Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Ekpeki Oghenechovwe – Ekpeki Oghenechovwe is a Nigerian writer and editor, who studied law at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. the Nommo Awards–hosted by the African Speculative Fiction Society, which recognizes works of speculative fiction by Africans–awarded him the Best Short Story Award for his short story “The Witching Hour.”
Thanks so much, Ekpeki, for joining me!
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Ekpeki Oghenechovwe: Well I knew I wanted to write as soon is I could write. I don’t mean as soon as I knew how to, but as soon as I literally could. You see, I started to read at much the same time and decided almost immediately I wanted to write. As for when I discovered I was good at it, sometime in the near future hopefully. Though I’m not too certain, my future sight not being too strong. I’ll let you know when I do discover though.
JSC: How would you describe your writing genre?
EOD: My writing genre, Science-fiction/Fantasy Speculative fiction, Horror, Magic realism, African speculative fiction, Africanfuturism.
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
EOD: I don’t use a pseudonym, because my writing is strongly tied to who I am, my identity. It’s not just art, but an extension, an expression of my identity. So I want to be recognizable for that who, and what I am. I feel like a pseudonym wouldn’t accurately convey that person.
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
EOD: I do read them, to get a sense of who I am, as perceived by the largely and hopefully objective eyes of others. Because I believe that who you are or what you set out to write, as opposed to what you eventually write can be really far apart. The execution of the thing, as opposed to the vision of it. Reviews can help with that. The good ones, by that you might mean the ones that say good things about me. Because I believe all reviews are good, by their nature. You learn something either about yourself or the person giving them. Anyway reviews that say good stuff about me, I bask in, save, add to my CV and body of work and share with the world. The ones that say bad stuff I hide deep in a hole in the earth and pray is never seen by living eyes. It’s okay for it to be seen by all the undead monsters of the underdark though. And hey I know, I said honestly and learning about yourself. But that’s for me. You don’t need to know that about me. 🙄
JSC: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
EOD: I write only the fantastic for now. Though I have tried historical fiction before, which is close enough. Anyway I write that because it’s exciting, it’s beyond the mundane in a good way while still addressing the mundane, albeit indirectly. Sometimes I feel like people need a veil, or sunglasses when confronting the harsh glare of world issues. Spec fic provides that tint. It’s also challenging and fulfilling, having to work with all these elements you wouldn’t have to in other kinds of storytelling.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
EOD: The entire book is about underrepresented groups. It’s an anthology of Speculative fiction from Africa and the African diaspora. I would think that says it all. A lot of the writers themselves are also from underrepresented groups too beyond Africa and the African diaspora. It boasts a wide spread of contributors; women, queer persons, the disabled and bi-racial.
JSC: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
EOD: You need a wide array of tools to survive, ranging from networking to writing abilities. But if any is a must have, I would say it’s staying power. You need to have endurance, to realize that to succeed at this, you have to want to be in it for the long haul.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
EOD: The goals were to create something for us, for the continent and those in and from it, including the diaspora. There are two few of those things, that tell our own stories and allow us the opportunity to tell them in a way that we need to. That would require an African editor, to be able to process the stories that are written, the way that they are written and not see the unique flavours as flaws and edit them away for unfamiliarity. Something that happens quite often in the industry. Most of the big magazines are run by people who don’t get a lot of these things. And it’s always been an issue for African writers, there not being enough African editors in the pro spaces. If there are any. But this anthology pays 8c per word, up to 1000 words, which meets the SFWA stipulated pro rates, and it’s been on the SFWA market report for the last 3 months. So I would say we not just succeeded in creating something by and for us, but that will go far enough to be seen in all the spaces that it needs to be.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
EOD: I was. Before I was old enough to even understand what I was reading. Before I was ten, I was already hooked on Dragonlance, Weis and Hickman, Piers Anthony, Anne Rice, Tad Williams, Salvatore, Stephen R Donaldson, old school fantasy. Sci-fi too. The original Star Wars books. The ones about Grand Admiral Thrawn. Can’t remember the names now. I also read outside the genre. Clive Clussler, Tom Clancy, Ludlum, etc. There were of course the African Writers series and African literary books here I read. chinua Achebe, Chukwuemeka Ike, Cyprian Ekwensi, Buchi Emecheta. There was also an African Writers series I consumed voraciously, with Books like One Week, One Trouble, Double trouble, etc.
Lest I forget, a whole bunch of Romance novels I can’t remember the names. Some Barbara Cartland, James Hardly Chase. Conan Doyle; The complete works. Shakespeare’s too. Then later on African genre fiction writers like them Nnedi, Tade, much later on because I didn’t have access to them back then. I mean they weren’t around even. But thank goodness now.
JSC: We know what you like to write, but what do you like to read in your free time, and why?
EOD: I read a lot of African Speculative fiction now, to make up for the lack, growing up. Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Wole Talabi and a whole wave of new school writers I hope to soon be a part of. I read a while lot of short stories too. African speculative fiction short fiction writers. Very important. Dare Segun Falowo, Imade Iyamu, Innocent Ilo Chizaram, Rafeeat Aliyu, Joshua Omenga, Tobi Ogundiran, Eugen Bacon, Simbiat Haroun. Theres a teeming mass of then out there you can immerse yourself in and never regret the time spent doing that.
And now for Ejpeki’s forthcoming story “Ife-Iyoku, Tale of Imadeyunuagbon” in the anthology Dominion:
What is the legacy and the future of Africa and the African Diaspora?”
Morako stayed quiet. He was a lero–or feeler–and oversaw the hunt. On his signal, the rest would move. For now, he lay waiting, careful not to alert the beast lest the intended prey became the hunter. Here, the roles of the prey and the hunter could switch in a flash, leaving the hunter to scurry for survival. But he knew that the father, Obatala himself, had chosen them and imbued them with sacred gifts which, though not making them immune, offered them a measure of protection.
The Nlaagama–an enormous, lizard-like beast–slithered forward. At almost twelve feet tall, it towered over banana trees. Its forked tongue swung pendulously and tasted the air. It bent to rip into the horned antelope which the Umzingeli– the hunters–had butchered and left as bait. The antelope was built like a horse, tall and possessing thick, strong legs and the horn of a mythical creature from the old world. The Nlaagama ripped into the antelope with a savagery that made Morako swallow.
This was Igbo Igboya, the forest of fears.
With the beast distracted, Morako gave the signal. The Umzingeli, four coal-black forms, detached themselves from the trees around. The beast stirred before resuming its feeding. The Umzingeli merged, activating the power of anjayiyan-okan, the chameleon mind. They became part of what they merged with and assumed their properties to remain hidden. The beast would sense them soon. Morako signaled to them again. They ran towards the beast with their spears extended. It stood still, trying to detect them, sensing that something was wrong.
Morako shot a spike of placidity at the beast. It struggled to cast off the artificial lethargy. The warriors were closing on it. They needed to be close enough to access the gaps between its scales. Their feet merged with the ground and the leaves and twigs and droplets of water as they ran. Their power activated with each step and deactivated when their feet left the ground. The Umzingeli had to consciously reactive the anjayiyan-okan. It was difficult, requiring a delicate touch and continuous synchronization with the environment. It was a skill that only the best of the Umzingeli could use.
These were the best hunters in the village, the only four who had mastered the art of merging, and nothing less than the village’s best could take down this prey. They were within striking distance. Now came the tricky part: attacking while maintaining the chameleon mind.
Morako saw one of the hunters lose control. He could sense their presence with his skill as a lero. Even though the hunter remained invisible, he failed to include his weapon in the merger. Morako watched with horror as hisspear appeared out of thin air. The beast’s long tail swiveled with a snap, almost faster than his eyes could follow. Its tail slapped the spear away and curled around the visible hunter as he lost hold of the merger. It flung the hunter at another detectable body, and both went down on contact.
The beast reared up and howled, shaking its neck violently, throwing something off. The last hunter materialized some yards away, and Morako noticed the broken half of the spear protruding from the back of the beast. It was wounded but far from defeated. Morako stared at the beast. The hunter pulled out another spear and twirled it, preparing to attack. The beast pawed the earth and roared, belching flames at the hunter. From his position, Morako saw the hunter roll out of the path of the flames and vanish. He reemerged and blended back into the environment. The Nlaagama howled again as a spear found a way into one of the gaps between its scales. It bathed the clearing with flames, turning to search if the burnt body of a hunter would appear. None did.
The beast screeched at the unseen enemy. Two large wings unfurled from its body, fanning the air, spreading the fire outward. Then, in a swift movement, it lifted itself off the ground. Morako sensed the appearance of Climbers, their reinforcement. As the beast soared upwards, the Climbers dropped a net from the trees, entangling itswings. The Nlaagama fell to the ground. Flames crackled around, and the Climbers, armed with clubs and spears, attacked it. Most of their attacks snapped on the beast’s thick scales as it ripped the net with its claws and fangs. The remaining hunter materialised from thin air and buried his spear in the neck of the beast, through an opening in its armor. He pulled out, and hot blood gushed out, scalding the climbers who scurried away. The hunter backed off to join the other hunters who had been knocked off. The beast belched fire amidst its dying throes.
The Nlaagama panted, refusing to die. A figure walked in, dragging a tree trunk. It was Oni, the elephant man. The climbers and hunters made way for him. He hefted the trunk and walloped the dying beast in the head. He didn’t need to do it twice.
Ekpeki Oghenechovwe is a Nigerian writer and editor, who studied law at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. the Nommo Awards–hosted by the African Speculative Fiction Society, which recognizes works of speculative fiction by Africans–awarded him the Best Short Story Award for his short story “The Witching Hour.”
He has also been recognised by the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, which awarded him two Honourable Mentions. His award winning short story The Witching Hour, published in Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores made the Tangent Online recommended reading list for 2018 with two stars. His has been published in Dwart online, Anotherealm, African Writer, Strange Horizons and the Selene Quarterly.
He has a novella titled Ife-Iyoku, Tale of Imadeyunuagbon slated for publication later this year and is editor of the anthology, Dominion: An anthology of speculative fiction from Africa and the African diaspora. He is a member of the African Speculative Fiction Society, Codex and the SFWA, and a first reader in SFF mags, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and Strange Horizons.