May 24 2010 5:00am

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy #021: African SF & Fantasy! Nollywood! Entomology! (Guest: Nnedi Okorafor)

Nnedi Okorafor, author of Zahrah the Windseeker and The Shadow Speaker, joins us to talk about Africa as it’s represented in science fiction and fantasy. Dave and John discuss portrayals of Africa in fiction and film.



0:00 Introduction by

0:38 Dave and John introduce the show and guest

Interview: Nnedi Okorafor

03:58 Start of interview

04:13 Visiting Nigeria as a child

05:15 Early writing efforts and entrance into publishing

07:15 Nnedi’s literary influences

10:06 About attending Clarion Writers’ Workshop

13:44 Other influences: The Moomins, by Tove Jansson; Wizard of the Crow, by Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o

16:31 Nnedi’s first two novels: Zahrah the Windseeker and The Shadow Speaker

18:53 The Carl Brandon Parallax Award, given to the best speculative fiction by a writer of color

19:22 New novels coming out: Who Fears Death and Akata Witch; on writing YA vs. adult fiction

21:15 Regarding teaching at Chicago State

22:31 Nnedi’s early plans to be an entomologist and how it turns up in her writing

24:06 The state of science fiction’s treatment of Africa: who’s getting it right and how others get it wrong

26:45 The popularity of SF/F in Nigeria

28:16 Nollywood, the burgeoning film industry of Nigeria, and some of Nnedi’s favorite Nigerian films: Beautiful Soul and Stronger Than Pain directed by Tchidi Chikere; Warrior’s Heart

30:42 Coming soon from Nnedi: Akata Witch, Disney Fairies, and short fiction coming up in the Life on Mars anthology, and “The Go-Slow” in John’s Way of the Wizard anthology

33:29 End of interview

Dave and John talk about Africa as portrayed in SF/F

33:39 John talks about his upcoming Way of the Wizard anthology, which will include Nnedi’s story “The Go-Slow”

34:54 Alan Dean Foster’s treatment of Africa, and Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed

38:44 Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” from The Illustrated Man

40:36 Mike Resnick’s Kirinyaga

42:48 Future Earths: Under African Skies edited by Mike Resnick and Gardner Dozois

44:30 She by H. Rider Haggard

46:47 District 9

52:08 Short film Pumzi

53:35 Lion’s Blood, Zulu Heart, and Great Sky Woman by Steven Barnes

55:28 Dave’s experience of interviewing a stranger for Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp, and discovering the Spirit Tree

57:34 Show wrap-up

Thanks for listening!

John Joseph Adams ( is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientistís Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.

David Barr Kirtley ( is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.

Show notes compiled by podtern Christie Yant. Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Marc Rikmenspoel
1. Marc Rikmenspoel
In this interview, is there any discussion of Charles R. Saunders and his Imaro and Dossouye stories? These are set in a mythical Africa, with influence from sub-Saharan African legends and lore. See for more about Saunders and his writing.
David Barr Kirtley
2. davidbarrkirtley
Hi Marc. Charles Saunders wasn't mentioned in this episode, but thanks for the recommendation. And if anyone else wants to mention other sf works that involve Africa, please feel free to do so.
John Joseph Adams
3. johnjosephadams
Yeah, my bad, I didn't think to mention Saunders.

Of course, no episode such as this can ever be a complete rundown on a topic like this, and we just mentioned some of the examples that stuck in our minds. Apologies for any oversights.
Gavin McMenemy
4. antihippy
I am actually surprised that you didn't mention Stand on Zanzibar. Brilliant book ... eccentrically written.

I also disagree with your assessment of D9 - a film I thoroughly enjoyed. But I guess we won't see eye-to-eye ... ;)
Fionn Kearneyson
5. Fionn
Here's one from an unexpected source. In 1989, Dr Who was cancelled. A couple of years later, the New Adventures came out. In the future history presented, Africa spent the next thousand years becoming a superpower.

All that was subsequently undone by the narrower horizons of the Eighth Doctor Adventures and the new series, but at least it was there to start with.
Kenneth Lindholm
6. fantastix
Ngugi wa Thiong'o novel Wizard of the Crow is an excellent book and even if it is thick it´s worth a read. The books transation to Finnish won the Tähtifantasia (Starfantasy) Award for the best fantasybook translated to Finnish in 2007.

Oh and thank you for this excelent podcast. In one week I have catched up with the show and enjoyed every minute and on the way found a lot of new great novels to read during this summer.
David Barr Kirtley
7. davidbarrkirtley
Hi fantastix. Glad you're enjoying the show. I'm curious, out of all the books we've mentioned, which ones did you decide to go check out?
Marc Rikmenspoel
8. Redcrest
Wow, great interview--Nnedi sounds like a really interesting person (writing an endless story just for herself throughout college... I can totally relate). Thanks for all the great Africa-related SFF recs. And I'd never heard of Nollywood before today--thanks for teaching me something new~
Kenneth Lindholm
9. fantastix
I just bought N.K. Jemisin -The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Nnedi Okorafor - the Shadow Speaker, Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick and Eli Kintish book Hack the Planet and a few other books. I do read alot and Have around 2 hours every that that I travel by train and I use the best of that time.

I really enjoy the book The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Have half of the book read and it´s much better than I anticipated. That again means that i have a lot of expetations on The Shadow Speaker.

And a idea for the show. How about talking about the fandom of science fiction all around the world. I live in Finland and the science fiction fandom is excellent. The finnish writers of fantastic fiction has a quite high standard and the few translated.. Like Hannu Rajaniemi, Johanna Sinisalo and Tove Jansson makes me happy that I have the possibilities to read, Finnish, Swedish and English.
Heather Johnson
10. HeatherJ
Great episode, as always! Thanks for mentioning THE VELDT - I've been trying to remember the name and author of that story for years without luck. :)
Marc Rikmenspoel
11. KurtRoedeger
As always, another enjoyable episode. If you guys keep exposing me to all these new and wonderful authors, my wife might divorce me with all the time I spend reading.
Marc Rikmenspoel
12. Pietro-mutant
Sorry, but where's the next episode? It's been a while now. I'm kinda anticipating that one...
Gavin McMenemy
13. antihippy
Hi, apologies if this isn't the correct place for this question; I didn't get a reply back from my email. What's happening with your podcast? I've been looking forward to my weekly dose of Kingsquest reminisces for a wee while.
Joshua Evans
14. JoshuaEvans
Yes, hope things are going well, looking forward to the next show.
David Barr Kirtley
15. davidbarrkirtley
Hey guys. is scaling back on podcasting, at least for the time being, so things are a bit up in the air with Geek's Guide at the moment. If there's any news, we'll let you know.
Marc Rikmenspoel
16. Pietro-mutant
Aaaaghh, and just when you were about to interview George R. R. Martin !!!

There is definitely an audience for your show!
David Barr Kirtley
18. davidbarrkirtley
We did record the George R. R. Martin interview (50 minutes of material), and it will definitely be made available at some point.
Marc Rikmenspoel
19. Celia P.
Noooo! I love Geek's Guide. How sad.
David Barr Kirtley
20. davidbarrkirtley
John's new online science fiction magazine Lightspeed is now up and running, and my story "Cats in Victory" just went live. Check it out at
Sandi Kallas
21. Sandikal
Geek's Guide has been one of my favorite podcasts. You guys have turned me on to authors I never would have considered.

Off to check out Lightspeed.
Marc Rikmenspoel
22. farris wheel
I've bought and read Anubis Gates, Wild Seed, Wind up Girl, and Boneshaker because of the podcast.

So thank you.
Sandi Kallas
23. Sandikal
I got hooked on Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series. I also pulled the "Wastelands" anthology off my to-read shelf and devoured it in a couple of days after the episode about apocalypses. The terrific reading list in that book led me to other good post-apocalyptic fiction like "Eternity Road" by Jack McDevitt.
Gavin McMenemy
24. antihippy
Hey guys,

I'm really sad to hear that it doesn't sound like your doing this podcast any more. I really enjoyed it. You guys put me onto all kinds of cool stuff - I've been punting that trailer for Pumzi round all my mates. And I bought Windup girl and Hack the Planet almost exclusively because of the chats with the authors. I thought there was a ton of potential in the show as well.

So I am giving you the sad face. :(
Marc Rikmenspoel
25. AJ Grymm
I really hope TOR decides to keep the podcasts going. I enjoyed them very much. It turned me on to some interesting authors.
Marc Rikmenspoel
26. Juhan R
Ditto the above.

Could we write letters to someone at Tor to maybe try to convince them to keep Geek's Guide going?
David Barr Kirtley
27. davidbarrkirtley
Probably the best thing would just be to post a comment here saying you like the show. If nothing else it would make John and me feel good. We don't really have any idea how many people are listening, and a strong response might effect our future plans.
Sandi Kallas
28. Sandikal
Well, I've already said how much I like the show. I'll just be the first to get the ball rolling on the campaign to bring it back. You guys have great chemistry and do really good interviews.

Please, Tor, bring back the Geek's Guide.

(I'd like to see the stories podcast back too.)
Marc Rikmenspoel
29. Juhan R
I really love the show.
Irene Gallo
30. Irene
Hi Guys,

We have not canceled the show. It's really up to John and David if they want to continue.
David Barr Kirtley
31. davidbarrkirtley
Geek’s Guide has definitely not been canceled. But, times being what they are, the budget for podcasting has shrunk significantly. John and I are trying to come up with ways to keep the show financially viable -- sponsorship, listener support, etc. We’re also considering various format changes. We’ll keep you guys posted.
Marc Rikmenspoel
32. Juhan R
Forgive my ignorance (no sarcasm here), but what exactly is so expensive about podcasting, then?

I mean, it sure is time-consuming, I guess, but... recording an interesting interview and a discussion of various science fiction themes? Shouldn't be THAT costly...

I probably made an utter fool of myself right now :D
David Barr Kirtley
33. davidbarrkirtley
Hi Juhan. No, you definitely haven't made a fool of yourself. I would have thought the same thing before we started doing the show. In fact, I did think the same thing before we started doing the show, otherwise I never would have gotten myself into this. I mean, how much work could it possibly be to produce an hour of audio every week?

Well, you have to sit around drawing up lists of potential guests. You have to dig up audio interviews with different people and discard the ones who just aren't that interesting to listen to. You have to start contacting potential guests. Sometimes this involves going back and forth with their publicist, particularly for bigger names. Sometimes you never hear back at all. Then you have to go back and forth trying to find a time that works for everyone. Often something comes up at the last minute and the guest has to reschedule, and then you have to go through all that again. You have to start figuring out what questions you're going to ask, which involves reading through and listening to previous interviews they've given. If possible you want to read some of the guest's actual work -- reading a book like Hack the Planet can take a few days right there. Then you have to record the interview. Internet service is unreliable where I live, so I have to spend an hour driving in order to get a good connection each time we do an interview. We've typically been recording for about 45 minutes per interview and editing it down to 30 minutes, to remove the questions that didn't go anywhere, the rambling, the awkward pauses, background noise, etc. This typically takes eight hours or more. Then you have to think up stuff to talk about in the discussion, and record the discussion. We typically record for about an hour to an hour and a half, and then edit it down to thirty or forty minutes, keeping only the most interesting material. That's usually a day or two of nothing but editing right there. Then you have to edit in the intro and outro, figure out who the next guest is going to be, and record that and edit it in. You typically have to listen to it a few more times to try to do what you can to fix volume fluctuations and things like that. You have to go through the show and transcribe what all the topics were, then write that up and post it as "show notes," with links to everything. You have to upload the audio files, upload the blog post, update the Facebook page, update our own blogs, and answer comments in the comments thread. It's basically a full-time job.
Marc Rikmenspoel
34. Juhan R
Wow! I didn't realize that.

Still... what could we, the listeners do to convince you to keep going?
Gavin McMenemy
37. antihippy
Hi David,

From my professional perspective I think there's a few things you might be able to do. If one of the problems is - for you - reliable internet connection then use a fixed line conference call service. Record the output from that.
Or how about guest hosts? Find slots then farm it out to your "staff". Give them your questionnaire - and act as the editor. I'd miss the Kingsquest stuff though.

If editing the audio is a problem then perhaps consider finding a helper. I know sound engineers (also part time musicians) who would do this sort of thing in their spare time. Unfortunately I don't exactly live near the US...

I'm also sure we could look at automating the process for updating your various sites. In my line of work we always think "there must be a better way".

Sadly I can't help you with guests with movable schedules!

Anyway; was a big fan of the show but understand that we all have lives. Big thumbs up from over the pond for the effort.

PS. I'm just kicking ideas out of my head and probably haven't considered every potential angle.

PPS. I am not a believer that everything needs to be done "free". If Tor could assign you a decent budget (doesn't need to be huge) things could probably made easier.
Marc Rikmenspoel
38. Pietro-mutant
The future of your podcasting aside (I do hope you continue doing it, though) when will you release the GRRM interview for the listening public? We're all dying here for some DRAGONS news. GRRM is awesome. Thanks.
Leilani Cantu
39. spanishviolet
I love this podcast & have been hoping to see another episode, and finally thought to check in here ... :( After the Sofanauts podcast ended (though he put up another couple of shows lately, yay!), I was so glad to see another SF discussion show launched, and your conversations were so entertaining!

I hope you're able to continue, and that the story podcast does too. I'd gotten hooked on Tor's offerings, and am sad to see them gone for so long.
Marc Rikmenspoel
40. tamahome
Please send more episodes. Just sit around in your underwear and hit record.
Marc Rikmenspoel
41. Manndroid
I'm a huge fan of the show, and am sad to hear there may be no more. I'm one of those guys who actually knew about every single video game references you guys made! Wish there were a mention of Deus Ex, though - was close in theme to a number of the books discussed in the podcast. ;)

Good luck on all future endeavors.

-Mike Mann
Marc Rikmenspoel
42. Manndroid
Also, I thought you guys would enjoy this, given your fondness for RoboCop - It's a hilarious track from a (fake) RoboCop musical, "Murphy, it's You":

They also did one for Total Recall, which also has a video:

And, my personal favorite, Conan the Barbarian:
luis ramos
43. elgrancapitan
Excellent show. This was THE podcast I waited for every new episode. Would like for it to continue, even if only rarely. Either way, it is understandable considering the amount of time necessary in putting the show together. This show did help me get back into the books I used to read.
Marc Rikmenspoel
44. Pietro-mutant
Okay, this is NOT funny anymore. When's the next episode coming out?
David Barr Kirtley
45. davidbarrkirtley
Hey guys. Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement. We're working on it. Believe me, if there's anything to report we'll let you know.

And Pietro-mutant, don't worry, we definitely plan to have the George R. R. Martin interview released before A Dance with Dragons comes out. Hope that helps!
Marc Rikmenspoel
46. John359
Just a suggestion coming from someone who downloads the podcasts (or did, until recently): The podcasts need to be tagged with something searchable. Putting "geek's guide to the galaxy" or any subset of those words, will not get you what you want. I had to search "tor" to find it and, as you might imagine, got a lot of hits for words that include the three letters t-o-r in that sequence that I had to dig through. I dunno, just making it a little more accessible might broaden your audience. And I'm not being selfless here, I don't want my favorite podcast to go away forever.
Marc Rikmenspoel
47. John359
'From iTunes' or 'when in iTunes' should be inserted in multiple places in my post above. It'll make more sense that way.
Marc Rikmenspoel
48. Psjog
This is really directed toward Tor. I'm putting it here as I couldn't find a way to comment on the main podcasts page.

I note that the Geek's Guide is 'missing'. I hope it will return soon. I appreciate all of Tor's efforts in podcasting stories as well as the Geeks Guide, but when my time is limited, as it so often is, I find I look first for the Geek's Guide, each week.

I'm 60+ and a reader of science fiction since I was 9 or 10, and a (continuing) purchaser soon after (if that is of any benefit to your marketing department)

I do hope to hear from Dave and John again,

Pete S
Corey Olsen
49. cmaxo
Awesome podcast! I just listened to the first 3 over the last week and was looking for more information on the show and found it in these comments for the last show.

I'd just like to shout out my appreciation for David and John. Hopefully someday there's a way to make it work out for everyone involved. And if in the end there isn't then it was a fantastic idea. I hope keeps experimenting with more and more creative ways to bring good information to the masses.
Marc Rikmenspoel
50. James111
Another podcast gone, then hmm!
Gavin McMenemy
51. antihippy
Does anyone know if there's another podcast with a similar format?

I quite enjoy these sort of discussion shows. I've been looking around and not found anything.
David Barr Kirtley
52. davidbarrkirtley
Here are some other podcasts you might check out:

Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing
The Dragon Page
The Agony Column
Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
The Sofanauts
The Sword and Laser
Starbase 66
Comic Geek Speak
Creative Screenwriting Magazine
The Future and You
If You're Just Joining Us
Marc Rikmenspoel
53. Michael321
I just discovered the Geeks Guide podcast last week and it has quickly become one of my favorites. You guys conduct great interviews, and you've turned me on to a whole ton of cool stuff I didn't know existed. The banter between David and John is also very engaging; if you have trouble booking guests, I would be happy to listen to a podcast with just the two of you shooting the breeze. Count me as another one who is hoping the Geeks Guide makes a comeback.
Steve (siznax)
54. siznax
i've really enjoyed GGG episodes so far, and i hope you're able to continue producing more. i find your interviews fascinating and entertaining. i've been amazed by your thoughtful observations and random knowledge. and you guys just really crack me up. also, you've expanded my reading list, gotten me excited about new books and authors, and led me to read a lot of awesome stories. i find myself replaying your post-interview talks while waiting for the next episode, and it just never gets old. i was wondering how in the world you guys can be readers, authors, editors, anthologists, and produce a podcast - so i'm not surprised to hear how difficult it is. i was really hoping for GGG#999, but in the meantime i'll continue enjoying everything else you guys produce, and all the great fiction you lead us to.
Marc Rikmenspoel
55. JohnC
Just discovered your podcast about a week ago and find it entertaining and informative. I'm working on listening to the old ones and sure hope you guys can keep it going.
David Barr Kirtley
56. davidbarrkirtley
Hey guys. John and I think we’ve managed to work out a way to keep the show going. It involves moving the show over to a different host site and including some ads. We’re also hoping to get some financial support from listeners. Otherwise our intent is to keep the show the same. It’ll probably be a bit before we’re up and running again, but when we do we’ll be relaunching with our George R. R. Martin interview. Watch this space for updates.
Steve (siznax)
57. siznax
yes!!! thanks DBK for keepin the dream alive. i would definitely be willing to donate to or support the show somehow. how 'bout some GGG schwag so i can bump it on the street? 3G39 here we come... :)
Gavin McMenemy
58. antihippy

Thanks for letting us know.

I've been following some of the shows you mentioned and I see they have ads in them. Gives it a more Radio feel but, so long as they dominate the show, I can't see anyone complaining.

Also the community might be willing to contribute if you need any help.
Gavin McMenemy
59. antihippy
Ha ha..

I've made an obvious typo there... I meant "... don't dominate the show..."
Steve (siznax)
60. siznax
hey Dave and John, thanks again for figuring out a way to keep the show alive. could you make a new blog post telling people about your plans? you might get more focused attention/feedback, than in the comments of the last show.

p.s. i recently listened to GGG#002 with Paolo Bacigalupi again. what a great interview. lead me to read "People of Sand and Slag". what a disturbing vision of the future. loved it!
David Barr Kirtley
61. davidbarrkirtley
We're still waiting on a few things, but there should be an official announcement regarding Geek's Guide very soon now.

In the meantime, it's not much, but JJA and I just recorded a promo piece for his new zombie anthology The Living Dead 2. Just a quick Q&A about the book. It's here:
Marc Rikmenspoel
62. Ryan A.
I'm glad to see that David is giving fairly constant updates in the comments thread. I had JUST found this podcast two episodes before "the end" and it took me only a few days to cover the backlog.

And I'll follow what others have said: I am dying to hear the GRRM episode.

So let's keep them going. I'll pay $.99 an episode if I have to.

Also, am I tactless for asking how to submit work to JJA for his anthologies?
David Barr Kirtley
63. davidbarrkirtley
There's a new DVD out called Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated. It's a remake of George Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead -- which is in the public domain -- with the visuals completely redone by over a hundred artists in a constantly shifting collage of visual styles -- animation, claymation, puppets, etc. The DVD special features include video of an hour-long zombie panel discussion moderated by me and featuring JJA, Kim Paffenroth, Jonathan Maberry, Peter Gutierrez, and Rob Hauschild.

As far as submitting to John's anthologies, he typically posts guidelines on his website for each book that he's doing an open reading period for. The latest such book was The Way of the Wizard. He's no longer accepting submissions for that -- the contents have already been finalized and the book will be out next month -- but you can get an idea of how the process works by looking at the guidelines here:
David Barr Kirtley
64. davidbarrkirtley
I guess I'll also mention that JJA's newest anthology, The Living Dead 2, just came out. You can read some free stories from the book (including my story "The Skull-Faced City") on the website here:
Steve (siznax)
65. siznax
on the intro to "The Skull-Faced City", if you haven't heard (or read) "The Skull-Faced Boy". for someone immune to the zombie craze, i thought, excellent stories both. just as in the GGG podcast, DBK seems to find an interesting new direction to explore along a well-shambled path.
David Barr Kirtley
66. davidbarrkirtley
Thanks, siznax. And yeah, "The Skull-Faced City" is a sequel to my story "The Skull-Faced Boy" -- so read that one first if you don't want the ending spoiled.

Here's a banner I'm working on for our upcoming Geek's Guide relaunch. Details to come.
David Barr Kirtley
67. davidbarrkirtley
Actually, speaking of The Living Dead 2, JJA and I will be convening a zombie experts panel at McNally Jackson bookstore in Manhattan on October 6th at 7 pm. Anyone who's in the neighborhood should definitely stop by.
David Barr Kirtley
68. davidbarrkirtley
Okay, it's official! Geek's Guide will be relaunching on Wednesday, October 6th over on io9 with our very special George R. R. Martin episode. Here's an announcement:
Sandi Kallas
69. Sandikal
Will I be able to get it through iTunes?

Will I remember to look on the 6th?
David Barr Kirtley
70. davidbarrkirtley
Yeah, io9 is in the process of setting up a new iTunes feed for the show. Hopefully that'll be up and running shortly. When it is I'll let you know.
David Barr Kirtley
71. davidbarrkirtley
Okay, Geek's Guide to the Galaxy #22, featuring our interview with George R. R. Martin, is live over at io9:

We now also have an official Geek's Guide to the Galaxy website:
David Barr Kirtley
72. davidbarrkirtley
GGG episode 22 is also now available through iTunes:

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