"I only wanna write what doesn’t exist." An interview with #WriterPrompt Winner Mame Bougouma Diene.

The Satellite Charmer

A polyharmony in B minor rang from a violin of space dust, drawing an undulating ♫ on the void from a tense string. “Sirius exploded at your birth,” his grandmother had told him. “You’ll become space itself one day, if you wish.”

And he had.

The sun shone inside his iris, a nebula tickled his inner ear, and each satellite mining Africa from space sparkled around the blue pebble where he had abandoned his body.

He flung the galactic bow away, the soundbox expanding, his fingers drumming the thick chords like a bass. The satellites winked out as giant ♬♫♩♪ hammered them in waves, destroying cities across the planet. Somewhere his body died. His fingers merged with the chords, he and the bull fiddle were one vibration, bouncing between satellites until a ring of debris circled the earth. He inhaled, or rather somewhere in the vastness of space a galaxy exploded. He let his fingers rest. Light years away the bass line birthed a star.

His grin lingered as he dangled the insignificant planet, tempted to crush it; when through a black hole somewhere in infinity, something glowed, something new, and he turned his eye away from Earth forever.

Mame Bougouma Diene won SSDA's 10th #WriterPrompt with his story ‘The Satellite Charmer’. He work features regularly in the African SciFi scene, and he participates regularly in SSDA events and competitions.

Your speculative fiction shorts are seeing a lot of press, including "Hell Freezes Over" which is part of the AfroSFv2 anthology. What attracts you to the genre? 

MAME:  I’m really stoked about AfroSFv2; it’s gonna be something else, and I’m happy to get my work out there. Working with different editors helps improve very fast.

I don’t know if I have a straightforward answer. It is a bit odd, because as a person, intellectually, I am very much attached to facts. Historic, scientific and cultural, researched precisely. I abhor conspiracy theories and the like, racial appropriations and such. I’d rather my spin on reality be fictional than have my reality spin doctored.  

I have tried to write a “normal” thing, being a big Paul Auster fan, but it ended up being the story of a serial killer who only kills children with down-syndrome and only on Christmas eve. That’s when I realized it was a waste of time trying to write regular or literary fiction.

I guess the bottom-line is that I grew up with Voltron, Thundercats and lots of Japanese animé. My parents had me sit through Dune when I was six or something, and my father used to read us a lot of myths and legends. Plus, as a Senegalese man, his view of the world is somewhat naturally mystic. Both my parents are huge sci-fi heads.

I honestly have no idea why I write SFF, probably because I like to get so many facts about reality, I only wanna write what doesn’t exist. 

In your writing, both fiction and non-fiction, do you easily switch between French and English?

MAME: Not really. Being a native speaker of two languages is not like most people [would] think [it is], which is that you’re some kind of natural interpreter. What it means is that you think constantly in two languages, start thinking in one and end in another, lose your train of thought because you’re thinking in English but this one word you only know it in French and vice versa. Changing frames of reference means deconstructing and reconstructing my brain to switch from one to another with the same amount of risk involved.

It’s the same when it comes to writing. I write predominantly in English because I read more in English. Concepts don’t always match in French and English, the flow of writing and speaking are very different, just as the expectations of what a “writer” should produce are different. French is very elitist in that regard and I don’t have time for those kinds of considerations. A lot of people ask me to help them correct translations, I give up within a second. Translation is a job for which most bilingual people are predisposed, but not naturally inclined. I really hope someone reads this so they can understand and stop asking me to help translate. I don’t need it, so I don’t do it.

I am working on some projects in French. I have one short published (not speculative) by Edilivre about a Senegalese illegal immigrant. Hopefully I’ll complete another by year’s end and have it out, speculative this time, about a Moroccan who builds a flying machine to make it illegally to France. 

Mame Bougouma Diene is a French-Senegalese American humanitarian based in Paris – unless you’re reading this in December, in which case he’s based in Mexico. He has a fondness for progressive metal, tattoo and policy analysis. He is published in Omenana, Brittlepaper and AfroSFv2.


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Interview by Tiah Beautement a.k.a. @ms_tiahmarie