This interview was originally published at News & Press from The Future Fire.
Chinelo Onwualu is a writer, editor and journalist living in Abuja, Nigeria. She is a graduate of the 2014 Clarion West Writers Workshop, which she attended as the recipient of the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship. She is editor and co-founder of Omenana, a magazine of African speculative fiction. Her writing has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including Strange Horizons, Brittle Paper, Ideomancer, AfroSF: African Science Fiction by African Writers, and Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond. Follow her on Twitter or check out her website. She spoke to Rivqa Rafael about her writing and editing, and about African speculative fiction.
RR: (As far as I’m aware) you’re the editor of two ambitious speculative fiction magazines. First, I’ll ask about the more established one, Omenana. I love your two-pronged mission here, showcasing African speculative fiction and challenging “normative ideas” – not to mention the gorgeous art and stories. What can you tell us about the magazine and its growth over the years?
CO: Well, the magazine was actually the brainchild of my co-founder Mazi Nwonwu. He’d been thinking of creating a platform for the kinds of speculative fiction that he and a lot of people he knew were writing, but which just weren’t getting any attention from the arbiters of mainstream “African” fiction, a lot of whom are in the US or the UK. I’d expressed an interest in starting some sort of platform as well, so he reached out to me.
It’s been so much fun working on Omenana. I’ve read so much more African sci-fi, fantasy and horror in the past two years and I don’t think I’d have had the opportunity otherwise. The first couple of issues we had to solicit for stories, but by the end of the first year we were getting quite a number of submissions. This last issue we received nearly 50! I had no idea that so many writers were doing such amazing things with the genre.
Every month it’s a bit of a scramble, especially around our art. Plus, we became a paying platform last year – just when the Nigerian economy went into recession and our currency lost more than twice its value – and that hasn’t been easy either because we run it out of our pockets. We’ll be crowdfunding later this year to raise money to keep the whole thing going – so look out for that.
Despite it all, the African speculative fiction continues to grow – even beyond the magazine. Last year, a bunch of us writers, artists and filmmakers formally organised the African Speculative Fiction Society. We’ll be awarding our first prize for novels and short fiction, the Nommos, this year. Members are currently in the nominating process.
As for the magazine, we’re looking to expand our online presence and create more of a hub for African speculative fiction, with news, podcasts, and forums for discussion. Mainstream African stories have always had a speculative element to them, but to see how the boundaries of what is speculative are being pushed has been such an honour to witness, you know? Continue reading