A quick reading roundup today. We’re back in the weird and speculative world. greydogtales doesn’t hide at home with its paws over its eyes – we love signposting new and adventurous things. We find a lot of fine stuff by linking up with people in various specific movements, such as the Folk Horror Revival, and the State of Black Science Fiction – both have large, active Facebook Groups.
Despite their names, these are broad churches. FHR covers a wealth of folklore, weird art, mythic, spiritual and landscape issues; SBSF is home to all sorts of speculative fantasy and horror projects. Respect where they’re coming from, catch up on their agendas, and you’ll find some very cool works.
So let’s highlight what we always call ‘things of interest’, and this time we’ll cover some of those black creators. And don’t go ‘Uh, so this is niche black stuff’, dear Auntie Jane. There are some cracking reads here for anyone – accessible, thoughtful, and occasionally whoop-ass wild.
NOTE: If you want to check out the Folk Horror Revival, whose work we also cover every so often, see our interviews with one of the founders, Andy Paciorek, starting with: an interview with the weirdfinder general . A link to one of FHR’s fascinating books, Corpse Roads, can be found on the right-hand sidebar.
Old Myths Afresh
First off, we’ve been muttering a lot recently about a great collection of chunky short stories by J Malcolm Stewart, The Last Words of Robert Johnson. We’re hoping to interview the man himself some time soon, but in the meantime, if you’re into the blues, the title story is an evocation of one night in 1938 at a black roadhouse, when the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson finds his last moments coming. A blend of realism and the crossroads-deal folklore you probably hoped for, well worth reading.
The other three stories have entirely different settings and styles, showing some serious versatility. If the speculative story at the end has less impact than the others (and it’s not at all bad), that’s because the two central tales are terrific. A widowed, isolated African woman seeks out Death and his wives in a powerful, mythic tale; an old American woman looks back on her family’s slave-life and how they found their freedom, with help from beliefs rooted in the land of their mothers.
A short collection, but a very strong one.
Our second book is a substantial blockbuster by Balogun Ojetade, A Haunting in the SWATS. It’s a type of urban fantasy, and brutal with it. We picked it up because the main protagonist, Savannah Swan, is a mix of occult detective and magical law enforcer. This isn’t cute magic and laying small tricks – the book is dark and gritty. Savannah’s strict rules are sometimes praiseworthy, sometimes highly objectionable; she’s a hard woman, torn over her own loyalties and the strange nature of her own family, never mind what she has to fight.
What might interest you? Well, apart from the occult detective work of the Root Woman herself, you’ll find a blend of African source myths, demonic possession, shapeshifting – and dare we say even Lovecraftian elements when the dirt really hits the fan. Add in a seriously gross god, and note that the conjured children are particularly weird and nasty. Read it as a big grimdark contemporary adventure, or as a twisted struggle of right and wrong, love and hate.
Balogun Ojetade is also involved in many other black-creator projects, including Ki Khanga: The Roleplaying Game, and various comics and writing projects, such as Black Power: The Superhero Anthology.
And we interviewed Balogun’s Ki Khanga room-mate, Milton Davis, here last year: the rise of sword and soul.
Newborn from Nigeria
A while back, we had Ziki Nelson of Kugali on here showing us some of the Orisha action you can find, fantasy based on African and Caribbean gods and spirit lore – see the orishas and shango unchained
Kugali is a Nigerian-based media enterprise seeking to explore and promote African media.
“The challenge is that there is fantastic African content but how does one go about discovering it? Kugali is our attempt to address this challenge. Our goal is to build the largest database of African media across film/TV, comics and gaming. The goal is to not only promote African media but to also make the discovery process simpler and more direct.”
Kugali is now releasing a substantial graphic novel in this zone. Newborn Saga is an award-winning epic fantasy story about African unity, set in ancient Africa. The 150-page graphic novel follows the journey of the Newborn Spirits, 10 heroes from different tribes across Africa that join forces to prevent a deadly curse from taking over the continent.
We haven’t seen this one yet – the book is coming on 30th April – but you can find out more here:
That’s it for today. Do call again soon – and don’t forget to subscribe by email (top left) if you want to be warned of what we’re up to…