St Anger

Nnedi Okorafor’s jail visit in­spired her new novel

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Red Alert - © (

On the night it was an­nounced that her book Who Fears Death, a post- apoc­a­lyp­tic tale set in Su­dan, had taken the 2011 World Fan­tasy Award for Best Novel, Nnedi Okorafor wasn’t at the cer­e­mony. “I was vis­it­ing one of my stu­dents in Chicago’s Cook County Jail af­ter he’d done some­thing very stupid,” re­calls the writer and aca­demic. “That evening, I saw with my own eyes the phe­nom­e­non I had known for a long time – all those young black men rot­ting be­hind bars.”

The sto­ries that Okorafor had been work­ing on found a new fo­cus and her new novel, Who Fears Death pre­quel The Book Of Phoenix, be­gan to co­a­lesce. In part, the novel is the story be­hind “The Great Book”, “a cor­rupted re­li­gious text” that fea­tures in Who Fears Death.

It also takes in fur­ther top­ics: the way tales twist and change as they’re passed down the years by word of mouth; ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing (“I started writ­ing about a man who could walk through walls and an­other who could eat glass, and I re­alised that th­ese mag­i­cal prop­er­ties were cre­ated by science”); and a Man­hat­tan jail, Tower 7. “Af­ter [ vis­it­ing my stu­dent], I started re­ally see­ing what Tower 7 was,” says Okorafor.

The Book Of Phoenix is pub­lished on 7 May.

“The moral is that I should never stop play­ing Wolver­ine… I’ve got to find a way to keep play­ing him un­til I die” If Hugh Jackman plays Lo­gan for life we’ve got Bird­man to thank.

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