Ku’gbo by Dare Segun Falowo, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, May/June 2018

This story is steeped in the Nigerian culture the author is part of. I’ve been very interested in Nigerian speculative lit lately. What with Nnedi Okorafor’s work, such as Binti and Who Fears Death some of the better stories I’ve read in the past few years. I really like stories that are immerging from Nigeria that pull from a culture and worldview I’m unfamiliar with.

cov1805lg-250This story is about a young boy who lives in a small village that is being harassed by Ku’gbo. Ku’gbo remind me of satyrs. I see little distinction, but I’m sure there are some. For whatever reason, the narrator is drawn to the Ku,gbo, and stranger yet, he can see them. As spirit creatures, they are typically invisible to normal people.

Then the narrator has a dream in which the Ku’gbo carry him off, and everything changes. And everything changes.

Set beside other works by Nigerian and Nigerian American authors this piece is neat but doesn’t offer anything particularly profound. The plot is very simple, one I felt I could see coming early on, and the reveal at the end is obvious long before it is revealed. The lore the author makes in this story is certainly intriguing, but the execution of the story left something to be desired.

Advertisement

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, Tor Books, 2015

I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but if you’re like me and haven’t considered it until now–I highbintily recommend this book.

I use it in my the U.S. History class I teach–not because it has anything to do with U.S. History, but because it has everything to do with identity, and when paired with the writings of James Baldwin, creates an effect that is both grounded in real life issues of oppression as well as the loss of cultural identity in a speculative world. Furthermore, Binti does a wonderful job of illustrating the different aspects of human life that make us–well, us.

Binti is 16 and the first of her people to be accepted to the international university, Oomza University. On her way to the planet, while on the spaceship, an alien race attacks. It is up to Binti to reason her way to safety and prevent more bloodshed with diplomacy.

This piece doesn’t only tackle issues of identity, but also how discourse breeds understanding and understanding breeds piece. I think it very important for students to get a sense of how contemporary authors such as Okorafor, who is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, connect to their own history as American citizens. This is who we are as a nation, and understanding how peoples come to this country to not only be part of the United States but also represent their own cultures, is among the most important lessons one could learn.