Over the past decade, the publishing industry has become risk averse. The words “genre-defying” and “original” make agents and editors break out in a cold sweat – or so we’re told. The industry is constantly described as conservative. Manuscripts are rejected for being too cerebral, unsellable in a market that wants only apple pie. An alternative publishing model has grown up around writers looking for new routes to readers. However indie publishers are often (unfairly) percieved as exploitative and the work produced by them as subpar.
It is in this climate that Short Story Day Africa was formed and, in the four years since inception, the SSDA team has developed a survival ethos: to subvert and reclaim. To reclaim the place of the short story. To reclaim a space for nonconformist writers. To subvert ideas about what it means to be a writer in Africa. To subvert ideas about African stories.
The theme for our latest anthology was one of subversion, this time of speculative fiction. Introducing Terra Incognita: nineteen new speculative stories from all over Africa.
Terra Incognita’s cover continues the theme of subversion. When Nick Mulgrew, the newest member of the SSDA team, was tasked with designing the cover for Terra Incognita, he took to re-appropriating old ideas about Africa:
“All of the elements of the visual design come from centuries-old material that I found in the Cape Town Central Library, which all really came to life when paired with humanist type with a slight sci-fi edge. I’d like to say that the design is about subverting colonial cartographic tropes, and as well as about undermining ideas of Africa as a dark, impenetrable continent, in order to reclaim and reposition them in a more modern, Afrofuturist context – and, sure, it is about that – but mostly I think it just looks nice. “
Which sums up the real reason for all our subversion this year at SSDA. We just want to produce great work, and read great stories.
Terra Incognita. Uncharted depths. Africa Unknowable.