British-Nigerian actress Kelechi Okafor published her debut collection of short stories titled Edge of Here on September 14. Published by Trapeze Books, an imprint of Orion Books in the UK, the collection is a stunning exploration of Black womanhood with a futuristic twist.
The stories in Edge of Here combine modern-day narratives with speculative concepts, both ancient and futuristic. Some examples include a Black nurse dealing with a white woman whose voluntarily installed ‘Ally-Chip’ (which allows her to feel the emotions of a chosen donor) is malfunctioning, the Yoruba-influenced tale of a renowned mental health expert who holds a mysterious secret, and a woman who uses a VR-like headset to explore an alternate love-life with the man she bumps into at her son’s school gates.
Although Okafor’s stories might be set in the future, readers will find that the conflicts within them are reminiscent of contemporary society and the struggles we face today. This world is very close to our own, but uses the medium of technology to impart life lessons. As the title of the collection suggests, The Edge of Here tries to maintain a link both to the present as well as the near future and ancient past.
However, the fantastical technological experiences in the stories involving an alternative love life or feeling someone else’s emotions do not go without consequences. Although these are tales rooted in the recognizable, they are not limited by the boundaries of our current reality, which can be “uplifting, thought-provoking, sometimes chilling”, according to the publisher’s synopsis.
Okafor’s debut collection isn’t just about speculative narratives, but centers the pursuit of love at its heart. According to a book review by I News, The Edge of Here is an “Afrofuturist Black Mirror of sorts” where love thrives against all odds:
These hopeful stories, which portray “a world where black women love and are loved back” and “don’t have all the answers” are refreshing, as is the representation of aspects of West African spirituality in a part of the world that often rejects it.
It is surprising and energizing to witness an actress like Okafor attempt to write a book that requires real literary skill and imagination. In my opinion, she has definitely succeeded in doing so. We hope that she continues to write more books in the future alongside her acting career!
Kelechi Okafor is a British-Nigerian actress, director, and public speaker born in Nigeria and raised in London. Okafor studied at the BRIT School of performing arts specializing in Musical Theatre and English Literature and went on to gain a 2:1 BA in Drama and Theatre Studies with Law. In 2018, Kelechi won Fitness Queen of the Year at the Precious Lifestyle Awards, followed by two Screen Nation awards in 2019 for best podcast and best social media personality. She hosts the award-winning podcast Say Your Mind, which focuses on globally relevant conversations and events, framed through an anticolonial lens.
If you are a fan of Afrofuturism and speculative fiction including stories by Nnedi Okorafor and Tomi Adeyemi, then Okafor’s collection is right up your alley!