Why we need short fiction | A review of Migrations

Stories have always held the power to transport us to different worlds, but just how far are we willing to travel? Migrations, the new anthology of short fiction from Short Story Day Africa, both challenges our boundaries and breaks them down. 

The anthology opens with a fitting, moving introduction by Mentoring Editor Helen Moffett who says, "At a historical moment when global travel is ubiquitous, people - desperate, hopeful, pragmatic, brutally displaced - are wandering like never before." 

We know from our incessant news headlines that this wandering is not always welcomed, and that are differences are always misunderstood. Migration blends the known with the 'other,' the past with the future. It is often a catalyst for change, whether that change brings growth or disturbing regression. 

I am fascinated by the small ways in which we surround ourselves with the known, especially in our reading. We all have known paths we follow when choosing books, and genres we gravitate towards. We choose often choose stories or characters that feel like home. Yet, within the realm of reading, there is always the potential for us to surprise ourselves. I labelled myself as firmly anti-science fiction, until I started engaging with the work of my writer's group friend Blaize Kaye (whose story Diaspora Electronica features in this anthology). I became richer for discovering a brave new world of writing outside of my comfort zone. 

This is where short stories are critical to moving writers and readers forward. A reader may not commit to an entire novel set in a world they do not understand, but they can dip into a short story and push beyond their self-imposed boundaries. In Migrations, we as readers are exposed to a melting pot of styles and surprising stories from various corners of our continent. These stories expose a rich, sometimes troubling, often warm African landscape to us as we travel from Ethiopia to Cape Town and beyond. They take us beyond our borders to Thailand, America and a future dystopian world. Some take place closer, coiled within the heart and the flesh. 

I refuse to pick a favourite, because each one captivated my imagination and uncovered a previously unknown world. But I would encourage you to find Migrations at your local bookstore and savour the incredible writing and the multiple, precious, broken, complex facets that make up our world. 

Congratulations to all the writers featured in the anthology and to the Short Story Day Africa team, particularly Rachel Zadok, Nick Mulgrew, Helen Moffett, Efemia Chela and Bongani Kola. To find out more about SSDA and to enter this year's short story competition, visit their website here.