Lauren Beukes's Blog, page 4
October 5, 2013
Tshuma won the Yvonne Vera Award, was shortlisted for the Zimbabwe Achievers Literature Award and is currently a Maytag Fellow for MFA Creative Writing at Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Bulawayo describes her work as “fierce and unsentimental”, much like the raw and moving essay she wrote about what sparked these stories off in her head:
The Spark: Shadows by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
2010: New wave of xenophobic attacks, South Africa. There were things which had come to lodge themselves in my throat, like crust; a lot of anger and something unpleasant, like envy. Wanting to belong to spaces that seemed to hold on so firmly to their identity in the way I saw my own, as a ‘displaced’ Zimbabwean, tinged by a shade of, in this new environment called South Africa, insincerity. There is an unsettling sense of impermanence in being in a space that is not your own, in which you cannot fully invest as, for example, a voter, a builder, but rather exist as a rather parasitic form, sucking and being sucked, and hoping to plough your sweat back in your own country. It was this which forced me to sit down and have a conversation with my homeland.
The move from Zimbabwe to South Africa had been, for my family, although an improvement in the quality of living – no more scrambling for food or money – a rift in many other ways; displacement, the humiliation that sometimes comes with being a foreigner, the surface formation of friendships, impermanence. It made what I had experienced in my country all the more poignant, all the more bruising. It made me feel ‘raw’.
The early drafts of Shadows were a different kind of raw, though. Written in the first person female voice, in a township setting, which comes with all its patriarchal connotations, they read as a narrative whose struggle for female emancipation overshadowed all other aspects, something this story was not and could not be about. I switched to the male voice, and, ironically, Mpho, with all of his issues and entitlements and patriarchal tendencies, began to speak more honestly for me.
It’s strange, trying to write about the urban experience of my country in the past decade; one remembers not the pain, but the laughter. As Mpho says in Shadows, where I come from, people do not cry; we may make fun of our sorrow, even laugh at it, but we do not cry. And so, it’s not the long hours spent in mealie-meal queues one remembers, but the women squawking and clawing at one another as they fought over a bag of mealie-meal. How, in the face of severe shortages and those days of bloomas – that ugly, emaciated bun which substituted for real, yeasty, delicious bread – the baker suddenly had a power currency which had been formerly reserved for sugar daddies and businessmen. That memorable ruling party jingle that trended like the latest American R n B songs, that had children wriggling their behinds on dusty townships streets: ‘Tony Blair, the Blair-ya that I knowuuu is a toi-le-tee!’ The Blair toilet is a pit latrine used in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. It was designed in the 1970s courtesy of the Blair Research Institute.
We remember the loved ones we lost, and something clinches our chests; those we loved who could have been saved had there been half-way decent service at the hospitals, those we heard were being thrashed in the rural areas for practising the ‘wrong’ politics, those who dared to voice a different truth – the Jestina Mukokos the Owen Masekos. Those real and those who swelled into myth – because it was just so unbelievable, you see – who have become a cinematography of dancing Shadows. It makes one ask, ‘Who am I? What does it mean, to be Zimbabwean in this space and time? The individual and society, the personal and the political, self and country?’
Mpho’s mother, Mama… She is a mesh of everything, of stories I heard, people I knew, memories, histories, yearnings, make-believe, all meshed into one. It was only fitting for me that she be a prostitute, loaded with an animating history and a life that was not without its glorious, memorable moments, but a prostitute, nonetheless; how else to explain this incestuous act we as a people had been having with our country? Raping it, plundering it, all the while with big grins plastered on our faces? It had become a way of life, this, black market this, black market that, a new, suave level of bhundu economics, that was profiting a few and hurting many.
And then of course, these relations between people and country which are complicated, because they sometimes intersect intimately at smaller, less formal dialogues; the histories shared by Zimbabwe’s Ndebele and South Africa’s Zulu tribes which, given Zimbabwe’s delicate state, intensified identity disillusionment, leading Ndebele Zimbabweans to want to lay claim to a South African identity. This was done with a manic, utopic expectation that was at once painful and because false, led to further disillusionment. I was trying to explore, trying to remember, trying to conjure up, trying to deal with this ‘Zimbabwean humanity’, my humanity.
More on Shadows here
Buy the book in paperback from Amazon HERE or from Exclusive Books HERE
(*The Spark is inspired by John Scalzi’s The Big Idea. African diaspora writers and publishers: want to write about your new-ish book? Please go to the debut post here and scroll to the bottom for guidelines on pitching.)
September 23, 2013
Inspired by John Scalzi’s awesome The Big Idea, and with his blessing, I want to create a regular feature on this blog to highlight South African(ish) talent by letting local writers talk about what sparked this particular novel for them.
Want to write one? More details right at the end.
First up is Alex Latimer, who I first got to know through his awesome and slightly demented kids picture books featuring ninjas and devious rabbits and sunburned crocodiles and also a time-traveling pencil-throwing monkey.
His debut novel has the same wit and twisted charm – and a glorious flipbook animation illustration on the edge of the page – but with a whole lot of skop, skiet en donner action too. I’ll let you tell him about it. (Translation for non SA-readers: kick, shoot and beat-up – only much more punchy in original Afrikaans)
The Spark of The Space Race – Alex Latimer
Ideas for books come where and when you least expect them, like a dinosaur in your cupboard next Thursday. Here is the dinosaur that appeared in my cupboard:
Afrikaners are a fiercely pioneering people + they also built amazing technology like the Rooivalk helicopter and six and a half nuclear bombs = what if they used those nuclear bombs to build a spaceship in order to colonise a distant planet?
I thought it was a fun idea – and the more I looked into it, the more weird facts there were to bolster the theory. The Vela Incident was a nuclear double-flash just off the South Africa-owned Prince Edward Islands in 1979. Vastrap was South Africa’s nuclear testing site in the middle of the Northern Cape desert where nuclear weapons were stored and were due to be tested in two secret underground shafts. And nuclear space travel though dangerous, is also the only viable way of getting really far into deep space.
But when it came to writing a novel about it, I had a problem – travelling through space is really, really boring.
Pages 1 to 6 could have read: “Wow, looking out at the star-speckled blackness of space is amazing, it simultaneously gives my lowly life more and less meaning.”
Then pages 7 – 250: “I’m tired of weeing in a bag and I wish that arsehole Francois never got on board.”
Equally, writing about life on other planets is hard – guys like Philip Pullman managed to create some entrancing worlds based on our own, but as soon as he tried something entirely new and made animals co-dependent on tree-nuts that they used as wheels, I was like… sorry Phil, I draw the line at tree-nut wheels.
So my solution was to set the whole book on earth. Nothing in my novel takes place in space. It’s all about how the original four Afrinauts that were meant to be on board this secret ship, never got on board – and how four random strangers managed to hijack the thing. (I couldn’t resist the idea of the very first South African space ship being hijacked.)
So here’s the set up:
Charlotte is a little over-protective of her sister, especially so when a stranger asks her out on a date. So she follows the poor guy out of town, all the way into the scrublands on the Kalahari desert and stumbles on to the supposedly ‘abandoned’ airbase of Vastrap. What she discovers will have her on the run with a total stranger in a hazmat suit, pursued by a crazy Angolan war veteran with a lot of motivation (millions worth) to make sure certain secrets stay that way.
The book has enough charm, action, serious insights and momentum to get a reader to the end without looking up at the page numbers for solace. But what I found strange about the finished book is that when I sent it to my publishers, they thought it was hilarious. The Space Race is weird and quirky and sometimes quite dark – and all that stuff can be hilarious if that’s your thing.
What was even stranger though is that in subsequent one-line write-ups someone decided to describe The Space Race as “a funny book”. For me it’s a funny book just like you might say, “What’s that funny smell in here.” or “I have a funny mole on my arm.”
The Space Race is my first novel, but my ninth published book – the previous eight have been kids picture books (The Boy Who Cried Ninja, Penguin’s Hidden Talent and Lion vs Rabbit) as well as a collection of illustrated works and two volumes of cartoons. So a novel is a strange new direction and I think I certainly brought some of the fun and quirkiness of my other books along.
My great fear though (besides being helicoptered and dropped in the middle of the ocean at night) is that some loving mom will pick up The Space Race and think that it’s “a funny book” for kids – and an eight-year old girl will read it and lie awake at night, confused and traumatised.
And that she will grow up to be a helicopter pilot.
Buy The Space Race on Amazon or support your friendly local book store.
Want to write a guest blog for The Spark?
Please read the following guidelines VERY CAREFULLY. Or your query will end up in my spam folder.
Please query me first, do NOT send me a completed essay.
You should be a South African or African writer, in the broadest and most inclusive sense of that. I’m looking to highlight all kinds of writers across all kinds of fiction.
You should have a new novel or short story collection out (allowing for a three month window. eg. if your book came out in the last three months, it’s eligible.) If it’s coming out later this year, query me now with the release date.
I’m not doing non-fiction at this time.
The book has to be published by an established third party publisher (ie. no vanity press, Smashwords, Amazon Digital Services etc, no self-published ebooks). Please don’t try to convince me otherwise. It’s my blog, my rules.
What I’m looking for:
You should be able to write a personal guest blog 400-1000 words that will give readers insight into what sparked off this book for you, what it’s about, what you put into it, how you built that spark into a blaze. It can be funny, moving, sad, gut-wrenching, silly, enraging as long as it’s personal. The idea is you get to talk about your work and pitch it to a potential new audience.
To query me, email me via my contact form with the words THE SPARK QUERY in the subject line.
In this pitch, please include your name, a sentence about you, the title of the book, a sentence or two on what your spark was and what you’re going to write about and the book’s publication info (release date, publisher)
If I say yes, awesome, then I’ll slot you in and give you a deadline for your essay.
I’m not going to edit it for you, so please make sure you’re happy with it. And don’t miss your deadline!
Please write it in Word or Notes. Please include all formatting (ie. italicizing the title of your book, so I don’t have to)
Your essay should be accompanied by:
A low-res author photograph (for web, size should be around 200k is fine, 2MB is not)
A low-res cover image (seriously, please don’t send me high-res, it’s for web)
A link to your website and Twitter handle
A link to where to buy the book, ideally on Amazon, if possible, for international audiences.
September 6, 2013
The Shining Girls Charity Art Show for Rape Crisis kicks off tonight at 5.30pm at the Cape Town School of Photography, 4th Floor 62 Roeland Street, Cape Town, with 95 works of art by 67 amazing local artists who have created original artworks on a page ripped out of my novel, selling for R1000 each.
If you can’t make the exhibition, or none of the artwork speaks to you, you can still support Rape Crisis, by signing up for the Thousand Hearts campaign at the exhibition or make a donation online. For R100 a month, you can make a meaningful difference.
I asked Rape Crisis’s indomitable director, Kath Dey, to write a guest post about what the organization does and what this means:
Almost seventy artists have each created a single unique piece inspired by The Shining Girls, a novel by award winning author Lauren Beukes, using pages torn from the book as their canvas. These artworks will be sold for R1000 each in support of the essential services offered by the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust (RCCTT).
This incredible event is part of a growing trend of support for the oldest women’s organisation dealing with adult rape in South Africa whose funding has been at risk for the past year.
Rape Crisis has been empowering women on the road to justice and supporting them on their journey to recovery since 1976.
We learn from every rape survivor that we meet just what it takes to walk such difficult paths and we make sure that these lessons endure and are shared.
Each year Rape Crisis offers face-to-face counselling to 650 individuals and families, the 24 hour help line offers information and advice to 4 000 callers, counsellors are there to greet and inform 2 800 survivors at two of Cape Town’s busiest Thuthuzela Care Centres and court supporters offer information and advice to 1 500 witnesses at five of Cape Town’s sexual offences courts, community educators offer talks and workshops to more than 10 000 participants from community and professional groups and the organisation advocates for better implementation and better services for rape survivors together with more than 34 partners across South Africa in the women’s sector.
Our relationship with government, particularly at the provincial level, is collaborative (we share spaces at courts and health facilities with government service providers) but also challenging in that we provide well researched information that influences decision makers and that is based on the direct experience of the rape survivors we see.
It is this evidence, and the evidence gathered from within communities, that are used to drive advocacy campaigns to address flaws within the criminal justice system.
The basis of the services delivered by Rape Crisis is the work done by trained volunteers from within the communities it serves.
Last year when funds ran out the organisation was forced to retrench all but one staff member yet all of the others remained to work alongside volunteers for no pay. Rape Crisis receives funds for its work from a variety of sources including international donor agencies, the Provincial Government of the Western Cape’s Department of Social Development and from local South African corporations, trust funds and foundations.
Each one of these sources is currently at risk.
That is why an event like this one is so extraordinary and so important. It has a champion in the person of Lauren Beukes. It has support in the form of the great generosity of the curator, Jacki Lang, the Cape Town School of Photography and the artists, all of whom have given their time and resources for free so that all of the proceeds come directly to the organisation.
It creates an opportunity for people to come together for a wonderful evening of entertainment while at the same time supporting a great cause. The lucky ones will even come away with something beautiful to display to remind them that they helped make a real difference in the life of a rape survivor.
September 2, 2013
The Shining Girls Charity Art Show for Rape Crisis has its opening on Friday at the Cape Town School of Photography on Friday. Curator Jacki Lang wrote a guest post for me about the experience of putting together an art show with me on a whim and a shoe-string.
I first met Jacki when she was a designer at iJusi. She went on to start Bread & Butter with Kim Stern, a wonderful store that sold cool original gifts made by artists, and went on to do pop-up exhibitions like Aisle 5, selling affordable art from kick-ass artists. It’s where I picked up my Conrad Botes/Brett Murray Boogie Light.
She’s been away in London for many years, but I’m delighted that she’s back and was willing to come on board to wrangle this project, organising sponsorship, so all our proceeds could go to Rape Crisis, finding an appropriate gallery space that we could still be part of the Open Book Festival and approaching our dream artists. I came up with the idea, she’s done all the hard work. I’ll let her tell you about it.
I have always loved collaborating on exhibitions and working with like-minded art and design junkies to curate exhibitions of new work that will inspire people: shows that ideally mean something, are for a good cause or tell an important story. This opportunity, to work with Lauren to curate the Shining Girls Charity Art Show, encompassed all of those elements and I jumped at the opportunity.
The experience has been all-consuming and incredible. From the moment we drew up our wish list of artists and started spreading the word, the show has taken off and I’ve been blown away by people’s generosity, their support of our idea and their willingness to take part. Of course there were the slightly uphill treks – hunts for spaces and sponsorships and the brilliant young South African artists we were unable to access (because their galleries said “no thanks”, or because they were being famous and fabulous somewhere else in the word – which we love them for). But all in all this was overshadowed by people who have been amazing and are enabling us to pull it all off on a shoestring.
Well, lets wait until Friday when we open the doors of the show before we say we’ve pulled it off, right?
I have even been fortunate enough to discover hidden parts of Cape Town below ground level and on roof tops in the emerging design-focused Fringe district on a hunt for exhibition venues, and after being away in London for the last 8 years, it’s been a brilliant and inspiring intro back into my home town. Everyone’s doors are surprisingly open and the spirit of collaboration is definitely in the air.
Most remarkable have been the artists, designers, photographers, illustrators, jewelery designers – all of them unbelievable, all of them local and all of them at the top of their games. And all of them happy to create new magnificent pieces of work with nothing in it for them, except to gift the sales of their creations to Rape Crisis.
For me, watching the pieces trickling in, and seeing how each artist responded to the brief (customizing a torn page or two or three from The Shining Girls) has been overwhelming. Their time, effort and imagination is humbling and together the 60+ artists we have on board have created a collection of works on papers that have never been seen before and won’t exist as a group like this again. We’ve started framing the pieces and they all play so beautifully next to one another. There’s painting, embroidery, light boxes, leather, perspex, paper cutting, steelwork, spray painting… but now I’m giving it all away.
Come join us in the gorgeous light white gallery space at The Cape Town School of Photography, who have loaned us this haven for the show and who are photographing and documenting everything for us: the artworks, the process, the envelopes with scribbles on that the artists sent their work back in, and the remnants of book spines with pages violently ripped from them.
I have kept everything. This has been an experience worth capturing.
August 14, 2013
Presenting The Shining Girls Charity Art Show for Rape Crisis!
Opening night: Friday 6 September 2013
Venue: Cape Town School of Photography, 4th Floor, 62 Roeland Street, Cape Town (above Vida, opposite The Book Lounge)
Exhibition runs until 13 September, open 9am-5pm daily.
Curator Jacki Lang and I have been working together for the last couple of months to put together a charity art show loosely inspired by The Shining Girls as part of the The Open Book Festival.
The idea was to have amazing local talent create original, accessible art work from a page cruelly ripped out of my novel, all sold at the same affordable price, with all proceeds going to Rape Crisis.
We approached some of our favorite artists, illustrators, designers, photographers, architects and even ceramicists and jewellery designers to create an original piece of art on a page ripped out of The Shining Girls. They could do whatever they liked with it – paint over it, draw on it, cut it up or cross-stitch it, re-create a scene, riff off the general themes of the book or spark off one word that meant something to them.
I’m thrilled to say we have over 50 artists participating including Zapiro, Conrad Botes, Faith 47, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Roger Ballen, Serge Alain Nitigeka, Wim Botha, Claudette Schreuders, Gabby Raaff, Frank van Reenen, Jordan Metcalf, Liza Grobler, Olaf Bischoff, Paul Senyol, Peter Eastman, Rikus Ferreira, Beth Diane Armstrong, Hannelie Taute and Joey Hi-Fi to name a few. To make sure the art stays accessible, we won’t be offering previews or reserves, but we will release some sneak peeks.
We’re hoping to raise R50 000 by selling the works at the incredibly affordable and democratic price of R1000 each.
I’ve done charity art projects for all my previous books. (A little history on that here). The customised vinyl toy Zoo City Bares auction raised R18 000 for Hillbrow refugee kids organisation, The Suitcase Project, the Zoo City sloth lottery brought in R4000 for Khulisa who work with ex-offenders and sales of hand-made plush Moxyland monsters raised R12 000 for women’s group The Montagu Sew & Sews.
I wanted to do the same again for The Shining Girls and Rape Crisis seemed like the obvious choice. One of the major themes of the novel is what violence does to us and Rape Crisis deals with the real-world effects of that on a daily basis.
Last year Rape Crisis faced closure and they are still not out of the woods financially in spite of the evident need for their essential services. Director Kathleen Dey says: “We were in part pulled back from the brink by the incredible support and generosity of our community of supporters, who gave generously of their time and money, and in part by the amazing dedication of our staff, who worked alongside our volunteers without pay for months on end.”
If the femicide, rape and child abuse rates in this country make you angry, you can make a difference. If you can’t make it to the exhibition, you can still support Rape Crisis for as little as R100 a month as part of the Hundred Hearts campaign.
Huge thanks to Carola Koblitz, Pick ‘n’ Pay and my publisher Umuzi, for sponsoring the hard costs, to the Cape Town School of Photography for letting us exhibit in their beautiful gallery space and for photographing the artwork and the process, to the Open Book Festival for including us in their festivities, to Jacki Lang, who has been a rockstar goddess in pulling this whole thing together on passion, chutzpah and a shoe-string and especially to all the amazing artists who have created brand new original works for a great cause.
Hope to see you there!
July 16, 2013
I was home sick yesterday, so I finally got round to taking down my Murder Wall, which I used to map out The Shining Girls, the killings, the movement of the objects, the various intersecting timelines.
Talk about unsnarling a knotty plot!
I get into what it all means, the power of Twitter and a hilarious, absurd, true anecdote about science fiction and the dark days of apartheid over at at Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast where you can also see a better photo of the Murder Wall in full.
(NB: the second photo is from a professional shoot by ace photographer Morne van Zyl taken a few months ago. I do NOT wear make-up and effortlessly tousled hair when I am down with a snotty, grotty cold. More like fleece dressing gown and socks and pathetic misery.)
July 8, 2013
So, so, so excited and happy to (pre)announce this.
Curator Jacki Lang and I are putting together a charity art show inspired by The Shining Girls with all proceeds going to Rape Crisis. The exhibition will run from 6-11 September in collaboration with the Open Book Festival in Cape Town’s fringe district.
We’re approaching a bunch of amazing South African artists, illustrators, street artists, photographers and designers to make an affordable original art work by customising a page ripped from the novel in whatever way they like.
We’re still finalising our contributors list, which is why this isn’t the official announcement, but I can confirm that Conrad Botes, Kudzanai Chiurai, Faith47, Joey Hi-Fi and DALEast are among the people who have already said yes!
We’ll be sending out a press release as soon as we’ve got everyone locked down. For more information, email Jacki Lang.
Here’s a little history on where this came from.
I love art and it often appears in my novels, from Moxyland’s bio-art monstrosity Woof ‘n’ Tweet to the art that hints at themes in the book mentioned in Zoo City, which I blogged about for Warren Ellis.
Over the last few years, I’ve found a way to do cool collaborations with artists somehow inspired by my books to raise money for good causes and show off shit-hot local talent.
When Zoo City was released in in 2010, African Dope put together an official soundtrack, but I also approached Am I Collective to get hold of five of their blank vinyl toy bares and asked six local artists to customise them any way they liked, as long as it was somehow inspired by the novel. The Zoo City Bares were auctioned off on BidorBuy and raised R18 000 for Hillbrow refugee kids NGO The Suitcase Project.
When Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award, I was wearing a bespoke sloth scarf made by my friend Rhoda Rutherford, in imitation of Zinzi December’s sloth aposymbiote companion in the novel. Rhoda kindly made up another one that we raffled off to raise R4000 for the incredibly inspiring offender rehabilitation organisation, Khulisa, who also had their members come and read the prison diaries chapters at the Zoo City celebration tour. (Watch the moving video of that here)
But it really all started with Moxyland. (Which also has its own official African Dope soundtrack). The cover monster on the original first edition from Jacana featured a wonderfully cute and creepy monster designed by Joey Hi-Fi and made up by Michelle Son. I immediately coveted one and my brilliant author friend Sarah Lotz and her mom took that a step further. They set up a women’s co-operative in the rural town of Montagu, equipped them with sewing machines and so the Montagu Sew & Sews was born and we raised R12 000 for them selling limited edition Moxy monster toys.
July 5, 2013
I’ve been remiss about posting to this blog, because I’ve been focusing on The Shining Girls Tumblr where there’s lots of great content, including reviews, interviews, research pictures and Jade Klara’s rendition of the Dead Duck stories.
Kicking off with the Wired Magazine piece on how I plotted the novel, String Theory in which I look like a crazy person.
Lauren Beukes has a murder wall. “It’s full of crazy pictures, three different timelines, murder dates…” The elaborate web of string, photos and objects above her desk helped Beukes to plot her latest book, The Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer. “It’s been completely insane trying to keep track of all of this,” she says. Her other essential tool: “Scrivener.”
The image on their site (by Morne van Zyl) is pretty big, if you want to zoom in for detail. SPOILER ALERT, obviously, and this was also one version back before the final draft, which means a couple of the notecards in the middle section, which is the book’s timeline, may be ever so slightly off, if you’re geeky like that.
July 2, 2013
My official comment on who won the TV/film rights in the four-way bidding war on The Shining Girls.
And yeah, that's the closets I've got to him in person. He's a busy man.
John Ridley from Leonardo diCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, and MRC’s Joe Hipps landed the option after months of careful negotiation with my agents.
I chose them over the other brilliant, passionate production companies because they’re thinking smart about the future of television and breaking the current funding models to do cool new things with hot talent, like MRC putting together House of Cards, with Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher and releasing it straight to Netflix – which is NOT to say they’ll use the same model for The Shining Girls. (Not least cos Kevin Spacey would make a terrible Kirby)
Watch the book trailers:
Click here to view the embedded video.
May 20, 2013
Tube ads for The Shining Girls just went up in London! I can pretty much die happy now.
Unfortunately I’m gonna miss seeing them “for real life” as my daughter would say, because although I’m flying off to Australia-USA-UK today for the Epic Book Tour of Doom (check out my full schedule here), they’ll be down again by the time I get to London.
Anyway, here’s the poster. If you spot one in situ, please post a pic to Twitter #shininggirls.