June 17, 2010

Nnedi Okorafor at John Scalzi's BIG IDEA

Here's another gem from Mr. Scalzi's Big Idea series:
"When I was deep in the writing of Who Fears Death, a spider kept appearing in the same spot in my bedroom. Spiders prefer shadowy places, but this black wolf spider came out in the open. It would stand in front of my bed. I smashed it with a book twice (I don’t normally kill creatures…but this spider was huge and in my bedroom), I sprayed it with Raid, I sprayed the spot with Spider Killer (this is supposed to keep spiders away for 6 months!), I had my brother capture it and put it outside once. Each time, it returned to stand on that same spot (or some other spider took its place).

The spider returned six times over several weeks. By the sixth visit, I left it alone. I had a feeling that I was being visited and that it had something to do with what I was writing. In West African culture, spiders tend to represent creativity and storytelling. That recurring (or shall I say reincarnating) spider in my bedroom might have been sent by the famous storytelling Ghanaian spider named Anansi.

Or maybe it wasn’t Anansi at all. Maybe it was the lesser-known but equally formidable Nigerian story-spinning spider named Udide Okwanka. He is the supreme spider artist who toils beneath the ground, in the ekwuru (the spirit world). He possesses the power to gather fragments of any object and shape them into a new object. Maybe Udide Okwanka had gifts to impart to me, writing tools, perhaps. Sounds like magical realist mumbo jumbo, doesn’t it? Imagine that! But see, this is my Big Idea—The Story."

(Okay, that whole spider thing happened to my Mom when she was pregnant with each of us. I prefer Ms. Nnedi's version of why spiders might be visiting to my Mom's casual "Oh, I guess it's just something that happens when you're pregnant and to slow to get up and chase them." Um, no. I'll go with "African Storyteller" for $500, Alex.)

This isn't a YA selection, but if you've read anything of Ms. Okorafor's, you're intrigued and want to check out her stuff marketed to adults. When you're done shuddering about the spider, go and find her new book!


jama said...

The spiders in our house are so big they move the furniture. I'll take African Storyteller for $500, please.

What about big ants?

a. fortis said...

As long as the black widow spiders don't come inside, I'm fine!!

tanita davis said...

Jama: Do I need to rethink coming to your house???? If any of the furniture moves, I'm running outside.

Sarah: Allegedly there are no poisonous spiders in the UK. Allegedly... however...

Mary Lee said...

So your mom was visited by African Storytelling spiders for "each" of you. We know for sure that ONE of you turned out to be a storyteller. What of the rest of the clan?