This book chat discussed Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps and Mohale Mashigo’s The Intruders. It was moderated by TJ Benson, who started the conversation by asking five members of the audience who were familiar with the writers’ work to stand up and share their thoughts on the books. He did so because genre writing like crime and speculative fiction is often pushed to the side or regarded as unserious. He hoped this would inspire people who had not read the books to grab a copy.
He talked about the pacing of Leye’s book and shared how realistic and fascinating he found the plot. Leye said the short chapters he used and simple language was part of his plan to not bore the reader, because he had a short attention span and hated it when other authors bored him. He said he was comfortable with the tag “crime fiction”; in fact, he did not think about the categorisation when he was writing it. In his words, what we consider ‘literary fiction today’ in terms of having over-explanations acquired its form because long ago, writers were paid per word to be published on newspapers, so they would naturally take longer sentences to express themselves. He believes that one day, what we call genre fiction will take the centre-stage and be regarded as “literary”. Leye continued, saying that he’s often amused when people question his use of powerful female characters because in life, he did not know weak women. If anything, his lead character Amaka, reminds him of his mom, with the way she organised the women who needed help and protected them.
In the same vein, Mohale said that in thinking of her speculative writing influences, she thinks of her mother. She believes not everything needs to be called Afrofuturism, because Afrofuturism is not for Africans living in Africa. And why this focus on the future? What about now? When TJ drew parallels between her Ghost Strain N short story and the Nigerian reaction to news of xenophobia, she said this was why she doesn’t believe that dystopia is waiting in the future, she believes it’s already here. Moreover that story, she said, was inspired by how drugs become popular on the street; today you have one kid hanging by the corner, face suspended in ecstasy and the next you had four, then ten. This made her realise what a zombie invasion would be like. She wants her stories to show human relationships with each other, especially the friendship of men, though in a speculative realm.