Photo sourced from Africa in Dialogue website.

Award-winning Nigerian writer Suyi Davies Okungbowa will release his debut climate fiction novella in 2024. The book is titled Lost Ark Dreaming and will be published by Tordotcom.

Okungbowa’s book is a standalone, near-future, cli-fi novella that explores the displacement of seaside populations due to severe climate change. The story is set in a location off the coast of West Africa and decades after the dangerous rise of the Atlantic Ocean.

During this time period, the human survivors are crowded into the Fingers, which are “five partially submerged, kilometers-high towers originally designed as a playground for the wealthy.” The most affluent people reside in the topmost floors of the towers, while the rest are crammed into the dark, fetid floors that lie below sea level.  Meanwhile, some who were left behind for dead are reawakened by an ancient power. These ghosts are named Yemoja’s Children and seek retribution from those who drowned them in the first place.

Okungbowa’s novella explores the lives of three main characters within the Fingers: “Yekini, an earnest, mid-level rookie analyst; Tuoyo, an undersea mechanic mourning tremendous loss; and Ngozi, a narcissistic bureaucrat from the highest levels of governance.” The three will need to work together to secure a future worth living for all.

The social stratification described in the book is inspired by the real life displacement of seaside communities on the Lagos coast due to encroaching gentrification. Okungbowa remarked:

Back in 2017, I once stood at the topmost floor of a high-rise on the Lagos coast, and from there, in a moment of the sublime, paid witness to: the power of the sea, as demonstrated by its rabid erosions; the displacement of waterside communities in favour of gentrification projects, and the resulting social stratification; economic-minded projects hailed as intervening measures for an improved environmental future. In that very moment, the spark for Lost Ark Dreaming was born. This is my attempt to examine the pathways to healing and restoration of land and people, embracing both advanced technologies and indigenous practices. It is my embrace of the interconnectedness of past, present and future as seen through the consciousness of Afrocentric Futurisms. And somewhere within all this is a fun romp featuring a gathering of unlikely heroes, a battle against undefeatable forces, and questions about what it means to be a small part of a big world.

Okungbowa’s editor Jonathan Strahan said he initially did not know what to expect when Okungbowa suggested a “post-climate-disaster, science-fantasy hopepunk story in the vein of Rivers Solomon-meets-Station-Eleven.” However, Okungbowa did not disappoint.

Strahan added, “Lost Ark Dreaming is an electric immediately engaging story I know readers are going to love and I’m incredibly proud to have acquired it and to help bring it to readers everywhere.”

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian author of fantasy and speculative fiction. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Ottawa. He won the 2020 Nommo Award for Best Novel for his debut fantasy novel David Mogo, Godhunter (2019). His most recent novel is Son of the Storm (2021), first in the epic fantasy trilogy The Nameless Republic. Warrior of the Wind, second in the trilogy, is forthcoming in November 2023.

Congrats to Okungbowa on his debut novella!