JULY 2017: MY COMEBACK

Hello,   everybody. It sure feels great to be back in the blogging saddle  again,  after a long and unfortunate hiatus. And what better way to  return than  with the announcement of a new book's debut?

The title of the volume isNyumbani Tales. It is a collection of short stories I wrote during the period from the mid-1970s to the late '80s. The yarns can be viewed as vintage   sword-and-soul ... the beginnings of my explorations into how African   myths, legends and culture could fit into the framework of contemporary   fantasy and sword-and sorcery fiction. From those explorations came  the  exploits of my two major characters, the ultimate warrior Imaro and  the  Black Amazon Dossouye. Their adventures are chronicled in four  Imaro  novels and two Dossouye volumes. 

However,   the African experience, which stretched back to the beginning of   humankind, offers far more fuel for the creative fire. Thus, I have   written a number of sword-and-soul stories that feature neither  Dossouye  nor Imaro. These stories appeared in small-press magazines, as  well as  mass-market paperback anthologies. I have gathered these  stories into a  single volume:Nyumbani Tales.    The title is a tribute to the name of the alternate-world Africa I   created as a setting for the Imaro stories and novels. Nyumbani also   serves as the background for the non-Imaro, non-Dossouye stories in the   collection.

The publication ofNyumbani Tales came about as a matter of pure serendipity. My friend Milton Davis, who has published my Abengoni novel and with whom I have co-edited theGriots anthologies,   came up with the idea of turning one of my short stories, "The Return   of Sundiata," into an e-book. I thought that was a great idea, and told   Milton so. In passing, I mentioned that "The Return of Sundiata" was   just one of several non-Imaro, non-Dossouye stories I hoped would be  put  together as a collection some day. 

Milton said: "Hey, let's publish that collection now!"

My response: "Right on!"

So that's howNyumbani Tales came   to be. The scope of the stories therein pretty well encapsulates the   evolution of the sword-and-soul sub-genre, as well as an overview of my   development as a writer. Some of the tales date back more than 40  years,  appearing in zines for which I was paid either in copies or a  fraction  of a cent per word. I am just as proud of them as I am of my  novels, for  which I got paid much more.

Yet even in the glow of the publication ofNyumbani Tales, something niggles (That's an acceptable n-word, folks) at the back of my mind.

Part   of the current war of words over political correctness vs freedom of   expression is the debate about "cultural appropriation." Loosely   defined, cultural appropriation is an arrogant ripping-off of aspects  of  one culture by artists and entrepreneurs of another. It can be  anything  from the use of Native North American images as sports-team  logos and  mascots to to casting white actors to play characters who  were  originally non-white, or change entire cultures from colored to   Caucasian -- or vice-versa.

Lately,  I've been  wondering if I'm guilty of cultural appropriation in my use  of African  motifs as the basis for my fiction. If I were ever accused of  cultural  appropriation, I would vehemently deny it. When I started  writing  sword-and-soul, I believed I was righting a wrong by correcting  the way  Africans and black people in general were, for the most part,   misrepresented if not ignored in the genres I nonetheless enjoyed. All   modesty aside, I believe I have succeeded in that goal. 

And   I'm not the only one. A scholar named Steve Tompkins, who is no longer   with us, once wrote that my work "decolonized Africa in fantasy   fiction." That stands as the highest compliment I have yet received.  Its  implication is about as opposite to the notion of  cultural   appropriation as one can get.

Yet still ... sometimes I wonder.

If you have any thoughts on this matter, please feel free to express them in this site's Feedback section.

In the meantime,Nyumbani Tales is available in e-book, hardcover and paperback form at:MVmedia Publishing The Best in Black Speculative Fiction!