Sunday Shorts – “Ogres of East Africa,” by Sofia Samatar

For me, one of the best things about the notion of crowdfunding is how I’ve managed to find new books to support. Though Indigogo or Kickstarter, I’ve been able to say ‘Yes, this is a book I’d like to read!’ and support it even more so than a pre-order. For a smaller indie publisher, it must be a welcome option to exercise: knowing if the book will sell ahead of time, and then having a product to continue to sell thereafter.

This was how I ended up with my copy of Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. The theme of this anthology is exactly right there in the title, and I began the book bracing myself a bit – given how history treats the marginalized, I knew I was likely not in for a series of happy endings. But sometimes, some of the greatest hope stories are those told in dark places, so I cross my fingers.

“Ogres of East Africa,” by Sofia Samatar

Oh how I love clever stories told in unique ways.

I’m not sure I can do this justice, but this story is told in something akin to epistolary format, except instead of letters, it’s told in the marginalia of a catalog of the various ogres of East Africa, each one named and given a small description and how they are likely to be defeated, if at all.

The author collecting these tales is an employee of ‘Moosajee and Co., Superior Traders, Stevedores and Dubashes,’ and he is writing and translating for his employer. He’s speaking with a local woman, Mary, who is telling him of all these Ogres, and weaving a greater tale than this for him, though he might not know it as of yet.

This is, as I said, such a cleverly done tale, and I refuse to spoil it for you. The mix of the mythology Mary brings and the reality that the transcriber is living come to an inevitable boil, and the end result left me smiling.


If you don’t have a copy of Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, I can heartily recommend it. I’m a few stories in now, and while I was right in my initial consideration that many of the stories would be darker in tone than a lot of anthologies (how could they not be, given the theme?), I’m really enjoying the chance to read speculative fiction that is born in different times and places and with voices so different than those in the tales so often available.

Until next week, keep it short…

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