Monday, 6 April 2009

Sci Fi is Go: "Black Water" in Jupiter #24

On the short story front I’m doing really well this year, with five tales out already and it’s only the start of April. Today saw the release of “Black Water”, my future Africa novella published in Jupiter #24: Locaste, a UK science fiction magazine edited by Ian Redman. “Black Water” was short-listed for the Aeon Award in 2006-2007, and now finally it is in print in none other than prime position in the magazine: the opening story. This is one of my personal favourites of my own work, even after three years when I wrote it. Also of interest to some, it’s in the same setting as “Aftermath” which was a Ditmar and Aurealis short-listed novella also set in Africa.

This is what the judges of the Aeon Award said about "Black Water":

“Black Water”, for me, stood out almost immediately from the several hundred other entries I read for the Aeon Award [2006-2007] this time around. Not that the bulk of the entries I read were bad, in any sense, just that this story was better than the “good” stories. What more can I say to explain that? The confident style, pacing, and the motivations of the characters. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget the tension in the story, that sense of will he or won’t he get away with it. Excellent work.

[Black Water] exhibited a great sense of place. Read it and you’ll see. It isn’t for me to try and out-do the story with my own words here. What I will say is that not many of us will ever get the chance to experience Africa, but this story will certainly take you a long way towards experiencing it as it is now, and unfortunately, where it may be headed in the future. This holds true not only for place, but character, and the interaction between Donna, the privileged white lady and the down and out Nuwangi is thoroughly convincing, and regrettably, probably not too far away from the truth of things.

Table of contents for Jupiter #24: Locaste is as follows:

  • Black Water - David Conyers

  • Sides of the Coin - Gustavo Bondoni

  • Our Man in Herrje - Andrew Knighton

  • The Ninth Circle - A.J. Kirby

  • If You Can’t Beat Them... - James McCormick

  • Dog’s Best Friend - Gareth D Jones

If you want to read my story and the rest Jupiter #24 (and back issues) can be purchased here (with a very nice cover by S. Cerulean). The opening scene to “Black Water” follows:


Dust blown from the arid interior rained on the streets of Dar es Salaam. Vendors and buyers in the Kariakoo Markets looked to the skies, the hope in their eyes sought rain. They were to be disappointed, but not surprised. It had not rained along the East African coast in five years.

Joseph Nuwangi pushed through the crowds of African faces. Most slung deteriorating gas masks about their belts or necks, prepared when the dust became too thick to breathe. Masai cattle-bleeders offered dirty cups of bovine blood with chiseled plates of goat cheese. Somali traders pressed wares of cheap electronics, second-hand guns and faulty robotic machines. Nuwangi sought the water sellers, and of these there were many. He selected a Hehe trader, whose water sloshed in a heavy translucent canister precarious upon the trolley of a rusted tricycle.

“What’s the quality?” Nuwangi asked glancing at the digital clock embedded in his cybernetic arm. The metal prosthetic groaned as he swung it near his face, ached where it gripped the flesh just below his left shoulder.

The water seller spoke through rotten teeth. “Grade A effendi, pure water from the snows of Kilimanjaro.”

Nuwangi laughed. “Kilimanjaro hasn’t had snow since before you were born, old man, and I don’t for a second believe that’s Grade A.”

Across Africa all water was dirty and polluted. Inevitably Grade A water had become the continent’s rarest commodity. If properly recycled in a closed system Grade A was more pure than the mountain springs of old. It couldn’t be produced cost-effectively anywhere in Africa, so where it was available it was protected by the strictest security measures. If the Hehe man’s water proved pure, then he had no need to hawk in a dirty market, he would be wealthy beyond measure. In the Kariakoo Markets the freshest water was found in the guts of flies feeding on human tear ducts, and even this water wasn’t worth drinking.

“I don’t believe you.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

David, I am really happy to hear about your successes this year! You were kind enough to send me a copy of "Black Water" last year, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm glad that more people will get the chance to read the story now.