Some speculative fiction may be unconcerned with realism, but mine sure as heck is deeply concerned with it. (Okorafor 2015, 25)
Afrofuturism, then, is concerned with the possibilities within the dimension of the predictive, the projected, the proleptic, the envisioned, the virtual, the anticipatory and the future conditional. (Eshun 2003, 293)
Nnedi Okorafor makes the comment quoted above in her keynote address to the 35th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in 2014. In the address, ‘Writing Rage, Truth and Consequence’, she describes the curious concatenation of events that resulted in her receiving word that she had won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for Who Fears Death while visiting a student in prison. Or rather not receiving word since during the actual visit no mobile phones were permitted. Her despair at seeing the prison filled with young black men, her sadness for her student, her elation at receiving acknowledgement of her work, her ‘residual claustrophobia’ (Okorafor 2015, 23) become examples of the contradictory forces acting on her as a writer by virtue of her unavoidable location in a specific time and place, within the USA in the second decade of the twenty-first century. She uses this detail to emphasize the fact that for her writing fantasy is not about escaping from the real. Rather, any form of imagining the future is always a response to the world as it is at the moment of writing. Fantasy permits contradictory and diverse elements from the present to be organized into a ‘proleptic’ realism, one which anticipates not simply future events but also the surface density of imagined future everyday experiences. In the era of the Anthropocene, the future has become the focus of a diffuse but pervasive global anxiety. As the unpredictable and damaging side effects of modernity proliferate and environmental transformation becomes more and more evident, the future becomes not only radically volatile but also a contested site in global world politics. In this context, fiction becomes an important form for exploring the implications of the present from the perspective of the future not in the abstract as a set of predicted ‘scenarios’ but rather through intimate attention to detail.