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!