Renowned British-South African speculative fiction author Nick Wood has passed on at the age of 62. He died in June 2023. Although we learned about his passing weeks after it happened, we are deeply shocked and saddened by the news. His death is a huge loss to the African speculative fiction community.
Nigerian SF writer and winner of the Nebula Award, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, remembered Wood fondly, saying:
Nick Wood was an incredibly kind person, and a sensitive creative with a strong passion for promoting African speculative creatives. He will be sorely missed, and the work he’s done and fond memories of him will live on with us forever.
Born in Kitwe, Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia) in 1961, Nicholas Wood grew up in South Africa and considered it his home. He also lived in Aotearoa( New Zealand), U.S., and finally the UK. He was a writer and psychologist by profession. Wood’s expertise in psychology helped him examine human complexities in his fiction.
According to SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association), Wood was “dedicated to writing science fiction for social change and promoting the visibility of science fiction written by Africans.” In 1999, he began to publish speculative fiction with “African Shadows” and made his first sale with “God in the Box” in 2003.
He published his debut YA novella The Stone Chameleon in 2004, which explored the South African urban youth’s experience. His first novel Azanian Bridges (2016) was a finalist for the Campbell Memorial, Sidewise, and British Science Fiction Awards. It imagined a world of continued apartheid and the consequences of such a world. His final novel Water Must Fall (2020) explored climate change by enabling readers to directly feel the impact of potential futures.
Nigerian-British SF author Tade Thompson, who co-wrote the novella The Last Pantheon with Wood in 2015, remarked:
Nick was one of those powerful, gentle souls, always with a smile and encouragement, even when he was in physical pain. We collaborated on the novella and would meet at the British Museum in London to hash out revisions and points of philosophy and African history, with the irony of the venue not lost on us. His novel Azanian Bridges is a classic of African SF literature, and his voice will be missed.
Wood’s contributions to African science fiction at the turn of the century was at a time when the genre was not yet accepted in African literary circles. According to SFWA, Wood recognized the “power of linking the present, the future, and paths in between.”
Wood retired due to the impact of Ménière’s disease on his life. However, he continued to work to improve the African speculative fiction scene and urge global action on climate change. He was a founding member of the African Speculative Fiction Society, organized the DisCon III program stream devoted to speculative fiction by Africans, and helped SFWA better serve global writers.
SFWA Chief Financial Officer Erin Hartshorn commented on Wood’s generosity with his time and money:
Nick was always willing to assist us with payments to international writers, both with the Givers Fund and COVID grant programs. If he couldn’t help us himself, he pointed us to someone who could. He was also instrumental in helping people to attend WorldCon in DC (DisCon III) virtually—requesting assistance from our Where the Need is Greatest fund and co-organizing the effort so people could attend and bring new perspectives. His passing is a loss for so many, and we extend our condolences to all who knew him.
We are deeply saddened by the news of his passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends, and above all, we celebrate his life as he joins the ancestors.
May his soul rest in peace.