Category Archives: diversity

Clearing My Throat

Eh, I’m terrible at this blogging thing, no?

Check out my story BOOTBLACK at Expanded Horizons. Maybe content warning? Nah, go for it. You’re adults.

Some stuff:

My novella The Murders of Molly Southbourne is due for an October release from Tor.com. First reader responses are good. I’ve seen the cover art, and it’s superb. I will share what I can when I can.

I’m currently working on rewrites for a novella called Witch Gun Running which is a kind of batshit contemporary fantasy with pocket universe settings. The first draft is a mess, but it’s looking like I know what to fix.

In the Johannesburg Review of Books some other writers and I pay tribute to the writer Kojo Laing who died with not nearly enough recognition, in my opinion.

In a few days time I’ll be giving a talk at the London School of Oriental Studies titled Science Fictional antidotes to the Created, Observed and Experienced African Self. It sounds fancier that it really is, but I promise to entertain, at least.

I’m listening to Drum n Bass and reading Elephantmen.

Til next time.

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ROSEWATER cover reveal!

I can finally share this.

cover

Cover art by Igor Vitkovskiy.

Cover design by Russell Dickerson.

Pre-orders from later this week.

http://www.apexbookcompany.com/blogs/frontpage/rosewater-by-tade-thompson-cover-reveal

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Songs with the Liars

“I only said how I want to be there and I would sing my songs with the liars,and my lies with the singers.”
Anne Sexton

inktober 12

Here we are at the start of another year. I’m not going to bother with all that revisionist malarkey that everybody does. Why repeat that when others have done it better?

Instead, let’s look at what’s ahead. What are your plans for 2016?

I sold my science fiction novel ROSEWATER to Apex Books. Tentative release date is September 2016. Watch this space, as there may be a promotional website.

Also in September 2016, Secret Project X, a novella. I’ll discuss this with its real title when the embargo is lifted. All I can say is, I’ve finished the novella, including rewrites and editorial input. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m working on two projects, LABOURS, an urban fantasy novel set in London, and painting an internal illustration for a short story collection.

My 2015 novel MAKING WOLF is still getting good reviews. You’ve bought it, right?

“The British Yoruba author Tade Thompson was previously known to me as a creator of speculative fiction, so I was rather surprised to discover this excellent writer’s intriguingly titled debut novel, Making Wolf, is non-spec mystery/suspense.  Set in the fictional West African nation of Alcacia, this is a novel well aware of the Bond mythos, and there’s a moment where I thought Bond’s path was the one the plot would take.  Then Thompson smashed that notion to smithereens, and kept smashing.  I was not only surprised repeatedly, I was made very aware that my ignorance of what goes on in parts of humanity’s home continent was by choice.  Brutal, unsparing, brilliant.  Find Thompson’s work and read it.”

 

wolf

Available at all good interwebs!

 

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Review: A Killing in the Sun by Dilman Dila

Short version: 4/5 stars. I recommend that you read it.

 A Killing in the Sun is a speculative fiction collection by Dilman Dila, published by Black Letter Media. The titular story was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

This anthology includes ten short stories and I read them in sequence. I found the copyrights page confusing because it refers to a story that is not actually in the collection (Fragments of Canvas). As in most collections the quality is uneven. To my mind the first six stories were enjoyable, but I struggled through the last four.

sun_001

The best story appears to be A Killing in the Sun. It is the most consistent and the most polished. It opens on the day of an execution by firing squad. The condemned man, Mande, appears to have been convicted for something he did not do, but finds his salvation to be almost as bitter as his previous fate. It also touches on one of the themes that run through the whole collection: being taken by authorities and somehow harmed. The other theme that runs through is that of the protagonist somehow changing state. The Leafy Man is an imaginative science fiction tale about artificially mutated mosquitoes nicknamed Miss Doe and is Promethean, with unintended consequences of innovation. The Healer is a fantasy story with magic and themes of loss. Itanda Bridge is a science fiction piece about extraterrestrials and while Diba does not show as much control of the material as he did in other stories it is creepy and enjoyable.

With The Doctor’s Truck flaws begin to show. This story is reminiscent of Christine by King in some parts. The explanation is satisfactory enough, however I found the motivation of the doctor difficult to accept in some parts. The ending appears too pat, slightly rushed and perhaps is a revenge fantasy. Lights over Water has an interesting premise, but as in most of the rest of the stories appears to need more work. A Wife and a Slave for example, builds up well, but the ending is again too neat. Things go too well for the protagonist and there is easy wish fulfilment.

The Yellow People had genuinely macabre moments and is a first class sci-fi horror story. It uses the image of the moving of a stone slab away from a cave, which has Biblical resonance for resurrection. The removal of thumbs makes one think of dehumanization since opposable thumbs are essentially what makes us human. The problem here is that the protagonists appear to be moving like chess pieces. It’s a story of alien contact and a serial killer. This story has great potential, but all the explanation seems rushed towards the end, which is disappointing.

Reading this anthology was frustrating, and not because Dila can’t write elegant prose. He can. Generally, I found the book poorly edited. The mistakes were annoying tense problems, syntax problems, unintentional repetitions etc. All avoidable if more care was taken. Apart from the copy editing issues, many of the later stories could benefit from continuity and story editing. Dila has good material and can clearly write brilliant speculative fiction. I just do not understand what the editors at Black Letter Media were thinking.

That said, I did enjoy reading the book. As speculative fiction and as a snapshot of life in sub-Saharan Africa it succeeds. I expect great things from Mr Dila.

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‘Dangerous Games’ cover reveal

Over at Solaris Books they’ve revealed the cover for the upcoming ‘Dangerous Games’ anthology, edited by Jon Oliver (who just won a British Fantasy Award a few weeks ago), and which contains my story ‘Honourable Mention’. Available Dec 2014.

 

DANGEROUS GAMES BIG

 

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Mental Illness Primer for Speculative Fiction Creators: Contents page

I wrote the primer from slides that I prepared for a talk. I know this is doing it backwards but someone requested a Table of Contents so:

Part 1: Why Should I Care?

Part 2: What is Mental Illness

Part 3: How to Assess Mental Illness

Part 4: Mini Case-Study: Buffy

Part 5: Electroconvulsive Therapy

Part 6: Suicide and the Sandman

Part 7: Hush and the Freakshow

 

 

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Mental Illness Primer for Speculative Fiction Writers 2: What is Mental Illness?

Key Learning Points So Far:

The portrayal of mental illness by writers/creators affects stigma. Stigma leads to negative treatment once individual is identified (‘marked’) as mentally unwell.

Trigger Warning

Up to 1 in 4 people can be affected by mental illness so if any of the topics discussed here affect you contact your health professional (General Practitioner in the UK).

Scope:
This is for creators of speculative fiction. The idea is to improve depiction of the mentally ill in narratives like film, books, music videos etc. It is just a primer, therefore it will not go into too much detail.
 

Spoiler Alert:Here there be spoilers. Deal with it. I will try not to reference anything currently showing in cinemas, but I make no promises.

Part 2: What is Mental Illness

 

Everybody thinks they know what mental illness is, and to an extent that may be true, but not as often as one would think.

For example, a person with Cerebral Palsy is often mistakenly assumed to be mentally ill, perhaps due to the similarity of the movement disorders to side effects of antipsychotic medication or movement disorders seen in schizophrenia. Also, the casual observer may mistake a neuromuscular problem with speech as a problem with thought (we’ll come back to this later).

Mental illness is defined in the UK’s Mental Health Act 1983 (amended 2007) as ‘any disorder or disability of the mind’.

But what is the mind? There is no agreement among scientists or philosophers as to the definition. See Jayne, 1976 for an interesting discussion on this.  

To simplify for the purpose of clarity, most would agree that there is more to humanity than the physical being. The software part of us, the ghost that drives the meaty shell, could be termed the mind (yes, that was a ‘Ghost in the Shell’ reference). Mental illness could be defined as dysfunctions of this, except that’s not right either.

Delirium is a state that mimics many if not all symptoms of mental illness and is brought about by a physical problem, often an infection or toxic state. There is a hypothesised condition called PANDAS that is a kind of OCD brought on by a streptococcal infection. Cartesian duality is a joke when considering mental illness. The body and mind are inextricably linked. Look up psychoimmunology.

Definitions, as you see, are difficult and are useful in some but not all circumstances. Their purity is ontologically suspect.

One thing that is certain is that mental illness is socio-culturally defined. Society decides what behaviors and/or subjective experiences are deviant and need treatment or exclusion from the group. This is why the criteria for mental illness differ from country to country. See classification systems ICD-10, Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders (CCMD-3) and the abominable DSM 5. There are those who do not believe that mental illness even exists as a distinct entity, and that those we call mentally ill are responding to the situation society has placed upon them.

As a writer, the important thing to note is the cultural context within which you are defining mental illness. It is not necessarily transferable. A person with depression in Brighton may present different symptoms from a person in Brasilia. Do not extrapolate from what you think you know. Culture determines presentation. It may be completely acceptable for a man in Wisconsin to state that he is depressed, but be complete social death if the same is done in Brazzaville. Depression occurs in both societies, but the symptom mix may be much different. The content of delusions may very well depend on which society the person comes from.

Note that while definition varies, stigma appears to be near-universal.

Note that mental illness tends to be defined or conceptualized as syndromes, which are collections of symptoms that form a distinct entity.

Note that there are many terms in psychiatry/psychology that appear to be simple English, but with different meaning. A simple example is the word ‘paranoid’ which, in psychiatry, means ‘self-referential’ and not what you find in the OED. Likewise ‘depression’ does not just mean ‘sad’.

 

Note also that deviant behaviour/experience does not equate to mental illness.

For you to define something as mental illness there should be:

A. Absence of intoxicants (drugs, alcohol)

B. No organic cause (head injury, stroke, septicaemica etc)

C. Sustained behaviour/experience. A single hallucination does not make you psychotic. A low mood is not enough to diagnose depression, and besides not all people who have depression have low mood. Possession states can be normal in some cultures eg South Sudan Nuer and Jinn possession. Linda Blair was of course not from southern sudan and  we can agree that her experience was abnormal.

D. Suffering in self and/or others

In the next part we will discuss a practical way to determine if someone is mentally unwell.

Next: How to Assess Mental Illness

 

Notes:

Jaynes, J, 1976: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York

Mental Health Act, 1983

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2007/12/pdfs/ukpga_20070012_en.pdf

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