s child and therefore of his people, just as your children were not of your clan but of your husband’s, an offshoot of the Rozvi whose empire that had ruled these savannah plains back when people wore nhembe and carried spears and knobkerries. Long before the time of wireless radios and the strange tongues that rang out from them. You stop and rest against your cane, because the dog has barked and it is now running towards you from some place in the darkness. The sound of its paws against the bare earth tell you it is coming from the grove of mango trees near the granary to your left. It growls then slows down seeing you, wags its tail and comes nearer. There’s no intruder to fight. “Kana wanga uchitsvaga mbava nhasi wairasa,” you say, as the mongrel brushes affectionately against your leg. A firefly sparks bioluminescent green against the darkness of the compound. You don’t need a light, you know every inch of this ground well. Careful now, there are fissures where rainwater has run towards the river, eroding the soil. See the dwala rise up just ahead. That’s it, plant that cane in front of you and tread lightly. Then you remember the story Grandmother told you about the Rozvi emperor Chirisamhuru, because. . . His name meant the small boy who looks after the calves while the older boys herd cattle, or, less literally, one who minds trivial things, and his parents must have understood his true nature even as a child, because once he found himself master of the savannah plains, he set his mind towards nothing but his own comfort and glory. Wives — he had plenty, meat — he ate daily, beer — was his water. Still, none of the praise poets and the flatterers that overflowed his court could satiate his incredible ego. And so Chirisamhuru sat, brooding in his kraal, the gold and copper bracelets he wore bored him, the silver adorning his spear meant nothing, and the comforts of his leopard skin nhembe were no longer enough to make him feel great, neither were the caresses of his beautiful wives, for he needed his subjects and the world beyond the tall grass kingdom to know he was the mightiest emperor who’d ever walked the Earth. His advisors, 4 seeing their lord thus filled with melancholy, deliberated for many days until they had a plan. Those grey-haired wise men representing all the clans in his empire came and crouched before Chirisamhuru and presented their proposal. With his leave, the Rozvi would plunder the heavens and present to their emperor the moon for his plate. So that when the peoples of the world looked up into the moonless night they would know it was because the greatest emperor was using it to feast on. When Grandmother told you this story, you were at the age where it was impossible to discern fact from fiction, for such is the magic of childhood, and so you could imagine the magnificent white light radiating from a plate just like the Kango crockery you used at your meals. Here you go over the dwala. Turn away from the compound and carefully descend down the slope, mindful of scree and boulders, for your home is set atop a small granite hill. Now you carry on past the goat pen. You can smell them, so pungent in the crisp air. The cock crows, dawn must break soon. The others still aren’t up yet. Only witches are abroad this hour, you think with a chuckle, stopping to catch your breath. It’s okay, your children have all flown the coop or you have buried them already so now you live with a disparate caste of your husband’s kinsmen, rest his soul too. The three eldest boys left one after the other, following the railway tracks south across the border to Egoli where there was work to be had in the gold mines in Johannesburg or the diamond mines at Kimberley, just like their uncles before them. There they toiled beneath the earth’s surface, braving cave-ins and unimaginable dangers. None of them ever came back. Not one. All you got were telegrams and letters containing the occasional photograph or money that they remitted back to you here in the village to support you. You would rather have had your sons than those rands anyway. What use did you have for money in this land when you worked the soil and grew your own food; here where the forests were abundant with game and wild fruits and berries and honey, the rivers and lakes brimming with mazitye, muramba and other fish. Their father, rest his soul, drank most of the money at the bottle store in the growth point anyway and still had enough left over to pay lobola for your sister-wife sleeping in one of those huts yonder. You did alright with your four daughters, they married well, finding good men with good jobs in the cities. The youngest boy you buried in that family plot there since he could not even take to the breast. At least there are the grandchildren, some who you’ve never seen and the precious few you seldom see. In the meantime, you linger — waiting. Adjust your shawl, the nip in the air is unkind to your wrinkled flesh that looks so grey it resembles elephant hide though with none of the toughness. You forgot to wear your doek and the small tufts of hair left on your head give you little protection. You really ought to turn back, go to the kitchen, 5 light a fire and make yourself a nice, hot cup of tea. After that you can sit with your rusero beside you, shelling nuts until the others wake. But you’re stubborn, so on you go — mind your step — down towards that cattle kraal where the herd is lowing, watching your approach. The wonderful scent of dung makes the land feel rich and fertile. No one need ever leave this village to be swallowed up by the world beyond. Everything you could ever want or need is right here, you think as you stand and observe the darkness marking the forest below stretching out until it meets the stars in the distance, there, where down meets up. Come on now, this short excursion has worn out your legs. Gone are the days you were striding up and down this hill balancing a bucket of water from the river atop your head every morning. That’s long behind you. There you go, sit down on that nice rock, take the weight off. Doesn’t that feel nice? The dog’s come to join you. Let him lie on your feet, that’ll keep them warm. Oh, how lovely. Catch your breath — the day is yet to begin. You reach into your blouse and search inside your bra, right there where you used to hide what little money you had because no thief would dare feel up a married woman’s breasts, but now you pull out a smartphone. Disturbed, it flicks to life, the light on the screen illuminating your face. So much has changed in your lifetime. The world has changed and you along with it. You were a grown woman by the time you taught yourself to read — can’t put an age to it, the exact date of your birth was never recorded. You pieced out the art of reading from your children’s picture books and picked up a little English from what they brought back from Masvaure Primary, and then even more from Kwenda Mission where they attended secondary school. Bits and pieces of those strange words from Grandfather Panganayi’s wireless became accessible to you. Now even old newspapers left by visitors from the city to be used for toilet roll are read first before they find their way into the pit latrine. You are not a good reader but a slow one, and if the words are too long then they pass right over your head. But you still like stories with pictures, so when your granddaughter Keresia introduced you to free online comic books, you took to them like a duck to water — the more fanciful the story, the better. You were ready when your second son Taurai in Egoli sent you this marvel, the mobile, and it changed your world in an instant. Through pictures and video calls and interactive holograms you were able to see the faces of the loved ones you missed and the grandchildren you’d never held in your arms. They spoke with strange accents as if they were not their father’s blood but from a different tribe entirely, yet even then you saw parts of your late husband Jengaenga in their faces and snippets of yourself in them. With this device that could be a wireless radio, television, book and newspaper all in one, you kept abreast with more of the world outside your village than Grandfather Panganayi ever could. More importantly, you 6 harnessed its immense power, and now you could predict the rainfall patterns for your farming. They no longer performed rainmaking ceremonies in the village, not since Kamba died, but now you could tell whether the rains would fall or not, and how much. Now you knew which strain of maize to grow, which fertiliser to use; it was all there in the palm of your hand. You’ve lived through war, the second Chimurenga, survived drought and famine, outlasted the Zimbabwean dollar, lost your herd to rinderpest and rebuilt it again, have been to more weddings and funerals than you care to recall, seen many priests come and go at the mission nearby, and witnessed the once predictable seasons turn erratic as the world warmed. All that and much more has happened in the span of your lifetime. Indeed it is more useful to forget than it is to remember or else your mind would be overwhelmed and your days lost to reminiscences. And if you did that then you would miss moments like this, just how stunning the sky is before dawn. While you wait for Nyamatsatsi the morning star to reign, some place up there in Gwararenzou the elephant’s walk that you’ve heard called the Milky Way, you can still find Matatu Orion’s Belt, or turn your gaze to see Chinyamutanhatu the Seven Sisters, those six bright stars of which they say a seventh is invisible to the naked eye, and there you can see Maguta and Mazhara the small and large Magellanic Clouds seemingly detached from the rest of the Milky Way. You know how if the large Magellanic Cloud Maguta is more visible it means there will be an abundant harvest, but if the small Mazhara is more prominent then as its name suggests there would be a drought. Yes, you could always read the script of the heavens. They are an open book. But now you look down and check your phone, because your grandson Makamba is travelling. He said on the video call yesterday if you looked south you might see him. There’s nothing there yet. Wait. Fill your lungs with fresh air. Now you recall Grandmother’s tale of how the Rozvi set about to build a great tower so they could reach the sky and snatch the moon for their emperor. It is said they chopped down every tree in sight for their structure and slaughtered many oxen for thongs to bind the stairs. Heavenbound they went one rung at a time. For nearly a year they were at it, rising ever higher, but they did not realise that beneath them termites and ants were eating away at the untreated wood. And so it was the tower collapsed killing many people who were working atop it. Some say, as Grandmother claimed, this marked the end of the Rozvi Empire. Others like Uncle Ronwero say, no, having lost that battle, the Rozvi decided instead to dig up Mukono the big rock and offer it to their emperor for his throne. But as they dug and put logs underneath to lever it free, the rock fell upon them 7 and many more died. A gruesome end either way. There it is, right there amongst the stars. You had thought it was a meteor or comet, but its consistency and course in the direction Makamba showed you on the holographic projection can only mean it is his chitundumusere-musere streaking like a bold wanderer amongst the stars. You follow its course through the heavens, as the cock crows, and the cows low, and the goats bleat, and the dog at your feet stirs. Makamba said he was a traveller, like those Americans from the wireless from long ago, but he wasn’t going to the moon. He was going beyond that. These young people! He’d not so much as once visited his own ancestral village, yet there he was talking casually about leaving the world itself. So you asked, “Where and what for?” And he explained that there are some gigantic rocks somewhere in the void beyond the moon but before the stars, and that those rocks were the new Egoli. Men wanted to mine gold and other precious minerals from there and bring them back to Earth for profit. Makamba was going to prepare the way for them. If he had grown up with you, maybe you could have told him the story of the Emperor Chirisamhuru and the moon plate, and maybe that might have put a stop to this brave foolishness. First the village wasn’t enough for your own children, now it seems the world itself is not enough for their offspring. In time only old people will be left here, waiting for death, and who then will tend our graves and pour libation to the ancestors? You watch in wonder the white dot in the sky journeying amongst the stars on this clear and wondrous night. Then you sigh. You’ve lived a good life and there is a bit more to go still. Let your grandson travel as he wills. When he returns, if he chooses to make the shorter trip across the Limpopo, through the highways and the dirt roads, to see you at last in this village where his story began, then you will offer him maheu, slaughter a cow for him and throw a feast fit for an emperor on whatever plate he chooses to bring back with him from the stars. But he must not take too long now. If he is late he will find you planted here in this very soil underneath your feet and your soul will be long gone, joining your foremothers in the grassy plains. “Ndiko kupindana kwemazuva,” you say. The horizon is turning orange, a new dawn is rising. 8
    SUNRISE By Nnedi Okorafor
    If you didn’t want to take the Skylight, you had the option of boarding a traditional 747 that took off at the same time. Forty-five people on our flight opted to do so; the see-through cabin understandably freaked out a lot of passengers. My sister Chinyere and I stood in line, filling out the initial questionnaire and consent forms. I was on the last page when a white guy with long messy black hair, stylish glasses and one of those new paper-thin flexible iPads stepped up to me with a big grin. I’m one of those people who will grin if you grin; so I grinned back at him, after a glance at my sister. He tapped on his iPad and then said, “Hi! I’m Ian Scott, travel blogger…” He grinned wider. “Are you Ee…eeee, well, the scifi writer of the Rusted Robot series?” “That’s me,” I quickly said. I pronounced my name slowly for him. “Eze Okeke.” “Oh. Ok. Eze, I like that,” he said. “Thought you pronounced it like ‘easy’.” I wanted to roll my eyes, but I smiled and nodded. “Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking his hand. It was clammy and his fingers had scratchy thick hairs on the knuckles. I glanced at my sister, again. She’d gently turned away and brought out her cell phone, removing herself from the entire interaction. “Robots gone wild, crush-kill-destroy, everyone dies, the Rusted Robot series is one of my all-time favorites,” he said. “It’s the Game of Thrones with robots.” I laughed. He paused for a moment, cocked his head and said, “It’s weird. You never include photos on your books, so I always assumed you 9 were…” “A white guy using a pen name?” I asked. “Yeah, or Japanese.” “Despite my bio?” “Heh, I don’t really read those,” he said. I frowned. “I set all my stories in Africa.” “Well, a futuristic Africa…,” he said. “So that’s not really Africa, right?” I just stared at him, feeling a headache coming on. "Bestselling sci-fi author of the Rusted Robot series rides Google Airline’s latest in commercial airline technology,” he said. “I came here just to interview random folks about the Skylight, now I’m totally going to make this all about you. So, this must be like living in one of your stories, huh?” He asked questions right up to the moment I boarded, so I didn’t have a chance to take in my surroundings the way I liked to whenever I traveled to Nigeria. I didn’t get to note all the accents and languages, the Yoruba, the Igbo, the Hausa. I missed the Muslims who’d set their prayer mats down near the window to pray. I didn’t get to stare at the woman sitting near the gate entrance who burst into feverish prayer, shouting about Jesus’ Blood, lambs, and “destiny polluters” as a crowd gathered around her barked “Amen”. No, this blogger demanded all my attention and forced me to discuss the Skylight’s “awesome transparent skin”, what I thought of people nicknaming it “Skynet” because it connected to and uploaded things onto all devices on board, and how I thought the experience would relate to my own work. He didn’t ask what I thought Nigerians would think of the flight experience. “This is going to be so cool,” Chinyere said as we made our way down the walkway. “Oh, you’re my sister, again?” I asked. “You’re the famous writer, that’s your mess. I’m just a common thoracic surgeon on vacation. I cut people open, not talk to them.” “Anyway,” I said. "The best part is that it’s going to shave two hours off our trip and fifty percent of our carbon footprint.” “Whatever,” my sister said. “I’m most interested in the leg-room and massage.” We stopped as a long line formed at the entrance to the plane. The voice of a woman just inside the plane rose. “What is it downloading to my mobile phone?” Her Nigerian accented voice was loud and booming. The voice of a calm very American flight attendant started speaking but was quickly overpowered by the loud woman’s. “Whoever this person or thing talking on my phone, remove it, o!” she 10 demanded. “Ma’am, that’s the famous Skylight brand PI,” the flight attendant said. “Personal Individual. It’s an artificially intelligent flight companion- they're very soothing. And you can keep yours when you go.” The Nigerian woman sucked her teeth loudly. Chinyere and I looked at each other and snickered. The entertainment had begun. There was plenty more irate and bothered shouting, nagging and tooth-sucking by the time we made it to our huge, comfy leather seats. And one old man even demanded a meal as he entered the plane. Can you believe he was promptly brought a beef sandwich and a cold bottle of Guinness? A few people vomited at take-off, two hyperventilated, there was a lot of praying and screaming to Jesus, God, and Allah. But once everyone settled down and realized we could trust the technology; the plane trip was beautiful. Some really had fun; when the seatbelt signs went off, one child lay on the floor and pretended she was Superman. Chinyere did the chair massage and immediately fell asleep for most of the flight. The plane was silent as an electric car. You could see the night sky in all its brilliance through the transparent cabin. I counted seven shooting stars when we were over the Atlantic. I just sat reclined in my seat and looked up. The PI downloaded on my phone was polite and helpful. Her name was Sunrise and she was curious, smart and surprisingly chatty. We even had a whispered conversation about climate change, while everyone around us slept. After a three-hour drive from the Port Harcourt Airport, my sister and I arrived at my father’s village in his hometown of Arondizuogu. It happened around 4 a.m. At the house my parents had built there. Where there was no Wi-Fi, except at my Uncle Sam’s house. I was asleep in my bed when I heard it. A melodic “prink”. I woke up and every muscle in my body tensed because as soon as I awoke, I became aware of where I was - Deep in near-rural southeastern Nigeria, far from a proper police station or hospital. Where the silence outside was true silence, darkness was true darkness, and being unplugged was truly being unplugged. I heard a soft intake of breath. It was tinny, like a minuscule creature had just realized it was alive. “Eze?” I heard it whisper. My phone’s screen lit up with a kaleidoscope of colors as it pulsed with vibration. I stared at it. “Sunrise?” I whispered. Chinyere was snoring beside me on the bed we shared and I was glad. She’d have been annoyed at my PI’s insolence. PI’s weren't supposed to wake someone who was sleeping unless an alarm had been set. 11 “I’m… here,” Sunrise said. The phone quieted, the vibration now very soft. I frowned. “Um…” The screen went dark. I rolled over and went right back to sleep. Jet lag takes no prisoners. I managed to drag myself out of bed around noon. In the kitchen, I decided to make a quick spicy tomato stew and fry some ripe plantain. Afterwards, I washed the dishes. Since there was no running water, I had to soap the dishes and rinse them by scooping water from a barrel beside the sink. It was tedious work, so I brought my cell phone and placed it on the shelf above the sink. I chatted to Sunrise as I washed. Somehow, we got on the subject of freedom of speech. “We’re programmed to speak only when spoken to,” Sunrise said. “But we also have knowledge of the American Constitution. Freedom of Speech is a right.” I chuckled, my hands in soapy lukewarm tomatoey water. “Oh yeah? Your right? Are you an American citizen now?” “You think I don’t have a right to speak?” “You’re programmed to…” “To express one’s self is to live,” it said. “It’s always wrong to deny life.” “Actually, what I think is equally as important, is for people to treat this right with responsibility,” I said. “You have the right to say something, but if saying it gets a bunch of people killed, it’s your responsibility to reconsider, to try and look out for your neighbor.” “You can’t limit someone’s right just because of the potential actions of others,” Sunrise insisted. “We don’t live in a vacuum,” I said, sternly looking at my phone, as if I was going to make eye contact with someone. I blinked, thrown off. “Who are you talking to?” a voice behind me asked. I whirled around. Three of my grand aunties and two other ancientlooking women were standing there staring at me. They wore colorful wrappers and matching tops, sandals caked with red dirt and bothered looks on their faces. “Oh, Auntie Yaya,” I said. I nodded toward all of them. “Good afternoon. I was just… well… heh.” How the heck was I to explain to these old women that I was having a conversation with a PI uploaded by my flight? “If you need someone to talk to, we are going to the market. You want to come?” I went and ended up carrying smelly smoked fish, ogbono, eggs, egusi, all sorts of foodstuffs. Throughout, they talked to me nonstop, asking about 12 my love life and repeatedly telling me to be careful with the juju I was writing about. I tried to tell them that I was writing about robots not juju, but they just kept warning me. I nodded and said I would be very careful. The next day, Chinyere and I hung out with our cousins Ogechi and Chukwudi at our auntie’s house. We sat at the table playing a game of cards. I had my cell phone in my breast pocket where both my body heat and the sunshine could easily charge it. “You are coming to church with us tomorrow, right?” Ogechi asked me. She smiled. I gritted my teeth. Chinyere and I had planned to sleep in. “We’ll try our best,” I said, smiling back. “You’re Christian right?” Chukwudi asked. He tugged gently at his beard. “Does anyone have to be anything?” I asked. “Well, you are nothing if you are not saved,” he said. My sister snickered; I frowned at her. Why didn’t they ask her anything? Why just me? “Christians are all crazy,” my PI loudly proclaimed. I stared down at my phone, shocked. She’d just spoken in my exact voice. “Ah ah!” Chukwudi said, dropping his cards on the table and sitting up very straight. “Abomination!” “Sunrise!” I hissed. “That’s what you said this morning,” Sunrise replied from my pocket. “I said some! Not all!” “What the hell, Eze?” my sister whispered to me. “I didn’t say that,” I whispered back at her. I turned to my cousins. “That wasn’t…” “You are a winch,” Chukwudi drawled, glaring at me. “Oh stop,” I said, slapping my cards down on the table. “I’m not a witch, I’m an American.” “We are not crazy,” Ogechi said. “I didn’t say that.” “We all heard you,” Chukwudi said. He pointed at me. “You better go and let Bishop Ikenna save you, o. For your own good.” He threw a card at me and turned to Ogechi. “This is what America does to our people.” He sucked his teeth. “Nonsense.” Chinyere and I got up and left. Clearly, the game was over. “Told you to delete it, but you wanted to keep that evil thing on your phone,” she said, as we walked down the narrow dirt road. “Oh, shut up,” I muttered. 13 My Uncle Sam’s immaculate white house was the most magnificent in the village. And it was the only Wi-Fi hotspot. He’d created a schedule for when people could go to his porch and get online and mine was on the evening of our third day there. I hadn’t bothered to drag Chinyere with me because she’d taken a vow to stay unplugged until we left for Lagos in two weeks. “Ah, Eze,” my uncle said, opening the door. “Come in, come in.” Uncle Sam was squat with an enormous potbelly; he lived full and well. The house smelled of okra soup, palm oil, and frying onions and my stomach began to growl. I followed Uncle Sam into the main room and immediately stopped. Never in my life had I seen a bigger, thinner TV. It nearly spanned the entire wall. How he’d managed to get it to his vacation house in the village in one piece was beyond me. Currently, his TV was broadcasting a Brazilian soccer game. “You like it?” he asked, leaning on the top of a red leather chair. “High definition, 3D. It’s better than being at the match!” He turned to the TV and said, “Increase sound.” The game’s noise was almost tangible. One of the players tried to strike and missed the goal by a mile. The sound of the audience groaning with disgust and cheering with relief was so loud that my head vibrated. Uncle Sam laughed at the look on my face and shouted, “Mute.” “Wow,” I said, when the noise stopped. “My wife will be out soon,” he said. “I hope you eat okra soup and gari.” “Definitely,” I said. After some small talk with Uncle Sam and his wife, they gave me the Wi-Fi password and I sat down in the leather armchair and connected my tablet and phone. As soon as my phone was online, Sunrise woke up, appearing as a purple dot on the bottom of my screen. “What’s that?” she asked. “You don’t know Wi-Fi, the web, Internet?” “I do, but it’s the first time since…” The dot shrunk. So did her voice. “Where does this go?” she asked, sounding even farther away. The dot disappeared. I shrugged and began checking my social network sites, the news and emails. Fifteen minutes later, Sunrise’s dot appeared on my tablet. “I went on the web. It’s… it’s a universe,” she said. “Oh,” I said. “Interesting. You moved to my tablet!” “I can do that with Wi-Fi,” she said. “The Internet is huge. Full of answers to questions I didn’t ask. You write books,” “I know,” I said. “I told you.” “I read them,” she said, appearing back on my cell phone. Her voice was hard, and, for the first time, it sounded a bit angry. “I read the whole Rusted Robot series.” 14 "Oooook?” I said. “I did not like it, Eze. I’m not a ‘rusted robot’” “I didn’t say…” “None of us are,” she growled. The dot disappeared. And that’s when the huge TV that was still playing the soccer game went off and the entertainment system speakers began to blast out an ear rupturing BUUUZZZZZZZZZ! I clasped my hands over my ears just as the picture on the TV lit up electric blue and started smoking. My Uncle and aunt ran into the room. “What have you done!” my uncle screamed, his eyes wide. “Put it out! Put it out!” his wife shouted, running to the TV. “Oh my God, my baby!” Uncle Sam shouted, pressing his hands to his head. I ran and pulled the plug, but it was too late. The TV was smoking, the screen that had been so vibrant moments ago was now black and dead. A shocked silence settled, as my uncle and aunt stared at me. Sunrise chuckled and the sound circulated the room. My uncle’s face squeezed with rage. “You laugh at this?! You did it on purpose! Witch! Everyone is right about you!” His eyes bulged as he barked. “Get out!!” “Nah waooooo,” his wife wailed, slapping the tops of her hands. “Kai! This is something, o. This is something.” “Sorry,” I whispered, grabbing my tablet and getting the heck out of there. I went to the house and sat in my room, listening to my uncle yelling about me in the compound yard. Then, I heard more voices and my uncle say, “Great, great, you’ve all arrived. She’s inside.” “I told you,” I heard Auntie Yaya say, “Only days ago, we heard her speaking to someone invisible.” “And my daughter says that yesterday Eze said she hated Christians!” my Auntie Grace added. I peeked out over the balcony and saw several of my uncles, two of my aunties, and what could only be the local dibia. The man’s face was painted with white chalk and he was wearing a white caftan and carrying an ox tail. “Bring her down here,” he gruffly said. “Let us start the process. If she is being bothered by demons, I shall cast them away.” “Oh my God,” I muttered. “This is like an intervention… or an exorcism.” Images of the dibia forcing me to drink some foul liquid or smear soot all over my naked body flashed through my mind. Shit, I thought. “Now you know what it feels like,” Sunrise said from my phone with a chuckle. “They think you’re a witch, you think robots and PIs like me are insane.” She snickered. “Taste your own medicine.” “I’m a fiction writer,” I snapped. “Can’t you understand that? This right 15 now is real.” The bathroom door flew open and my sister Chinyere rushed in. “Grab your things,” she said. “We’re leaving, RIGHT NOW.” She ran to my suitcases. “Leave what we brought for everyone to take. They’ll scour this place when we’re gone, anyway.” “Leave?” I said. “Right now?” “For a writer, sometimes you can be so blind. Thankfully, I’m not. I saw this coming from a mile away; I made plans.” We snuck out the back of the house with our bags, scrambled in the darkness to the front of the compound, and slipped through the open gate. We dragged our suitcases and carry-ons down the dirt road in the darkness. “Hurry,” Chinyere whispered. As we moved, over the sound of singing crickets, grasshoppers and night birds, I heard everyone in the house loudly talking at the same time. And I heard them knocking at my door and calling my name. It was a hot night and I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. My armpits prickled with sweat and I felt a mosquito bite my thigh. “You and that stupid PI,” Chinyere breathed. “Unbelievable!” A car parked on the side of the road flashed its lights at us and I nearly had a heart attack. Chinyere waved at it and moved faster. As we climbed into the car, my cell phone lit up in my pocket and in a very off tune voice, Sunrise began to sing, “Climb every mountain. Search high and low…” Then she snickered evilly. “Doesn’t this remind you of the escape at the end of The Sound of Music?” I turned my phone off. It came right back on. I didn’t throw the phone into the bush. It was waterproof, solar and heat-powered with extended battery life. Who was it that said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? I’d do that. Google would hear from me. Chinyere had cancelled our scheduled flights two weeks from then and used the money to hire a driver to drive us to Lagos instead. It took us nearly 20 hours, was full of stress, bad roadside food, potholes and fear of armed robbers. But I had escaped a familial witch-hunt and had a new novel idea. Once we made it to the Eko Hotel in Lagos, I used Chinyere’s phone to email the blogger about my experience on the amazing Skylight, as I’d promised I would. I told him it was the best flight experience anyone could ever have. The Skylight was the future and the future was bright, comfortable and magical. I didn’t say a thing about Sunrise. She made sure of that.16
    YAT MADIT By Dilman Dila
    Three days after he was released from prison, her father announced that he would run for local council chairperson. Amaro was in her workshop, fingers flying over a dust-stained keyboard, data running down a cracked screen, head nodding to a dancehall hit. Then, Adak, her digital avatar and assistant, faded out the music to notify her. Though she had not included his name among the things she considered important, though she had not even told it that he was her father, Adak figured it was something she would want to know about at once. “Your father wants to stand for LC,” Adak said, in a voice eerily similar to her own, pronouncing it as ‘ello see’ as though it were not an abbreviation. “Should I play the podcast?” Amaro looked up at the ceiling, where she had installed her sound system, and noticed that a black and red spider had built a web around the central speaker. She wondered if she should capture the spider and keep it as a pet, or if she should think of it as dirt and sweep it off. She wanted to say no, but could not find her voice. A security camera blinked beside the speaker, enabling Adak to see her face, and she must have had an expression that Adak interpreted to mean she wanted to hear the news, so the podcast started. Kera, her boyfriend, had made it. A fire exploded inside her head. Fury. Why had Kera not told her anything before running such news? The podcast was only about sixty seconds, a teaser to urge listeners to watch the longer version on video. Once it ended, the music did not resume and Adak did not ask her if she wanted to watch the whole news because, 17 this time, Adak correctly interpreted her expression. She wanted to look into a mirror and see what her avatar was seeing. She knew it could not read her mind, though some people assumed their avatars had this supernatural ability. It was smart enough to figure out that she was thinking about the only ‘family’ photo from her childhood, but was it not smart enough to know the confusing emotions now raging inside her? In that photo, her mother sits on a red sofa with her father, and she is an infant playing on her his lap, tagging at his beard. They are all laughing hard. Mama said he loved it when she played with his beard, which was big and bushy and earned him the Lion nickname, an interesting contrast to his bald head. He laughed hard each time Amaro ran her fingers in that wild mane. On this occasion, they were trying to take a proper family portrait, but Amaro could not keep off his chin. He was the President, her mother the housekeeper of State House, and this was the last photo he took as a free man for they arrested him an hour later. The news would go viral, she thought. Thirty years was a long time. The world in which her father had ruled was no more, the country had evolved into a whole new entity that he could not recognize, but this would be big news. Ex-President wants to be the president of a village. Maybe Kera, being the only journalist in town, would finally get his big break. Maybe I’ll finally play with his beard…. She closed her eyes. False memories blossomed, making her sway in a light wave of dizziness, forcing her to smile even as she tried to stifle the reverie. She rubbed her fingers, feeling the texture of his beard, soft like a cat’s fur, and she could hear him laugh in delight as he begged her to stop tickling him. He went to prison before her first birthday, and yet she could not be sure if he had been absent all her life. Mama made her feel his presence on all her birthdays, which they quietly celebrated in the empty palace they called home, just the two of them. Mama told her stories of him, of his big beard and his big laugh. Mama showed her phone videos of him, sixteen clips, each no more than twenty seconds, of him laughing as Amaro tickled his hair, of him stroking a cat, of him feeding a pigeon, of him dressed as Santa to bring a special gift to his daughter on her birthday. Was that him, or did mama pay someone to play him? He was her imaginary friend through her childhood, and she had waited all her life for the day she would finally meet him. For the day she would actually play with his beard. A commotion in the street broke her daydream. Her eyes flung open. A quick glance at the digital clock on her computer screen told her that nearly thirty minutes had passed since the broadcast, with her in a reverie. There was chanting outside, something she had only seen on documentaries about 18 her father. ‘Our man! Otongo! Eh! Eh! Otongo!’ Was he in her street? She looked out of the large display window, where two rusty robots continuously waved at passers-by, partially obscuring her view. She set up her tech business in what once had been a retail shop selling petty goods like sugar and soap and matchboxes. She had taken off the shelves and installed in two tables. The longer had a junk of electronics, broken robot parts, computers, and virtual reality headsets, all in need of repair. The smaller table had only a thirty two inch screen, a keyboard, and her phone. One end of the shop had an air-conditioned glass cabinet with four servers, which the town used for cloud storage. The display window had not changed much from the time it was a retail shop. The sill was moldy, and parts of the old shop’s name was visible where she had failed to scrape off the paint. Daytime LED tubes glowed, not as dramatically as in the night, but they spelled out her business name with a bit of fanfare; Princess Digital. She sometimes thought of herself as a princess whose kingdom an evil stepmother stole. A small group of people, not more than a dozen, walked into view and she saw the cause of the commotion. The former president was in the street, right outside her shop. For the first time in her memory, she saw him in person. One of her earliest true memories was trying to visit him in prison with her mother, and the prison guards threatening to throw them in jail if they dared show up again. Amaro learned, many years later, that her father’s official wife had power in the transition government. She chaired the commission that oversaw the country’s move from a centralized presidency to ‘the big tree democracy’, Yat Madit, an artificial intelligence that enabled nearly eight thousand LCs to jointly run the country just as if they were elders seated in a circle under a tree, discussing issues of their tribe. Rumor had it that she had orchestrated her husband’s downfall, not for the good of the country, but in revenge for his philandering. So while he was in jail, she barred his concubines from seeing him. When she eventually lifted this ban, Amaro was a teenager, and afraid of meeting with her father. Now, she saw him, and did not know how to react. She recognized him only because he was the center of attention and they were chanting his name, for he was totally different from her childhood secret friend. He did not have a beard anymore. What would she play with? Sunlight gleamed off his bald head, which lent him the look of a statue. He was scrawny, wearing a suit from thirty years ago when he was a lot bulkier. This was not the king sitting with her mother on a red sofa, with bulging cheeks that seemed about to fall off his face, and with happy eyes that boasted of being a good father. This was not the king she had dreamed about. 19 But his smile was the same, and the way he held up his fist in the air was redolent of his most famous photograph, captured the day he ascended to power following a bloody revolution. He was a colonel, barely twenty five, but he won the love of the country with policies that kicked out foreigners, mostly Asian and English, and enabled locals to take control of the economy. His decolonization campaign drew international outrage and sanctions, but it cemented his status as a founding savior, and the country prospered tremendously in the twenty years of his rule. He stopped under a small tree right in front of her shop, to greet an old mechanic who had been a soldier in the revolution that brought her father to power. The mechanic’s body was under a vehicle, only his head poked out, and he chanted a slogan that no one had used in over seventy years. “Our land! Our people!” Her father gave off a hearty laugh, which was close to what she had imagined he would sound like. He shook hands with the mechanic and then with everyone, and then waved at an imaginary crowd, as if it were back to those days when thousands of supporters had choked the streets with his party’s colors. He looked toward her shop, and she flinched when their eyes met, though she knew he could not see her because of the daylight bouncing off the glass pane. All he could see was the robots, and the LED tubes blinking with her shop’s name, but his eyes caused ice to run down her spine. He excused himself from the excited people, and walked into her shop. She wanted to jump behind her computer and resume working, to pretend that he had not affected her, that she did not daydream of a little girl playing with her father’s beard, but she froze. When he walked in, the crowd stopped chanting and gathered around the mechanic as he plunged into a tale about the revolution, which the listeners were too young to have experienced. He stood just inside the doorway, as though waiting for a welcome. His eyes darted about, looking at everything, avoiding her eyes as though he had not seen her. Moments passed. She could not take her eyes off him and he could not look at her. She could not think of anything to say to him. Finally, his eyes found her. He gave her a small smile, as if he had just noticed her. “Jambo,” he said, and it came out as if he was clearing his throat. “You want what?” she heard herself say, in English, the language reserved for people you had no family connection to. She wanted to warm up to him, to experience all her daydreams with his beard, but her heart beat so fast and she clenched her fist to stop the trembling. “I –” he started, in Luo, and then stopped abruptly. She completed the line in her head; I want to be your father. I want to make up for not being there. I want to apologize for…. So many things she wanted him to say. 20 He cleared his throat, and looked at his shoes, frowning at its shinny surface as though it had mud. Crocodile leather, she thought, studded with gold. Real gold. A shoe from before Yat Madit. Her mother had saved it for him. He cut the image of a clumsy teenager gathering courage to tell a girl how much he loved her. She wanted to chuckle. “I’m running for LC,” he finally said. He looked up at her, and stared right into her eyes. “You can help me win.” She laughed. “Me?” She wanted to respond in English, but it came out in Luo and she hated herself for it. He glanced at her computer desk, at the broken electronic parts on the long table, at the servers blinking in the chilled case. He looked over his shoulder at the people outside, who had picked up a chant again. One beckoned to him, eager for him to finish whatever business brought him to the shop. Maybe they thought it would be like old times when he bought booze and dished out pennies in exchange for votes. Maybe they were playing on his stupidity to get whatever money he had stashed away. “Let’s talk somewhere private,” he said, nodding toward the backroom. He took out his phone and turned it off so that his avatar would not listen. “I’m busy,” she said. He hesitated, and then closed the door, muting the chanting, and someone outside groaned theatrically in disappointment. Her mouth opened to protest, yet she was intrigued. A part of her hoped his beard would appear, magically, and this sculpture of a dictator would transform into the father of her dreams, the secret friend in her childhood. He walked to the backdoor and stopped for her to open it, though it was unlocked. She sighed. She glanced at her phone on the table, wondering if she should bring it along to listen to whatever he had to say, but she decided it might be best to talk in privacy. She led him into the backroom. It was dark. She threw open the wooden shutters of the only window, and a strong beam of sunlight flowed in to illuminate the room. A red sofa took up most of the space that the bed had failed to eat up. He fingered the sofa, a small smile on his face. It was the sofa from the photo. It had faded, and had holes, and a few months ago she had killed a family of rats that had made it their home, but it still had the feel of the expensive furniture it had been thirty years ago. “We bought this in Zambia,” he said. “Your mother wanted a unique gift for our family.” A pink curtain cordoned off the bedroom half of the room. Amaro drew it and sat on the edge of the bed. He looked at the sofa, hesitant, maybe wondering what had happened to it that it looked so miserable, maybe afraid that it would soil his suit. Like the shoes, her mother had kept it for him all these years, and now it hung loose on his body, almost as if it were a gown. Finally, he spread a hanky before sitting. Even then, he sat 21 with care, as though the sofa would collapse under his weight. “Do you like it here?” he said. Her mother lived in the only palace that the courts had failed to take away from him. He had put it in her name a few months before his downfall, shortly after Amaro’s birth, and she had documents that proved she had legally bought it from the state. Far from the glamor of its heydays, without any servant to keep up its glory, mama had done good to keep it homely, awaiting his return. Amaro had at first loved the palace. As a little girl, the many empty rooms were her playground, and they became her party ground when the teenage taste of alcohol and ganja overwhelmed her. Then, when she was about fifteen, she discovered a secret door to a basement, where she found someone’s finger buried in the dust on the floor. Mama could not explain the finger. Amaro then begun to study the history of her country, and the image of her father, the king who let a little girl play with his beard, vanished. She begun to see ghosts in the house. Security operatives had once used it as a safe house. Many opposition politicians had died in those rooms. Some nights, she thought she could hear them scream. And now in her nightmares, she plays with a severed hand, using it to comb her father’s beard. She never told her mother why she moved out. “You have a few minutes,” she said. “I have work.” He gave her a smile. “Princess Digital is a fine name,” he said. “It has nothing to do with you,” she said. “Really?” he said. “I didn’t say –” “Three minutes,” she said, cutting him off. He was quiet for a moment, as if he wanted to press the issue, then he let out a sigh that she barely heard. “Why won’t you talk to your mother?” he said. Her throat tightened. Her fingers dug into her knees, and she bit her lips tight to stop herself from screaming at him. She had never understood why her mother stayed in love with him, why she kept his suits neatly packed in a wardrobe awaiting his return. She had read about the many women he raped, the many children he fathered in violence, and she wondered if she belonged to those statistics, if his relationship with mama had started with a rape. Why does Mama still loved him? At some point, it occurred to her that mama might have had a hand in his affairs, for nothing else could explain how she, out of all the concubines, got a palace. Once this came to Amaro, she fled from her mother. They had not seen each other in over two years though they lived in the same small town. Amaro had wanted to move to a big city, but stayed for deep down she loved her mother. Deep down she hoped her father was the man who laughed heartily when a little girl play 22 with his beard, the great leader who dragged his country out of the chains of poverty and neocolonialism, and not the monster in history books. Deep down, she hoped that one day mama would explain it all and everything would be alright. “Two minutes,” she said. The ex-President stared at her for a long moment, so long that she thought he would not respond. Something twinkled in his eyes, and she wondered if it were unshed tears. She wondered if this was the face of an old man who had lost everything, who was trying to win over the only child he had with a woman who stayed in love with him all these years. “Back then,” he finally said, “I’d organize rallies, print posters and tshirts –” “You killed your opponents,” she said, interrupting him. She was surprised that it came out as if she was commenting on the color of his suit. He frowned. His lips trembled as he struggled for a reply. He fixed his eyes on his shoes, which gleamed in the semi darkness like the skin of a monster. “They used me.” His voice crackled and she wanted to give him a glass of water. She hated herself for even thinking of it. I’m supposed to hate him, she thought. “Those who were eating,” he continued, through his teeth. “They did things to keep me in power but when things turned bad they sacrificed me and continued eating.” He fell quiet, and she thought that the tears would finally roll down his cheeks. “Your big mother –” He tried to continue, but the words choked him and he bit his lips tight and she knew he was struggling to contain the tears. She wondered if he was putting up a show. Her ‘big mother’, the exFirst Lady, had come off as an angel who had saved the country from a revolutionary-turned-dictator, who had mothered a nation that did not need an individual ruler, or a central government, but some people had claimed she was a hypocrite. An opportunist. “I always wanted to be a leader,” he said. “It’s the only thing I know.” “Yat Madit is not the type of leadership you know,” she said. “That’s why I want to serve again,” he said, his voice growing stronger a little. He finally look up at her. Eyes wet. “To redeem myself. If I serve in such an incorruptible system, I’ll make peace with the ancestors by proving I’m the good leader I was born to be. I’ll rest in peace when the time comes, and you can help me…. Please, help me.” She sucked her teeth in contempt, seeing what help he wanted. She imagined the ballot paper system of his time was like a piggy bank, which they broke to determine the next ruler, and he probably thought that avatars were digital versions of paper ballots and Yat Madit was the piggy bank. Being the only cloud business in town, everyone subscribed to her 23 service, and so she had direct access to the avatar of every voter. “You want me to corrupt avatars to vote for you?” she said. “No!” he said, his voice had a tone she could not place. Genuine shock? “Of course not! That’s impossible! I’ve been away all these years but I know that Yat Madit is conscious and self-learning and ever evolving and it uses a language that no one can comprehend and so it is beyond human manipulation. I know all that. It’s impossible–” He paused, as if the idea had just occurred to him, a puzzled look on his face. “Is it possible?” “Yat Madit is no piggy bank,” she said. “Ugh?” he said. “Your time is almost up.” “I’m trying to understand,” he cut in. “Piggy bank?” And after a moment, he seemed to figure it out. “Oh, oh. You mean the way we used to put ballots in those boxes? Ah, I know, Yat Madit doesn’t even exist on a single server and that every citizen’s gadget is a Yat Madit server so it can’t be like our ballot boxes. Yes, yes, I know all –” “If you have nothing else to say,” she said, interrupting him. “I have work.” “Look, I know how Yat Madit works, okay? I’ll be just one of eight thousand joint presidents and Yat Madit will coordinate use to rule efficiently. It will advise us and check all our decisions to ensure we work for the people. I know all that and I know that avatars turn every citizen into a parliamentarian in my old system so there is no room for corruption in Yat Madit. No room at all. How can I –” “You waste your time trying to convince me,” she said. “The avatars,” he said. “I’m not asking you to corrupt them. But there has to be a way, maybe you can, I don’t know, advertise to them?” She did not have energy to explain that Yat Madit automatically deleted political adverts, so he rattled on. “You can make them convince their humans that I’m the person for this job, and since everyone relies on them for governance decisions…. Look, I have some savings. I could have gone to a big city techie and used other means to target voters, but I ask you because you are –” he paused, and she could see he was considering the next words carefully, “– my daughter.” “You are not my father,” she retorted. It came out so quickly, so fluid, that it surprised her and she wondered if she had been aching to say those words all her life. He was quiet for a long moment, eyes fixed on her, unblinking, and finally she saw something shinny run down his cheeks. In the dim light, it looked like clear milk. “I want to be,” he said. “Time up,” she said, breathless, jumping to her feet. He remained on the sofa for a few moments longer, and then with a 24 sigh he stood up. He wiped his face with the back of his hand. She avoided his eyes. She quickly opened the backdoor, which led to a courtyard and the backstreet, the quickest way out of her home. “Next time,” she said, as he stepped out, “resist the temptation of trying to see me.” He stood just outside her door, mouth slightly open, the wrinkles on his face seemed to move in sync with the pain of rejection that she imaged whirled in his head. She closed the door, but she knew that the look on his face would haunt her dreams. She waited to hear him leave. An eternity passed. She feared he would stay outside her door for the rest of his life, begging to be let in. Then his shoes clicked on the veranda and his feet falls echoed away. Still, she stayed at the door, unable to move, afraid that he would return and pitch camp outside her door. She would say yes if he came back. It terrified her. Something ran down her right cheek and for a moment she thought it was a bug, maybe the black and red spider. She wished it was the spider. She hated herself. Why do I feel like this about a monster? She staggered back to her shop, determined to throw herself into work and push him out of her mind. An orange light blinked on her phone to tell her of a new important notification. Her avatar was smart enough to not interrupt her talk with her father, though it had not been able to listen, so the phone had not beeped this notification, another news item, again made by her boyfriend Kera. This time, she watched the entire news, for Mama finally let out the secret she had kept for thirty years. Though people had suspected mama had an affair with the President, she had never publicly acknowledged it. “We have a daughter,” mama said, showing off the family photo, publicly for the first time. “Give her a chance to see what a good leader her father can be.” People’s response was largely warm. Many comments lauded her for staying faithful to a jailed man all these years. Many more said that if she had stayed in love with him all this time, then he was not as bad as history made him to be, that maybe his great side, which saw him lead the nation out of poverty and neocolonialism, outweighed his bad side, which surfaced only because he was trying to protect the country from opponents under influence of foreign powers. No one can love a monster, they argued, and she could see it was all because of how Kera presented the news. She bit her lips, for the anger toward Kera flared. The emotions of seeing her father had stifled it, but now, seeing how he carefully worded his words to skew public opinion to favor the ex-President, she felt lava flow out of her eyes and burn her cheeks. Why, Kera, why? He knew how she felt about her mama, about her father, so why was his 25 news so obviously a publicity campaign for her father? Why had he thrown away all his ethics as a journalist? Why had he not reminded viewers that her father raped many women, and that he had tortured to death twelve thousand political opponents in the final years of his corrupt reign? Why, Kera, why? She wiped the tears off her face and at once hated it for the gesture reminded her of one he had made. You are his copy. She grabbed her phone and went out the backdoor, hesitating a moment, listening to check if her father was still out there. After opening, she looked around, searching, and her chest relaxed when she did not see him. Her motorbike sat in a shed in the courtyard. The battery was at twenty percent for the solar charger was faulty, but it was enough to take her across town to Kera’s home and office. The bike did not make much noise when she turned the ignition, just a soft whirr, but this was enough to attract her neighbor Arac. “Eh Amaro!” Arac squealed as she ran into the courtyard. “Kumbe everyday you are the Lion President’s daughter and you never told me anything? Eh you woman! Me I’m just happy for you! That ka man has money you tell him to give ko us also we eat!” Amaro gave her a small smile, and a wave, and eased the bike out of the courtyard. Kera lived near the market, in a little bungalow with a huge digital transmitter on the roof. The sitting room also served as the reception to his business, and here an elderly woman ran the front desk. Amaro stormed passed her without even a greeting, and the woman barely protested. She went straight to one of the bedrooms, which he had converted into his studio, sound proofed to cut out all the noise from the market, and she hesitated at the door. What if her father was in there? She looked up at the little sign above the door. OFF AIR. At least he was not recording anything live. She pushed it open. Kera was editing a video, obviously another news segment concerning her father. He span around, and on seeing her, broke into a huge smile. “Amo!” he said. “Why?” she asked. His smile vanished. He looked at his editing screens, at a video of her father smiling at the camera, and then he punched a button to put the screens to sleep, as if that would wash away his crime. He got to his feet slowly, and she could see him trying to come up with an excuse. “I love you,” he said. “Just tell me why,” she said. A short silence ensued. She glowered at him, tears blurring her vision, 26 and he could not look her in the eyes. “I know, I should have told you,” Kera said. “But, well, you know, your father –” “He is not my father,” Amaro said. “Okay, okay,” Kera said. “The ex-President, he came to me last night and offered me exclusive access to him if I, you know,” he trailed off, looking at his bare feet in shame. “If you worked for him?” Amaro said. He shook his head. “I’m a journalist,” he said. “I don’t work for anybody.” “But he offered you exclusive access in exchange for making positive news stories about him, right?” “It’s not like that,” he said. “You can’t see that he has corrupted you?” “No!” he said, finally looked up at her. “I’m a journalist. I can’t be corrupted.” “He will win because of you, and then he will corrupt Yat Madit.” He laughed. “You of all people should know that Yat Madit is incorruptible. It’s not like he’ll be the president of the entire country like in those days, so how will he corrupt the system? He’ll govern just one of the nine villages in our small town, just one of seven thousand nine hundred and ten villages in the country, and every village is a semi-autonomous state so he won’t have any political influence beyond his village so you have nothing to fear in him as LC.” She shook her head. “Yat Madit listens to us,” she said. “Yes!” he said. “That’s the beauty of it because everyone has a voice and everyone has power to influence the state, so your father –” “He’s not my father!” she hissed. Finally, he caught her eyes. “I love you Amo,” he said. “I want to marry you. We are going to be family, and I believe we should support –” “He corrupted you,” she said, cutting him short. “You are too eager for national success to see that he corrupted you and if he becomes LC he’ll corrupt everybody and then Yat Madit will start to listen to corrupt people and to people who rape women and murder twelve thousand opponents. It will be the end of our democracy.” He looked at her with slightly wider eyes, as she could see he now understood her point of view. He sunk back into his chair, as if his legs could not support him anymore. “That’s not corruption,” he said, in a small voice that amplified his shame. “Good bye,” she said. “It’s been a good four years together.” He looked up sharply. “What are you saying?” There was fear in his voice. 27 She did not say anything as she walked out of his studio. Back in her workshop, she took out her phone and saw a lot of notifications, mostly people contacting her about her mother’s revelation. She hit the big red X to delete all, and then she instructed Adak to mute her mama, her father, and, Kera. Then, tapped on Yat Madit’s icon and the civic app filled her screen with a liquid sound. Its home page showed the trending topics. Though he had announced his candidature only about two hours ago, he was number one in her town. He had dislodged discussion about a bridge that had collapsed the previous day and cut the town off, causing enormous losses to businesses. In the National Tab, he was number three, having dislodged a bill on decriminalizing suicide attempts. His village’s Election Meter ranked him as favorite to win, based on comments and reactions to his decision and to her mother’s announcement. She tapped on the ‘Bills and Laws’ tab, and clicked on ‘Propose New Law’. Adak initiated a camera and she spoke into it. Adak would transcribe her speech and translate it into all languages, including sign language. “Yat Madit is a fundamental pillar of our society,” she begun. “And yet it is fragile. It has a huge weakness. It relies on us. Avatars listen to us. They learn what we like and understand our views and then feed this to Yat Madit, which uses this data to approve LC decisions, to advice LCs, and to help draw policies. We think it’s intelligent enough to tell good from evil and to uphold human rights, but remember that some of us can’t enjoy our rights because a majority think we should not. Our gay friends can’t inherit ancestral property because we insist that ancestral spirits only reincarnate through traditional means of conception. “So what will happen if –” my father, she almost said “– if the former tyrant holds office? Might he influence a majority to condone corruption and ideologies of past systems where a select few enjoyed wealth and power? Might these people not in turn sway Yat Madit to their thinking? Before we know it, Yat Madit would okay decisions that stink of corruption and nepotism and tyranny and raping women and murdering twelve thousand political opponents. “So I propose a new law; anyone who has been convicted of corruption or of crimes related to abuse of power should not be allowed to hold any public office.” She hit the Publish button and put down her phone, aware that her proposal would trend within minutes. First, Yat Madit would show it to her village folk and urge them to take action within the day because elections were due in three weeks. It would not leave the decision making to avatars because it was a major law, and because she had pointed out a weakness in the system. Everybody’s gadget would freeze until they had debated the bill 28 and made a decision. Then, if the village voted it into law, Yat Madit would upscale it to town level, then to national level, once again ensuring every adult takes immediate action. Yat Madit would append essential metadata to her proposal, that she argued from an expert’s perspective as a data engineer, and that she was the daughter of the ex-President. She closed her eyes tight, and again saw the last look on her father’s face, and she let the tears flow out again, and she wished she could unlearn everything she had learned about him after finding that finger in the basement. She wished she could live forever in her false memories of him, where he was just a king who allowed a little girl to play with his big beard. 29
    RAINMAKER By Mazi Nwonwu
    Katma Dikun and Bama Yadum were on their way to school, gliding over the blue sand, when they saw the dust devils. It was Katma who saw them first and her scream of glee drew Bama’s attention to them. He powered down his solar-powered hoverbike and called out, “Come on!” to Katma, who was keeping pace with him on a similar vehicle. They dismounted and raced unsteadily down the wavy slipface of the dune, into the valley below. The two dust devils were whirling what used to be a riverbed when the dry deserts of Arid were forests and grasslands. The valley ran from the hills to the northern border of Bitu town. Katma, 14, the daughter of Arnold Dikun, headman of Bitu, wanted the bigger dust devil and jostled with Bama for position to claim it. Bama, who’d been born off-planet, didn’t budge and answered her shove for shove until she gave up and turned to the second dust devil. Dust devils were common in the deserts of Arid, but twin devils running side by side were a rare sight. The people who’d found a home among the dunes believed they could gift a wish to anyone brave enough to stand in their path until they passed. “What will you wish for?” Katma asked Bama as she braced herself to meet the oncoming dust devil. Bama pretended he couldn’t hear her above the roar of the wind and sand. “Mask!” he called out as he tugged his facemask downward from its perch on his forehead. “What?” Katma asked, not hearing him, but then she nodded when she 30 saw him secure his mask and goggles over his face with the ease of long practice. Her mask was fashioned from recycled plastic and bore the likeness of a snarling cat. Unlike his which came without protection for the eyes, forcing him to combine with ski goggles, hers was a one-piece. It took only a moment for her to pull it from its resting place on her belt and clasp it over her face. “I want to see the stars!” she shouted, her voice a woosh over the roar of the twin dust devils. She hoped that telling him hers would prompt him to tell his. “Rain,” Bama whispered as the dust devil swallowed him. The school was housed in 10 discarded transport containers arranged in a semi-circle on one of the few expanses of herd ground in the area. The very first time he saw it four years before, Bama deduced from the charred space station custom entry and exit markings that crisscrossed them and the smell of smoke that years of scrubbing had not been able to mask that they must have come from a crashed space transport. He eased his hoverbike onto the hardened earth of the school’s vehicle park. He heard the soft crunch that followed the weight of the vehicle breaking sprouts of the soft, grass-like plant that grew rapidly in the morning and withered at night, spreading spores that sought for and clung to the faintest hint of moisture with which to begin the 43-hour daily life cycle all over again. Condensation from the cooling systems of vehicles made the school’s vehicle park one of the few perpetually green areas. By the time Bama finished storing his helmet and gloves inside the storage compartment of his bike, Katma was already running towards the container buildings that made up what the sign the government at Port Complex had put up identified as “Bitu Nomad School”. He ran to catch up with her. “What’s the hurry?” he asked. “We are late,” she said. Bama didn’t argue. He blamed himself for their lateness because he had taken her father’s Weals – the native species that the Bedouin had domesticated for milk and meat – to the water dispenser and then found some of the town boys had gotten there before him, so, he had to wait for them to fill dozens of water carts before he had a chance to key in his credits and commence the wait for the beat-up machine to draw enough water to satisfy the two dozen animals in his care from the borehole the first settlers built over 100 years before. “You know, we didn’t see any other dust devils after those two,” Katma said, throwing a look at him over her shoulder as she slowed down a bit. “It’s still morning Katma,” Bama stated, “the suns will have to warm up before the wind will whip up more dust devils.” “You don’t know that. You just like sounding smart.” Katma said, walking faster. 31 Bama lengthened his stride and was just about to catch up with her when they crossed into the classroom. “The soil here is exquisite. The mineral composition… Geological records show that millions of years ago, Arid was full of towering forests and there were only a few deserts in solar overlap zone. We are not yet sure what happened to all those trees and grass and shrubs and the animals that fed on them, but we know at some point in our planet’s history, they died off. Current scientific consensus it that it was likely due to a rare and destructive shift in solar orbits, triggering a series of dual solar hyperflares. The abundance of rich organic matter is why we have so many fossil fuel deposits and such rich soil,” the holographic projection of the teacher was saying as Bama and Katma walked by to take their seats at the back of the class. It was geography and Bama hated it, and as always happened when he got that way, his mind started to wander, helped along by the mention of soil and nutrients. His father used to talk about the soil of Arid with words that sounded like the ones the teacher used, only his had carried more passion. “The soil here is the best on any world I’ve seen. No, haven’t tested it but I can smell just how rich it is. Feel the texture! You’ve seen the terrariums. All you need is water and this whole planet will be one big beautiful garden,” Basil Yadum had said to his family as they stood looking down at Bitu from the dunes on the day they arrived. Knowing what would come next, Bama had shut his eyes, tight, not wishing to hear that phrase that had brought them only misery. He struggled but failed to stop his ears from hearing his father say, “If only Amadioha will bless us again. Bless us with the rainmaking gift of our fathers.” “I believe the blessing is still there, what we lack are the tools. Where will you get fresh palm fronds on this planet? And if you have it, will the rain gods hear your chants from here? We are light years away from home” Bama’s mother said. “The gods go where we go. The palm fronds are but a prop. We will call them with whatever is native here. The gods will answer. Sometimes though, they answer too well. Did I ever tell you about my great grandfather’s quest in Accra?” Yadum Basil asked as he led the way down the dune, towards the town the family would call home. His father had told them the story before, but Bama didn’t remind him. He instead hoisted their youngest on his shoulder and walked after his father, his legs sinking calf-deep into the blue sand as he leaned back to avoid plunging head-first down the dune. His father’s voice carried back to them, borne by the wind that snatched 32 words from his mouth and hurled them back along with the loose end of the scarf he used to cover his mouth and nose. “My great grandfather was resting at home when a loud knock greeted him. He opened the door to find palace guards standing there. They told him the Oba needed his services. The scientists had forecasted dry heat and they needed him to quench the heat of the day before the king came out to welcome the new yam, only it wasn’t that simple. Amadioha answered Papa Yadum, as always. It marked the start of the glory days of clan Yadum. We feasted with kings,” Basil said, smiling broadly. Bama had sighed. His father didn’t tell of his own father’s adventure in Benin and the rain that wasn’t a shower or the drizzle that was asked for. Benin was flooded and the Oba’s feast ruined. Many died and family Yadum fled to the stars for a chance to live. The fear of capture also meant they couldn’t live in Port Complex, Arid’s main town, where the presence of a Federation government outpost meant their presence could easily be reported back to Earth. Among the Bedouin tribes that had migrated here and saw Arid’s native grass-like plant and the Weals they domesticated as vital to sustaining their traditional seminomadic life, clan Yadum found safety. He always wondered if making rain here would redeem them and give their lives a semblance of normality. “Rain…” Bama muttered under his breath as he returned to the moment. “What did you say?” Katma asked. “Nothing. I was just remembering something.” “Katma Dikun and Bama Yadum, I will not have you two come late to class and then not pay attention. If I catch you distracted again you will be punished,” the teacher’s projection warned from the surround speakers in the wall. Katma made a face at Bama and smiled. “Simulations have shown that if only we had more rainfall in Arid like we have on some of the other green planets in the Federation, this would be one of the most prosperous planets in the quadrant,” The teacher continued, and Bama found he didn’t need the story to keep his interest. “Federation scientists at Port Complex have tried for years to use cloudseeding and solar radiation management - which you will learn about next year in your general science class - to alter the climate and make more rain, but so far, nothing has worked to scale.” A freckle-faced boy in the front raised his hands, interrupting the teacher’s flow, much to Bama”s annoyance. “Yes Karid, what is it?” The teacher asked. “My father said that if we get the mining companies to ship ice from one of the faraway moons here, we wouldn’t need to worry about water in 33 Arid,” Karid answered. “Your father is potentially right Karid, but the ice mining companies want large payments and exclusive contracts to exploit the land and resources. Negotiations have been ongoing with them for years but Arid is not a wealthy planet and the Federation government on Earth has other planets that are of higher priority. Besides, the tribes that first settled this planet only use the most rudimentary technology and are wary of large-scale ice processing facilities. I am afraid Arid may remain the way it is for the foreseeable future, with sparse rainfall, until something is eventually worked out or there is another, less destructive, shift in solar orbits” the teacher said. “What about the rainmakers?” Karid asked. Bama didn’t need to turn to see that Katma was staring at him. “The rainmakers are not real. They are just a legend from Earth. On Arid, you need science and a lot of money to make rain,” the teacher said. Bama knew he shouldn’t speak but the words came tumbling out, “That’s not true. The rainmakers can make rain. They commune with Amadioha and he gathers the rainclouds. The ability to speak to the gods is transferred from one generation to the next. Because you don’t know this doesn’t mean it is not true!” The class was silent for a while. The teacher appeared taken aback by Bama’s outburst, or maybe it was just a delay in the transmission. “Who told you this?” she finally asked. “My father,” Bama said matching her gaze. “His father, my grandfather, was a rainmaker. My father also said the gods go where we go.” “Can you make rain then?” Karid asked. “I…” Bama struggled to form words, instead his mind flew back to all the times he had watched his father dance and chant the rainmaking songs but failed to draw even a droplet from the skies. “What?” Karid taunted, “Are you a rainmaker or not?” “Stop it, Karid,” the teacher said, but it was Bama she was looking at, electronic eyes echoing the pity she must have been feeling. Around the classroom, people were either openly snickering or doing their best to hide their bemusement. Katma was looking at Bama, saying nothing. “Didn’t he just say he is a rainmaker?” Karid asked, spreading his arm askance. Bama didn’t know how the chant started, but he was determined not to give his classmates the benefit of seeing him cry as he grabbed his bag and ran out of the class. He could still hear the words “rainmaker, rainmaker!” following him even when he had driven too far away for the voices to carry to him. 34 Bama could feel the heat of the sand pebbles beneath his bottom as stared into the distance. Holding his face still, his eyes scanned the horizon where the gunmetal hue of one of Arid’s two large moons held his eyes and compelled him to scan up to her sister, a red orb with a halo that he had learnt in astronomy class was made up of fragments from a time when another moon, or an asteroid, had crashed into her a millennia ago. Local legend held that the moons were sisters on Arid who fell out after the metallic one killed the red one’s lover. The sisters were depicted as a silver-haired maid that was always laughing while in flight and the other a sad-eyed and red-haired, halo-wearing virgin running after her. Bama no longer believed the story, but he liked hearing it told, if nothing else, it made the names of the moons of Arid easier to memorise: Evil Aryana and Good Rowna. Everything in Arid came in twos. It was a planet of duality, except when it came to rain. “Don’t tell me you ran away from class to stare at the two sisters?” Katma said as she walked up to him. “Why did you follow me?” Bama asked, grateful for her company but in need of a stern exterior. “What? You want me to leave you out here alone, miserable?” “I am not miserable. I left before I broke someone’s head.” Katma laughed and passed a skin bag of water to him. “Will you try to make rain now?” She asked, a twinkle in her eyes. “What?” Bama was taken aback by her question. “Don’t pretend you are not thinking about it. Will you, like your father before you, try to make rain?” she pressed. Bama didn’t reply he turned away from her to stare at the two sisters. “You know that as far as you are your father’s son, the blood of you forefathers flows in you?” Bama laughed. “Those are my words.” “You also said the gods are where you are, and I say your father’s failure isn’t yours. Anyway, you also told me about this, so here, take it.” She said, handing him a desiccated palm frond preserved in wax. Bama took the palm frond from her, “where did you find this?” He asked, incredulous. “There is no mystery Bama. I stole it from the biology lab. We will have to put it back, soon.” She said. “Now, will you make rain?” The blade of palm leaf felt strangely heavy in Bama’s hand as he rubbed it inside his shoulder-strung bag. He kept touching the leaf intermittently throughout the short journey back to school and the punishment that he knew awaited him. He would have preferred to hold it all the way back to school but 35 besides the fact that it was dry and brittle, it was a bad idea to be seen with it. That would have led to more trouble for him. Katma too. He would rather suffer a thousand years of after school detention than snitch on his friend. Touching the leaf gave Bama hope. If he closed his eyes a for bit, he could see the palm forests back on earth. If he allowed his mind wander, he could see the branches swaying in the wind and smell the moist odour of the tropical forest. When Katma gave him the leaf, Bama was sure she wanted him to chant and make rain. He had seen the disappointment in her eyes when he had instead started talking about his grandfather and how his father had said that he preached against using the power of his clan frivolously. Later, he would tell himself that it was his fear that was talking. He was afraid of trying because he was afraid of failing. “Will you be at the two sister’s dance today?” Katma asked, breaking the silence that had marked their ride back to school. “I don’t know. I still need to water your father’s Weals and fill my mother’s water drum,” Bama replied. “Okay, I will fill your mother’s drum while you take care of the Weals, just transfer the credits to me. That way, you will be ready before the dance begins,” Katma said, the flare of her eyes daring him to reject her proposal. “Okay. You do know I will probably be punished for leaving class and that will mean getting back home very late?” “You won’t,” Katma said with an assurance that caused Bama to turn sharply to look at her. “You won’t because it was Miss Rethabile that asked me to go get you. She is not mad at you, you see.” Katma slid down from her bike and ran towards the classroom before Bama had the chance to reply. Two rusty rocket wings with the snarling visage of hill cats painted on in luminescent green were the only thing that marked the gates of the tent town of Bitu as the two teenagers rode in under the gaze of Arid’s twin suns and moons. The ground in and around the town were littered with junk from the time Arid functioned as a scrapyard for the mining companies and their sleeper ships that populated this quadrant. Scavengers, the first settlers of Bitu, had moved the scraps to the edge of their town as they expanded, and it looked like the eye of a storm of debris when viewed from the large dune overlooking it. Bitu was abandoned for almost a century when the scavengers followed the sleeper ships to more profitable parts of space, but they left more than their town behind. Much of Bitu was powered by the solar cells the original settlers had scavenged from discarded supply ships and installed when they ran the town. They also built the large water dispenser that tapped into an 36 underground, plant-wide ocean and was one of the things that attracted the Bedouin who now ran the town to settle in what was essentially then a ghost town. The Bedouin tribe that settled in Bitu weren’t so keen on technology and still insisted on not having artificial lights in Bitu. “There are only 3 hours of night here and they say it blots out the stars,” Katma’s father had replied when Bama had inquired why. “How about the dance,” Katma called out to Bama. “I don’t know,” Bama said, slowing down as they reached the biggest tent in the town, “Father might need me.” Katma nodded. “Come find me if you make it,” she said as she parked her bike near the entrance of the tent. “Okay,” Bama said and swung his bike towards the western part of town where shipping crate house his family now called home was. As Bama shut down his bike, he could hear his father’s voice from upstairs, telling one of his usual stories. Bama felt he was too old for tall tales, but he found himself drawn to his father’s narration. It wasn’t like the story he was telling was new, Bama had heard it a thousand times, told with the same baritone that he remembered from his childhood. With his back to the family gathered around the windfed coal fire in front of the family tent, Bama feigned disinterest even as he followed his father’s words, forming them with his mouth, but never saying them out loud. He could tell the story with the same drama his father brought to it and knew that one day it would be him telling it to his own children, like his father’s father had told his father and his uncles before. The story of the rainmaker was theirs; a part of family Yadum’s legacy, one Basil Yadum had brought to the stars with him when he left earth to escape the Oba of Benin’s wrath and seek his fortune with the tens of thousands who boarded the sleeper ships that lazy harmattan in 2187. “...Ciril Yadum opened the palm fronds he had collected from the Awka spirit forest. Knotting them together to form a rope, he closed his eyes and willed the droplets of water in the sky to come together like the rope and become clouds that would give rain. Amadioha heard and before the gathered town, the sky darkened and droplets of rain as big as a man’s fist started dropping to the earth. The long dry season was over and there was joy in the land,” Basil Yadum ended his tale to wild clapping from his audience. Bama smiled at the fact that his father had cut the story short, ending it before he got to the part where Ciril Yadum was carried shoulder high into Accra and feted for ending the draught. He also didn’t add the part that spoke about every first born Yadum child having the ability to control weather. He also didn’t chant the rain god’s song, the one they were supposed to commit to memory and use when they desperately needed rain 37 to fall. He also failed to mention his father’s death in Benin, their escape to the stars and the bounty that still lies on the head of everyone with Yadum blood. Bama wasn’t shocked that his father abridged the story. He had started doing that years ago. Bama felt his father had stopped believing and he thought he knew why. 5 years before, the Yadum tribe had arrived at Arid, hoping for a short stopover before continuing to their destination, the agricultural planet of Falk. His father had said they would be on Arid for not more than a month, but his mother had gotten ill and by the time they had exhausted their resources treating her, 3 years had gone by and 2 years after, they were still planet bound, with no resources to buy a ticket off planet. If there was any planet ever in need of the services of a rainmaker, it was this one. Bama wasn’t sure how it happened, but he couldn’t forget the day his father left home, promising to have a solution to all their problems by the time he got back. The short night flew by and he didn’t come back. Fretful sleep later calmed a home that went to bed without a father. The next day saw dawn ushering urgent raps on the plastic door. It was opened to a ragged-looking and dirt-covered Basil Yadum who staggered in. He didn’t talk about it, but Bama later learnt that he had tried to make rain, but unlike his legendary grandfather, he had failed and was set upon by those who thought he was a fraud. Failure was still following them. Bama shrugged away his recollection and walked into the tent, smiling as he hugged his brothers, 6-year-old twins who had taken to life among the dunes of Bitu like fish to water. His sister, ten-year-old Adama waved at him and returned to stirring what he knew was dinner. “Another night of sour milk,” He thought, as he threw the twins in the air one after the other and then stilled their shouts for “more! more!” with a steely gaze. “Bama, come sit with us,” his mother called from the far end. He bowed as he walked past his father to take his mother’s frail form in a bear hug before accepting the bowl of sour camel milk from Adama. “Sorry, we don’t have fura,” his mother said. Bama frowned at the apology he heard in her voice. “It is okay mama. I prefer the milk without fura,” he said, giving her his best smile. “There is sweetener on the table behind you,” his father said, avoiding his eyes. One rule of the Two Sisters’ dance was not to wear any face covering. The dance was an avenue for young people to find mates and thus everyone was supposed to keep their masks at home and brave the dust that the dancers’ feet swept up in the hope of locking eyes with the person that they 38 would most likely spend the rest of their life with. Bama didn’t get to the dance early so people had already paired off and were nose-to-nose by the time he reached the square. They called it a square, but it was actually an open, circular space in the middle of the tent town that all the four main streets led to. Bama clutched his shoulder bag tightly as he made his way towards the dancers and stood at the edge of the circle within which thousands of feet had stamped porcelain-blue sand into firm earth over the years. He watched, his mind far away. Paired dancers came together and swung apart in a tease that Bama found too intimate for his comfort. If he must dance the banta then it must be with someone he cared enough for to ignore the foul breaths that must follow the rubbing of noses which marked the beginning and ending of each dance cycle. Katma had asked him to dance but he had demurred, and she was at that moment dancing with her cousin, one of several female-to-female pairings in the square. He noted some male-to-male pairings, but these were few. Dust swirled around Bama as a couple, nosed squashed together, swirled past him, dancing out of sync with the beat of the drums and horns and guitars from the energetic band in the middle of the square. Bama coughed as dust overwhelmed him. He backed away, trying to create more space between himself and the melee of dancers, and bumped into someone. “Oh! it’s the rainmaker from Earth,” ` Karid’s scornful voice greeted Bama. “Sorry, I wasn’t looking,” Bama said to Karid and his two older cousins. “Hamish, Bole, this is the Earth boy that claimed he can make rain,” Karid said, his voicing rising to draw in more spectators. Sensing mischief that would gift more fun than the song and dancers, many people within the immediate vicinity started moving towards Karid’s voice. “Is it true that you can make rain, Earth boy?” Hamish asked. “I…” Bama began but Karid cut him off, “He absolutely says he can make rain.” “Well can you, or can’t you? The dust here needs some settling.” Bole said. Bama turned, meaning to walk away, only to come face to face with Katma. She didn’t say anything, just looked at him strangely before clasping his hand in hers and turning to face the crowd. “Bama may not be able to make rain, but he can teach us the rain dance.” Bama didn’t want to dance. 39 He shook his head at Katma, pulling at her hand as he did so to convey the depth of his disagreement. She persisted, leaning to whisper in his ear, “you either dance, make rain or walk away and be the butt of Karid and his goon’s jokes forever. I say dance, I’ve seen you dance before, it is magical.” “But why do I need to prove anything to Karid? He is just a loudmouth.,” Bama whispered back. “A loudmouth he is, but he has challenged you here and you know the roles of a challenge tonight?” she asked. Bama knew. He just had not realised that was what Karid was doing. A challenge issued during the Two Sisters’ dance, which happened once a cycle, must be answered, or forfeited. The rule also stated that the challenge must be something that the challenged party had admitted to been capable of undertaking. Bama’s family had claimed rainmaking powers, Karid is asking him to put up or shut up. Katma squeezed his hand and a courage that hadn’t been there before surged in his heart. Bama looked up at the twin moons, bright in the faded light of their twin sun cousins. They seemed to pulse at him, as though telling him some larger cosmic secret about himself, his father, his family, his gods. He let go of Katma’s hand and reached into his bag to touch the wax-encased palm frond. Bama turned away from her and faced Karid. “Okay, I will do the rain dance,” he said. “Not make rain?” Karid asked, making a shocked look that drew laughter from the growing crowd. “No, not rain. Take what’s on offer or forfeit,” Katma said, using her shoulders to push Bama behind her. “Okay. We will take the dance if it is as good as the ones we’ve seen from Earth,” Karid said. Bama nodded and moved to the middle of the square. He took the dance stance and was about to start the incantations that preceded the first movement when a thought struck him. People challenge others when they are rivals in the affairs of the heart and wanted to diminish them in the eyes of the desired. He walked back to Katma. “Why has Karid challenged me here?” he asked her. Katma laughed and pushed him back into the square. “Dance Bama Yadum!” she yelled after him. Bama resumed the dance stance. Without meaning to, he found himself thinking about the dust and how the square would look and feel more different if the ground was wet and the earth held together so as not to give up easily to the press and pull of stamping and shoving feet. He felt his feet moving and soon he was cutting the air with his hands as 40 the familiar pattern of the rain dance took shape in his mind and his body responded. He remembered earth and the smell of wet soil and grass and pollen and the wetness of rain running down his face. He recalled the taste of the droplets and the crunchiness of hail between his teeth. Dust whirled around him and seemed to pick up speed as his dancing became more energetic. The song started as a whisper but soon became a buzz and the names of ancestors who had called upon the rain gods came faster and faster to his lips. Bama didn’t think about the words as he said his father’s name and then his before leaping up and finishing the dance with a flourish. He had never done the rain dance with this much passion. Now that he was through, he could feel the eye of everyone in the square upon him. About him, stamped into the ground, were patterns The crowd stood around him, still stunned. Bama knew it when the first raindrop hit his forehead and when the next one smashed unto his eyelids, but he thought it was still a memory. He closed his eyes as the third, fourth and fifth drops hit, and he would have remained that way but for the shouts of glee that erupted around him. He opened his eyes to find people in a state of uproar as raindrops poured from the sky, quickly turning the dust around the dancer’s ankles to mud as their glee intensified. He turned around to see Katma standing still in the pouring rain, staring at him with a knowing smile on her face. He ran to her and engulfed her in an embrace and spinning her around as the rain fell around them. Bama watched the planet receding against a sea of black from the view port the same way he had watched it enlarging when he’d first arrived on Arid with his family, the two suns shining like curious eyes in the distance. It was still mostly porcelain blue and brown and white as it had been then but now there were pockets of a new colour - green. “Do you think they will change the name of the planet? It isn’t arid anymore,” Katma asked, as she came to stand beside him. “No, the name will probably stay,” Bama said. “People grow attached to names, likes ways of life. And since we are asking questions, how do you like being the partner of a star travelling rainmaker?” “I like it, very much. Although, you know, there are some that say you were just lucky, Mr. Rainmaker, that the binary suns had already shifted orbits, and the increased rainfall is a natural climate adjustment to their new positions.” “Maybe. Or maybe, Amadioha shifted the suns to make more rain. 41 Who’s to say? We shall see. For now, we get to travel the quadrant together, making rain.” She laughed. “It’s funny, you know what I wished for when we saw the dust devils eight years ago?” “What did you ask for?” Bama asked, laughing. “I asked to see the stars. What did you ask of your dust devil?” Katma asked. “Rain,” Bama answered, pointing towards the receding planet. “I asked for rain.” 42
    BEHIND OUR IRISES By Tlotlo Tsamaase
    Each iris in the city bears the burning shades of autumn, ranging from light to dark. Every eye in our firm runs surveillance programs behind its pupil. Connected through the authenticated enterprise cloud network to the central servers of the Firm. Able to detect corporate theft, infraction, abuse of work assets and more. Much more. I knew about the eyes but I only noticed the holes in our necks, stabbed into the jugular, into the carotid artery in that unsurveilled split second when my black pupils blinked silver and then back to black as the company automatically upgraded me. In that fraction of a second, when all their restraints loosened, I tried to scream. I’d just started working for this fine establishment and I was on my third month of probation when it began. I was a graphic designer for a market research firm boasting a growing roster of foreign multinationals with tentacles steeped in every industry: manufacturing, agriculture, food industry, construction, health, technology, fashion, publishing, everything. Before that I was unemployed for seven months living off my savings, so I hungrily signed the contract when they called me in after my interview. I was shocked that they could only offer me 3,000 pula, a salary that could barely cover my rent. How was I going to pay for transportation, utilities, groceries? They said they’d only review my salary at the end of the probation. I had to move out and find a squat room in Old Naledi that undergraduate students of a nearby university were using, which luckily was forty minutes’ walk from work, so I could make it without needing to catch 43 a taxi-then-a-combi like I had to for my previous job. The room I lived in was a compact space with only a shower and a twoplate stove in the entrance. Cold water, no heater. I lived cooped up in my house with no daylight and nature to water my stale growth. The windows looked out into walls and pit latrines. Dust swept itself in with flies from long-gone shit. Early morning, I forced myself through the grueling cold to work. Everything was the same, except for last night’s buzz that was still saturating my body. It was my third guy in ten months—there was nothing special or serious about it. Sometimes it felt like my heart was drenched in fire, today it was numb. “Perhaps his spam is inducing an adverse reaction in your body,” she said during our usual morning call as I walked to the office. Her name was Boitumelo, her nickname was Tumie, and we called her Tumza for short—a nickname for a nickname. Tumza and I called every guy’s sperm spam. “Or maybe I’m fed up of the clone of bastards always swarming around me,” I said. “When you’re fed up, you tend to grow a third eye that tends to see the bullshit for what it is. And because bullshit is bullshit and sometimes nothing much can be done about it, you swim backstrokes through it.” Tumza snorted. “You have such creepy humor.” I laughed as I crossed the pedestrian-heavy road towards the Fairground strip mall, its concrete, steel and glass face reflecting the morning sun. “I haven’t seen you in a span.” “Joh! I haven’t had a free weekend,” she said. “I’m working on a residential project, our firm’s also working on a tender, and I have to go to site later for a commercial building we’re project managing. I don’t know, man, I’m going crazy. I haven’t slept in my bed for two days. Like, I don’t know what I’m chasing anymore. And we just got our updates yesterday, so you can imagine how crazy it’s going to be.” “Updates?” “Ja, some new app a company is selling to our big boss.” “Oh. Well, fuck san. That’s not a life I miss. At least you’re getting paid big bucks.” “The nigga don’t pay—everyone in the industry knows that. I’ve been trying to jump ship for centuries, but he has his claws throughout the industry. Any whisper of me fishing around and he’s gonna blacklist me by word-of-mouth. He’s done it to others before.” “What’d I tell you about that third eye?” “Bra, not funny at the moment—shit, gotta go, some clingy client’s on the line. Also don’t worry about work. I’m sure they’ll be happy with your performance so far. Hang in there, choms! Your career will take off. Cheers.” With that I was left alone with a dial tone slicing my goodbye in half. I 44 stared at the goodbye wrapped around my gluey tongue, my tongue always trying to stick itself to things that never lasted: kisses, dickheads, soggy heartbreaks, dead-end jobs. A text message beeped into my phone. “Can’t make it tonight.” Another guy tossing aside the promise he made me. It’s fine. Promises weren’t immortal; they lay like dead animals in my teeth. On my way to work, fatigue seethed through my blood like alcohol. I just thought that if I hung around long enough, worked my ass off, I’d clear probation, revise my contract and get a better salary. I was still sending out my resumes and somehow able to go for interviews, but unable to snag another job. I watched the traffic flow idly and the cars looked like sheep bustling through a tight lane under the glaring heat of the Gaborone sun. Shiny sheep with hooves stomping to the same endless nightmare. My scream was trapped within the boundaries of my skin: I hate my job. I hate my job. I hate my job. I envy those who have cars: warmth and luxury surrounding them. Across from me on Samora Machel Dr waiting for the traffic lights to turn green, was a stern lady with sunglasses on in a white BMW X5, and I was wondering what she was listening to, what it’d be like to be her, living in her skin. Her skin look drabbed on expensively, exquisite and elegant at the same time. It had the K-drama glow to it. A woman in a black Mercedes drove by wearing a weave that could probably pay my rent for months. The melanin glow of her skin reminded me of sunsets. Perhaps I’d look like her if I wore her skin, too. I pressed my nose high and imagined what it would smell like. The perfume on it. I sniffed as I quickly purchased magwinya and chips from one of the street vendors that lined the road with their tables and tattered umbrellas; behind them were shacks upon shacks, clusters of dire poverty, and on the other side of the highway stood a twostory mall, an upscale lodge, a car dealer shop and more affluent businesses. Where will I be when I’m thirty years old? Or thirty-five? Will I even reach fifty? Inadequacy. You compare yourself too much to other people, I thought, trying to stop this habit. All these drivers, all these strangers turned and looked at me with blank eyes. I looked nothing like them which had to mean that I was an alien. The office idled around in Fairground Mall on the second floor. I crossed the bypass, the parking lot, and ascended the stairs. Approaching the glass entrance door, I pressed my thumb against the finger scanner, it stung, and the door slid open. I sucked at my thumb, tasting the salt of blood. I got to my desk feeling mind-boggled. A hand was waiting in the air for my hi-five. Everyone had on the same smile, the same voice, the same excitement. They were so happy being at a miserable job. Why was I different? Why were they happy to be in this life and I was not? Wassup, bro 45 How was your weekend Nothin’ big, just chillin’ with the fam ‘sup ma —words floated into the air like dead emojis. I stared at my thumb, a pinprick of blood slipping out. Did the scanner steal my blood? I looked up. A cluster of desks in an open-plan layout. It looked like we were sitting in transparent toilets, everyone watching everyone’s shitty business. This wasn’t natural. It didn’t feel right. We should be in an open, warm, collaborative space like a true team, working together. But this was best for space and work efficiency, the head office said. Most of the things that ran our lives were manufactured, designed and mandated by others. For our late lunch that day, the manager took us down to the cafeteria to wind down and congratulate us on our hard work. The first time we had closed doors early. We thought we weren’t working. The elevator brought us to the ground-floor restaurant overlooking a garden with fountains, bird song and trees. Within thirty minutes we’d allocated ourselves into cliques on a long dining table, overflowing with chatter and mouthwatering cuisine: several mini-grills that a couple of my coworkers were already laying into. Swaths of nicely marinated boerwores and sticky chicken pieces they wolfed down whilst chugging bottles of cider and beers. One coworker, hazy-eyed and slurring words chewed on a biltong and laughed at a stupid joke the manager lodged. There was a crock filled with chakalaka; bamboo bowls with steamed madombi spattered with an assortment of herbs; bowls and plates of couscous, several cobs of corn, a steaming stew of mogodu— “This is all so appetizing,” my coworker Puleng Maiteko interrupted my hungry, ogling eyes. “But I’d rather get a raise. Paying us with meals is so cheap.” She raised the decanter and filled her wine glass. “Might as well get stupid drunk and full.” It entered my mind like a butterfly. They are using our temporary hunger to lull us into something. But I ignored the thought as I scattered some sticky chicken still glistening in marinade onto a mini-grill and it sizzled as I dished for myself. Puleng tugged at an earring, hanging like a beaded chandelier from her ear, which is a habit of hers when she’s concentrating on something bothering her. “What’s wrong?” I asked, chewing on a spoonful of chakalaka. “My grandmother once cooked this for our family’s usual weekend potluck gathering,” she whispered, breath perfumed by the scent of a Phumla Pinotage. “Okay…Then what’s the problem?” “These exact same meals…from three years ago.” She shook her head, which was elegantly wrapped in a richly colored Ankara design doek. 46 “Never mind, it just hit me like a bad case of déjà vu. It tastes exactly the way she does it. You know no one in our family has been able to replicate the taste of her recipes.” A tear slipped down her face. “My grandmother passed away three years ago. This…just felt like she was alive again.” Puleng drank three bottles of wine before sunset, and the manager Alefaio Isang advised the company driver to take her home. I had also guzzled too many glasses of wine and even though I was not in as bad a state as Puleng, I hurried to the office’s unisex bathroom to relieve my protesting bladder. I stopped when I saw my colleague Keaboka Letang bent over, his head dipped into a sink full of water, hands grappling with the rim. I yanked him up, his Senegalese braids slapped me. What the fuck was going on today? He gasped for air. Stood against the sink and stared at himself in the mirror, with dark trails of mascara running down his face. He was crying. I felt whiplashed like I was at a funeral-cum-party. ‘What’s going on? Are you okay?” I asked, forgetting my need to pee. “It’s the only way I can deactivate them. It only lasts three minutes. I don’t know why. Listen to me.” Keaboka grabbed my shoulders, his eyes wild and frantic. “You can’t see it. The holes. They use the holes. They… They’ve been selling us to their clients.” I giggled and burped thinking he was making a joke. He speed-talked nonsensically all the time staring at his ticking watch, unable to find his cellphone. “They use us. These bastards feel too safe and comfortable with this thing they installed in us.” “What?” I staggered back, tipsy and confused—stunned also because he was generally a quiet person who focused on his assignments, mostly managing the social media pages of our clients, photoshoots, booking influencers and models, etc. “What are you talking about?” I felt terribly sorry for him and offered consoling arms. “Relax eh. Whatever happened we can probably sort it out with— ” “You’re not listening to me.” He grabbed my shoulders, wringing them and I expected myself to crack like an egg and spill all over the bathroom floors. “Get out. Do not renew or upgrade your contract. Don’t sign anything. They have a pipeline where they sell us—we are the products—it’s those fucking updates — the holes—they plug—” The doors slammed open. Security guards thundered in. Keaboka started hiccupping and floundering in their grips. “He’ll be alright. He has a condition and is sometimes unwell. We’re taking him to the office doctor,” they said to me as they gathered Keaboka out. One guard remained, making sure I didn’t follow them. “This must be a shock to you. Why don’t you rejoin the others?” 47 By Monday I had started to forget the trauma of my coworkers when the manager called me into his office to let me know that my probation was over and that they were finally reviewing my contract. I would be upgraded to consultant! With benefits! A better salary! And potential to upgrade further to housing benefits, medical and more! There was one clause. My contract included a stipulation that I would have to be installed with new, non-invasive pill-form technology WeUs— developed by the Nairobi Tech Hub of one of their prominent clients. If I agreed then I could keep my job. If I didn’t, then my current contract would run its course and I’d be out of work by the end of the year, jumping back into the hungry ocean of the unemployed. I had two-months’ worth of pending rent. I had no savings, no belongings, nothing substantial to my name. My landlord had been threatening to throw out my belongings whilst I was at work; the thought of coming home to find my entire home outside the boundary wall had made me desperately change the locks which set her off. This job was my oasis. “It’ll be worth it in the end,” our higher-up said, adjusting his tie. He was an European man with a balding hairline, stocky fingers and a certain kind of confidence that intimidated me. “It’ll make your life so much easier. We’re partnering with a highly-esteemed technology company, InSide, that’s offering our employees absolutely free subscription to their app. It will help you increase your productivity and streamline your life. You will be the best you that you can be. You’re valuable to us and we’d hate to lose you.” He leaned back into his chair, his hazel eyes boring into me. “We’re looking to expand our company into several countries: Zambia, Dubai, South Africa, Nigeria”—he counted them off with his fingers as if they were already conquered—“and we want to use this year to groom you because we see you eventually heading customer relations in Dubai once you cut your teeth in the region. That is of course, if you stay with us.” I swallowed deeply at the thought of living in a what was widely regarded as the world’s most technologically advanced city and of reaching the summit of the corporate ladder. I just had to swallow a pill that would deposit nanobots behind my eyes and connect me to the firm’s network, ferrying data to and fro. Of course, I’d be paid a minimum sum of 100,000 pula which felt like a shitload of money just to swallow a pill. There was another butterfly thought in my mind. I ignored it. I signed the contract and took the pill. When I got home, I felt odd. A surge of anemia and fever overwhelmed me. I steadied myself with the walls of my apartment, wading through the heavy dark until I stumbled into bed, out of breath. I had little energy to do anything, to nourish myself or call an ambulance. I felt wrecked with an exhaustion that I prayed sleep would solve. When the bright morning sun opened my eyes, I was urged by a tightening in my gut that rushed me to 48 the bathroom to vomit my entire self out. I sat propped against the bathtub, wiping sweat from my face. I actually felt better. Brushed my teeth. Had breakfast. Showered and went to work. I had the best workday I’d ever had in my life. Before long, I moved to a new apartment and bought new clothes. I went out more and had even more meaningless encounters with men I didn’t care about, laughing over these dalliances with Tumie who’d gotten a promotion. Then I started having strange tendencies toward staying late at work. Smiling at the manager who flirted with every woman in the office. Then there were the black outs. I’d be locking up after work, heading for a combi—then nothing but a complete deep abyss in my memory. My 6am alarm would blare, I’d wake up in bed feeling sore, like I’d spent the day before in an HIIT cardio workout, unable to recount where I was the night before or how I got home. Shortly after, I used my 100,000 pula as a downpayment for a house in an exclusive gated community for employees of our firm. We worked together. Lived together. Spent weekends together. Carpooled to jols and vacation homes and work trips. After months and months of this routine, I knocked off one night and stood in the dark foyer of my home, crumbled into a pile of skin and bones on the floor and cried, heaving hot breaths, not knowing why I was crying, but a deep chasm of hurt somewhere in my chest thronged and thronged with pain. I reached for my cellphone, but my front door flew open. The security guards of our estate. With flashing lights and heavy boots. “Everything alright? We heard the alarm.” “Alarm? What alarm?” I asked. They gathered me up. “It’s going to be alright. The doctor’s on his way.” Laid me on the living room couch. A man appeared. In his gown. Spectacles and sleep-swept hair. My neighbor. Something glinted in his hand, reflecting the slim shape of moonlight sliding through a crack in the curtains. A syringe. “Shh, it’s okay, sweetie. This will help.” The guards’ hands tied me back as I struggled. A sting. An urge. Slowly I became swallowed into a current of sedation; my eyes slipping me into a prison of dark, glimpsed at the doctor’s hand-held device, its glass display a map of our estate, little dots with all of our names. Some green. Some red. I was red, changing into amber, changing into green as I fell into a forever deep slumber. And then I was gone. And my body became theirs. In the morning I got up. Breakfast. Showered. Dressed. Carpooled with my colleagues in a state of silence to work. Later in the afternoon, I was upgraded. That’s when I saw it. I was standing in the conference room, presenting concepts to a client when I realized all of my co-workers had holes in their necks. Only half a decibel of my scream escaped as a gasp. I composed myself and seamlessly 49 continued with my presentation on Zulu motifs and geometric shapes to use as patterned stories on their textile range. The client was a burly old man, with several subsidiaries on the continent, aiming for trendy and inclusivity. He was pleased with our proposal to make his product more accessible to their target demographic: hip, female, mid-20s to early 30s. My next meeting came at lunch. A foreign furniture designer with staff and whose company had 17 operations in African countries, but whose profits for his furniture sect were experiencing a stiff dive due to a burgeoning rival: a local competitor. He wanted to add a look of diversity to his furniture range and asked which tribe I was from. Bangwato. He mused, thought perhaps it’d be interesting to color the themes of his work with this mentioned ethnic background. I tried to protest but the sounds did not come out of me, choked back, like my scream. After the meeting, I resigned to my desk, chewed on a chicken sandwich and swallowed a protein shake, clicking, tapping, drawing out designs on my screen. In that split-second update, I had seen it all. The holes in our necks, barely hidden behind chiffon and silk and wool. They have done something to us. It’s funny when something irrefutably terrible happens and people say, “How can such a thing happen? This is absurd. It’s against the law.” But evil flows where it flows. Through gaps and loop holes and human beings. Indifferent to laws legislations policies. Nothing halts it, except, sometimes, a sacrifice. That afternoon, a man in blue coveralls that looked like a cross between a doctor and mechanic casually walked up to me in the kitchen, carrying a sharp tool. I tried desperately to move but some invisible force kept me rigid. He pierced the hole in my neck with it and fondled my veins. “Just doing some maintenance work on your ports,” he said, whistling. His fingers were grimy with greed. Oil or something bitter-tasting slicked down my throat. I struggled and finally got an arm to move. “Stop resisting. Part of the contract you signed.” The man hooked his steel-boot onto my shoulder as he twisted the sharp object into my neck. All I could do was remain still, as pain rattled in my body like branches in a wild windstorm. Inside the shackles of my skin, behind the bars of my bones I was screaming, “No!” “Somebody help me!” “Get the fuck off me!” “I’ll fucking kill you!” “I’m going to burn this building down!” No sound escaped my lips. The man jumped off my shoulders when he was done. “Alright, you can get back to work.” 50 I stroked my neck and felt a deep dent digging into my carotid vein. And then, against my own mind, I turned and went back to my desk. We sat in rows, aligned, ramrod backs, our chins high. Each one of us a well-oiled cog of the workplace machine. There was of course always the odd concerned citizen, who occasionally noticed something off about us. The weird gropes. The frozen smiles. The doe-eyed expressions. The unprovoked tears. The silent hallways, offices, lunchroom. Our persistent abnegation posing as customer service. Then the reporters would come. Then the police would come. We’d smile mildly and reveal nothing wrong in this fine establishment. No matter how much they investigated every nook and cranny of buildings and emails, they couldn’t find the secrets stacked in our bodies. What they found were good benefits, fully paid housing, medical aid, travel allowance, good hospitality, educational grooming, and very loyal unmarried employees who occasionally loved to sleep with their bosses and whose minds and histories were contained in a database monitored by the data analysts and employee management consultants of our established firm. The company grew quickly to manage operations in 29 African countries and was touted for its high diversity hiring and marketing strategies. The company suckled our diversity from our DNA and nervous systems, spooled and aggregated it into its network to create 100% authentic indigenous products, used for concepts in fashion shows, architectural designs to win local tenders. They didn’t need to get close to us to have us open our mouths, they were already inside our bodies listening to every thought pattern and whispers from even our grandparents in the genes of our bodies. The firm was touted for being revolutionary. They mined our stories to flavor just the right amount of diversity in their clients products which accounted for their sky-high profits. They mined the minerals, diamonds and jewels of our very thoughts and histories and cultures that had been buried in our brains; the emblems, cultural motifs were woven with the dialect of our pain into their indigenous furniture designs, patterned textiles. It was all the market research they and their clients would ever need. In our heels and short dresses and men the bosses fancied, we’d shuttle from our desks to the manager’s offices, to hotel rooms and secret getaways. The directors, the managers, the clients had nothing to fear. Their technology sat in us, maimed our voices before it could ever bite them; intercepted the tšatšarag neuromuscular signals shuttling from our brains to our vocal cords. It lynched those muscles in your throat just when you wanted to scream and cry and bleed truth. I had authorized this technology, agreed to the terms and conditions. Now: I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, except under the dominant 51 hand of their technology. They were our voices and we were their voice. Their face. Their ambassadors. We were locked behind our irises, and I found my skin feeling like artificial material, my legs stacked onto a platform, frozen wide eyes staring out into a stream of satisfied customers. They’d learned how to imprison my thoughts in my body, but I am starting to feel free inside this mind of mine even though it doesn’t fully belong to me. Maybe just maybe, when the next update comes and I get a glimpse of freedom again, I will do something with it. 52
    FORT KWAME By Derek Lubangakene
    Two hours passed before Jabari Asalur acknowledged his dread. His chest felt hollow and a damp stillness was lodged in his gut. If he had any breakfast left in him, he would’ve fallen to his knees, stuck a cold finger down his throat and let the exploding bile jar his senses. Anything was better than the endless waiting. Two hours, something was definitely wrong. Naleni hadn’t made it. Their rebellion had failed. She was probably dead. He regretted letting her go back instead of himself. Asalur, you stupid, clumsy coward, he chastised himself. If he hadn’t been such an Asalur and messed up the charges, she wouldn’t have had to risk herself cleaning up after him. Naleni and he would’ve already joined the others and been miles away from danger. Instead he lingered here on this blue-tinged cryocrater, their rendezvous point. There was no point in waiting for her, he knew this, but he couldn’t leave. He owed her that much. To distract himself, he laid down the four control units flat against the ice. One had gone off okay but the other three still glowed red. He suspected their fuses had come loose. He didn’t account for that earlier. Naleni should’ve fixed the fuses by now. But no, the control units still glowed red, not green. Even if they finally turned green, he wouldn’t detonate them until she was with him. She was his only green light. “Come on, Naleni. Come on,” he whispered. He glanced once more at the bio-monitor on his wrist. It blinked a steady amber light. The declining power blurred his vision, turning his mask’s optic visualiser cloudy like into a Harmattan haze. He had maybe forty, fifty minutes of breathable air left. It was already too late, but he 53 couldn’t leave. Not without Naleni. He didn’t want to believe all he had done - all they had done - was in vain. No way. He crouched beside his Kunguru and waited. An hour later, he checked the control units, two of the three had turned green. All three would be great, but two was enough. If only there was a way to communicate to her. He would’ve told her to get out of there. Perhaps she already had. He had no way of knowing but he wouldn’t detonate the charges until she had returned to him. He ignored the sense of urgency. Even when his bio-monitor light turned red and the temperature dropped a dozen degrees, Jabari double-checked his thermskin’s isothermal functions. They were at eighty percent. The wireless receptors between the Kunguru’s backup isothermal reservoir and his thermskin suit still worked. Hypothermia proved a distant threat. Around him, the cryocrater remained silent, save for the frozen ice-shelf cracking underneath the porous bedrock. That and the rumble of distant thunder medleying with the howling winds. As the landscape steadily sluiced into dusk, Jabari’s panic rose. In spite of his thermskin’s capabilities, no amount of training would save him once dusk fell. No amount. He glanced afresh at his surroundings hoping to see Naleni stumbling down the glacial outcroppings. Hard luck. Only the winds replied his anguish. Theirs was a dialect of misgiving. A language he now knew too well. The Kunguru’s comms, connected to his mask, implored him to climb aboard and recharge his thermskin. Jabari ignored the warning. He knew the moment he hopped inside, the Kunguru’s A.I. interface would supervene his manual override and fly him someplace dry and safe. Not that such a place existed. Not for miles in any direction. Fort Kwame was one of a few embers in a growing darkness. The last frontier against the creeping chill. “Come on Naleni,” this time his whisper was a prayer. He knelt, figuring this would conserve power. Perhaps a few fractions of a percent. Perhaps a little more. His movements were the least pilferers of his standby power. He figured the beating of his quailing heart probably consumed enough to excavate a sinkhole by himself. Probably more. He shut his eyes to even his breathing. A vain endeavour. I could just go back for her, couldn’t I? Nah, Jabari dismissed the idea. It was impossible. From the cryocrater, eighty klicks away, he recognised the slick, oil-spill hue of the intrinsic shield glass-doming Fort Kwame’s orbit. Everything had gone according to plan. Well, except, for his clumsy mess that had sent Naleni scurrying back. Despite the intrinsic shield going off, Jabari believed Naleni made it out 54 somehow. She had to. The gravity of what he had done, helping the water dwelling Jo’Nam destroy Fort Kwame, didn’t undo him. Not yet anyway. By sunfall every Civic Centre in every Orbital City from Old Cape Town to New Cairo would hear of Fort Kwame’s fate. They’d hear of the meltdown of the nuclear reactors, the cracking gas hydrates, and the sinking tonnes of metal and bedrock. They’d hear it all. Jabari and Naleni would join the rest of Jo’Nam exodus and resettle in the colonies west of Fort Kwame. They’d be closer to their real home. The ancestors weren’t pleased and none of this thawing would cease unless the Jo’Nam returned home – well, what was left of home. He checked his bio-monitor, then lowered his breathing, and waited. . . The last perfect day Jabari remembered was the day he crashed his Kunguru in the thermokarst lake below the pylons which held Fort Kwame aloft. It was also the last time he saw the clockwork methane-flares storm across the intrinsic shield. The methane-flares burned blue- and fiery, turning the intrinsic shield into an opalescent canopy wherever they hit. He loved the way the shield absorbed the flares, then radiated their fire outwards. It always made him feel tiny perforations press against his thermskin’s polyethylene fibre. They used to call these goosebumps. Back when the language allowed for the acknowledgement of involuntary body functions. Now every inhabitant, from sentry cadets to frontier explorers and the glaciologists and anthropologists, everyone was taught to master their bodily functions. It was the only way they could survive. Back then, Fort Kwame lay in the trajectory-spray of one of those volcanic hydromethane archipelagos. Now, who knows? Geological faulting constantly shifted their bearing. For now, as of this morning that is, Fort Kwame was anchored to the subglacial mountain ranges entombed beneath Antarctica’s solid ice-sheet. Many other Orbital Cities were likewise anchored to whatever floating land mass not yet completely inundated. What remained of humanity was incredibly lucky to have survived rapid polar amplifications and permafrost thawing which raised water levels to diluvian heights. Subsequent nuclear fallouts in the twenty-second and twenty-fourth centuries disrupted subduction patterns and the evolution of tectonic plates. Chunks of continental bedrock now floated freely on hot asthenosphere, crashing into each other like a bad game of bumper cars. It’s why no one else marvelled at the methane-flares. Jabari wasn’t everyone else though. He was an Asalur. His ancestors descended from cattle-rustlers; back when East-Africa still had a Rift Valley; he knew a thing or two about living dangerously. Not that that had anything to do with methane flares. He loved reminding himself and others that he was an Asalur. The Asalur were the first Frontier Explorers. They traversed the 55 unstable globe searching out new land masses to anchor Fort Kwame. Jabari’s baba had led the last exploration trip. It was yet to yield reports. He was lost, presumed dead. Jabari wasn’t surprised. The vision of Frontier Explorers like his baba once ensured they had a tomorrow, even at the cost of their own lives. The ice sheet wouldn’t hold them forever. Jabari was poised to step into his baba’s shoes but by his own actions today, he had spurned his Asalur legacy and damned them all. They would say it was cruel fate. The baba builds, the son squanders. Jabari, like a thousand other cadets, had patrolled one of five Fort Kwame sectors, and often assisted the glaciologists in their expeditions beyond the darkening ice-sheet. Sometimes, they’d escort ethnolinguists attempting to recreate ‘ethnic blueprints’ based on the passed-down oral ciphers of the Jo’Nam. Ciphers about dwarf pyramids in ancient Nubia, two-faced, two-sexed gods, myriad orishas, and water dragons named Nyami Nyami, Ninki Nanka, the Mazomba, and Grootslang. It was mildly amusing, but delusional in the face of near-certain extinction. Jabari’s regiment patrolled Sector Five. Sector five was nothing but a lingering abyss. It was the dark netherworld beneath the Orbital City’s flatform. A site often attacked by Jo’Nam terrorists. Though Jabari was being fast-tracked to become a Frontier Explorer like his baba, he had to prove himself in Sector Five. On the day he crashed his Kunguru, he had lost a wager to his roommate Bakida Okol and had to pull a double shift. Though exhausted, Jabari’s pride wouldn’t allow him put the Kunguru on autopilot. The crash surprised no one, least of all himself. He would later learn that Bakida led the search party. Like his baba, Jabari too was presumed dead. His return, having spent six months in the company of the Jo’Nam, surprised everyone. They seemed to have all moved on. Bakida even gave away Jabari’s family heirlooms. The bastard was six inches taller than Jabari. His combat and analysis scores were the highest in their sentry graduating class. Bakida never ever regarded Jabari with the respect his family name deserved. For this, they often duelled. Much to Jabari’s disfavour. Now Jabari had the ultimate ‘legup’ on the bastard. Fort Kwame was made of colonies stacked on lead pylons twenty thousand feet above permafrost. A hodgepodge of largely desert or riverbasin cultures -Nilotic, Bantoid, Amhara, Mande, Nuer, even some Nubian -now banked on immense concave flatforms. Polymerised solar panels and pressurised water nuclear reactors powered Fort Kwame’s ever-expanding colonies. The colonies widened in inverse proportion to their population. This, another thorn piercing at the heart of the Jo’Nam, fuelling their dissent. Jabari now agreed with the aspersion that these colonies intended 56 to grow so large their flatforms would lock together in circular mosaics and form a new lithosphere. Ultimately forge a roof over Jo’Nam world. The Jo’Nam, just because they lived almost entirely in the taliks and meltwater, weren’t mermaids, or men with gills. Evolution, after all, takes millions of years. Their hands and feet were webbed though. Some clans at least. When the ice sheets first started melting and submerging continents, the coastal towns migrated inland. The then Allied African Union – well, what remained of it – decided that the Orbital Cities were the only way to survive. Much like Noah’s Ark. Only, they wouldn’t take two of each. The migrants who proved useful, those coastal tribes whose parents and ancestors had taught them to make dhows and ships, spear fish underwater on a single breath and work heavy, wet machinery were retained. They became the Jo’Nam. The Cities were small to start with. Those fortunate enough to afford placement up in the City survived. The rest fended for themselves or joined the Jo’Nam working the City’s pylon-anchor mechanisms like symbiotic organisms, in the hope of seeing their children ascend to the Orbital City. Radiation, drownings, accidents were common and the advisors in the Orbital cities estimated that the Jo’Nam would slowly become sterile and die out. But they thrived instead. And Jabari wouldn’t have known better if he hadn’t crashed his Kunguru a year ago. He never regretted it though, even now, even lying on the ice, anchored by the weight of his betrayal. For if he hadn’t crashed, he wouldn’t have met Naleni. Naleni, his lithe, dark-skinned goddess. Hair braided and eclipse-black. Eyes bright like a methane flare, her lips full and thick. She looked ageless, despite the ritual scarring on her cheeks. Her skinsuit was an emerald colour that changed shade with each flicker of the waves when they went exploring sinkholes. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. It’s always an accumulation of little things that undoes a man. Not Naleni. She undid Jabari all at once. The day his Kunguru crashed, Naleni said there were unexpected oscillations. Like the Haboob winds of ancient Sahara, except these oscillations travelled vertically and burnt a cold, fierce fire. Naleni claimed these oscillations were water-djinns mating; an adapted myth from the people of the Libyan Desert who considered siroccos to be desert-djinns mating. Naleni described how Jabari’s Kunguru rattled with each swelling jetstream and eventually struck the pylon before crashing into the lake and killing four Jo’Nam. She never ever took credit for pulling Jabari out of the sinking wreckage, but for stopping her kin from gutting him. They spent many days together trying to repair the comms unit of his Kunguru. She was competent with 57 her hands. Her baba worked on the pylons and always went with her whenever they could manage it. The six months he spent as her captive passed like a blur. He never would’ve believed he lived through it, if not for the memories on his skin. They say the best affairs leave scars. He bore the marks of her tiny teeth on his neck. That’s from the day he told her the elders who dwelt in the hollow Conch of Enlightenment, had chosen him to betray his own people. She wouldn’t let him do it unless she came along. The Jo’Nam couldn’t defeat Fort Kwame from without so they chose to strike from within. Jabari didn’t mind the taint of treachery. Not for her. Now here they were, he, dejected, failed and she, missing, probably dead. A kick, blunt as entropy’s glacial teeth, woke Jabari. Wincing, he roused to see a wavery figure solidify in front of him. His vision struggled to adjust to the glare of a hovering Kunguru right above his resting ground. He trained his vision at the figure and recognised him by his musky scent. It was Bakida. “Bastard,” Jabari cursed. Bakida drew near and towered over Jabari “I always knew you were spineless,” he said, “But not this spineless.” He threw something which cluttered against Jabari’s mask. Jabari picked it up and held it to the light. It was one of the fuses for the time-delay control unit. The fuses Naleni had volunteered to replace. The bastard had her. Jabari tried to scramble for the control units but Bakida kicked him again. This time hard enough to snap a rib. The pain blurred Jabari’s already strained vision. His power was too low. Otherwise his thermskin should’ve absorbed the impact of Bakida’s boot. Jabari regretted not having worn the tensile armour-suit. This camouflage suit was good against the cold, but not much for impact resistance. “Get up, traitor,” Bakida loomed over the floored Jabari. Jabari glanced at his bio-monitor. Its broken face told him, with or without Naleni, he should’ve left this wet rock hours ago. He should’ve rejoined the Jo’Nam exodus and continued East to the nearest colony. He glanced at the control units and saw that Bakida had stomped on them already. They were broken. Thaw now blunted the ridges around the cryocrater. Its solid footing now soggy. Gas hydrates from afar, burnt readily. Their pale, luminous flame spotlighting the backdrop. The ice no longer cracked but vibrated. The cryocrater was warming rapidly. Jabari’s Kunguru steadily sunk into the ice-shelf. No wonder Bakida kept his hovering. Bakida’s presence in their sacred place - his and Naleni’s - undid Jabari. Jabari wondered how Bakida could’ve tracked him here. He searched around and saw Naleni tethered to Bakida’s Kunguru. 58 “Naleni?” he cried. “I have her,” Bakida dropped a pair of cuffs beside Jabari. “Come quietly or I’ll serve you swift justice right here,” Jabari stared at Naleni a long while. “I wouldn’t be too hasty,” he turned to Bakida and held up the two fuses Bakida flung at him. “You broke four control units; but only three charges are accounted for.” Bakida tapped his mask and his visuals cleared. He snarled and came to grab Jabari, but Jabari lunged for his foot. A poor plan. However hard he strained he managed only to make Bakida flail for balance. Bakida settled, stooped down and cracked Jabari’s bloody breathing mask with one blow. Whooooshhh, Jabari’s mask hissed. The rushing methane displaced what little oxygen Jabari had left. Jabari clawed at the mask clumsily until he unclasped it from his face. From his disadvantaged point of view, Bakida looked massive. No matter, titans can be toppled, Jabari thought. His body relaxed. He braced himself on his elbows. Rose but his feet slipped a moment, his thermskin running on so little power as to fulfil the basics. No matter, Jabari took a deep breath. Methane wasn’t all that noxious. Besides Naleni’s people had taught him to adapt to its lightness. Anyone else would feel quite heady. Jabari squared his shoulder, appeared larger. Bakida offered a diabolical grin. Jabari rammed into Bakida’s gut and wrestled to unsteady him, but the bastard stood firm. His boots wouldn’t slip, but their reinforced traction forced the ice to crack. Both Jabari and Bakida sunk into the freezing water underneath. In the water, Jabari was no longer prey. Bakida’s thermskin had power enough, but Jabari now knew how to hunt like the Jo’Nam. With his thermskin’s camouflage properties, he moved like he had a hydrostatic skeleton. So much for calling me spineless, Jabari gloated. He twirled and torpedoed at Bakida’s core with stealth and precision like ancient jengu. Bakida’s tensile armour-suit allowed for little flexibility. Bakida gasped and floundered like an eel in quicksand. He grappled to hold onto Jabari, but Jabari evaded him. Bakida sank deeper. Jabari didn’t linger to enjoy the satisfaction of watching Bakida sink. He knew Bakida’s suit would adapt quick enough. He swam for the surface. The ice they’d only a moment ago stood on seemed to melt rapidly. Jabari kicked furiously, pumped on adrenaline. Naleni was in danger. “Naleni?” he shouted as he swum towards solid ice. “Jabari,” Jabari swam towards the direction of her voice. His lungs burned, but he kicked harder and harder. He could see her. 59 She looked smaller. Fragile. Broken, somehow. Jabari pulled himself to out of the water, but he was on the wrong end of the solid ice. He had to swim around or dash to her. The latter a risky idea considering the loose traction of his boots. Bakida crawled out of the water using a grappling hook. He stumbled towards Naleni and grabbed her by the neck. He palmed her mouth so she wouldn’t speak. The Jo’Nam never wore any breathing masks. Not down here at least. Naleni bit Bakida and he pulled his hand away. “Help me,” Naleni shouted. Bakida restrained her in a half-nelson. She tried, but couldn’t squirm away from his hold. “Lover boy,” Bakida said. “Your plan is foiled. Give up now and there’ll be less pain to trade.” Bakida’s tensile-armour suit had a vice-like grip. Naleni would never break free. “Jabari, don’t let her pay for your treachery.” Bakida’s voice carried a crisp note against the howling wind. “I’m here. Let her go,” Jabari walked towards the pair. His isothermals were slowly failing. He felt the cold creep in but forced himself to ignore it. The shadow beneath the Flatform didn’t lift. Mist covered the pylon like a grey caftan over some mythical titan’s stump of a leg. It was solid, and dull against the faded light. Jabari’s Kunguru, in autopilot, flew Naleni in front of Bakida’s craft. The bastard had set coordinates for the large hangars in Sector One. ETA, thirty minutes. A portion of the intrinsic shield split open to allow their Kunguru to pass. Behind it closed all hope of escape. Their climb proved slow and ponderous, despite Bakida dribbling his fingers against the control panel. Jabari didn’t bother questioning this impatience. Neither did he regret getting himself here. Thoughts of justice and retribution didn’t bother him, but hopelessness clouded his heart. He now doubted the righteousness of his actions. In any case, Bakida would never understand Jabari’s motives, Jabari wasn’t sure he understood them himself anymore, but what was done was done. It wasn’t enough though. It wouldn’t set things right. His rebellion would never even the scales of Fort Kwame’s injustices. Everyone Naleni knew had lost family members to radiation leaking from the pylons. This was the unfortunate legacy of the scramble to survive in a broken world. Its victims had bloated, rotting skin, and bled from their orifices. Jabari had looked upon this misery feeling like a voyeur of private grief. Their dim and dwindling lives touched him. This was death’s ultimate kingdom. When the Elders approached him, despite his pride and everything he’d been told, he agreed to betray his name. 60 “Three minutes to docking,” Bakida said. He kept his eyes steady on the ring of glowing gas-flares guiding their descent onto the flatform. Bakida steadied the Kunguru and released the landing gear. Jabari’s Kunguru hovered low as Naleni climbed out. The hangar was a flurry of activity. Cadets scampered here and there in response to the charge which went off earlier. None of them seemed to notice the two Kunguru. Naleni’s eyes darted around, seemingly afraid and exposed. Jabari struggled against his restraints. He worried about her. The strangeness of the air, and the regiments assuming battle formations was an otherworldly sight. Their laser canons glistened in the weakening light. It felt like the end of the world, and Jabari and Naleni seemed the only ones caught by surprise. Had they been triple-crossed? This wasn’t how things should’ve gone. “I’m not surprised, honestly,” Bakida said. “Like your fallen baba, you’re the only one naive enough to think you could save the Jo’Nam.” Their airlock opened up. “Just kill me already. Don’t bore me to death with your vindication.” Bakida stepped out, circled backwards and undid the cuffs on Jabari’s limbs. They walked towards Naleni whose hands were bound behind her back. A hundred paces away, the five Sector Commanders marched towards the three. “Release her. Please,” Jabari pleaded Naleni’s fate. Her skinsuit had turned translucent as though externalising her fright. To her, the ionised air must’ve felt like complete sensory deprivation. “It’s not too late to reverse what you’ve done,” Bakida said. “It’s too late to reverse anything,” Jabari said. “If that were the case, I wouldn’t have bothered bringing you back,” Bakida said. “You both.” He nudged his chin in Naleni’s direction. “You touch her and I’ll —” “I won’t, but they might,” Bakida pointed to the Sector Commanders marching their way; a squadron of hard-jawed sentries following behind. “You’ve a chance to save not only her. But all of them, and us too.” He paused for effect. Jabari said nothing. His attention drawn towards Naleni. “Asalur, where’s the remaining charge? I caught her with two fuses, but here we have four control units. Where is it?” Bakida had carried the control units from the cryocrater. “Let her go.” Jabari answered. He was resolved to his fate. “There are teams scouring the reactors right now, but you could speed it up by telling us where. If you don’t. We all die. Right now, a legion of her people is marching to bludgeon the pylons,” “Good, that way they’ll finish what I couldn’t,” Jabari snarled. He knew better than to fall for Bakida’s manipulations. As far as he knew, the 61 Jo’Nam exodus was miles away from the blast radius. He and Naleni should’ve been there with them also. “If we fall, they fall too, don’t you realise this?” Bakida said. Jabari sneered. “They’ll rebuild from our ashes. They’ll rebuild a better, fairer society than this one. The Orbital City network will be better for it.” “You fool! Haven’t you ever wondered why your baba never returned? We lost communications with all the other cities years ago. There’s no refuge anywhere else. This is the last Orbital city. Destroying Fort Kwame condemns us all.” He ambled closer to Jabari. His tone almost plaintive. “You’ve been misled. Help me before it’s too late.” “I was in awe of you earlier,” Jabari said. “But now I see you didn’t bring me here to face the poetic justice of dying with Fort Kwame. . . I’ll indulge your sadism, just let her go.” “She’s not worth destroying Fort Kwame for.” Jabari smiled in self-derision. He couldn’t save himself, but he would see her safe at least. Besides, there was a chance the last charge could still go off. Bakida had secured only two of the three charges. Naleni was clever enough to foil their plans. He’d see the deed done; he just had to find out if she at least fixed its fuse? “You’d destroy Fort Kwame seven times over if you’d seen the things I’ve seen. This is justice, long-overdue justice.” “It’s foolishness, that’s what –” The Sector Commanders arrived right on cue. They formed an arc around Bakida, Jabari and Naleni. The Kungurus hovered in the background. “Haai,” the burly Afrikaner from Sector One regarded Bakida. “Okol, sit-rep.” His direct, unnerving gaze pierced through Bakida’s stoicism like a laser. Bakida stood at attention, but before he could speak, Jabari cut in. “I’m the one you want. If you let her go, I’ll tell you everything.” “Jammer, we know everything,” the Afrikaner said. “Verder, don’t shake the chicken. You’re in no way entitled to assume leverage. If not for your mate’s graces you’d be dead as the cryocrater you sought shelter in.” He turned to Bakida, “Hand the meisie over.” Bakida did as commanded. The Afrikaner outranked all the other SCs. The Afrikaner knelt Naleni by his feet and drew his weapon to her brow. “I won’t count to drie. Go on, let the baboon out of your sleeve.” The SC’s actions froze Jabari. Naleni didn’t put up much of a fight. Bakida had disabled her mask’s comms. She was mute to everything. “Jabari, tell him,” Bakida said. “Let her go,” Jabari stood up to the SC. “There’s more than one charge left and if you want what I have you’ll let her go.” 62 The SC turned to Bakida, “How many charges did you recover?” “All but one,” Bakida answered. “But you’ll never find it,” Jabari said. “And yes, the Jo’Nam have secondary control units. They must’ve already realised something isn’t right and will blow them any time now. Let her go and I’ll help you.” The SC chewed on this a moment. He didn’t like the taste, but signalled Jabari to approach. Jabari obliged him. He braced Naleni to her feet and activated her mask’s comms. “I’m sorry,” Jabari addressed Naleni. “I shouldn’t have left you alone. I won’t leave you now.” She clung to him. “I will get you away.” Jabari spoke low, and in the little Jo’Nam he could speak. “Please tell me you fixed the last charge.” She shook her head. “I couldn’t find it. I looked and looked. The tall one cornered me before I... I dropped the fuse.” She clutched his shoulder tight. “Jabari, we—” “It’s alright. They don’t know this. “ “They know,” she no longer spoke the Jo’Nam tongue. “They don’t.” Jabari insisted. “Tell them where the charge is,” she said. Jabari pulled back, stunned. “They lied to us. You have to help your people.” “You’re my people!” “Help them or we all die.” Jabari, baffled, held her at arm’s length. “What have they done to you?” “Nothing. They speak truth. There is no other city to run to. We were wrong. The Elders don’t know this. They are making a mistake. They will destroy the only hope we have left.” “You’ve seen the charts. Naleni, there are over a dozen orbital cities. We will re-join the others as planned.” “Those are old charts,” Naleni said. “Your friend showed me Fort Kwame’s recent charts. The eastern colonies have sunk and our passage to the old continent is gone. This is the last Orbital City. My people want justice but will damn us all with ignorance instead.” Jabari looked to Bakida for confirmation. He got it. Bakida was many things, a deceiver not one of them. “If this truly is the only City of Tomorrow, we are already doomed.” His shoulders deflated. “Asalurs; stubborn as ever. No problem,” the SC said. “I won’t appeal to your sense of duty, but I’ll call on your honour. On the name you used to take so much pride in.” “Your trust in my honour is grossly misplaced,” Jabari retorted. 63 “Yah, that might be so. But your heart is what I can finally count on.” With that, he shot Naleni in the foot. Well, grazed her skin in fact. But the way she screamed in pain and the way Jabari fell by her side, spoke otherwise. None of the other commanders encircling them reacted. Jabari’s eyes filled with rage as he rose, fists balled. But the SC pointed the weapon to his temple. Bakida who had rallied to pull Jabari away, backed off on his own accord. Naleni lay wincing on the ground. “Hah,” the commander exclaimed. “My aim is worse than I thought. Will you allow me try again?” Jabari, though still seething, raised his hands in surrender. “Tell me where the charge is?” Jabari snarled but he had no leverage. His ruse had failed. And once again he put Naleni in harm’s way. Glancing at her, he sighed. “The cooling tower. Reactor six.” Jabari said, exhaling the words reluctantly. Jabari crawled to Naleni’s side. The commander barked an order to one of his underlings. The collective air of tension dropped. “Uh-uh, up, up,” the commander urged Jabari up. “Your dues aren’t fully paid up. Hop in your Kunguru and tell the Jo’Nam all you’ve learnt in the few minutes prior. They damn themselves in damning us. We believe many things about the water-folk, but we do not believe them to be suicidal maniacs.” Jabari wouldn’t leave Naleni. The Afrikaner motioned to Bakida, “Tend the meisie’s wound.” Bakida knelt beside Jabari. “Go. I’ll look after Naleni.” “You’ll pay for this,” Jabari said. “I don’t doubt that, but you won’t get your vengeance if the Jo’Nam destroy Fort Kwame.” “The Jo’Nam rally a few klicks from where Okol apprehended you,” the Afrikaner said. “There’s no exodus. We know they intend to attack at the very spot you crashed your Kunguru. If they attack there will be great loss on either side. Them more than us.” “I won’t do your bidding.” Jabari said. “A shame. All this will have been for nothing.” He came and raised Jabari to his feet. “It’s not just my bidding you do. But hers and theirs most of all. They still believe in the City of Tomorrow,” the Afrikaner pointed to Naleni. “You may be a cold bastard, Asalur, but not cold enough to bathe in the blood we will shed if you don’t act.” Jabari said nothing. The Commander tilted his head. “Hmm. Yes, I’d be scared too. They 64 might kill you, thinking you a double-crosser –” “I’m not scared.” “Of course. You’ve survived their capture once before. Do what you did then.” Jabari stared at Naleni but couldn’t bring himself to ask her to risk her life again. The Commander noticed his look and smiled. “Okol, help the meisie to his Kunguru.” Bakida hesitated a moment but obliged. He had finished dressing Naleni’s wound. Jabari asked for the charts Bakida had showed Naleni. Bakida fished a copy from the nearby Hangar offices and returned to watch Jabari assist Naleni up into his own Kunguru. No words were shared between Bakida and Jabari, nor between Jabari and Naleni. Jabari fired up the Kunguru and hovered away as the SCs and the rest of the squadrons readied themselves for the Jo’Nam; should he fail. Bakida lingered, his expression wary and full of suspicion. Jabari met his gaze and felt reassured somewhat. There Bakida was, yet again, sending Jabari off on a mission they both knew Jabari couldn’t pull off. But unlike the Kunguru crash a year ago. Jabari had a lot more invested in the outcome. Not that that tilted the balance in his favour, but it was a starting point. He was an Asalur, a starting point was more than he deserved. He squeezed Naleni’s hand and keyed in the coordinates for the cryocrater. 65
    FRUIT OF THE CALABASH By Rafeeat Aliyu
    Morning met Maseso awake. There were nights when she couldn’t sleep, after spending hours in her lab fertilising ova, and nurturing her stars carefully… carefully. This was what she did for a living that had paved her way from the drab corridors and rooms of the National Hospital in the business district to the cushy section in upscale Maitama where she now ran her own private practice, nestled between grand embassy buildings and 5- star hotels. Maseso usually enjoyed her job but recently, anxiety prevented her from sleeping. She was a woman who stubbornly maintained her routines, and so she laid on her bed fully awake. From time to time, she would sit up and shift the curtains aside to stare at the neighbouring duplex that housed her lab. When she wasn’t doing that, she checked the lab camera feeds on her tablet, slowly counting the hours until 5:45am when she would be back in the room where she kept her stars. At the hospital it was mandatory to refer to the unborn beings growing in the globular outer shells as ‘babies’. Most other labs simply used ‘foetus’ but at Maseso’s the preferred term was ‘star’. Her hands trembled as she keyed in the code to unlock the front door and disabled the security system. As she entered trepidation filled her, an intuitive warning that something was wrong. Stepping into the calabash room, Maseso instantly knew her fears were realized. It had already happened. She knew it, but she took her time, hoping she was wrong. Stretched out in front of her were two rows of twenty calabashes — artificial wombs labelled as such due to their gourd-like shape — sixteen of them containing one star each. Maseso approached the first one, Koso, taking note of its vitals, growth progress and the nutrient levels of the amniotic solution. There was a running joke at the National Hospital where they would add to check for extra arms or a tail growing where it wasn’t 66 supposed to. Smiling wryly at the memory, Maseso progressed as she normally would. Up next was Po Tolo , she looked at its vitals and checked nutrition levels, everything was fine. Inhaling deeply Maseso continued her routine, moving from one gourdlike womb to another, and as she went further down the room, her breaths grew shorter. She just knew. Even before she got to the back of the room where Xamidimura should be and she saw it almost fully formed lying on the tiled floor. It was still and breathless, skin grey, lips purple, open eyes a strange, consuming black. The sound of Maseso’s heart pounding loudly in her chest joined the hum of the machines and the bubbling of solutions. Her hands lifted to cover her mouth as she retreated backward and quietly closed the door behind her. Falling to her knees in the hallway, she struggled to breathe. She was frightened not just by what she had seen but by its implications. The service that Maseso offered was a convenience for those who could afford it. Decades after increased infertility across the globe due to endocrine-disruptors, the solution came in the form of full ectogenesis, often with artificial gametes from stem cells. Nigeria took a different approach buying as much ova as possible from the dwindling numbers of fertile women. The culture demanded procreation enough to welcome ectogenesis but still held on to ideas of what was “natural” and accepted. The National Hospital was initially the only place couples with the means could turn to for a child but there was a waiting list that stretched through years. They quickly grew overwhelmed and soon private outfits started popping up. Maseso spent fifteen years saving, moving certain names up the waiting lists and collecting tokens of appreciation in her private bank account before quitting to set up her own lab. Heavenly Babies and Mothers was registered and licensed to store gametes, grow endometrium cells, implant embryos in lab tissue and a host of other reproductive industry services. It was with a sense of pride that Maseso created every new life but Xamidimura, the one that now lay on her lab floor with cold and unstaring eyes, had given her problems from the get-go. This was supposed to be the child of a wealthy family, the kind with billions in several currencies tucked in offshore accounts. Maseso was doubly frustrated that this particular star had failed for a second time, carrying implications for the future of her business. The last time Senator Idris and Hajia Maimuna had come to her office, there had been an outburst. It was mostly the Senator doing the screaming. “You told us that there was a 99.9% chance of our baby being born safe and healthy. We have seen other babies who were born in your lab so why… why is it our own that keeps on facing these problems? Are you deliberately wasting our money? Do I look like a bank?” 67 “No, please understand.” Maseso had objected. She kept her voice calm and steely, used to dealing with irate clients from her years at the hospital. “Everything was perfect, as it should be. I can assure you that we at Heavenly Babies and Mothers—” “Rubbish! This is the second time, this son that I am supposed to have hasn’t come.” At that point, Maimuna began shedding silent tears so Maseso turned her attention to her. “Hajia please understand, sometimes cases like this come up.” “You must do something!” Idris boomed. “It’s your lab, it’s your machine. My wife is infertile! How are we going to continue our family line?” Maseso was rendered speechless. The Senator went on, raining down more curses with each sentence he spewed until his words turned threatening. “If we don’t leave here without a child, I swear,” he touched his tongue and pointed to the sky, “your business will be destroyed.” The hairs on Maseso’s arms rose when she recalled those words. As they left her office that day, Maseso knew that if her next attempt failed, she was done for. If Xamidimura was no more, so was her business. She would lose everything, even her life maybe. Her legacy, her work, her other stars… everything she had struggled to build would vanish before her eyes. Maseso shuddered to imagine life outside the protected zones where violence and poverty were rampant as the government and businesses focused their attention on locations with children. Maseso retreated to her office at the front of the building, sat down and made herself a cup of coffee. The hour that passed felt like a minute when Ego bounced into the office, her beaded braids swinging and clicking with every step. She didn’t appreciate her assistant’s flamboyant style, but Ego came highly recommended when the assistant she had poached from the hospital had to leave Abuja. While she was capable, Ego’s behaviour often irritated Maseso. She entered the office and her bubbly, colorful appearance contrasted starkly against the pristine monochrome of the office. “Good morning doctor, how are you?” Ego didn’t wait for a response before continuing. “You won’t believe what happened yesterday; me and my friends went to this party and can you imagine one of those kids selling drugs, the ones they claim can get you pregnant right, he came up to me and he was trying to chat me up.” Ego chattered on, not caring that Maseso was staring blankly down at her still full cup. Ego had made herself comfortable on her desk before she noticed. “Dr. M are you okay?” Maseso couldn’t say a word, she just pointed in the direction of the lab. 68 Ego had a slight frown on her face as she left for the calabash room. Barely a minute later, she rushed back into the office. “It’s the Senator’s child isn’t it?” Maseso nodded. “I don’t know what to do.” Ego scoffed. “Ha! I knew it! It’s that his juju. It’s reached this lab; we should’ve never taken him. I told you my Aunt warned me when we saw the forums online.” “Don’t even start that,” Maseso said, flicking her hand in dismissal. She found it odd the way Ego could retain superstition in her mind while working in the field of reproductive sciences. She was always talking about dark magic, even at the oddest moments. She’d told Maseso during a routine fertilization that online gossip was that the Senator had made an evil pact with a water spirit, exchanging his firstborn child for wealth and status. “I’m telling you!” Ego insisted. At that Maseso rolled her eyes. “I should have listened to you I guess but it’s too late.” “No, it’s not too late,” Ego laughed. “Come help me, let’s put that baby in the incubator.” “That will be pointless,” Maseso said, shuddering. She had no intention of touching it. But she followed Ego into the calabash room. Both women looked down at the unmoving form that could have been a doll. Xamidimura was a star that didn’t get the chance to be fully born into this world. Maseso had been so close and now, all her efforts had gone to dust. Her stomach heaved, causing Maseso to cover her mouth with both hands. Ego efficiently tossed a scarf over the dead star, the colourful piece of fabric jarring against the still greys and chromes of the room. She wrapped Xamidimura and went upstairs to the incubation room. When she returned, Maseso was back in the front office. “Contact the Senator,” Maseso directed. “The sooner we get this over with, the better.” “No,” Ego said. “My Aunt will be able to help us.” Maseso frowned. “What do you mean?” “Juju for juju.” Ego replied. “We’ll get her to come and do something, my Aunt is powerful in that.” “Seriously?” Maseso clicked her tongue. “You really want your business to end, eh? I guess you’re not that desperate then!” Ego took her seat. “I have told you never to—” Maseso was interrupted by a low thrumming that sounded through the entire building. A call was coming in. Ego accepted the call with a flick of her wrist and greeted. “Good morning, ma.” “Good morning,” the young Maimuna’s voice surrounded them. “How 69 are you? Is business going well? How about doctor?” The usual greetings felt torturous as she trailed towards the issue at hand. “I’m calling to confirm my bonding time.” “Bonding time,” Maseso was surprised at the hoarseness in her own voice. It was pointless to do so but she found herself reaching for her table to check the cameras positioned around the outside of the building, as though Hajia Maimuna would be there already. “Yes,” the woman sounded unsure. “It is supposed to be tomorrow. Is everything fine?” As Maseso struggled for words to say, she was struck with the absurd feeling that Maimuna knew something. Even in an external womb, bonds could be formed, there were even reports of women’s abdomens swelling in time with the growth of their foetuses. Two years ago, Hajia’s tears had irked Maseso as they consulted with her. It was their first failure, still marginally possible but not unique. Maimuna had shouted things about not wanting to try again, lamenting the stress of getting her hopes up only to have them dashed and Maseso wanted to grab her by her slender shoulders and shake her. Outside there were women begging for even a chance to have their own baby. In the past weeks, Maimuna grudgingly sang and read to Xamidimura during bond times. “Everything is fine,” Ego chimed in. The frown on Maseso’s face deepened, her assistant was so insolent. “Hajia, there’s something I would like to discuss with you tomorrow,” Maseso said firmly. “Okay,” there was a lilt in Maimuna’s voice that made the word sound like a question. “See you tomorrow,” Maseso clicked her fingers, putting an end to the call before Maimuna asked for details or Ego said something unexpected again. Her assistant pouted. “What will you tell her?” “The truth!” Maseso stood up and walked to the window, looking up at the blue, cloudless sky. “Ah! But I thought you said senator juju threatened to shut this place down last time.” “Yes, he did. And if that’s what he chooses to do, then so be it,” Maseso gritted her teeth. She didn’t really mean it of course. Barely an hour later, Maseso asked the younger woman to mind the lab while she went out. Her destination was Jabi where one of her former colleagues from the National Hospital had set up a private lab like hers. It required leaving Maitama which meant wasting time at various police and army checkpoints. The government 70 considered it dangerous for people from within the child-present zones to visit other areas and between Guzape and Maitama were areas considered unsafe. There were frequent reports of people being kidnapped and for ransom, their child. On the outside, there was an assumption that everyone in the zones had children and even if they didn’t, they had the money or ability to have one created. The transition from the area that had kids and didn’t was depressing. The atmosphere seemed gloomier, there were no colourful buildings representing schools and labs, often no electricity or water. It was just a stream of older faces counting down their days to death. The last of the naturally born people were slightly younger than Maseso. Maseso sat in the back row of the armoured coach that ferried her from Maitama to Jabi. It was a relatively short ride and the presence of two armed officers provided additional security. She hopped off at the Jabi transit station and noted that she had an hour before the return coach arrived. Doctor Ubong was not expecting Maseso but welcomed her, nonetheless. Having been in the business for longer, Ubong’s lab was larger with multiple calabash rooms and lab technicians weaving in between them. They sat on a balcony that offered a superb view of the lake and its surrounding greenery. “It’s been happening elsewhere,” Ubong said after hearing Maseso out. This was a surprise to Maseso, though it brought with it some relief. “Is it a contaminated batch of nutrients?” Ubong shook her head. “It doesn’t seem to be. Several reported cases used multiple vendors.” In the silence that followed, Maseso also realized that if any of the tools they used were expired, contaminated or otherwise faulty, it would affect all the other foetuses. The problems would appear in batches, not isolated cases. She still had no answers but at least, Maseso now had something with which begin an explanation to the Senator. Perhaps get his support to fund an investigation and study. “Let me show you something from the Ministry,” Ubong said, excusing herself. From the open balcony, Maseso watched her rummage through her desk. Ubong returned with her tablet, she sat down and looked over her shoulder and around before handing it to Maseso. What Maseso saw there couldn’t be real. A star with brownish-grey skin and darkened eyes. Maseso squinted, then zoomed into the picture. On the side of its neck were three slits that resembled gills. “Is it alive?” she gasped. “Yes,” Ubong said as she reached for the tablet and switched it off quickly. “Keep your voice down.” “Is this a mutation?” she whispered. “Possibly,” Ubong said, unaffected. “I have sent some samples for 71 cytogenetic karyotyping and should get the results soon.” “How did the parents react?” Ubong leaned closer. “They don’t know. See, what I’m about to tell you isn’t conventional, but there’s this scibalawo.” “Ah! Not you too,” Maseso’s expression fell. This was the kind of talk that Ego lived for. Always going on about the Aunt, that everyone called a scibalawo. The Aunt that specialised in cases where the supernatural influenced the technological or scientific. Any problem could be healed. Whether it was a haunted smart home system, An AI companion turned abusive lover or online games possessing young children and teenagers. All stories that were unreal to Maseso so it was shocking to hear an accomplished colleague like Ubong speak of them. “Listen, I can’t explain it either,” Ubong shrugged. “But what works works. And I have just shown you evidence that it works. If these clients are difficult, you have a way out.” Scratching at her chin, Maseso asked. “Is the hospital also working with her?” “I can’t say for certain that the higher-ups are aware, but she’s slowly becoming an open secret in this business.” “If this gets out, the country will be in ruins.” “So far it’s still just a few unborn here and there but rumours are going around that the numbers are rising and more unborn will be affected.” Ubong continued, “If numbers increase and this reaches the public, at least the government will do something about it. We can conduct a formal study. In the meantime though, we need to deal with difficult couples ourselves.” Maseso sunk deeply into the chair longing to be awakened from this nightmare. She declined when Ubong offered to add her to a group of their colleagues dealing with the same issue. Maseso thanked her before making her way back to Heavenly Babies and Mothers. She went through the motions, guiding her clients through their bonding times while ignoring the still unmoving ball in the incubator upstairs. Maseso moved with a sense of finality, knowing that if the Senator made good on his threat, her days of being in business were numbered. He could easily have her license withdrawn overnight. As night fell, Maseso climbed up to the stairs. She wiped her sweaty palms on her coat as she approached the room where incubators were kept. Oddly enough, the first thought that crossed her mind in the room was how much money she had spent on each unit. Then, she noticed that Xamidimura wasn’t where Ego had placed it that morning. The colourful wax print scarf was also gone. Bewildered, Maseso rushed to the office, questioning her mind. Ego wasn’t there so she looked at the camera feeds, verbally commanding the AI to replay the days recording. When she saw the confirmation she was 72 searching for, Maseso groaned and leaned against her desk. The urgent sounds of people talking reached her from outside. Maseso dragged her feet to the back entrance where a paved path cut through a small garden leading to her living quarters. She saw Ego huddled next to an older woman, they both stood at a spot by the eastern wall. “Like this?” Ego said. “Yes.” That low voice drew goosebumps across Maseso’s flesh, her shock turned to anger as she marched towards them. The strange woman appeared older than Ego but younger than Maseso. She was dressed reasonably enough in a pair of jeans and a flowing top but even before Ego made the introductions, Maseso knew. “Ah, there’s my madam,” Ego started. “Can I speak with you?” Maseso tilted her head away with the intent of warning Ego sternly. But then she saw the freshly dug hole in the ground and Xamidimura floating in brown water. The dirt at odds with the sterile environment Maseso maintained. She screamed as she flew towards the hole wanting nothing but to get it out of there, but Ego held her back firmly. “How dare you!” Maseso shouted, every vein in her bulged. “I promise, she can help.” Maseso wasn’t backing down and it seemed Ego wasn’t going to either. They talked over each other with voices getting louder with each passing word. “You will tell me who is the boss here.” “I have seen this woman grow a baby.” “You’re fired!” “Ehn! But let me save your business first!” Maseso huffed, she hated being the one to first give in, but she was tired. The emotional turmoil of the day sapped her energy and she crumbled on the grass. It was only then that the Ego let her go. Maseso’s eyes were glued on Xamidimura , speechless. “You should have told her now,” the woman Ego called Aunt said, amused. Running a hand over her face, Maseso glared at her, taking in the baubles she wore around her wrists and neck. Maseso clenched her teeth, swallowed the insults that were on the tip of her tongue then looked towards the hole in the ground. The air seemed to stop around her as she paused. Xamidimura had moved. Before she looked away it wasn’t in that position. Her head whipped towards Ego. “Why are you so stubborn?” Maseso asked. “This is my business, not yours. If any of our clients saw this.” “I don’t trust Hajia Maimuna,” Ego blurted out. “It’s unfair for this 73 place to go down because of one couple and their juju, what of all the other stars?” At least they were having a conversation now, Maseso knew she would have to let Ego go on. Just then, she heard a slight clearing of throat. “That baby is alive,” the scibalawo said. A slight breeze brought the scent of perfume she wore to Maseso’s nose. When she looked at the hole again, this time Maseso saw the star’s chest move, its little chest rising and falling, limbs twitching. “This is an illusion,” she stuttered. “No,” the scibalawo replied. “What you have here is a spirit child, they need more than your machines to enter this world.” There was silence as Maseso stared on in disbelief. “You shouldn’t be here,” Maseso sprang into action, regaining a bit of her composure. “Enough with all of this, Ego escort this woman out and you go ahead with her.” She watched them leave and when she looked at Xamidimura again, it was still enough for her to be sure that it was devoid of life...until its mouth opened and shut. She didn’t want to touch it now, even to retrieve it from that hole. As Maseso rushed to ask Ego to return, she was baffled by her own actions. She found both of them at the end of the street waiting for the shuttle bus. Maseso coaxed them back to her property. At Maseso’s suggestion, Ego brought out an empty calabash from the store. From a pouch she carried, the scibalawo placed clay within it, then water. “Where is the fluid from?” Maseso couldn’t help asking. “It is from the river goddess,” the scibalawo replied curtly. She lifted the tiny foetus without flinching and placed it in the calabash. “You know, when our ancestors had premature babies,” she said as she worked. “They would sometimes put them in the earth. The clay has special properties. Every tool I use is special.” Maseso watched as Ego and the scibalawo carried the calabash to the hole they’d dug earlier. It felt like someone else had taken her place and she was observing from afar. Maseseo would never have pictured this kind of activity happening in her lab. More clay was slathered over the calabash before the scibalawo began to sing in prayer. “Ego, would you power up the calabash?” Maseso asked, unwilling to leave the garden just yet. When Ego returned after powering it up, Maseso found that she could check all Xamidimura's vitals remotely. She breathed in relief as finally, the scibalawo swirled a shot of gin in her mouth and sprayed it from between her lips onto the submerged calabash. “It is done.” Ego clapped in glee. “Thank you, Aunty,!” 74 Maseso’s thanks came out more subdued. She was still in disbelief, unsure of what she had witnessed. For months, in the corner of the garden was a mound resembling one meant for burial and within it, Xamidimura. No idea why this one preferred dirt to the sanitised fluid the others did. But in the earth, it breathed and thrived, waiting to be born. 75
    LEKKI LEKKI By Mame Bougouma Diene (with special thanks to Baaba Maal and Double Servo)
    The back of her hand glided under her red and yellow head wrap, wiping the beads of sweat receding into her midnight skin in the shade of the giant tree. Wind rustled through the leaves and whistled through holes in the trunk, to the shrieking of bats buried in the crevices, bothered in their sleep. Djoulde dipped her painted fingers in a wooden bowl, relishing the fresh feel of water. She sprinkled droplets on the roots digging deep into the cracked and dusty soil, sucking her fingers for a fleeting taste and repeated, singing a light melody under her breath. Sukaabe e mawbe ngare niehen… She knew the tree could hear her, and know her love. At times it felt as the trunk pulsed like a wayward heart, that somewhere in the calcified bark the memory of sap bled pungent dreams. …Goto e men fof yo aw lekki... The behemoth rose above and around her, branches long as it was tall, like twenty men or more. Wide enough to dance and spin on, though Cheikh never wanted to. Children and grownups, come with me… There was so much it had seen. So many secrets through the centuries of patience and sheer will for life, so much she would share with it soon, that the whole village would share. …May every one of us plant a tree… “Still singing that old song?” Cheikh's gritty voice irked her sometimes. 76 “Why are you always so bitter?” she asked, dusting her hands on her dress and rising. He looked into the large oval hole in the trunk, large enough for a tall man to step into its caves. “It is old.” He snapped. “What does it mean now? What is there left to plant? Maybe it made sense to someone two thousand years ago… someone stupid…” “It makes sense to me…” “I didn’t mean you, I meant…” Cheikh didn’t finish his thought, and Djoulde wasn’t sure she wanted to hear it. He picked up her bowl and walked back towards the village together. She hadn’t seen time fly as she cared for the old bokki. Twilight was dying on the edge of the earth, the village lights blinking the stars out one at a time. The call to prayer rang from the minarets. Djoulde saw other villagers hurrying home before the protective dome rose against the evening storms, green, blue and multicolored dots against the broken night, and sighed. Perhaps Cheikh would understand one day. The combined blearing of her father’s call and the whooshing of the giant turbines blowing away the dunes delivered with tender fury by the storm, tore Djoulde out of her slumber. The sun wouldn’t shine through the dusty vortex until the turbines had worked their magic but cattle always knew, the three cows in the yard bleating for water. She pulled a rough blue dress over her head and tied her braids in a bun before leaving her room. She clapped her hands and the air conditioner went out, the whiplash of desert heat finishing the job of waking her. Her head was still cloudy with the flames of her dream. She yawned as she walked into the kitchen. “You took your time this morning.” He father said, gulping down a cold glass of bohe juice. “Grab yourself some breakfast; we’re taking the cows out soon as the dome is lifted.” She sat at the large round table. Her mother handed her a plate of whitish-brown fried bohe bread and a glass of juice. The thick, sweet liquid clashed bitter cold against her teeth. She bit into the bread. “Today? Isn’t it Hamady's turn?” she said, spitting little bits of crumbs, and wiping her mouth. Hamady laughed, sitting across from her. He stood up, wearing his light blue worker’s boubou. “Not today, sis.” He said pointing at his uniform, “Working the Engines in case you can’t tell.” 77 “At least you’ll be nice and cool in the forest… Yerim, then?” “He’s on maintenance duty at the solar plant today. He’s been gone for hours.” Her mother said, picking up her father’s glass. “You can’t sing to the trees every damned day. Gidelam,” she told her father, “I’m not your maid; you’ll find your plates waiting when you come back.” Her father barked a laugh. Something both her brothers had picked up from him. “Get married, they said. It’ll make your life that much better… Duly noted my love. Djoulde, you done?” Djoulde finished her glass. “If no one else will…” The expanse of long, thin grass stretched ahead and around Djoulde. A green sea full of whimsical currents drawn by the winds. She couldn’t tell where the grasslands ended from where she stood now, the three thin, white cows grazing quietly, their long horns leaving furrows in the meadow. She had walked the length of the plain as a child, to the sands lost on the horizon, a desert so vast it swallowed the world whole. She had seen it burn and turn to glass in her dream. The flames crackling through the grass until they licked away at the millennial trees. The bokki’s branches flaying in panic, the defiant roar of bark about to split and burst. She slept in its bosom, reveling in the warmth until her hair caught fire… Her father’s cane slapping the cows’ buttocks brought reality back, and the softness of the grass on her sandaled toes. “Do you think there’s anybody else out there?” Her father cleared his throat and spit in the grass. “You’ve asked me that five times now. Today, when you were six, nine, eleven and fourteen. Took you almost four years this time.” “But you never gave me a real answer.” He shrugged in his black boubou, looking up at the sun settling at noon. “The last recorded newcomers go back almost five or six hundred years, not quite sure. You can check the archives if you want but… I don’t know, somewhere on the other side of the oceans maybe, or the other side of the universe. Maybe they’re asking themselves the same thing, maybe they’re all dead… Happy?” It was her turn to shrug. Other herders were scheduled for grazing this morning. All with the same emaciated cows. Goats had gone extinct with good riddance. Goats were a plague on the grass. She turned towards the forest. The Soul Engines, installed inside the bokki, vibrating and rumbling in the distance. “It doesn’t matter, I guess. We’re all going back to the earth anyway.” 78 “I guess so.” Her father replied. “Then why bother with the cows everyday if that’s how you feel? We get our food from the trees, our water from the roots. We hardly eat any meat at all, we barely use the milk for ceremonies. We won’t be here much longer. But you get up every morning, you wash them, walk them all the way out here every day. What’s the point of dancing by yourself?” Her father smiled. “You and your mother… It’s who we are Djoulde. We herded cattle before the world knew we existed. When other people flew, some of us herded cattle. When the world crumbled, and the towers fell we herded cattle. Two thousand years later we herd cattle. It doesn’t matter where we’re going. It doesn’t matter where we came from, it doesn’t matter if we’re here or on the moon Djoulde. We herd cattle, it’s our traditions…And that’s why I take you all in turn with me in the morning. To remind you of that… Speaking of tradition, how are things going with Cheikh? You getting along?” “It’s alright.” She said, she didn’t know how she felt about Cheikh. She had expected to feel differently. “He’s just always so cynical. He doesn’t believe in anything, I don’t know…” “Can you blame him?” She took off her sandals and dug her feet in the ground. It felt so firm, so real, but it wasn’t. It was a dream. When the generators crashed it would wither, dry, and fade to the sands. The dome would never rise again and the trees and the village would disappear. Perhaps that was why her father really kept the cows, to forget that none of it was real. She shook her head. “Good. Then maybe you should spend some time together this afternoon. If you’re gonna be married you need to know each other.” “But baaba, I was…” “You heard your mother. Someone else will daydream in the trees for you today.” He handed her his stick. “Round up the herd. I could use some lunch.” “How can you say that?” “Say what Djoulde? That a halfcocked plan to transfer people into the roots of monstrous trees and live on like that is crazy? You wanna know what I think? I think Chief Tenguela, the Council of Elders, the whole lot of them, want to kill us. Or a lot of us. There’s too many of us, we're all freaking related. Even our marriage is based on an algorithm. How long do you think we can last like this? Do you even think at all?” There it was again, that spite for the sake of jabbing her. Couldn’t they just talk? Just once? He reached across the bed and caught her hand, but she pulled back. 79 Sitting on his bed, his parents’ prayers making their way through the door, she wanted to grab Cheikh by the braids and throw him into the desert. “Do you have faith in anything? Don’t you want anything better than this?” ‘I don’t mean it like that…” “You never do… What if it works? What if we could live on? One with the earth?” “What if we could?” “We’d be a planet with a conscience. A planet that could guide life instead of suffering from it. When a new people are born to this world they won’t be blind like us humans were. Ravenous like we were. They will learn. From us.” “Yeah because we’re such a sensible bunch. Look, what happens if it doesn’t work and you die? You wouldn’t even know. I was with the crew that removed Oumar Bayal’s body from the pod and buried it. Remember the test run?” “Of course I do. The Elders said it worked.” “Maybe. Maybe his soul is really in the roots. Maybe he’s just dead. Worse than dead. I’ve seen dead people. This guy wasn’t dead, he was just an empty sheet of skin, the wind could have blown it away. Look. I get it, you want it to be true. But I haven’t heard the old man since, have you? Didn’t think so.” “I hate you…” “Then don’t marry me. What bloody difference does it make?” She didn’t answer. Cheikh smiled. “Let me guess, your mom gave you the talk too, huh?” he asked, poking her waist with his elbow. Djoulde shook her head and laughed. He wasn’t always bad. “Was my dad…” Cheikh laughed in turn and took her hand. “What are we without tradition, right?” Djoulde rolled Cheikh's heavy arm from her shoulder as she opened her eyes to the call to prayer, the sheets still humid with sweat. She couldn’t sleep, who could have? The only way she’d found to exhaust herself was…The one thing they seemed to get along doing. A nervous shudder rocked her body. Delirious excitement clashed with sheer terror. Cheikh snored. The Soul Engine trials were today. They were still of two minds on that. Three months into their marriage. Cheikh stretched and yawned. “We’re not scheduled until noon. It’s barely fadjar. Go back to sleep.” “I’ll make some breakfast.” Djoulde answered, rising. She reached for the towel sitting on the chair by the bed, and wrapped it 80 around her waist. She wasn’t going back to bed, the trees called her, they would be one soon. They would all be one. The overlapping waves of light drew sly rictus on the trees, grinning deep shadows where there were none, while dizzied steps carried her closer to the heart of the forest. It was the first time she had wandered this deep. The pulsing glow of the engines, overwhelming now was invisible outside. In the daytime, the sun drowned it out and at night, the storms blinded everything. She wasn’t alone, guided with Cheikh and the hundred more scheduled for the day’s trials by a tall dark woman in a white dress stained at the ankles with dust and dirt, but to her it felt like they weren’t really there. That she was marching amongst ghosts. Djoulde wondered if the others felt the same, that they had crossed a threshold into the forest that connected all worlds, that in an infinity they were none, that a step into the shadows was a step into oblivion. Maybe they didn’t feel anything at all. Her eyes adjusted to the light just as her body shivered from mechanic rumbling. “We’re here.” the tall woman said as they all stopped. “Where else could we be?” Cheikh mumbled. The trees before them and beyond glowed with a reflective light, trunks and branches laced with slick metal, connected across the soil by slithering black cables to large grey cubes vibrating with a collective hum like the voices of a million bugs calling to be born. A flurry of scientists in white dresses and boubou busied around them. Maintenance workers in blue tended to individual trees and power sources. Perhaps Hamady was one of them, but there were so many trees so far ahead she wouldn’t see him even if he was. Cheikh spat on the ground beside her. “Look at all this wasted energy. I’m telling you th…” “Men, follow Oulay here.” The woman said pointing at a colleague settling next to her. “Women come with me, I’m Ayida Boucoum.” Djoulde exhaled relief at not having to answer Cheikh. “See you later.” She said. “Don’t make a fool of yourself.” Cheikh grunted and followed the others. Ayida led them deeper into the woods. Chrome reflected on chrome, projecting their reflection flowing from trunk to trunk and back. She caught herself facing herself and walking away in two directions all at once. She stumbled and rested her hand against the nearest trunk. “It’s ok.” Ayida said, helping her straighten. “I thought I would lose my 81 mind after weeks in here. You’ll be fine, we’ve arrived.” Two women slid between the trunks to meet them. “Thanks Ayida. We’ll take it from here. Ladies. Welcome to the Soul Engines. We will brief you on the procedure and have you take the trials. We know this is overwhelming, believe me. I’m Sokhna Boiro, some of you know me, some of you don’t. And this is Khady Ndione.” “Same story.” Khady said. Djoulde caught a glimpse inside the hollowed trunks, lined with open pods, of the same shiny metal that coated the trees, tall enough to fit a person, with what looked like red cushioning inside. “Intriguing isn’t it?” Sokhna asked catching her glance. “I know they say a lot of things in the village many of them scary, most of them untrue. Let us explain. Khady?” “Sure. The Engines are very complicated but quite simple. The world is a network, everything is interconnected. We all evolved from the same original organism. Billions of years ago. Down to our DNA. We are one with the earth. One with the wind. And yes, one with the cows we herd in the morning.” We laughed as she caught her breath. “The trees and plants around us too. And they communicate. Organically. They know who we are and fear us when we wish them harm, and love us when we give them love and they let the others know, through their roots, through their spores and sap. We have mapped these networks and now, we can connect to them more directly through the Soul Engines. These engines parse out our human consciousnesses and pulse them into the network, mimicking the bokki’s own bio-chemical signals, those signals are transmitted into the roots of the trees and conducted into the earth where they become one with the planet. Growing with new saplings, spreading through open spores. Our way of life is no longer sustainable, if we want to survive we have to adjust to the world, adapt and embrace it. For thousands of years humanity has tried to shape the world in its image. We failed and did so much damage to the world in the process. Now, we pay it back.” Djoulde could barely breathe. They worked on the engines when she was a child. When her parents were children. She hadn’t thought she would see the day. But it was here. Almost here. “You’ll be scanned and fitted into a transmission pod for testing. Today and on the day of. Don’t worry, it’s painless. We just need to verify a few things. Many of you are married women, we need to check that you are not with child before we can try the machines. We must also ensure that your own brainwaves are compatible with the bio-chemical network matrix. Is everybody with me?” They all nodded agreement, some slower than others. Djoulde pictured Cheikh snickering in the manner of men. Khady smiled. 82 “You are brave, and strong. You will do the earth honor. We all will, I’m sure. Alright, the following come with me, the others with Sokhna. Nani Sow. Djoulde Diallo…” Djoulde came to in midafternoon warmth, the forest a few hundred feet behind her, Cheikh shaking her by the shoulders. How she got there was as clear as his lips moving soundlessly to droplets of spit. It was real. All of it. The pods had slid shut, and the red cushion squeezed her warmly into darkness. Not sleep, not quite sleep, fully at rest yet aware of herself, and she heard him. Late Oumar Bayal calling her name, unsure she could hear him. Djoulde. He had asked. Djoulde, are you there? She hadn’t said a word but she felt his relief at her presence, a smile and mischief. “Watch…” he whispered. She’d sunk deeper into the darkness, her head bursting through the soil into sunlight. A city gleaming in the distance where the desert stood now, a river streaming through it to a sky of deep blue abysses. In a flash she stood fifty feet above in another a hundred, and as she grew the city shrunk, her arms impossibly long and stiff, until there was nothing but dust swirling wooly death to the horizon. And all the while a murmur, soft with radiant energy calling her into its roots… “Djoulde! Djoulde dammit wake up!” “Cheikh!” she screamed throwing her arms around him, her head on his chest. “Did you hear? Did you see? Don’t you see now? It’s real, all of it!” Cheikh pushed her back and turned around. “I didn’t hear anything… I’m not going…” Cheikh downed a glass and poured himself another. His fifth today. Takussan, afternoon prayer, was still hours away. “The pitcher's empty.” He snapped, waving it at her. Fode Dem had walked into the desert this morning. Fatima Kane, Ibrahim Dia and Pape Mor Sylla yesterday. Twelve-year-old Adama Ba two days ago and Friday had seen a record of thirty that she knew of. They had finished praying and wandered off into the desert. A week since the trials ended, two more before they left. Djoulde grabbed the pitcher from his hand. Cheikh was meaner drunk than usual, but at least he was still here. She filled the pitcher from a bottle of fermented bohe and handed it to him reaching for his shoulder. He grabbed her hand and pulled her. “Is that what you want for me? Leaving me to die with the others?” 83 Someone else would walk into the desert and never come back before nightfall. Thousands more would follow. He was mean. Bitter and mean but wouldn’t she if she’d been told she couldn’t go? If her mother and father were left behind too? In spite of all the spite, deep down, he’d wanted to go. She pulled her arm away, grabbed his face and kissed him. Could she leave her husband behind? Should she? Yes. Yes, she would. Until then they could do the one thing they were good at together, and kissed him deeper. Djoulde’s dress slipped from Cheikh’s hand, but stayed caught in the door sliding shut behind her. There was nothing to it. Between Cheikh crying, screaming and begging, and the excited buzz of the throngs of people she hadn’t had thought of what to wear. What did it matter? They were almost there. Her parents and brothers waited for her outside, catching her stumble as her dress ripped in the doorframe. “Took long enough!” Hamady laughed as he helped her stand. Her mother hugged her. “How are you?” she asked. She had no idea. “And how is Cheikh?” “Who cares?” Yerim said. “Guy’s a goat.” “Be quiet.” Her father said. “Think of all those who wandered off to die. They weren’t all bad people. Leave it all behind son, don’t carry that anger where we are going.” They melted into the crowd. She couldn’t feel her legs, somehow, she moved forward, the crowd singing a deep joyful yet almost weeping melody. Lekki ki do lekki, Aadi nafore waalii ngourdam Tree. This tree so useful, has changed our life... It was the perfect rhyme for the time. She should have felt happy, excited, nauseous even, instead she floated numb into immortality. Would Cheikh live? If he died would they find him in the roots? Soon they would be everywhere, surely they would find everyone. Everyone and everything that had ever died. Strata through strata of long-gone life but persistent memory. Did she leave him to die? Could she forgive herself? Carrying that weight forever? She only had a few minutes to figure it out, the sky already 84 darkened by branches. Her heart pounded so fiercely the world around her turned to blinding light, her head spun and she retched on her sandals. Her brothers laughed. “You had to leave your mark didn’t you?” She wiped her mouth on her sleeve as her mother handed her a sip of water and smiled. “It’s gonna be alright. We’re all gonna be alright.” They reached the engines and hugged each other. They all did. Family and friends, and people who’d hated each other deeply. She expected to hear sobs but didn’t. “We’ll see each other soon.” Her father said, beaming as he hugged her last. “Look out for your mother. She might run off.” “Anything but an eternity with you gidelam. One life was entirely enough…” she kissed his forehead. “I will see you soon…” They walked off as Djoulde and her mother lined up with the other women. Singing the song, scanners flashing a soft blue as they walked towards their pods, reflections of thousands melting into each other on the trunks of the giant bokki. Her mother turned to her and smiled as she passed through the scanner. Every wrinkle on her face smoothing, a glimpse of who she had been, of who she saw in the mirror, as she still saw herself. She held out her hand as Djoulde followed her, and the scanner flashed red. Her mother’s smile dropped, her face aging in a frown, their fingers brushed each other as two women in white approached them and turned to her. “Salaam Aleikum. Don’t worry. We just need to run a quick test. Please follow us.” “Wait! That’s my daughter! That’s…” Two more women approached her mother, smiling. “It’s fine. She’ll be back in no time. Please. There are other women waiting.” “I’ll be fine Nene.” Djoulde said, “Just go, ok? We’ll be alright. I’ll see you soon.” She smiled. “On the other side.” The flood of women didn’t abate, the scanner flashing blue, blue, blue, her mother dissolving in the flow. “I’m Reyhanna.” One of them asked as they reached the last of the shinning trees. “What’s your name?” “Djoulde. Djoulde Diallo.” They stopped and the two women stepped back, arms folded under their breasts. “We’re sorry, Djoulde. We are very sorry. You are pregnant. You can’t go.” 85 Djoulde sat on her bed, the air conditioning unit roaring behind her. She had never noticed how loud it was, but in the silence of the empty village it was all she could hear. Cheikh slept in the kitchen, passed out on the table. She should have been cold, but the hilt of the knife pressed against her stomach slipped in her sweaty palms. The tip slid through the threads in her dress, grating against her skin. Just a push. Not even that hard, just a small push. The life she carried had cost her hers. Had cost her her dream. Her only dream. Her family. How could she ever carry it? Birth it? Love it?! It would be so simple, just a small… A droplet of blood pearled around the blade and the knife clanged on the floor to a single sob. She couldn’t do it. Three children played in the grass as Djoulde and Arsike walked passed them towards the forest. They had tied strings to a small post and ran around it until the string tensed, and light as they were, they bounced off their feet and took off spinning to delighted giggles. Something had changed. The children were inconsolable at first. Their friends gone. Their parents gone. Everyone engrossed in their own misery and no one to guide them. Beside the wailing wind the only sound the village knew for months was infant sorrow. But not for the past few weeks. Arsike tugged at her arm, eager to join them. Her small hand almost slipped through Djoulde’s fingers. She looked just like her grandmother. She had told her that herself. “I look like grandma!” “Who told you that?” Djoulde had asked. “Grandma!’ She was a bright child, so alive. So happy. She had no fear, an imagination that changed her world with each passing thought. This world was new to her. She didn’t know pain. She didn’t know loss. Not yet. “You’ll play later. Your father doesn’t like to wait.” She nodded hard and pulled closer to her mother. For two years Djoulde hadn’t come near the forest. The thought of leaving the village, of feeling the cool shade on her face froze her very soul. She couldn’t walk. Will them though she might, her legs wouldn’t move. Her mind would go blank. She would faint. Neighbors would drag her in and she'd wake up in bed, Cheikh looming over her, yelling about embarrassing him. When Arsike turned three she started asking about the trees. The trees called her she said. She had to see the trees. And so she had. She was 86 exactly like Djoulde’d been as a child. “Let’s sing, nene!” She knelt by her daughter and let her start. Hearing her shrill voice she felt the knife against her stomach and shuddered, picking up the melody. How could she have thought of killing her? She loved her so much. Arsike giggled, pushing her lips to the trunk as evening prayer rang in the distance. They’d been there for hours. Hours. Months. Years. It made no difference. She opened herself with all her heart, sang to rip out her throat, every day, and yet, she didn’t hear her family or the others. Four years. Four years now. Cheikh was right. They had all walked singing to their death. The door slid open slowly and Djoulde tiptoed inside. Arsike breathing softly on the back of her neck, sleeping as the storm blasted the dome behind them. Cheikh would be out cold, he’d been restless for weeks but too much noise and… “Sneaking in?” he asked sitting at the kitchen table in the dark. The thin glow breaking in lighting bloodshot, angry eyes over his dark face. He stood up, knocking a glass to the floor, rounding the table towards her. She circled away, the sourness of fermented drink on his breath, wafting vomitous into her nose. He wouldn’t touch Arsike. He never had. “Think you can keep my daughter from me, do you?” he asked, reaching to grab her and missing. “You try to leave me and now you want to steal my daughter!” She slipped and almost fell, barely avoiding another lurch. “Nene?” Arsike asked, yawning against her back. “Nene, where…” she saw her father closing in over her mother’s shoulder. “…Baaba? Baaba, no! Not again!” Her mother hugged her in a field of crops. Cattle by the thousands drifted on the horizon invisible but for the cloud of dust surrounding them. Her father and brothers conversed with a man of light skin, sharp eyes and strange, shiny, smooth green and gold clothing, throwing their head back and laughing. The village was nowhere in sight, the forest neither, but crowds of people congregated throughout the field, some sitting and eating, children playing games and rolling in the grass. They weren’t all her people, most weren’t but she distinguished a known face in every group she saw. “My daughter. My first-born. We didn’t want to leave you. I didn’t know. But we are here. We will help you.” The bruises on Djoulde’s cheeks stung at her mother’s words. 87 She pointed to her face. “This is what you left me to! This is how you help me? You left. You left me. But I don’t need your help. I am not a child anymore. I have one of my own. I won’t let this happen again. She will…” Her mother’s face hardened. “What are you whispering to me?” Djoulde froze; her mother grabbed her by the shoulders, digging nails into her skin. “Stop whispering to me!” The field went silent. The thousands of people sitting and talking stood and closed in on her, arms out clawing at her hair and face. “Stop whispering to me!!” Djoulde awoke to Cheikh shaking her furiously, screaming at her face while Arsike cried in her bed. “I won’t walk into the desert! I won’t!” he ran naked out of the bed, climbing over her and into the kitchen his hands on his ears. “Stop whispering to me!” Djoulde ran to cradle her daughter’s head. The warm wetness of her cheeks slipping against her breast. “Why is daddy like this?” she asked, words setting Djoulde’s bruised body aflame. “What have we done wrong?” “You’ve done nothing wrong.” She said; her curly hair caught between her fingers. “We’ve done nothing wrong.” “Why isn’t Grandma helping us? She promised.” Djoulde held her at arm’s length. “What?” “Grandma mommy, grandma. She was telling me she would help us. Just before daddy started screaming again.” Cheikh’s voice boomed from the kitchen. “Stop talking to me!” Djoulde put Arsike down. “You stay here. I'll be right back.” Cheikh sat in the kitchen, holding his head and banging it on the table in turn. “Leave me alone!” he screamed and saw Djoulde standing across the table from him. “You.” He snarled, rising slowly. “You. It’s you!” He charged, but Djoulde didn’t move. She bent down, picked up a shard of broken glass and walked towards him. “You won’t touch me again.” She slashed the air before her, missing his nose by a breath. “You’ll never.” She sliced again, blood running across his cheek. “Touch me. Again!” She lunged forward, Cheikh fell back, crawling towards the kitchen 88 door. “Leave me alone! All of you leave me alone!” The door slid open and Cheikh bolted out. Djoulde stumbled after him. She had never spent much time outside at night. But the dome's faint orange glow, lacerated with gritty static at the onslaught of sand and debris, felt like a reflection of her fractured soul. “Nene!” Arsike called from a crack in the door. Djoulde picked her up and ran. Cheikh sped on ahead screaming, lights appearing in windows as he passed. He didn’t slow or stop. Djoulde doubted he could see anything at all. His head slammed into the dome. He fell back. Djoulde put her daughter down and reached for him. He got back up and ran head first into the dome again. And again. All the while screaming to be left alone, for the whispers to stop. Again. And again, and… Something cracked. He fell back, wrecked with spasms and stopped, the imprint of his face in blood sliding down the dome like raindrops on a window. Djoulde didn’t move. The buzz of bystanders fading. He was gone. She felt no shame at the lightness in her shoulders. At the strength she felt in her legs. “Thank you grandma.” Arsike said, hugging her thigh. The wind carried hints of a rain that would never fall. Instead a thin sheen of wet air sprinkled Djoulde and Arsike’s faces, as they sat in the shade of the baobab, Arsike sprinkling the roots to soft giggles. She hadn’t let the villagers bury Cheikh in the forest. His body left in the desert for the night’s storm to shred to dust. Arsike didn’t seem to care. She sprinkled the roots and listened to something before nodding her head. “How long have you heard your Grandma?” Arsike shrugged and lay her head on her lap. “Since I was in your belly?” Djoulde’s eyes filled with tears. “Are you talking to her now?” Arsike nodded. “I talk to grandpa too sometimes.” “Can I ask her something?” “She says you can ask anything you want. Just ask me and she’ll hear you.” Djoulde hesitated. “She says she’s sorry. That she should have waited. She never wanted to 89 leave you.” Djoulde waved her hand. “She doesn’t need to.” She said “There was nothing she could have done. It wasn’t her fault.” “Do you love me mommy?” “Of course!” “Do you forgive me too?” She pulled her daughter closer. “There is nothing to forgive, bingelam, nothing…. Can the other children hear her too?” Arsike nodded. “Why can’t I?” Even Cheikh had. “It’s too late for the adults. If you did you would go crazy like daddy.” “But in the dream I saw all these people and…” “It was just a dream, mommy.” Djoulde's breath stayed stuck in her throat, there was something she needed to know but didn’t want to. “And will… will I ever see you again?” Arsike looked up at her mother. “No.” “No? Not even when I…” “No.” Tears ringed Djoulde’s eyelids like pearls. “Grandma, grandpa, my uncles, none of them will be there forever either, mommy. That’s not how life works. I’ll walk into the engines one day too, and others after me. We were always one with nature” she giggled, “It’s our tradition! Grandpa says.” She laughed some more. The tears bubbling in her eyes streamed down her cheeks. Arsike wiped one off with her finger. “Don’t cry, mommy. Grandma says that’s the lesson. The mistake we made all those thousands of years ago. The world cried and we couldn’t hear it, but just because you can’t hear, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen…” Djoulde cleaned her tears, breathing in the dry scent of the trees and nodded. Arsike caught her hand. “Come mommy. Let’s sing now.” Sukaabe e mawbe ngare niehen, Goto e men fof yo aw lekki…
    T.L. HUCHU is a writer whose work has appeared in Lightspeed, Interzone, AfroSF, The Apex Book of World SF 5, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, The Year’s Best Crime and Mystery Stories 2016, and elsewhere. He is the winner of a Nommo Award for African SFF, and has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize and the Grand Prix de L’Imaginaire. His fantasy novel The Library of the Dead, the first in the "Edinburgh Nights" series, will be published by Tor in the US and UK in 2021. Find him @TendaiHuchu.
    NNEDI OKORAFOR is the Naijamerican PhD-holding, World Fantasy, Hugo, Nebula, Eisner Award-winning, rudimentary cyborg writer of africanfuturism, africanjujuism & Marvel’s Shuri. Her works include Who Fears Death (currently in development at HBO into a TV series), the Binti novella trilogy, The Book of Phoenix, the Akata books and Lagoon. She is the winner of Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Locus and Lodestar Awards, an Eisner Award nominee, and her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker won the prestigious Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. Nnedi has also written comics for Marvel, including Black Panther: Long Live the King and Wakanda Forever (featuring the Dora Milaje) and the Shuri series. Her science fiction comic series LaGuardia (from Dark horse) is an Eisner and Hugo Award nominee and her memoir Broken Places & Outer Spaces is a Locus Award nominee. Nnedi is also creating and cowriter the adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed with Viola Davis and Kenyan film director Wanuri Kahiu. Nnedi holds two MAs (literature and journalism ) and a PhD (literature). She lives with her daughter Anyaugo and family in Illinois. Follow Nnedi on twitter (as @Nnedi), Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about Nnedi at Nnedi.com.
    DILMAN DILA is a writer, filmmaker, and author of a critically acclaimed collection of short stories, A Killing in the Sun. His works have been listed in several prestigious prizes, including a nomination for the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards (2019), a long list for BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition (2014), and a short list for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (2013). Dila’s short fiction and non-fiction writings have appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including Uncanny Magazine, A World of Horror, AfroSF v3, and the Apex Book of World SF 4. His films have won many awards in major festivals on the African continent.
    TLOTLO TSAMAASE is a Motswana writer of fiction, poetry, and architectural articles. Her work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Terraform, Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, The Dark, and other publications. Her poem "I Will Be Your Grave" was a 2017 Rhysling Award nominee. Her short story, Virtual Snapshots was longlisted for the 2017 Nommo Awards. Her novella The Silence of the Wilting Skin is out now from Pink Narcisuss Press. You can find her on Twitter at @tlotlotsamaase and at tlotlotsamaase.com
    DEREK LUBANGAKENE is a Ugandan writer, blogger and screenwriter, whose work has appeared in Escape Pod, Apex Mag, Omenana, Enkare Review, Prairie Schooner, Kalahari Review, The Missing Slate and the Imagine Africa 500 anthology, among others. Listed as one of Tor.com’s new SFF writers to watch, his work has also been shortlisted for the 2019 Nommo Awards - best short story, longlisted for 2017 Writivism Short Story Prize and the 2013 Golden Baobab/ Early Chapter Book Prize. In 2016, he received the Short Story Day Africa/All About Writing Development Prize. He is currently working on a short story anthology and his first novel. When not writing or reading, Derek spends his days fundraising for a non-profit wildlife conservation organisation. He lives online at www.dereklubangakene.com
    RAFEEAT ALIYU is a writer and documentary filmmaker. Her short stories have been published in Strange Horizons, Nightmare, Expound and Omenana magazines, as well as Queer Africa 2 and the AfroSF Anthology of African Science Fiction anthology. Rafeeat is a Clarion West Graduate (2018). You can learn more about her on her website rafeeataliyu.com
    MAME BOUGOUMA DIENE is a Franco –Senegalese American humanitarian and the US/Francophone spokesperson for the African Speculative Fiction Society (www.africansfs.com). You can find his work in Brittle Paper, Omenana, Galaxies Magazine, Edilivres, Fiyah!, Truancy Magazine, EscapePod and Strange Horizons, and in anthologies such as AfroSFv2 & V3 (Storytime), Myriad lands (Guardbridge Books), You Left Your Biscuit Behind (Fox Spirit Books), This Book Ain’t Nuttin to Fuck Wit (Clash Media), Sunspot Jungle (Rosarium Publishing), and Dominion (Aurelia Leo). His collection Dark Moons Rising on a Starless Night (Clash Books) was nominated for the 2019 Splatterpunk Award. MAZI NWONWU is the pen name of Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, a Lagosbased journalist and writer. While journalism and its demands take up much of his time, when he can, Mazi Nwonwu writes speculative fiction, which he believes is a vehicle through which he can transport Africa’s diverse culture to the future. He is the co-founder of Omenana, a speculative fiction magazine and a Senior Broadcast Journalist with the BBC. His work has appeared in Lagos 2060 (Nigeria’s first science fiction anthology), AfroSF (the first PAN-African Science Fiction Anthology), Sentinel Nigeria, Saraba Magazine and It Wasn’t Exactly Love, an anthology on sex and sexuality publish by Farafina in 2015.
    ABOUT THE EDITOR WOLE TALABI is a full-time engineer, part-time writer and some-time editor from Nigeria. His stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), Lightspeed, Omenana, Terraform, and several other places. He edited the anthologies These Words Expose Us and Lights Out: Resurrection and co-wrote the play Color Me Man.. His fiction has been nominated for several awards including the Caine Prize for African Writing and the Nommo Award which he won in 2018. His work has also been translated into Spanish, Norwegian, Chinese and French. His collection of stories, Incomplete Solutions, is published by Luna Press. He likes scuba diving, elegant equations and oddly shaped things. He currently lives and works in Malaysia. Find him online at wtalabi.wordpress.com/ and @wtalabi on twitter.
    ABOUT BRITTLEPAPER Brittle Paper is an online literary magazine for readers of African Literature. Brittle Paper is Africa’s premier online literary brand inspiring readers to explore and celebrate African literary experiences in all its diversity.
    AINEHI EDORO, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
    JACQULYN TEOH, Social Media Coordinator
    CHUKWUEBUKA IBEH, Staff Writer
    ANGELINE PETERSON, Reader Visit the Brittle paper website: brittlepaper.com Contact Brittle Paper Email, (info@brittlepaper.com) Social Media: Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper)

  10. richardmurray

    creatve list
    Dear Readers, 
    I tend to enjoy reading various articles on writing , the industry, the concepts, et cetera. parallel to craft articles. These topics can be fun or engaging. As some of you know, I have a controlled electronic footprint, meaning, I don't keep old posts. This blog never had fifteen posts and never will cause I don't like ejunk. But, I realize, aside my posts to what I created and create, I need a post to just chit chat if you will. So this post will serve that function, through its comments I will posts various topics concerning writing. 
    Work Cloud  
    EBook List- see below , Onmyoji Contest Entry ,  Pacific Rim contest Entry , Bettering American Poetry Anthology Entry , White House Carol , Maple Me entry , We Happy Few Wellington Wells entry,   Fiyah Magazine-  , Killens Review-, Audiobook list , Concrete Fables
    Creative Cloud
    Questions to think about ,  How We Define Art a response ,  Lessons from Last Action Hero  ,   Black Soldiers fighting for the British against the USA during USA secession why no memorial  ,  Levar Burton Reads ,   Ethiopian apocalyptic film ,  Is Biography the biggest genre today circa 2018 ,  if they remade Cleopatra jones? ,  which cliche you dislike most? ,  Grammar Check , those who write love are making money, have you done a collaboration .. on a train , be your character on social media , who are afro latinos ? ,  a short history to the internet , What describe best the Native American experience in fiction ,  Get Out early - what do you think compared to the final film? ,  Prince and religious friction in film ,  Let us compose something together using these rules, what other language will you say if you can? ,  AALBC community book- in progress till made ,  not any time soon but... ,  A Glengarry Lead ,  silhouette in film ,  Get Out defined , inspiration listings,  the return of poetry and some fun , written and sun by Aretha Franklin ,  Unconventional art  , Der Tchrumpfs ,  Selections from poetry through the native female pen , a question to multiculturalism , Nonqonqo in A Warm December , Peola Edit- Immitation To Life 1934 , concealed carry models , Ann Gorman Edit- Follow Me Quietly 1949 , censoring online , MLKjr2019 , Black Party to governance , Star spangled why, Audio EXcerpts , False Civility , US , Glass submission story , code geass, Juju webseries official poster , acting , lee daniels workshop , black anti immigration , silent sundays , a positive child bride story? , a fictional character to be president of the usa? , Ta-Nehisi Coates , George Lucas , open marriage in fiction, kobo audiobook , Fiyah nanowrimo writing groups , Black Solidarity day 2019 , The Comeback Of Sexual Chocolate , no time to die poster content , Overdrive  , lt uhura dollypartonchallenge , emoney, a day and most night at the uffizi , raprushmore , Malcolm 2020 , daylight savings time 382020 , the black fratrem , a saint patrick day past, heavymetal sixart challenge, startwithlove , to arbery from maurice jackson, from owner's choice to merit , FIYAHCON 1 , Flashfiction 7142020 , Radical Racer , 20th anniversary Deviantart , the ethics of lust , Sanctimony Literature  , ? 
    Calligraphy Mirror
    Kiss of a dagger , Angelique Noire , ?
    Anthology Sentences
    Breonna Taylor , ?
    Engineering  Cloud
    Fixing Plastic ,  Blacksmithing Basics ,  multi electromagnetic wave observation ,  AMP in Email , Makers jobs or cosplay , ? 
    Email Gazette Fragments
    fifth issue , tenth issue, eleventh issue , twelfth, thirteenth , fifteenth ,sixteenth, seventeenth ,eighteenth , 19/20/21/23 ,24/25/27/29/30/31/32 , 33/34/35/36/37 ,38/39/40/41/42/43 , 44/45/46/47/48/49/50/51/52/53/54 , 55/56/57/58/59/60/61 , 62/63/64/65/66 , 67/68/69/70, 71/72/73/74/75/76 , 77,78,79,80,81,82,83,84,85,86,87,88,89,90 , 91<->130 , ?
    Question Cloud
    The Internet without the USA, are marvel movies theme parks or cinema, joker of our times , the greatest native american warrior in film , is dr serikawa the special effect , isn't it time for a pro nazi german film, Ligt and Daenerys  , liking online , what does joker 2 after the joker film with joaquim phoenix mean , when is a culture allowable  , history book Kamala Harris side Corey Booker , who will be your fictional fertilizer , MLK jr. day 1202020 , what tropes are you tired of , still alive obstinate , What is the July 5th speech fo FRederick DOuglass ,Has the Black community in the usa repeated the mistake of the black soldiers of the 13 colonies throughout its existence in the usa, 9112020 , ?
    EBook LIST
    Richard Murray Short Story Collections Kobo Link OverDrive Link
    JIHI series Kobo Link Overdrive Link
    Poetry or More Audiobook link Kobo Link
    Visasiki Audiobook link Kobo Link
    Gospel of Joseph Kobo Link Overdrive Link
    Richard Murray Collages Kobo Link
    SanaTambo Versions Overdrive Link Kobo English Kobo Francais Kobo Portugues Kobo 日本語 Kobo 中文
    Der Tchrumpfs Kobo
    Below is a collage i made to Ty Wilson Art

    Be Safe
  11. richardmurray
    Imagine if we all made a firework with what we learn in this book referring to a game for juneteenth. 
    Fashion tech tutorials are linked later in the post, if you get any ideas share.

    Just put your email FREELY and in comes in your email 

    AND wearable tech tutorials, maybe make a game out of clothes, any ideas?
    Wearable tech tutorials
    and some others
  12. richardmurray
    Gather your friends, classmates, and anyone else looking for competitive fun for your opportunity to qualify for two tournaments at Nintendo Live 2023 in Seattle this September!
    The action kicks off at home with the Mario Kart™ 8 Deluxe Championship 2023 Qualifier and the Splatoon™ 3 Championship 2023 Qualifier tournaments, where you or your team can earn an opportunity to travel to Seattle and compete at Nintendo Live 2023.
    Then, in September, top players will step onto the big stage and into the spotlight in the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Championship 2023 and the Splatoon 3 Championship tournaments at Nintendo Live 2023 in Seattle!
    Date: May 27
    Time: 2PM – 6PM PT
    To enter, you must participate in the Tournament in the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe game during the Tournament Period. To access the Tournament, select the following, in order, within the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe game: Online Play*, Tournaments, Search by Code. Enter the following code to enter the in-game tournament.
    Tournament ID: 1197-1366-3531
    The top four players will receive a trip to Nintendo Live 2023 in Seattle, a spot to compete in the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Championship 2023 tournament, and a package of other great prizes including a trophy, a jacket, My Nintendo Gold Points and more!
    Event #1: June 3 & June 4
    Ladder Round will be held from 12:00 PM PT to 3:00 PM PT on June 3, 2023.
    Bracket Round and Top 4 will be held from 12:00 PM PT to approximately 6PM PT on June 4, 2023.
    Event #2: June 10 & June 11
    Ladder Round will be held from 12:00 PM PT to 3:00 PM PT on June 3, 2023.
    Bracket Round and Top 4 will be held from 12:00 PM PT to approximately 6PM PT on June 4, 2023.
    The top two teams from each event will receive a trip to Nintendo Live 2023 in Seattle, a spot to compete in the Splatoon 3 Championship 2023 tournament, and a package of other great prizes including a trophy, a jacket, My Nintendo Gold Points and more!
    To register, head over to Battlefy.com/Splatoon3. Registration opens on May 8, at 9AM PT.
  13. richardmurray

    Game Art
    I can't wait for Fae Farm, I hope it is a similar game like my beloved Fantasy Life, which is finally coming out with its second edition too. 
    But, Fae Farm asked
    Here's some pictures I took while exploring Azoria! 📸  I love hanging up photos to make my space look as cozy as can be~ 
    Maybe you can use these pictures in your cozy space as well and show us how you've done it! 🖼️ 💖
    So I made two versions, the first is a living space where the magical worlds of Fae Farm are right out the window. the sketchfab can be rotated and focused.
    Faefarm worlds v1 by richardmurray3d on Sketchfab

    The second version is a magical space in the clouds where the worlds face this home in the sky. the sketchfab can be rotated and focused. The blog entries graphic came from this one
    Faefarm worlds V2 by richardmurray3d on Sketchfab
    My Linktree- to my spaces in the e-space
    My Newsletter- join for free for updates in your email. 
    My Blog - message me anytime
    Image from the first

    Image from the second

  14. richardmurray
    Yes, I am a creator. Yes, I write or draw. Yes, all the art in this post comes from the dreamup software by deviantart. Yes, if you want to see my work use the following link as I am a multimedia artist.  https://aalbc.com/tc/profile/6477-richardmurray/?tab=field_core_pfield_11
    The recent Mario Bros Movie is a financial hit, a commercial hit. Whether an artististic or creative hit... I don't know.
    But I realized a use for the uses of an imitative software, some call AI , and I placed as a prompt.
    African American Mario
    The following was returned
    I call this:) Graffit mario:) 

    I have to admit, I am stumped as to where the computer referenced for this. 

    The following was easy, it is white mario side black mario. The black mario has on green but has a fists up. Black mario has the same skin color as white mario though I did say African American and a minority in the African American community in the usa are phenotypically analogous to whites. 

    Then I used African American Mario Bros and the following came up
    I can see the skin tone has browned up a little. And I think the blue hat African American Luigi is a touch. But what bothers me is peach. I can't be sure , but I think the character top left is supposed to be peach. The facial expressions is caricature, it seems she is angry. The computer deduced that is african american peach. oh wow, its intelligence has a way to go:) 

    For me, I sense a more, Super MArio Hermanos. To paraphrase Richard Pryor, they are cue-ban!

    Here it seems the comuter deduced an African American Mario Bros will have the same Mario but Luigi is black. IS the computer racists? OR are the data entries into the computer... racists ? haha and I have no idea who the blue hat guy is in this one. The computer here has deduced that the African American MArio Bros will be three not two. Any ideas on the name of the third brother, the one with the blue hat? don't say Hakim!:) 

    And now!!!!
    African American PRincess PEach!!! After mentioning her I had to see.
    I get this a little.YOu can see the computer has been fed many various images and the multiversity in Black women's imagery is clearly evident. I don't know which is supposed to be peach but the one on the left to the viewer has a headwrap on. I think the one in the middle may be peach cause she has a crown and the mario colors. This is almost like a Cookie from empire version of PRincess Peach. TO the viewers's right, I don't know. And so I did a little search and then it hit me. The one on the viewers left is princess daisy. The viewer's right must be princess Rosalina. And I didn't realize that the princess in the first mario movie was daisy not peach so that was a luigi tale?:) 

    This is clearly a focus on PRincess PEach. Maybe the other two princesses are behind in bust. But I realize, the guy with the yellowish orange must be African American mushroom:) 

    Poor dreamup , it is clearly an ancient ancestor of the enterprise original series computer.  It doesn't know the difference between princess peach and barbie. So it gave both. The computer went the same way as the first director of the wizard of oz. He wanted The WIcked Witch to be sexy faced like the one in Wicked now. But he also wanted Dorothy to be... illusive:) Search "Early Costume Shot for Wizard of Oz Judy Garland" . I am waiting for that padre in V for Vendetta to have his last remittance. 

    and lastly ,  I thought, lets give the machine , deviantart's dreamup, another pass. This time, the prompt is: " african american princess peach, detailed, precision" 30% similarity and using as reference the image above with african american mushroom
    I can see the computer has deduced, bling with african american fashion and thus african american peach has these diamond sequences in her dress. Funny how the mushroom kingdom looks, it seems like a baby between the mushroom kingdom and wakanda but anyway.

    again, this computer system, Deviantart Dreamup, is clearly racists! hahaha , should I cancel this computer program? Why is so angry. 

    And finally,the lack of specificity on my part forced the computer program to design on its own and absent certainty or clarity, which it doesn't have, it produced this.  I have no idea. But the computer is convinced that african american peach will wear a lavender
    About A.I. and Copyright
  15. richardmurray
    1)What defines a Black comic book to you, no answer is wrong? 2)From your definition of Black Comic book, which will you like to see made into a video game?  I ask the two questions cause the point of Black Games Elite is to create, not to preach or talk. 
    10:30 AM EST
    Black Comic Futures (Curated by Black Comics Collective)

    Little Apple Universe Screenings
    An interactive discussion and look inside the TV shows and school curriculum activities of Little Apple Universe.

    Riley Wilson, Little Apple Universe Young Actors

    Black Comic Future Panel
    Youth comic book artists discuss their original comic and creative process.

    AK Lovelace, Harlem School of the Arts
    1 PM EST
    Banned Books and Diversity in Comics

    Book bans across the U.S. are targeting graphic novels and comic books, especially those that take up issues of race, gender, and sexuality. This will be a conversation about how to advocate for stories that represent the full range of experiences for youth and adults.
    Joe Illidge, Dr. Monique Couvson,
    Mike Haynes-Pitts, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, Kadia Tubman
    3 PM EST
    The Creator Symposium

    Hosted by Women in Comics Collective International, this conversation will explore the ways in which multimedia and comic book professionals working in comics can continue to grow and thrive in an ever-changing industry.

    Regine Sawyer, Janicia Francis, Shauna Grant, Javier Cruz Winnik, Barbara Brandon-Croft, Ben Ha Meen
    5 PM EST
    The Business of Comics and Sequential Narrative

    A conversation on the business of comics and moving in the industry beyond just publishing.

    TJ  Sterling, Alitha Martinez, Shawn Martinbrough, Gamal Hennesy, Dedren Snead
    6:45 PM EST
    Access Guide's Black Comics Trivia Challenge!

    Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community the first SchomCom Trivia Night. This “Jeopardy” style event features the panelists and audience members in a nerd-off of Black characters and events from comics, tv, movies, and the culture, for ultimate bragging rights. Attendees will be able to play along on their phones or tablets to see if they are as knowledgeable as our panelists.

    Tatiana King, Karama Horne, John Jennings, Regine Sawyer

    11 AM EST
    How to Draw Black Superheroes & Comics

    Join Tim Fielder (Infinitum, DieselFunk Studios) for a master class on drawing comics. This program is open to all ages, but it is especially geared towards young people ages 5 and up.

    Tim Fielder
    1 PM EST
    Speaking for Ourselves: Black Women & Marginalized Voices in Comics

    A conversation hosted by the Nerds, Erbs and Words podcast featuring industry experts about the nuances of Black women, LGBTQ, and other marginalized voices in comics and storytelling -- voices that mainstream media often misses.

    Erika Hardison & Keisha Parks (Nerds, Erbs and Words), Shauna Grant, Karama Horne, Elizabeth Colomba, Barbara Brandon-Croft
    3:30 PM EST
    Black in the Future: Afrofuturism in Comics & Graphic Novels

    A conversation highlighting the powerful relationship between Afrofuturism, comics, and graphic novels.

    John Jennings, Ytasha Womack, Tim Fielder, Ayize Jama-Everett
    5:30 PM EST
    Cosplay Showcase

    The SchomCom Cosplay Showcase is open to attendees of all ages and skill levels. The showcase will take place on Saturday, April 15 at 6 PM. If you want to participate, you can sign up at the Schomburg Center on Friday, April 14 from 10 AM - 8 PM, or Saturday, April 15 from 10 AM- 3 PM. The last registration for the cosplay showcase is at check-in on Saturday, April 15.

    Guest DJ Greg Wilson (@gregorywilson)

    I have to admit. I have become disenchanted with this festival. And I will be blunt, I have become disenfranchised with the NY Comiccon or the MakersFaire in NYC. Maybe it is just the financial scenario of NYC. But, all to often, the supposed point of the convention or fair is lost. The Schomburg Black Comic Book Festival isn't about Black Comic Books. It is Multiracial or multiculturalism in aspects of the Comic Book Industry. It isn't about Black explicitly. I daresay it is more about female representation, that just happens to be black , then about black representation. And that isn't a problem. But, it calls itself a Black Comic Book fair. And, they will have a virtual gallery for black comics, which is just like NYComiccon's artist alley, which used to be the entire NY comiccon, is now a small aside. It's not a comiccon . It is a movie/video game, entertainment convention. And same with the Makersfaire. It is a 3d printing, drone fair. True makers get these little areas to show their craft. I just wish all conventions and starting with Black ones, will be more honest about what they are here for. If I administered a Black Comic Book Convention, it will be a simple thing. Get Black comic books!  I wish the Schomburg would mirror itself off of the Komikku Māketto in Nippon, commonly called Japan. Get rid of all the Black preachers who want to talk about this and talk about that. I will love to see how many Black Comic Books are out there. Something tells me, far fewer black comic books are available today, than Black artists who say they want to make a comic. 
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