Before the Safari: The Changa’s Safari prequel

Like most writers I usually develop a detailed background about my characters before I embark on writing my novels. I’m not an outline type of perBefore the Safari 2son, so I usually put such information in vignettes and short passages that I scribble in my journal or carry around in my head. Although the character development of my main character or characters are pretty detailed, those of my secondary or supporting characters are usually sparse. I tend to fill in the details as the story progresses.

That being said, I initially had no intentions of writing a Changa’s Safari prequel. However, as more and more people read and enjoyed the stories I received many questions about the lives of Panya, The Tuareg, Amir Zakee and Mikaili before they became members of Changa’s crew. That’s when the stories began. Firs there was Oya’s Daughter, then El Sirocco. The Shange stories, Mwanamke Tembo and Walaji Damu, were inspired by artwork by Kristopher Mosby, which have also resulted in a graphic novel based on Walaji Damu entitled The Blood Seekers

It was then that I began considering the anthology. I had two Changa stories I’d written for anthologies that never materialized, good stories that were gathering dust. These were stories of adventures that had taken place between Changa fleeing his homeland and arriving in Mombasa. And what about that fateful moment Changa was forced to leave his home, those moments that began his journey? That was surely a story that needed to be told.

So here we are. Before the Safari is collection of previously published and new stories that fill in the gaps of Changa’s life and those of his crews. It’s not a comprehensive anthology; there are many more stories that could be told and probably many more that should be told, but a brother has other things to do.  Here’s a brief rundown:

The Promise:  Changa witnesses the death of his father Mfumu and is taken away to be trained by his uncle to one day regain the Stool.

Oya’s Daughter – Panya discovers she has been pledged to a rival oba in a marriage alliance. However Panya and Oya have other plans.

Hekalu ya Mwangaza (The Temple of Light) – Changa volunteers to go on a quest with a mysterious wizard and his warrior to clear Belay’s debt.

Shange and Mijoga by Kris Mosby

Shange and Mijoga by Kris Mosby

 

El Sirocco – El Sirocco, the Desert Wind, rules his land with cruelty and ruthlessness. A moment of weakness forces him to seek a new witch to insure his strength.

Mrembo Aliyenaswa (Captured Beauty) – Changa and Belay sail to Zanzibar to find a woman whose life in put in danger by Belay’s son Naragisi.

The Sea Priest – A young Mikaili sets out on an adventure on the sea. What he discovers changes his life forever.

Mwanamke Tembo (The Elephant Woman) – Belay sends Changa to discover why the ivory supply from the interior has ceased. Changa finds himself in the middle of a battle between powerful spirits.

Mbogo Returns – Belay has died and given his business to Changa. Changa is forced to go to Mogadishu and finds himself fighting in the pits again, but this time to save the life of a man known as ‘The Tuareg.’

Walaji Damu (The Blood Eaters) – Shange and Mijogo are sent to a village to save its people from mysterious creatures that are taking villagers and feasting on their blood.

The Gate – Down on his luck and about to lose Belay’s business, Changa sails to Kilwa Milikya in hopes to find wealth. What he finds is beyond his imagining.

The Devil’s Lair – Amir Zakee, his father and his brothers lead warriors to support his grandfather in a battle against a heretic priest and his worshipers.

I hope you take the time to check out this anthology. It’s a good introduction for those who have yet to take part in the Safari and a good background for those who have. I’m thinking about a second anthology that would include stories about characters less prominent but just as intriguing, such as Tula the serpent woman and Kintu the demi-god. I hope you enjoy the read!

You can find Before the Safari and my other books here: MVmedia

Speculative Fiction and the Invisible Black Man

WChanga head shothen I began writing black speculative fiction ten years ago one of the main reasons I did so was to represent myself in fantastic fiction. I wanted to see black men and women as heroes in fantastic settings, slaying creatures, fighting epic battles and saving the day. I envisioned us beyond the stereotype of sidekicks, poorly developed secondary characters and first to die tropes.  Ten years later multiculturalism has become popular. Mainstream publishers are seeking stories with diverse characters and even agents are getting involved. And while I’m encouraged to see such a change, I’m still disturbed by what I’m not seeing; the heroic black man.

There still seems to be some resistance to portraying black men as heroic characters in mainstream speculative fiction. Independent publishing is better, but not as prominent as one would expect. This lack of representation seems to plague novels more that comic books and graphic novels: independent comic books do the best job at displaying diversity, especially when it comes to black men.

If you were to ask an agent or publisher and no one else was in the room they would most likely give you a pragmatic answer. There is no market for books portraying black men as heroes, they would say. They would tell you the same old line, that black men/boys don’t read. They can’t say that about black women; recent polls revealed that the most prolific readers are black college educated women. The abundance of black women reading clubs is also a confirmation of this reality. But black men? That’s a different story.

It’s my contention that the reason black men/boys don’t read is because there’s not much out there for them to read that represents them beyond non-fiction books. There are a few fiction series available that feature black men, most notably the Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosely. But when it comes to speculative fiction those choices are very few and far between. There’s Imaro by Charles R. Saunders, but until recently Charles never had the opportunity to complete his series.  Steven Barnes Lion’s Blood and Zulu Heart books were at the top of my reading list and I eagerly await the completion of the series. But the landscape is sparse when it comes to books about heroic black men.

But let me get back on track here. Most businesses are interested in supplying a demand, not creating one. They will quickly jump on a trend that probably originated from someone else’s hard work than invest time and money creating the market themselves. There have been many times that I’ve talked to black men who have no interest in reading speculative fiction until seeing my books. For many this was the first time they encountered such books with characters that look like them doing extraordinary things as heroes. And in most cases they bought the books immediately. I’m of the opinion that if all you’ve ever had is hamburger, and you don’t know steak exists, then how will you know to order steak? If you don’t see something out there, most people assume it doesn’t exist.

Another victim of the status quo is speculative fiction stories that include romantic/loving relationships between black men and black woChanga and panya animatedmen.  A recent poll revealed that white audiences on the whole are not interested in viewing romantic relationships with black couples, hence the lack of such shows on mainstream television. Again, entertainment content is created by corporations making decision based on the bottom line and catering to the ‘majority demographic.’ What does that mean for creators? It means either your idea will not be accepted because it doesn’t meet the criteria or you will begin to write stories in a certain way in order to meet the established criteria. Once again representation falls victim to the bottom line.

This is why I write what I write. Change always comes from the outside. Most ideas you see materialize in the mainstream began as a small idea from an independent writer or small press publisher. Dig deep enough and you’ll see.  The world of entertainment is changing, and it’s a good thing. But now is not the time to drop your guard. Now is the time to push harder to make sure the content continues to push the barriers and that black men, black women and everyone that have not been properly represented have their platform. We see the problem; now let’s provide the solution. It’s not up to anyone else. It’s up to us.