Many times, when I read African fantasy, there is always something that feels off, something that is not exactly smooth when compared to western fantasy.
It took me a while but after I read "black leopard, red wolf" by Marlon James and compared it to "The name of the wind" by Patrick rothfuss, I realised that to write African fantasy is beyond just changing up the names, settings and culture.
Western fantasy is grounded in a lot of folktales and mythologies, tropes and patterns of storytelling (mostly linear). It is usually "this happens, this happens and this happens," most African folktales do not go that way. There are, sometimes, jagged storytelling, circular storytelling and the prose choice is mostly different, riddled with mystery and awe, adages and proverbs (which adds an interesting flavour to the prose)
It is more than the setting. In my opinion, if you want to write African fantasy then you have to actually write it true and naked, uninfluenced by Western storytelling. (All of this is in my opinion).
Hey Emmanuel! I'm with @Anjola in not being a huge fantasy reader so may not be able to give my two cents on the genre as a whole.
However, I would love to know more about what you mean by jagged and circular storytelling - I have an inkling about what you're saying but can you expand?
I think generally - we do fall into this trap of linear storytelling which is most definitely a Western device. You also have to remember that most of the big literary agents and publishers are still from the West. So despite the intentions of the writer, I can imagine it always go through some kind of Western filtering. Take Children of blood and bone for instance - a beautiful story with a brilliant world - however, somehow feels like it wasn't written for me. I cannot fully explain it - but I think it is that commercial, Western filtering to make the story suitable to all palettes.
It's interesting that Marlon James book did it for you in terms of how he approached the genre. It's interesting because he isn't African. I'm definitely adding his book to the list and whenever you have time - please do a post of sci fi / fantasy recs to the reading room!
Right!!! Then maybe more writers just need to explore that genre. Do you write in that genre/ looking at doing so in future?
Hmm I’ll let fantasy readers give their two cents on this as I’m not big on it. I’ve read only a few short stories but not any books in that genre. However, would you say this is still ‘fairly new‘ terrain for African writers and so those writing African fantasy now are basically laying the ground work for what African Fantasy would look like. Think of it as building the foundation for newer writers to build beautiful houses on. So hopefully theirs would be much smoother. Haha my 2 cents. What do you think?