Monday, May 18, 2015

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NNEDI OKORAFOR ON AFROFUTURISM, BARACK OBAMA, AND STEPHEN KING'S SUPER DUPER MAGICAL NEGROES (MF Galaxy 026)

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Nnedi Okorafor is the celebrated author of ten books, including The Shadow Speaker, Who Fears Death, and the forthcoming The Book of Phoenix. Zahrah the Windseeker, Okorafor’s debut novel about a highly technological world based on Nigerian myths and culture, was nominated for the Locus Best First Novel Award, shortlisted for the Parallax and Kindred Awards, a finalist for the Golden Duck and Garden State Teen Choice awards, and it won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature.

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This episode’s conversation with Okorafor comes from way down deep in the archives of The Terrordome: The Africa All-World News Service. I spoke with Okorafor by telephone back on January 18, 2009, but back then aired only a portion of what you’ll hear now. Okorafor talked about many issues, including:

  • Her definition of what Euro-American literary critic Mark Dery called Afrofuturism
  • The appeal of science fiction to African audiences who have for most of the genre’s existence been excluded by it
  • Her thoughts on just how Africentric The Matrix series is, or isn’t
  • And the thesis of her famous 2004 essay called “Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes,” and what it reveals about American literary culture and politics.

We also discuss the powerful effect on self-conception that the American continent-wide rape gulag had on the West Africans who became the African-Americans, which were profoundly different from the effects that mass enslavement had on the so-called “indentured servants”—that is to say, European slaves, not to mention the rest of humanity since slavery existed across the planet.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

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NK JEMISIN, AWARD-WINNING SFF AUTHOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, BLOGGER (MF Galaxy 025)

 

Celebrated novelist NK Jemisin is the author of The Inheritance Trilogy, The Broken Earth Trilogy, and The Dreamblood Duology. Her writing has won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and three Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards. Jemisin’s work has also received nominations for the Crawford, Gemmell Morningstar, and James Tipree, Jr. Awards, two nominations for the World Fantasy Award, three nominations for the Hugo Award, and four nominations for the Nebula Award.

Along with Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor, NK Jemisin is one of the N3, a nucleus of highly influential contemporary writers of science fiction and fantasy. Jemisin is also well-known as a blogger on politics, feminism, and racism; in what writers would call a “day job” and what others would call a full-time career, she’s a counselling psychologist.

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In today’s episode, Jemisin speaks on her craft, specifically:

  • World Building, including what to leave in, and what to leave out and why
  • The importance of a “Beta Readers”
  • Pessimism vs sociopathy in characterisation
  • Why some SFF readers react angrily against the use of unfamiliar literary techniques
  • Fan reactions against novelty, and reader single-mindedness
  • Her alternative to meat-and-potatoes epic fantasy
  • How being a psychologist affects her character creation
  • Outlining vs pantsing
Jemisin spoke with me by Skype from her home in New York City on January 24, 2015.





Monday, May 04, 2015

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NALO HOPKINSON, AFROFUTURIST VISIONARY NOVELIST, ON THE CRAFT OF WRITING (MF Galaxy 024)


The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science calls acclaimed novelist Nalo Hopkinson a luminary in the science fiction community. She is widely identified with Afrofuturism, an Africentric aesthetic movement in music, fashion, film-making, comic books, and novels that draws upon global African aesthetics and histories to imagine new Africentric futures.

As you’re about to hear, Nalo Hopkinson has lived in many regions and communities of the Western hemisphere, making her an insider to many and an alien to many more. She’s the author of ten celebrated books including Skin Folk, Sister Mine, The New Moon’s Arms, and her explosive debut Brown Girl in the Ring, a dystopian science fiction adventure set in near-future Toronto featuring an African-Canadian heroine and the orisha gods of Nigeria and Benin who are central to the New World African cultures and religions of the Caribbean and South America.

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In many ways Hopkinson and fellow author Tananarive Due novel helped re-launch Afrofuturist literature, and broke ground for novelists such as Nnedi Okorafor, N K Jemisin, Andrea Hairston, and Daniel Jose Older, and the Kenyan science fiction filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu. She’s now a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside in the only dedicated SF writing programme anywhere in the English-speaking world.

In this episode, Hopkinson discusses the craft of writing, addressing:

  • Her stance on pantsing vs. outlining
  • What unites the work of Terry McMillan, Neil Gaiman, and Ursula Leguin
  • The importance of symbolism, and
  • The experience of readers misreading what she’s written

I began our discussion by asking Hopkinson about her work at the University of California Riverside. Note that at one point we’re discussing the Terry McMillan novel Waiting to Exhale and the movie adaptation directed by Forrest Whitaker, and unfortunately neither of us can remember the title, and later Nalo graciously cites my own novel The Coyote Kings but without naming it.

Hopkinson spoke with me from her home in Riverside, California by Skype on November 30, 2014.


 

 

Monday, April 27, 2015

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WILLIAM B. DAVIS, THE X-FILES' CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN (MF Galaxy 023)


Actor William B. Davis is best known as Cigarette Smoking Man, AKA Cancer Man, from the 1990s hit science fiction television series The X-Files. By know all you X-Files-ophiles know that the Chris Carter-produced show will be returning to television in 2016 as a six-episode miniseries shot in Vancouver, and will feature stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. And returning with them will be the sinister Cigarette Smoking Man, whom the readers of TV Guide voted Television’s Favourite Villain.

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Davis, the Canadian screen legend, is also an acting teacher who founded his own acting school where he taught stars such as Lucy Lawless. Davis is the author of a memoir called Where There’s Smoke... Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man. In this episode’s conversation you’ll hear Davis talk about the craft of acting and his odyssey to enrich his own artistry, including the time when his fellow student Donald Sutherland was, in Davis’s words, “not very good.” He also discusses his thoughts on:

  • The difficulty of creating credible tears and laughter, and David Duchovny’s major acting liability
  • Why some good actors falter in genre acting
  • What works on stage that doesn’t work on screen, and vice versa
  • The difficulties of merging divergent acting styles into the same fast-paced television production
  • His take on fellow actors such as Marlon Brando, Robert Downey, Jr., the Baldwins, and Dame Judy Dench.







Happy Harbor offers every comic and manga and more you could possibly want and if they don’t have it in stock, the friendly staff will get it for you. Happy Harbor supports charities, schools and libraries, its own Artist in Residence, and even a scholarship. The store is family friendly, and the place where I buy all my comics and graphic novels, and where I have all my book launches. In short, it’s a great place.

If you’re in E-Town and shopping for comics, find Happy Harbor in the heart of downtown across from MacEwan University campus on 107th Street and 104th Avenue, and tell them heard about Happy Harbor on MF GALAXY.

*While there should, of course, be a "u" in the word "harbour," the store is named after the Justice League's headquarters, and there's nothing I can do about that.




Monday, April 20, 2015

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BUK AROP: EMMANUEL JAL IS STOKING CIVIL WAR IN SOUTH SUDAN


Buk Arop, president of the Edmonton-based South Sudan Development Foundation, says that Emmanuel Jal, the award-winning South Sudanese hip hop artist, activist, and actor, is stoking the South Sudanese Civil War. To hear my interview with Jal, download episode 021.

Like Jal, Arop is a so-called “lost boy”--a person who lost his childhood to the Sudanese Civil War. Born in 1981, Arop entered the Pinyudo Refugee Camp in Ethiopia where the Sudan People’s Liberation Army conscripted him as a child soldier.

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When the Ethiopian regime fell in 1991, ten year old Arop and all the other refugees were forced to leave on foot. He arrived in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp in 1992, where he stayed until the year 2000. Then, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees nearly sent him to Norway, but at the last moment switched his destination to Canada, where Arop earned a BA in International Development Studies and an MA in Cultural Studies.

Today Arop speaks five languages and works with immigrant youth in Edmonton. He’s also the Secretary General for Abyei Youth Association in Diaspora.

While Emmanuel Jal spoke to youth across Alberta as part of a John Humphrey Centre-sponsored tour, he made remarks that Buk Arop denounced on Twitter: “Emmanuel Jal, a peace soldier beating South Sudanese war drums. Is Ban Kimoon et al aware?”


I spoke with Buk Arop on April 17, 2015 at the University of Alberta campus to ask him about what Jal was saying and why he objected.


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My acclaimed novel The Alchemists of Kush is about two Sudanese lost boys. Click here for reviews, videos, text, and audio about the book, and to order the paperback or ebook.

Monday, April 13, 2015

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EMMANUEL JAL, WAR CHILD - BETRAYAL IN THE PROMISED LAND OF SOUTH SUDAN (MF GALAXY 021)


Award-winning hip hop artist, activist, author, and former lost boy Jal Jok, better known as Emmanuel Jal, was born around 1980 into a destiny of pain.

When he was seven years old, Sudanese soldiers killed his mother—the first of many of his family to die at government hands. After his father joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army or SPLA, Jal sought refuge in Ethiopia along with thousands of other children, and ended up enslaved by the SPLA as a child soldier—the so-called “lost boys.”

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Jal eventually escaped to the town of Waat where he met a British aid worker named Emma McCune who was married to SPLA commander, and future South Sudanese vice president Riek Machar. After adopting Jal, McCune took him to Kenya for education, but she herself died in a vehicle accident only months later, and he soon found himself living in the slums of Nairobi.

It was there that Jal discovered hip hop and devoted his life to political art, particularly to engaging the struggles of South Sudan, and became an international star. He’s released six albums including Gua, Ceasefire, Warchild, Emmanuel Jal’s 4th Studio Album, See Me Mama, and The Key. He’s the author of the autobiography War Child, has appeared in a biographical documentary of the same name, and has acted in the feature film Africa United, as well as in the controversial movie The Good Lie, directed by Ron Howard and starring Reese Witherspoon; 54 Sudanese refugees have sued the film’s producers for exploiting them.

Jal has performed at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebration in London and at the One Concert for the Dalai Lama. He’s spoken before the United Nations, the US Congress, and the Carter Centre. He founded a charity, Gua Africa, that provides scholarships for Sudanese war survivors and Nairobi slum children.

Jal currently lives in Toronto, but by his own description is “always on the road.” He was in Edmonton as part of an Alberta-wide tour that the John Humphrey Centre organised for Jal to share his experiences in “social-emotional learning.” We spoke at the John Humphrey Centre in Edmonton on March 20, 2015. Our topics included:



  • Jal’s philosophy on “benevolently stereotyping” strangers
  • His approach to being a settler on First Nation land
  • Why, in his opinion, the optimism that led to the creation of South Sudan has decayed into misery under the presidency of Salva Kiir Mayardit, the vice-presidency of Riek Machar, and the influence of Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni
  • The responsibility of the United States for the chaos inside its client state South Sudan, and
  • The effects of US Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi on the people of South Sudan.

For clarity’s sake, note that Jal uses the acronym SPLA to refer to the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, which fought the Omar al Bashir government based in Khartoum, before South Sudan seceded with the city of Juba as its capitol.

I began our discussion by asking Jal what his life is like in Toronto, given the widespread racial profiling by police there, including the infamous “carding” system in which police, apparently as a matter of policy, stop all African men to demand identification.


Emmanuel Jal's homepage


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My acclaimed novel The Alchemists of Kush is about two Sudanese lost boys. Click here for reviews, videos, text, and audio about the book.

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NOW READ THIS! 16 Awesome Authors, Activists, Artists, and Academics Recommend Righteous Reading, Part B (MF GALAXY 020)


Last episode was part one of NOW READ THIS!, in which ten awesome people awesomely awesomed up their awesome reading recommendations. Why? Because a whole bunch of angries didn’t like the Bradford Reading Challenge.

What’s the Bradford Reading Challenge, you ask? Simple! Author, tech-reviewer, and fandom activist K. Tempest Bradford suggested in an xoJane.com opinion piece that readers should discover the world of writers who never get confused for Mitt Romney, Stephen Harper, or Patton Oswalt.

This episode, instead of ten boffo-socko book baptisers, let’s level up to SIXTEEN SCINTILLATING BOOK SPEAKERS.

That’s right! We’ll hear from:

  • Directors Ernest Dickerson, Seith Mann, and Reginald Hudlin
  • Alternative Radio founder and interviewer David Barsamian
  • South Sudanese community activist Buk Arop
  • Sociologist and author Algernon Austin
  • Columnist, author, and activist Bill Fletcher
  • Hip hop artist and activist Young Mav
  • Actors Isaiah Washington, Jamie Hector, Robert Wisdom, and Scott Wilson
  • Academic and artist John Jennings
  • Academic and activist Nene Khalema
  • Novelist and journalist Sparkle Hayter, and
  • Scholar and author Runoko Rashidi
  •  
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To hear the recommendations of Wab Kinew, Chuck D, Daryl Lennox, Lisa Yaszek, Gene Luen Yang, Geoffrey Anguyo, Clark Johnson, Clarke Peters, Denis Simpson, and Levar Burton, just download episode 19 of MF GALAXY from iTunes, and to hear my full interview with Bradford, download episode 18, or stream live from MF GALAXY.org.











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