Interview with Speculative Fiction Writer Nnedi Okorafor

The American-born daughter of Igbo Nigerian parents, Nnedi Okorafor’s speculative fiction maps new territory for all readers. Taking inspiration from the…

The American-born daughter of Igbo Nigerian parents, Nnedi Okorafor’s speculative fiction maps new territory for all readers. Taking inspiration from the likes of Octavia Butler, Ngugi wa’Thiongo, and Hayao Miyazaki, Nnedi’s stories are vivid and brave. In this interview with Specter Magazine, Nnedi discusses why she writes with a “close up” view of local

cultures rather than whole nations, the evolving inspiration behind her work, her deconstruction of the term “African American”, her collaboration with Wanuri to translate Who Fears Death into film, and her writing process which includes long piano fingers dancing across a worn down keyboard from 1998. A teacher as well as a student of literature, Nnedi recounts her first experience reading Octavia Butler in 2002:  “I read the first page and my eyes nearly popped out.  The main character had an Igbo name and she was in Nigeria and she could shape shift! I bought that book and read the hell out of it and my mind was blown…It showed me that I wasn’t alone and that what I was writing was ok. Octavia gave me strength.” Giving her the strength to write beyond existing parameters, the young girl who once desired a career as an entomologist has now garnered accolades such as the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, was shortlisted for the Parallax Award and Kindred Award, named a finalist for the Golden Duck and Garden State Teen Choice awards and nominated for a Locus Award.

And of course, Specter Magazine, a publication for the outcasts couldn’t leave this interview without hearing Nnedi’s thoughts on the hyper-visibility of outcasts in her work.