2014 is Short Story Day Africa's year of speculative fiction. Speculative fiction gives writers a way to discuss issues without wheeling out the tropes and the poverty porn and the Oxfam goats.
Earlier this year we sent out a call for all your fantasy, sci-fi, horror, alternative history and magical realism, just about anything that fell into spec fic genre. The theme, Terra Incognita, asked writers to take us into unknown places, break moulds, rethink the way we tell our stories.
The call for entries was answered by 104 writers, not all of whom paid attention to the genre specifications or theme. After those were axed, (sorry people, we were very specific) we were left with 94 eligible stories. Over a period of one month, a team of dedicated readers whittled away at the entries, sending us their comments and a rating out of 10. Each entry was read by two readers, which sometimes led to vastly disparate opinions on the same story, which led to rereading, arguing and discussion at SSDA HQ. Many of the stories ended up being read by three, and sometimes, four readers.
And then there were 36.
As curator of the project, I hunkered beneath my duvet over the weekend and read until my eyes bled. I took tea breaks when my capacity for judging quality from a quantity of words, words, words faltered. And then there were twenty-one, which seemed like a good number, but I still wasn't sure. So, I reached out to a few trusty souls and asked them to lend me their eyes again.
And so, I present a list of eighteen* – some polished and professional, some rough diamonds – that will make up this year's anthology.
1. Gail Dendy
2. Diane Awerbuck
3. Sylvia Schlettwein
4. Chinelo Onwualu
5. Mary Okon Ononokpono
6. Phillip Steyn
7. Dilman Dila
8. Pwaangulongii Benrawangya
9. Kerstin Hall
10. Toby Bennett
11. Cat Hellisen
12. Jekwu Ozoemene
13. Brendan Ward
14. Sarah Jane Woodward
15. Sese Yane
16. Mishka Hoosen
17. Jason Mykl Snyman
18. Nick Mulgrew
While we begin our work with the eighteen writers to get these stories publication ready, they will pass through the hands of Richard de Nooy (a.k.a. Judge Dread), Jared Shurin (a.k.a. Pornokitsch) and Samuel Kolawole (a.k.a. The Godfather), who will whittle them down to five or six. That shortlist will be handed over to Nnedi Okorafor who will pick the final winners.
None of this would have been possible without the wonderful people who gave up their time to help us read. A special thank you goes out to:
Susan Newham Blake; Beatrice Lamwaka; Maya Fowler; Dave de Burgh; Gail Schimmel; Sheryl Kavin; Sharon Tshipa; Tiah Beautement; Rahala Xenopolous; Judy Smee Dixon; Iain Thomas; Carine Englebrecht; Summaya Lee; Aoife Lennon-Ritchie; Karen Jennings; Henrietta Rose-Innes; Bontle Senne; Bronwyn Stewart; Ayesha Kajee; Dominique Phoeleli; Margot Bertelsmann; Lisa Lazarus; Nerine Dorman.
Congratulations to all the writers who made the list.
* As the reading and judging process are blind, we are releasing only the names of the writers and not the titles of the stories.