Monday, September 26, 2016

Think Galactic- Kabu Kabu

For the August convocation of Think Galactic (all meetings of Think Galactic are august convocations, FWIW), we discussed stories from "Kabu Kabu" (2013) by Nnedi Okorafor.

This collection spans most of her career to date, and those who read the whole thing reported that it works best to think of it that way—shows Okorafor and her worlds developing. A number of these stories are also the seeds or extracts from larger works, sometimes obviously so: weren't complete as short stories, though they might compellingly introduce us to bigger stories.

We had a surprisingly short conversation on this collection; most of us didn't have particularly strong reactions to it. We griped about some weak editing and little writerly things, but also praised the atmosphere in some of the stories, as well as the different tone and folk-tale-like distance in a few.

Talked for a bit about other works on Nigeria and specifically the Biafran war, including Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun" and Vonnegut's essay about his last days there.

A number of us liked "Spider the Artist" a lot, and you can read that one online. The use of the Fela Kutie song "Zombie" (listen on Youtube with historical notes) was cool, and led to us talking up his work a bit. In both "Spider" and "Popular Mechanic", we liked that it's not "ideal primitives vs. invading Westerners", though neither does the West get off the hook.

Brief discussion of magical realism and whether these stories fit into that classification better than SF/F—supernatural elements just seem accepted without question in some stories. However, we thought that "mythic" or "folkloric" might be a better description.

While "The Magical Negro" didn't do much for us stylistically, that's almost entirely beside the point, and we really dug it as a manifesto. Spent some time listing some examples of the trope, listing Stephen King in particular ("The Green Mile and "The Stand"), Shepherd Book from "Firefly", and possibly the Oracle from "The Matrix". Okorafor's clear and conscious departure from stereotyped portrayals of Africa in general and Nigeria in particular were a big part of this collection's appeal.

"The Carpet" had a few good creepy moments, but that ending took me right to "Terror at 20,000 Feet", totally campy, not sure if that was intentional.

Keep up with Think Galactic, we have some good reads planned through January!

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