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Black Panther Novelist Nnedi Okorafor Talks Afrofuturism and Future Projects

February 19, 2019 1:22 p.m.

Guest: Nnedi Okorafor, Ph.D., novelist, "Who Fears Death."

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Nadia Core 4 is most recently known for her Black Panther and will kind of forever series for Marvel Comics. Her work rich with African culture is blazing the science fiction fantasy genre for both adults and young adult readers. In addition to that she also has an HBO show in development about her novel who fears death. She is speaking tonight as part of Point Loma Nazarene University's 24th annual writers symposium by the sea. But before that NATO core for is joining us on midday to talk about her work and upcoming projects. Nettie welcome.

Thank you. Your work is rich with stories of African tradition and technology what sparked your interest in fantasy and science fiction.

It's not really an interest in fantasy and science fiction it's me telling the stories that that come to me and they just happen to be they just happen to have fantastical elements and deal with the future. These elements have always been something that I've been interested in they're just part of the stories that come to me right.

And there are themes of Afro futurism in your and much of your writing. What. Explain what is Afro futurism.

Well I like to call what what I write Afrikaans futurism. It's storytelling this deeply rooted in Africa. It grows out of Africa to the rest of the world and beyond.

It imagines the future it imagines what is and what can be it's easier to write than to define about exactly I mean do you know what kind of it's an imagined future through a black lens and you know your parents are from Nigeria your Evo and first generation American in what ways is your cultural background woven into your writing.

Oh it's definitely. I think that my writing as a whole is inspired by my Nigerian American ness. For example the way that I even arrived it at writing science fiction it wasn't from reading previous science fiction narratives especially western science fiction narratives it was through it was because of the trips that my family and I were taking to Nigeria starting from when I was very young. And as I grew older I started noticing the presence of technology and how it was affecting culture how it was affecting people's lives. And it was different from what I was seeing in the United States and I wasn't seeing that written about.

So it's like when I when I would go to Nigeria and see all of this especially these glimpses of the future seeing an African future and specifically Nigerian I would be coming there as an outsider. So that's that's where my Nigerian American background comes from I come as an outsider therefore I notice things that people who are living there we're just used to. And so like my my strange point of view kind of made me start asking questions that may not have been asked by those who were living there 24/7.

So that kind of led me to start writing science fiction and much of your work also centers around women protagonists. Much like science fiction author Octavia Butler were you and feel influenced by her at all.

Oh definitely definitely discovering Octavia is work for one Octavia Butler is an African-American science fiction writer but she's also one of the best in my opinion she's the goat of science fiction and it's not just because she's a black science fiction writer. Her style in her the way she tells these stories are incredible. But when I discovered her work I saw this first I discovered wild seed. Once I read that first one which which started in Nigeria which started with an evil woman in pre colonial Nigeria and then goes on to extend from Nigeria over through the middle passage to the United States it's just I had never read a story like this before.

And then I went on to read everything that Octavia Butler had ever written. And in discovering her work it was validation it was validation. I I was like Okay this is what I'm writing. And before I discovered Octavia I didn't. I'd never seen anything similar to what I was writing ever published when I discovered Octavia as work. I saw that it was possible I saw possibilities but also I saw reflections of myself which was not just rare as never happened to me before that. So yes Octavius. Octavia as a writer as a person all of her definitely influenced me.

And with that in mind why is it so important for black people to see themselves in this futuristic world.

Because it's part of that validation when you see yourself in the future you know that that you have a future you knows. So it's it's very important for for everybody as a black woman seeing myself in the future through Octavia as work it and other other writers too such as Marlo Hopkinson to Nona redo it was Samuel Delaney Stephen Barnes. I can go on seeing myself in the future is kind of like knowing that you exist and knowing that you will continue to exist. That's very important right.

And you have an HBO show in development with George R. R. Martin who wrote Game of Thrones. The show is based on your World Fantasy Award winning novel who fears death. Tell me about that story and where that project is now.

It's set in a far future Sudan and it's about a young woman who becomes a sorceress and seeks revenge. It's a narrative that set in in an African Future and it begs a lot of questions and issues it's a I wouldn't say it's completely dark. It's a tough tale that draws off of things that everyone will find very familiar. But it goes further.

It said Sounds exciting I know that a lot of people are excited to hear about it. You can catch Nettie Ocho for tonight 7:00 p.m. at Brown Chapel on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University the writers symposium by the sea runs until Thursday. Nettie thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. There are some facts you wish you hadn't learned. He can have more bacteria on your armpits than there are humans on this balance. But that wasn't one of them right.

For more fascinating info about your armpits. Tune in to the latest episode of rad scientist.