World English Literature - the Speculative Genre


When I lived in Bamenda, in the Bamilike area of Cameroon, I discovered that many men carried little novels in the front pocket of their shirts. Women and young people read cheaply printed novels, most in either English or French... languages that I could read.

Yet, I had never heard of any of these books. They weren't available in America or Europe, nor was there even a whisper about them in my highly liberal university, where I had specifically studied African literature. Getting a hold of copies outside Cameroon was pretty much impossible.

Why? Because these novels were considered "worthy" of being shared with the rest of the English or French speaking worlds, even though these were clearly Anglophone or Francaphone literature. 

These were popular genre books. Many, naturally, deliciously, were smut. Many were romance or adventure and had cliched, happy endings. Many were books I'd have willingly paid for back home in California, if only the authors had a way to sell them to me.

We are in the process of moving into a new era of English Literature, as English literature cultures now exist all around the world. Not that a story loses its potential for universality, even if it must be translated. I still say that human is human; or, perhaps we will one day find: sentient is sentient. (May we one day not understand and be moved by stories told by dolphins, AIs, or real--extrasolar--aliens? Why not?)

A well-read scholar of English Literature must today consider novels not only from the five eyes (UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand), but of course from India, Nigeria, the Caribbean, and the rest of global Anglophonia.

I would like to see more congregation and interchanges between the English-writing globe in popular genres, rather than merely the "high" literature, which currently dominates self-conscious dissemination of English literature.

Look, I'm not devaluing books like Patrice Nganang's well-researched trilogy about Cameroon, "A Trail of Crab Tracks."

But let's face it, that's probably not what you're going to read to kick back and relax after a long day. Whereas, you might well watch a South Korean drama about a vampire detective or read a Japanese manga. Because those are fun, and they allow us to slip into a world as alien as Cameroon's past without feeling like we are stupid if we don't know anything about it. EVERYONE is an equal alien entering a fantasy realm, a paranormal city, or a science fiction universe. 

That's the wonderful thing about Speculative Fiction. We are all strangers together.

Digital publishing and print-on-demand offers an opportunity for publishers who might not be able to risk the cost of up-front prints or shipping between continents. 

Many of the digital platforms aren't available everywhere in the globe. Taxes and VATs imposed by governments cause problems too. This is an unnecessary burden place on indie publishers in small nations.

Yet, I think that with some creative strategies and more conscious marketing, we, as indie writers and publishers, COULD create a more accessible global market in English literature. Not just for the high-brow stuff praised in academia, but for the real meat and sorghum of literature... the romances, adventures, fantasies and mysteries and brand new genres that tell the universal human story with a million different local voices.