‘May the Guest Come’: African Azimuths of Alien Planetfall

Ian P. MacDonald


As early as Lucian’s “True Story” (2nd Century CE) extraterrestrial encounters have regularly gestured toward colonialism with twentieth-century science fiction (sf) often figuring such contact on Earth in incursive terms of “reverse colonialism” (Wells’s War of the Worlds, Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, Clarke’s Childhood’s End). Entwined, however, with alien motives—the why—are parallel colonial presumptions concerning the where of such encounters; aliens, surveying the planet, inevitably identify the U.S. or Europe as the pinnacles of ‘civilization’ and the rightful representatives of the planet. As multiple sf critics have suggested, African disinterest with speculative fiction in twentieth century often derived from the genre’s frequent marginalization of the Global South; when non-Europeans appeared at all in pre-New Wave sf, it was often in the form of the aliens themselves. As part of the recent surge of formally sf African texts—which, while beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, has reached new and exciting levels—alternative considerations of alien contact have emerged. What does it mean to relocate the site of alien contact away from the colonial metropoles and does this temper the martial imagination? Focusing on Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon but incorporating the likes of Emmanuel Dongala, Neill Blomkamp, and Dilman Dila, this article considers the spatial and epistemological implications of African extraterrestrial first-contact narratives, highlighting the potential of the speculative to peripheralize Europe by centering Africans as planetary hosts.


African sf; colonialism; first contact; Afrofuturism; science fiction; aliens

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