His books include The Man who turned into a Rastafarian (Diggory Press, 2007), Uriah’s Vengeance (Lion Press Ltd, 2009) and the Shona science fiction novel, MunaHacha Maive Nei? (Kindle Edition, 2011).
His work has also been featured in African Roar (Storytime, 2010), an anthology of contemporary African fiction.
Masimba Musodza talks about his latest novel:
Do you write everyday?
Normally I have these ideas swirling in my head. Then, by around midnight, they have taken shape and I just start working. Or, if I have a client for a script, I just try and meet the deadline!
Usually, I have the story or the chapter all written in my head when I sit down at my PC. I will often have about three windows minimised and I just work on the one that wants to be worked on.
I know it is the popular perception of Rastafarians, but I would like to state categorically that I do not smoke weed for inspiration! Caffeine is my drug of choice, so in between breaks I will be downing a cup of tea with soya milk. I work in bursts of about two hours.
How many books have you written so far?
My first book was The Man who turned into a Rastafarian, Diggory Press, 2007. It was an anthology of short stories about being a Rastafarian young man in Zimbabwe. Diggory Press folded up recently, but I republished the title after so many people sent in enquiries. Seems to have become something of a modern classic in the Rastafarian community.
In 2009, I had the first of the Dread Eye Detective Agency novels, Uriah’s Vengeance, Lion Press Ltd. Chenai “Ce-Ce” Chisango and her brother Farai are a pair of sibling private investigators in Chitungwiza. Two more titles in the series are scheduled for publication.
In between all that, I have appeared in African Roar, an anthology of African fiction edited by compatriots Ivor Hartmann and Emmanuel Sigauke. A second anthology is in the offing, and I contribute another of my horror stories in it.
How would you describe your latest book, MunaHacha Maive Nei??
MunaHacha Maive Nei? depicts a scenario where an American corporation contrives with corrupt Zimbabwean officials to conduct illegal bio-technology experiments as part of a grander plot to usurp food security from whole nations. Chemicals begin to seep in to the eco-system, and mutated creatures now roam the countryside.
Part of the significance of this book is that it is the first science-fiction novel in ChiShona, and overturns the popular perception that you can’t write 'complicated stuff' in the language.
How long did it take you to write the novel?
Hard to say, really. The original inspiration is from the time when we used to spend school holidays in my mother’s ancestral village in Mutungagore in the mid or late 80s. Much of the novel is set in a fictional area near Mutungagore and the small town of Nyazura.
Further inspiration came from my stay in Chitungwiza in the late 90s, when the open spaces would flood due to siltation of the streams and people would catch catfish. Some of the fish were quite big, and I would wonder what would happen if they grew so big as to become predators. Some of the boys I saw catch the fish would not be safe from them!
And then, I read over the last few years about how corporations were getting land concessions all over Africa. Some analysts fear that food security is set to be a major geopolitical tool of the near future, enjoying the status that oil has today. And this is what science fiction is essentially about ... while the sci-fi writer points to the future, he or she highlights the fears we have of the future. I am bringing this important fact about science fiction because many people who have read the book are only seeing CIO assassins and journalists who live in fear of soldiers and are asking me if my book is about the politics of Zimbabwe. It is not. It is about how the politics of Zimbabwe could be exploited by a greedy multi-national corporation to advance technological developments that many people around the world are apprehensive about. It is also about how we can apply science and technology to identify problems and solutions effectively. It is about enquiring and initiative.
MunaHacha Maive Nei? was published on June 6, 2011 by amazon Kindle here in the UK, the US and Germany. It is the first novel in ChiShona to be listed on amazon Kindle.
How did you chose a publisher for the book?
I chose amazon Kindle because the device is becoming quite popular here in England and I thought it would be nice if we had Zimbabwean content in this new media.
The print edition is coming out through Lion Press Ltd of Coventry, which specialises in Zimbabwean literature. I have a long-standing relationship with Lion Press Ltd. I don’t know if I am their best-selling author, but they can’t deny that I am the most prolific!
What advantages and/or disadvantages has this presented?
Amazon Kindle delivers not only to the Kindle device, but also to PCs and mobile phones. It is the best medium for the 3G generation. Most of the Zimbabweans who live in countries where access to new media is widespread may not go to libraries much, but they have the phones and the PCs.
One disadvantage is that it will not reach a wider readership back home. I just shrug resignedly at the situation ... it is not of my making. Lion Press is making efforts to break into Zimbabwe, but I am only the author. Let someone else worry about selling and distributing!
Obviously, I want a fat royalty cheque any time soon, but the publisher wants to see profits too, so let them do the hard work in that department, I’ve done mine these last few months!
Another drawback is that in the UK, VAT is charged on ebooks (but not on print books) which has pushed the price up somewhat. So far, no one has complained that the price is too high, which rubbishes the popular belief that Zimbabweans believe that content that is created for them should be really cheap if they are to even take an interest. There are many Zimbabweans out there who value their culture and will spend money on it, for which on behalf of all our artistes, I say Tinotenda/Siyabonga!
Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?
The book is over 70,000 words. Some parts wander and meander like the River Hacha upstream, and some slow to a gentle ebb. How do you organise that into chapters each with a beginning, middle and end?
Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?
How it all ties together, because when I started to write, I had no idea how it was going to end!
What sets MunaHacha Maive Nei? apart from other things you've written?
It is my first published work in ChiShona. And even though one of the major character is a Rastafarian, it is not a book about Rastafarians at all.
I think it is similar to other things I have written in how I try to wrap poignant issues around a gripping story, which is what I try to accomplish with all my writing. You know, keep someone reading while at the same time get them thinking without actually lecturing them or griping about how bad things are.
What will your next book be about?
I have the Dread Eye Detective Agency novels lined up. There is an anthology, including some of the short stories I have published on the Dread Eye Detective Agency on Facebook but that is going to be an ebook.
Then there is the much awaited To Russia, With OneLove and a three-novel omnibus imaginatively called The First Dread Eye Detective Agency Omnibus. Fans of the page on Facebook may have already read and enjoyed the draft of one of these novels.
I am also working on two horror novels, one in English and one in ChiShona. The English one is called Cursed Shall be Thy Kine. It blends the folk beliefs of my native Zimbabwe and my new home, Yorkshire, using horror as a metaphor for issues of identity, belonging and immigration. The title is inspired by the phenomenon known as cattle mutilation. I am working on this one under the mentorship of Writers’ Block NE, the organisation for writers and performers here in Middlesbrough, where I live now. The idea of the mentorship programme is to offer writers from North-East England a chance to attract the attention of the big publishing houses and agents in London.
I am pleased that despite having lived in the area for about a year now, I am able to make a contribution to its culture.
The ChiShona novel is called Zizi reRima, and once again I delve into comparative mythology and the supernatural to highlight the issues of sexual abuse in Zimbabwe and how the justice system can sometimes fail victims. Once again, I break new ground here by writing a bone-chiller in ChiShona.
- Book Fair blitz on local languages, By Chemist Mafuba, The Herald, August 1, 2011
- Mermaids and Toxic Waste: The First Science Fiction Novel Published in Zimbabwe’s Native Language, By Charlie Jane Anders, io9, June 21, 2011
- Masimba Musodza [Interview], Conversations with Writers, June 20, 2009