The Year of Dark and Whimsy

What a year! It is only in looking back on the year’s work (both published and works-in progress) that I realize I’ve devoted the most part of the year to crafting darkly whimsical tales. Without further ado, here are the stories I had out this year for your reading pleasure.

  • The Tale of Jaja and Canti: This story’s journey to publication is long and winding. I first wrote it 2019, a tale which, upon its first conception, I had no idea what it was really about. But the world called to me, and the language brought it to life. It wasn’t until early this year when I resurrected it fro the proverbial trunk that I realised I had penned a Pinnochio retelling—if only by virtue of the main character being made of wood.
  • Lágbájá: I was contacted by Rym Kechacha and Magda Knight for this one. They were putting together an anthology of mutated folk tales, and they had read and loved my work and wanted me to contribute a story to the anthology. I was only too thrilled to. Not only because the theme was something that intrigued me (indeed, most of my work has been a rumination of sorts on folk and fairy tales) but because all the proceeds were going to FareShare UK to combat hunger. I wrote this story in three days, and it touched on things I’d long had rattling about in my head. I’m proud of how it turned out.
  • Deep in the Gardener’s Barrow: The idea behind this story is simple: Hansel and Gretel, but darker. I’ve always wondered how a story might turn out if I took a well known element and went with it. It is said that give five writers the same story seed and you’ll have yourself five different stories. Isn’t that just wonderful?

These stories are eligible for all the awards, so if you read and loved them, if they spoke to you in a certain way, vote for them—but more importantly, share them!

Shirley Jackson Award Finalist

What? I know. It’s been almost a month but typing this still feels surreal. If anyone had told me last year that I’d be nominated for a couple of prestigious awards (3, but who’s counting) I would have laughed in their faces. But I am immensely grateful. Writing is a lonely task, and it really is something to have people not only read and connect with your work, but love it so much that they vote for it. Thank you all.

I didn’t win the award, and I’m not even mad about it (he says, while looking for whom to pelt with his pebble). Being a finalist is a great honour.

For the curious, here is the award nominated story.

Here is my token, my very own pebble with which I can join the characters of the Lottery, in pelting the winner.

Nommo Award Finalist!

I’m incredibly pleased to announce that The Goatkeeper’s Harvest is a finalist for the Nommo award in the short story category!

That makes this the second major award I’ve been shortlisted for this year (the first being the British Science Fiction Association award). Not too bad for this kid from Lagos, who always dreamed of being a writer.

Many, many thanks to all who read, loved, and voted for the story. I’m up against some stellar writers in the category, and I’m very proud to be among their number.

2021 Nommo Shortlist Readings

You can also catch me reading from the nominated story at the announcement event.

Voting for the winner is open until August 31st for all members of the African Speculative Fiction Society so go ye forth and cast your votes!

I am a BSFA Finalist!

I am thrilled, gobsmacked, positively befuddled, and pleasantly surprised to announce that my story Isn’t Your Daughter Such a Doll is a finalist for the British Science Fiction Association awards! I can’t stress enough how wonderful this feels. When I learned the story had been longlisted, I was, of course, pleased and frankly did not expect anything to come if it. Imagine my surprise 3 weeks later when I received the email that it’d been shortlisted!

Voting opens March 1st to all BSFA and Eastercon members, so if you do feel inclined…

Awards Eligibility Post

It’s that time of the year again, in which we give account of the works that came out. I had five! stories published this year (the most I’ve ever had). I’m bad at summarizing my own work, and have included reviews where I could find them.

And without further ado, here are the stories in order of publication:

  1. Guardian of the Gods, FIYAH #14
    Ashâke is an acolyte of the gods. But unlike all of her classmates, unlike all of the priests, unlike everyone she’s supposed to be like, she cannot hear the gods. And in that space of lack, in the space of silence, a seed of doubt is planted, one that sparks to life when she hears a story she wasn’t meant to. The piece is heavy with world building, revealing a setting where the gods are very real, but might also not be in the position that Ashâke has been taught her entire life. And the secrets and subterfuge build as she hears a series of stories that make clear the divine landscape of the world, and her place within it. There’s a sweep of magic as well as some striking stakes to kick things off, though the piece acts mostly as introduction for what might happen next once Ashâke realizes her destiny.
    ~ Charles Payseur, Quicksips
  2. Isn’t Your Daughter Such a Doll Shoreline of Infinity #18
    A little girl makes a friend, who is much more than meets the eye, and she finds herself the unwitting object of an ancient conflict, which involves her mother and a king who wears many faces.
  3. The Many Lives of an Abiku, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #309
    The narrator is a young girl who early on is ritually bound to keep her spirit with her family (after they lost too many chil­dren very young). She is an abiku, a spirit that would naturally roam, but she comes to love her human family very much. Unfortunately, she is tormented by the spirit Rewa, who seems to have a special interest in turning her and her human family against each other. Although there are clear reasons for everything that happens, the story quickly takes a turn towards the horrific.
    ~ Karen Burnham, Locus.
  4. The Goatkeeper’s Harvest, The Dark #64
    The narrator of this story is a widow and mother of two living on a farm, who finds goats eating on her yams one day and seeks to drive them off. But of course the goats aren’t exactly goats and her act inadvertently breaks a compact that has kept the region relatively prosperous. The situation goes from bad to worse to HORRIFYING, though, as she has to face what’s happened, hoping for help and deliverance from people who probably should have done more to protect her from this very thing. It’s an intense horror, immediate and obliterating. There’s this overwhelming power and violence involved and it’s a bit of difficult read but also just some brilliant horror.
    ~ Charles Payseur, Quicksips
  5. Here Sits His Ignominy, Breathe FIYAH
    Framed as a letter from one ruler to another, or perhaps from one people to a ruler. The ruler in question is a king, an imperial power with his eyes on Africa and its riches, its peoples. He’s already made a campaign there, already destroyed, already committed atrocities. And the story is a response to that, from a place where giants have already been defeated. The letter begins on an almost mocking tone, what with the insults and such, but rather than mocking, I feel like the story reaches more toward a bit of poetic justice. The letter and the actions of the letter writer’s people are a retribution, are a retaliation, are a reflection of the violence and intended violence directed toward the African peoples and nations. It’s a spark and direct story, one that doesn’t shy away from a evoking violence of its own. Rather than revenge fantasy, though, I feel like the story acts more as a reclaiming of history, and a reality that has been erased by colonization and empire.
    ~ Charles Payseur, Quicksips

There we have it! 5 stories eligible for all the awards – Hugos, Nebulas, Stoker etc etc

Here Sits His Ignominy

I’m pleased to announce my new story in Breathe FIYAH (an anthology of flash fiction produced in collaboration between FIYAH and Tor)

Flash fiction has been one of those categories that I’ve squinted at from afar with suspicion, because how well can you tell a good story in so few words? But when I saw the call for this anthology, and its accompanying prompt, I decided why the hell not?

I traveled 500 years into the past, and rewrote history with a single letter, creating a new timeline in which we did not lie prone and helpless but came swinging with the wrath of the gods. And damn it if I don’t want to live in this world for the rest of time.

You can read it here. Do check out the other stories. They are (pun intended) fiyah!

How Horror Seduced Me, or, How I Went Over to the Dark Side

CW: wet crotch, underpants, disease, body parts.


As a child, rummaging through the house for buried treasure was a favourite pastime, an exercise which ranged from digging through the cracks in the settee for long lost trinkets: combs, toy cars, dismembered action figures, dried chicken drumsticks (I heap all the blame on my sister for that one) to sneaking into my parents’ bedroom and poring over my father’s medical textbooks. The massive tomes with full color pictures of patients instantly captivated me and I found myself fascinated with the ways sickness could warp human features into something other. It was, well, horrifying. But that didn’t stop me from looking at them again. And again. And again.

It was during one of these treasure hunts that I found my parents’ secret stash of movies (no, not those movies). I popped in the first cassette into the VHS player and watched a now familiar opening scene: a car full of friends rolls up to a holiday cabin in the woods. It was The Evil Dead. I watched, terrified and yet morbidly fascinated (much as I had been with the medical pictures) as the evil claimed the friends one by one.

Needless to say I scarred my young mind by watching it, and endured several nights of nightmares. But like the books, I kept returning to the movie again and again, until I knew every minute of it by heart, until my dreams were a never ending reel of possessed clocks and rapacious trees and demons boiling out of the depths of hell.

That was the first cassette.

The second was an Old Nollywood movie called Diamond Ring 2, in which an idiot teenager and his friends rob a grave, stealing – you guessed it – a diamond ring off a freshly interred corpse. The vengeful spirit puts the foolish boy into a coma and gives his family 24 hours to find and return her ring or forfeit his life. I haven’t watched that movie in eighteen years and I still remember the soundtrack. Yeah.


Every culture has its ghost stories (which is a catch all for legends and tales bordering on the horrific) and growing up in Nigeria, I heard my fair share of ghost stories. But these weren’t tales we whispered by the light of campfires (why would you leave the comfort of your home for the cold uncertainty of the wild???[the wild is filled with a certain subspecies of humans with a penchant for body parts]); the tales were told in the cold light of day, in between mundane tasks and conversations, in the matter-of-fact tone of one commenting on the weather, which made it its own special brand of terror.

When I was ten we moved from the rented apartment we’d lived my whole life to our own duplex. And as I sat with my siblings watching Shrek on the new TV, behind us my parents chatted with their friends. I heard my dad say about the old house: “they say the landlord seeded the compound with the bones of some dead girl, buried her skull in the roots of the palm tree.” I whipped around and gawked at him, and he very patiently repeated what he’d said. I flashed back to all the times I’d sauntered past that palm tree, all the times I’d rested under it in between playing football with my goons and said, “why didn’t you tell me?”

“Did you really want to know?”

Did I really want to know? No. Would it have made a difference if I knew? Most definitely. But that didn’t stop me from thinking of all the times the palm branches had scratched against my window, and wonder if it wasn’t the spirit of the girl pleading to be set free.

Good Lord.


Secondary school introduced me to horror in its literary form. After the initial Harry Potter frenzy, I happened upon a Stephen King book in the library: Misery. I enjoyed it so much that I hid it where no one could ever find it, and stole to the library whenever I could to read it. Up until that point I’d only seen horror movies, become overly familiar with the beats, so to speak. But reading Misery opened my mind to a whole different kind of terror. With a movie, you’re more or less stuck with the director’s vision of the events and characters and setting etc (which is not necessarily a bad thing); with a book, you are the director of your imagination. And oh, doesn’t imagination like to run wild? Reading Misery, Paul’s pain was my pain, his terror was my terror, and the evidently unhinged Annie Wilkes was the stuff of nightmares.

But what really fascinated me was how simple words strung one after the other could light up the cinema of my mind, and evoke visceral reactions even more lasting than some of the movies I’d watched. It’s not surprising, then, that when I finally put pen to paper in the hopes of becoming a writer, what came out was a horror story.

The oldest and perhaps most visceral of human emotion is fear and I found catharsis in the ability to master my fears, in the ability to dream up dreadful situations and explore them on my own terms. If horror is fear of the unknown, then I gain power over it in the knowledge of the outcome, in an almost clinical detachment as I watch my characters navigate horror.

Creators of horror are rarely – perhaps never – scared by the stuff they create, because the horror is theirs, and they’ve seen it in its underpants (hell, they bought the damn underpants); the terrified are the readers who are kept in the dark and watch with soiled crotches bated breath the characters navigate horror.

Do I still look twice at the shadow in the corner of my room? That depends on a host of things, chief among them being my mental state at the given time. But best believe that by the time I put pen to paper I will have known that horror by its name, and bought it some damn underpants.

Event Horizon 2020

I took part in the wonderful Cymera Festival where Shoreline of Infinity put the spotlight on BAME writers. I, along with some wonderful writers (Zen Cho, Asith Pallemulla, Robert Rene Galvan) read from my work. I read from my story, publsihed in Shoreline of Infinity 18 “Isn’t Your Daughter Such a Doll”.

The entire event was streamed live, and is now available on Youtube

BTS #2: Guardian of the Gods

Here’s a brief rundown of how I wrote this story. There’s potential spoilers here, so if you haven’t read it, and don’t want to be spoiled, go here.

A question was all that really set off this story: what happens if men gained such power as to rival that of the gods? What happens if men grew so powerful that they could – gasp – kill gods? And if so, why would they do that? What followed was weeks of brainstorming as a whole new world formed in my mind as I sought to answer the question. I soon realized, however, that this question was not one to be answered in 5,000 words; it was going to be a sprawling fantasy of epic proportions.

But I needed a test story, if you will, to see how well this world holds up. Enter Guardian of the Gods.

As opposed to the planned epic (I am now in the initial drafting stages), this was really an examination of one character and her needs and wants, and how it plays into the greater cosmic game. Ashake has lived all her life in the mountain-temple, together with her fellow acolytes, taking instruction from the priests on how to commune with the gods in a divine back and forth (in Yoruba cosmology the priests of Ifa cast cowries across divination boards to decipher the will of the gods concerning a person or certain events).

What follows is a slow unraveling and discovery, as the world she knows is yanked from beneath her. This concept is one that has always fascinated me, We all live in little bubbles, and most of what we know has largely been externally influenced, from the news to basic tenets of culture, passed down over the centuries, and for the most part we are told things and we take them as truth. But what if the truth you know is not actually truth? What if this has all been specially curated by unseen forces to keep you locked and docile, your independent thought clasped in chains or deliberately steered in a different direction so that you stumble, ignorant and frustrated through life?

Well that got deep real fast, haha.

Anyway these were the questions burning in the back of my mind as I wrote this story. I initially planned for Ashake to confront these “unseen forces” in her world in an epic battle, but decided that would take away from the story, which is much more quiet, and primarily about how she comes to terms with what she is, and her role in the grand scheme of things.