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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Strange Horizons -- April 29, 2019

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Strange Horizons, April 29, 2019

The Storm Painter” by Ayodele Olofintuade

Reviewed by Tara Grímravn

For the final week of April 2019, Strange Horizons has chosen to release a rather special issue celebrating Nigerian authors of science fiction and fantasy. The stories in this issue feature immortals living among average humans and deal with themes of freedom, exile, and family, although each author approaches these topics from a different angle.

The Storm Painter” by Ayodele Olofintuade

Painter Adé and her sister Nkem live in a house on the beach. Nkem has arranged for an exhibition of Adé’s artwork. The evening is going well but Adé isn’t one for such gatherings. Fatigued by having to engage with the attendees, she slips out to seashore, where she sees a strange woman walking toward her on the water—a woman with a white afro and blue-black skin. The new arrival brings with her memories of Adé’s magical heritage and some unfinished family business that the artist is going to have to deal with if she is going to survive.

I’m a big fan of international mythology so I really liked the focus on Orisha as main characters and the role that the egbére, malevolent spirits from Yoruban legend, play in the story. Not to mention, the family problems of divine beings always make for a lively tale and Olofintuade’s story is no exception. As the grandchild of Olokun, the goddess of the deep sea, Adé believes that it was her divine grandparent that caused the death of her mother. As a result, she’s been running away from that side of herself for a long time and the return of her childhood friend Mphsiebo brings it all back to the surface. At its heart, the story is really one of coming to terms not only with one’s past but also with one’s self. As the old saying goes, “you can’t run away from your past” as Adé soon learns.

Where the Rain Mothers Are” by Rafeeat Aliyu

Gherek, something of an outcast from an immortal race of water creatures, has lived among humans for hundreds of years. One morning, while waiting for her lover Na’yi to return home, she’s attacked by thugs working for a known crime boss who are looking for a little girl. Unaware of anyone else present in her home, she tells them that she’s alone. Angry at this response, they try to kill her but she’s successful in scaring them off. After they leave, Gherek finds the girl hiding in a trunk in her bedroom. Not knowing exactly why the men are after the child, she decides to take the girl under her wing.

Aliyu’s story is a vividly imagined mix of science fiction and fantasy. Although set in a fantasy world, it has a nice steampunk feel to it with transportation machines like floating pillars and mechanical animals roaming the city of Saleh. Like the previous story, “Where the Rain Mothers Are” focuses on family. Unlike Adé in Olofintuade’s story, though, Gherek wants to return home. She misses her clan, even though she’s become somewhat complacent in her life among humans despite the fact that she knows she’d not be welcome if they knew what she was. It’s a well-paced story with plenty of action to keep readers’ attention.