Strength to leave

I read a blog post. Someone was writing a letter to a public figure (singer of mild fame) whose boyfriend, and father of her daughter, died in her arms after he had been shot.

He, a football star, had married a woman he had been in a relationship with for 7 years. In the 8th year of their relationship he met the singer who publicly displayed images of their relationship on instagram. Needless to say, the wife found out, but she stayed.

It is almost too easy to dismiss the sacrifice it takes to stay with someone who chooses to  hang on to you while reaching out for someone else. I cannot fathom it. What is easier to understand (from my point of view) is the choice to leave.

I tried to examine it once.


Welcome to Your Home
A short story by Gloria Bwandungi

The evening sky was dark, filled with dark gloomy clouds that hoarded precious water from the parched and thirsty cracking ground. They raced across the sky towards the west, chasing the sun, as though they were afraid of the looming darkness of night from the east. A cold wind blew, lifting rust coloured dust from the unpaved road, leaving scattered little eddies that quickly died down.
The bus stop in the middle of nowhere rose above me, its rusted sign flapping in the wind, pinging against the metallic pole, the mournful staccato beat it drummed out sounding cheerful in contrast to the thoughts of my mind.
My large suitcase bore the marks of a long and arduous journey, having bumped and crashed against other passengers’ luggage in the compartment on the bus. A small tear I had hoped to repair had widened into a gash. I would have to replace it soon.
The cold wind bit right through my sweater, reminding me to move my feet, let go and continue on, no matter where this road would lead. But I was frozen to the spot. My feet had sprouted roots and in concert with my heart, were determined to keep me here, gazing after the bus that had deposited me. I felt like discarded waste.
My mind filled up with fuzzy pictures that mingled with the tears welling up from my soul that I could not control.
“Ma’am, you are going to have to leave the premises.”
The dark angry looking man with the severe red eyes said this to me when he asked me to leave my home. A home I had been building with him since the day we first met. We called it our forever home, filling it with the marks of our achievements, souvenirs of our adventures, jewels we had fallen in love with and paid more than we could really afford.
The red eyed man had repeated his statement, speaking to me like an insolent, disobedient child. But he did not know. I could not blame him for doing a job he was being paid to do.
Another gust of cold wind blew red dust into my wet eyes, jerking me back to the desolate bus stop. I wiped my eyes and picked up the suitcase. It was time to abandon my haunt.
The buildings I was aiming for were huddled together, like little old women warming their feet around a fire. Yellow light gleamed out of the still open windows, flickering wildly in the wind, making the shadows leap up and crouch down in a crazy haphazard dance. The wind fought fiercely against me, so I leaned forward, pressing towards the cluster. It seemed to know that I did not want to be there and was determined to encourage me to stay at the bus stop.
Loud noises emanated from the buildings that were closest to mine, their conversation becoming a blur as my heart closed my mind to the chatter. A loud television commercial blended in with the clanging radio show and the sounds of pots and pans being washed in kitchen sinks. I kept my head low and walked as quietly and quickly through the group, careful not to be spotted by curious eyes. The misery that engulfed me did not cherish the idea of company. Not tonight.
The faded “Number Eighteen” sign stared cock eyed at me. It had been painted in white against the red brick wall and had been sprawled by an unpracticed hand, marking the location of my new home. Our forever home had been number fifty-six. At least I would not have to think about that every time I wrote my new address down somewhere.
The three stairs that led to the high door had been crudely constructed from cheap lumber and had been worn smooth by many feet. Two dirty bare foot prints leading from the door were the latest to grace them, leaving clumps of dirt as though the house had a mud floor. I climbed the stairs backwards, dragging the large suitcase behind me, each step creaking so loudly in my ear that I was sure everyone else heard it too. If they did, then no one came to look.
A simple latch was all the protection my new home had from intruders. The landlord had told me to bring a small lock to use. I opened the latch and tried to push the door in, but it stayed closed. I used my shoulder to shove it in, bursting into the small space with a loud bang.
It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the darkness inside the house. I left the suitcase at the door, peering inside to get a good look.
A long thin bed stretched across the longest wall. A thin mattress had been provided by the landlord and was rolled up to one side of the bed. It had borne many bodies and was yellow with age. Chunks of the mattress had been lost from the edge making it look like a giant rat had hacked and torn off bits of it to build a nest. The spring bed had a few springs missing and some had been stretched so much, they had deformed. It was going to be an uncomfortable place to sleep.
A small table stood on the far corner of the room. A hot plate, dirty with use, sat upon it and when I lifted it to look underneath, a few cockroaches scurried out racing for other parts of the room. I bent down to put the hotplate on the floor and dark gleam caught my eye near the door. When I approached it, it quickly uncoiled and darted out of the room probably more scared than I was.
A cheap oil lamp made from empty margarine tins stood on the surface of another table. There were matches beside it. I struck a match and lit the lamp, dark black soot lifting from it and filing the room with the smell of burning kerosine. It made me cough and stung my eyes. At least now if anyone came in to say hello, there would be a good reason why my eyes were so wet.
A small note had been tucked underneath the matchbox.
“Welcome to your new home.”
My new home. I looked around the room, my brain working hard to replace the worn mattress with the one I had shared with him. My eyes were seeing our small kitchen where our elbows constantly knocked against one another while we made dinner instead of the burned rickety table. I heard the beautiful music we played while we relaxed, filling our forever home with sunshine. I lifted my arms above my head, waiting to be twirled. Then I remembered, he had called me his sunshine. My arms fell to my sides and my chest convulsed with the pain I had been holding in.
He was gone. Completely gone. One cold look and the man I had known and loved had been transformed into a stranger I knew nothing about. I lost him. Now I lost my home and this wreck, this hovel that I was going to be sharing with wild animals and vermin was my home. How had it come to this?
I walked to the door, a thousand heavy thoughts weighing down heavily upon me. I dragged my suitcase into the room and unzipped one side. I pulled out the long blanket we had used to warm ourselves on the couch and wrapped myself in it. I zipped the suitcase closed. No cockroaches tonight. I laid it down by one of the walls and sat on top of the ever widening tear. This would be where I sleep tonight.
The still open door creaked back and forth as the cold wind blew into the house. Occasionally the sound of little pattering feet of my new roommates rose above the noises from other homes. My knees and elbows hurt from the discomfort, but it suited me. It suited my misery.
I reached up to my face to wipe some of my tears away and saw that I was still clutching the note from the landlord. It was crumpled and balled up. I smoothed it out on my lap and let the words blur as my eyes read the message.
“Welcome to your new home.”


The book that changed my life

A few years ago someone gave me a book. She has been in the practice of sending me books she has enjoyed and I bless her every day for it. She knew I was at Uni and could not afford to purchase novels.

One of the books she sent me was Seed to Harvest.

Prior to this book, I had not read any speculative fiction that had a character who looked like me who I wanted to be. I was in my 30s and my sense of place in story telling was completely transformed. There was no turning back. If you have not read Octavia Butler’s work, please add it to the list of things you MUST do.

With Ms Butler on my mind, I launched into telling stories of a fantastical nature (Chapter One & Two), and the ride through my imagination was a rollercoaster.

So when I’m surfing online and I find pictures like this,

I’m ashamed to say that envy creeps up like a long discarded lover and tries to throttle me for leaving it.

I wish there was a way to tell Ms. Butler how much her work changed my life and my journey through imagining. You are missed, by those who knew you, and those who wish they had.


In lieu of actually writing a blog post, I will tell you all what is on my mind.

1. AI is serious. Shouldn’t we proceed with caution?
2. My boring history teacher (cannot remember her name) who did not properly convey the absolute awesomeness of Timbuktu.
3. I want to be personal friends of Heather Headley and Elizabeth Tshele, have them in my house sipping some hot beverage and talking.
4. Wishing that the awesome tech in my book was available today.
5. Chocolate. With hazelnut. Nutella.
6. It used to be hard to find African literature from new pens. Not so much anymore!


About 2 years ago, I heard of a project that was being started by sci-fi writer, Neal Gaiman. The idea was to have conversations that would inspire sci-fi writers to write less dystopian novels and focus on imagining the kind of World we would like to live in.

A book was released, a continuing conversation about writers inspiring scientists and I watched most of the talk from the Google Talks YouTube channel, to which I am subscribed.

What I heard left me uninspired. We are living in a time of greatly accelerated scientific and technological innovation. Much of the innovation was inspired by writers who looked to the distant future (Star Trek) to bring us computers that speak to us, virtual reality, medical tricorders and even the ipad.

They did not want to read stories about hackers, holocausts, and hyperspace. Hackers have become the new political activists because of complete government control and surveillance, genocides have become the mainstay of human existence as we look for bigger and more devastating ways to be rid of those with opposing views, hyperspace may be a dream, but maybe it has a sister or cousin around whom we can innovate.

I’m thinking this may be a problem only for me. I love grand ideas, technologies that make me want to live there. I hope there are people out there like me, who want to dream big dreams. After all:

I curate a magazine where important advances in science and technology are fodder for my imagination. Come visit.


13 turning 30

A few years ago I wrote a story. I love this story, but I’ve turned into those crazy moms you hear about in the horrifying section of the newspaper. You know those titles,

Woman releases 24 year old daughter after 20 years in basement.

Yep, that’s me! My poor story is locked up on my computer, gathering cyber dust.

I’ve walked through bookstores, picking out the perfect location for my story, imagined the young people in the aisles reaching out for it, wondering what hidden treasures lay inside and finding a friend. Finding someone just like them hidden in the pages.

The world is too cynical! How do I let my poor little baby out into the viciousness that is publishing? Where editors with scimitars slash indiscriminately, leaving huge holes for me to fill with new ideas, new plot lines, new characters. How can I mourn the loss of a character I’ve loved into existence.

I’m an overprotective mommy. I’m trying to let go. But it is sooooooooo hard.

The other reason I’m holding on is I want to send him out with his sister. Girls are stronger anyway and she can protect his fragile little ego (and mine) and catch some of the characters that fall out of his pages.

So in the next few weeks I’m going to do what I have to do to let my baby out into the World. Hopefully, he will grow into a wonderful man, mature in the brash World, finding his way into bookshelves and making a home in hearts everywhere.


Today I’m doing some rewriting, so I have to bend my head down and concentrate.

But wanted to think aloud for a minute.

I’m passionate about speculative fiction. I want to know about things I could not have imagined on my own, ways of living that are beyond what it is we do now and what we can accomplish. It drives me to comb through the outer reaches of scientific discovery, to see if there is something that is about to change my life, like paralysis cured, or what inventors plan to do with graphene, or majorana fermion.

Combining my love for stories that are distinctly African, distinctly speculative and scientific, is a tough thing, especially when you keep reading falsehoods about Africans not consuming science fiction. Pish tosh. They’ve watched Avatar, Superhero movies, Star Trek. But will they love my story?

In the face of breathtaking science, leaping and bounding through time, what significance, what magic can my story create? Where is the sweet spot between fiction and science where readers can gasp with pleasure and ache with longing for a time when all I’ve written about is possible?

And yet, creating a space my characters can live in, where their lives are equalized is challenging. What does that mean? Where does conflict come from if everybody has everything they ever wanted? Do I have to create an external force to upset the status quo, or will human beings always create conflict even though they are set in the most idyllic circumstances.

I’m not sure what answers I will find as I write.

May the journey be long and uncomfortable.