By Margrét Helgadóttir & Jo Thomas
Iwas unfamiliar with Margrét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas, and alsowith their publisher Fox Spirit. Cheryl Morgan mentioned the AfricanMonsters anthology on her website and it looked interesting; Fox Spirit was kind enough to supply mewith a review copy. I am happy that they did. Now I am familiar, notonly with the publishing house, but with the editors and authors ofthis fine book.
Introductionby Margrét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas:
Theeditors continue what appears to be an ongoing mission to keepmonsters monstrous. This time they focus on the monsters of Africa.And, in a surprising twist for Westerners talking about Africa, onAfricans themselves.
We also wanted to use the opportunity to show the world a few of thewonderful and talented authors and artists from this continent who wefeel do not always get the attention they should. Also, we felt itwas wrong to invite authors with no connection to Africa to writeabout African monsters. We are proud to tell you that all the authorswho have contributed to this book are either from, live in, or havelived in one or several countries in Africa.
“OnThe Road” by Nnedi Okorafor:
Openthe wrong door, get an unrequested lesson about local (super)naturalhistory.
Orpossibly, become an unrequested lesson about local (super)natural history.
Ithink the protagonist of this story and Aud Torvingencould have a very interesting conversation.
“Impundulu”by Joan De La Haye:
Anaging witch-woman passes her gift on to her daughter, a processalmost as terrible as the purpose to which the daughter will put hermagic.
“OneHundred And Twenty Days Of Sunlight” by Tade Thompson:
Transformedinto a monstrous thing by a kiss, the protagonist is immune to allhuman connections.
“Severed”by Jayne Bauling:
Aninterest in nature is all very well, but it is time to worry whennature takes too close an interest in you…
Thisreaffirms my faith in the essential commonality of humanity: theAfrican unfortunates in this story ignore some extremely pointedhints about what lurks in the lake that they want to visit, just likeWesterners considering whether or not to spend a night in the LeChâteau de Mort Certaine. Granted, people in horror stories must make such stupid choices because narrativenecessity . Otherwise you get this:
“DeathOf The One” by Su Opperman:
Twoentities meet. One is the hunter, the other its food — but which oneis which is unclear.
Thisis an illustrated piece, almost without dialogue save for a verybrief (and yet extremely portentous) exchange. The art seems roughbut is very effective.
“Chikwambo”by T. L. Huchu:
Drivenby a monstrous hunger, the Chikwambo will kill and kill without mercyor end. But stopping it demands a terrible price.
Theending to this story seemed oddly abrupt.
“Monwor”by Dilman Dila:
Abizarre murder seems to have occult overtones; instead, it is rootedin science gone horribly wrong.
Thereis no reason monsters need to be supernatural in nature. As Pratchettonce said “Thereare hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannoteasily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes into work every day and has a job to do.” In this case, it’s some(off-stage) researcher with a very cool idea that turned out to haveunanticipated side-effects.
“ThatWoman” by S Lotz:
Whatis behind a series of supernatural attacks and why, exactly, do thelocal authorities refuse to do anything about them?
Orperhaps “who is the real monster, here?”
“SacramentOf Tears” by Toby Bennett:
Aweak European is broken by his monstrous child.
“Deadchild came back wrong” is terrible enough … but this is a storyabout a child who was never right, which is arguably worse.
“BushBaby” by Chikodili Emelumadu:
Anydecent sibling would have no choice but to give shelter to a foolishbrother fleeing a predatory forest spirit. Alas, the forest spirithas followed! Modern technology repulses it … temporarily.
Ifyou have to be a protagonist in a horror story, try hard not to bethe protagonist in a horror story written in the present tense.
“AfterThe Rain” by Joe Vaz:
ASouth African returning after years abroad gets a pointed lesson intransformation.
Thedog-headed men in this remind me of a time, years ago, when I hadstayed up later reading the novel Fevre Dream.Around 3 AM I looked up and saw a child-sized, hunch-backed,pointed-eared thing silhouetted in the window of my ground floor apartment. After amoment, I realized that it was merely a dog on its hind legs with itsfront paws on my (rather pointless) ground level balcony. Woke me up,it did.
“TaraabAnd Terror In Zanzibar” by Dave-Brendon De Burgh:
Whois responsible for calling down a plague of monsters? An even greatermonster. But, as it will learn, not the greatest monster.
Thistouches on the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964,about which I knew nothing. I am now very slightly less ignorant.Among the many things I didn’t know before I began this book is thatthe former Sultan of Zanzibar is still alive and presumably as wellas any octogenarian residing in Portsmouth.
“AWhisper In The Reeds” by Nerine Dorman:
Justhow dangerous can sultry aquatic temptresses be when their intendedtarget is a gay man?
Thething about seductive monsters is that they can be very adaptable.The successful ones, anyway.
“AcidTest” by Vianne Venter:
Inthe ruins of a city, a scientist seeks her perfect mate.
Thisstory hinges on an intersection between science gone horribly wrongand the malevolent supernatural, which in retrospect do seem likenatural partners.
“Thandiwe’sTokoloshe” by Nick Wood:
Hopingshe is in the right sort of story, Thandiwe journeys to the rainbow’send, hoping for a pot of gold.
It’snot that sort of story.
Tobe honest, the stories about rainbows and pots of gold also tend notto go in the direction the protagonists hope, because if they dothere is no story.
“ADivided Sun” by James Bennett and Dave Johnson (artist):
Ajob opportunity lures father and son to Apartheid-era South Africa,where the son gets a memorable lesson about South African monsters.
Theart in this is simple and unschooled; I thought it undermined thestory.
Thisis a collection of monster stories; it is to be expected that thestories will not end well. The thrill is in finding out the exactway in which they will end badly. And for whom they will end badly.Not every monster understands their place in the food chain.
Althoughhorror isn’t one of my favourite genres, I found this examplediverting and recommend it to your attention. AfricanMonsters is available here.