We continue to be a fly on the wall, during Nick and Tade's riveting conversation. In this part, Tade speaks about his artistic side and the pair discuss potential futures in African fiction and for the human race at large.
NICK: Your writing is raw, visceral and tactile - you have a way of locking the reader into the body of your protagonist - what are your secrets to doing this?
TADE: I think it was Murakami in 1Q84 who said that the fantastic needs to be anchored in a very clear mundaneness to make it more believable. We have to have hyper-real scenes to ground the reader, i.e. we need to see the dust, smell the fungus infected feet, we need to hear the noises riding on a rickety bus in Lagos, etc.
NICK: You're a visual artist as well - do you think that helps vivify your scenes too?
TADE: Yes, I often draw storyboards too, like films. I write as if from storyboards too, at times, describing what I see. Art is a complementary medium that aids storytelling – I’m often tempted to illustrate my own stories.
NICK: Do you have a muse? If so, when and where do they talk to you? If they were visible, what might they look like?
TADE: No, I don’t believe in muses – I just do the work! Griots don’t have muses. They just tell the stories.
NICK: What advice would you give young aspiring writers who would like to be published too?
TADE: Don’t seek publication or fame as your primary aim. Just write!
Writing is an art aimed at expression – publication as a goal in and of itself is not a good idea in the beginning. I’ve stopped submitting lots of stuff because it was starting to feel like a factory, like an assembly line process. I’m not sure if that sort of pressured production helps art. There is a lot of noise out there, and the field is crowded.
Focus on developing your craft and reading and improving how you write. Join a writing group if you have to. Ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’ If it’s to achieve fame, you may be in the wrong business. Focus on being exceptional first, write to yourself, not the markets. Revise your work until it shines. But if it is to effectively express yourself, then, yeah, jump in. Rather one memorable work than a multitude of the mediocre. People will eventually ask you ‘what else do you have?’
If you CAN stop writing, then quit. You don’t want it badly enough.
NICK: Which books have you found most inspiring and helpful to your own writing improvement?
TADE: Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide To Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer
Revising Fiction: A Handbook For Writers by David Madden
13 Ways of Looking At The Novel by Jane Smiley
NICK: The world seems to be steadily becoming darker - do you have a vision of the future?
TADE: The world has always been dark – just look at the Middle Ages – which time period would you rather live in?
We always have tunnel vision; things have generally improved so much. Every age has its challenge. Peak antibiotics, environmental destruction, nuclear war, and global fascism are the challenges of this age. So what? Humanity has always risen to the challenges.
We will win, but first we have to fight, and then we have to shed blood, and some of us have to die. There is no paradise without death, my friend.
NICK: What is the future you might fantasise about or hope and wish for?
TADE: That we leave enough of our culture for our kids. I believe humanity is on a course of correction and a lot of blood and loss may be involved unfortunately, but I’m confident we will survive this.
NICK: You've mentioned previously to me about how we should 'give back' to the Africa we both come from - how would you best like to do that?
TADE: Mentoring, running workshops, contributing to Omenana and local magazines and writing. Advocating for payment of writers.
NICK: You have been interviewed on a good number of occasions - has there been a question that has never been asked, that you would *like* to have been asked? If so, what is it - and what is your response?
TADE: The relationship of genre to ‘African’ fiction.
I don’t have any patience with the narrative that SF cannot come from Africa. We cannot just write about child soldiers. We must write romance and crime and SFF too. We need a proliferation of narratives relevant to us as Africans that move beyond the Western gaze. We need to widen our successes to other genres – where are our big names in horror from Nigeria?
I look forward to a time when genre will flower and proliferate.
Closing Note : "And so we ended the interview above. But not before we had taken in the special exhibition at the British Museum, admittedly criticized for its colonial retention of artefacts from elsewhere. This art was on loan, though, and it was fascinating to trace the artistic expression of different eras and persons from the ‘bottom’ of the African continent. No photographs were allowed - but the polymath and constant worker he is - Tade drew some quick yet detailed sketches in his notebook.
Tade’s own work reminds me a little of the music of The African Jazz Pioneers I used to listen to in South Africa. Wild, free and vibrant – whatever the existing constrictions around it. A reinvention of jazz inimitably African. I have the feeling he is a Miles Davis fan, for reasons more than his music too." - Nick Wood
The first part of this interview is not to be missed and can be found here.
Tade Thompson lives and works in the UK. He is the author of a number of SFF, crime, general fiction, and memoir pieces. His alternate history crime novel Making Wolf from Rosarium Publishing was released in September 2015 and his latest novel is Rosewater. More of Tade's thoughts and writing can be found at his blog, Long Time After Midnight.
Nick Wood is a Zambian born, South African naturalised clinical psychologist, with over a dozen short stories previously published in Interzone, Subterfuge, Infinity Plus, and PostScripts, amongst others. Nick has also appeared in the first African anthology of science fiction, AfroSF – and now in a collaborative novella follow-up with Tade Thompson in AfroSFv2.
His book, Azanian Bridges, explores a current but alternative South Africa, where apartheid survived. Nick has completed an MA in Creative Writing (SF & Fantasy) through Middlesex University, London and is currently training clinical psychologists and counsellors at the University of East London in England. He can be found on Twitter, @nick45wood or on his blog.