Book Excerpt: How to Make a Space Masquerade and Other Speculative Stories by Mazi Nwonwu

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The Two Sisters’ dance, which happened once a cycle, did not allow any face covering. The dance was an avenue for young people to find partners. Everyone was supposed to leave their

masks at home, braving the dust swept up by the dancers with the hope of locking eyes with the person they would likely spend the rest of their lives with.

Bama clutched his shoulder bag tightly as he made his way to the edge of the circle where thousands of feet had stamped the porcelain-blue sand into firm earth over the years. He stood and watched, his mind far away. Paired dancers came together and swung apart in a tease Bama found too intimate for comfort. If he must dance the banta, then it must be with someone he cared enough to ignore the foul breath that followed the rubbing of noses, which marked the beginning and end of each dance cycle.

Dust swirled around Bama as a couple, noses squashed together, swirled past him, dancing out of sync with the beat of the drums, horns and guitars from the energetic band in the middle of the square. Bama coughed as the dust overwhelmed him. He backed away, trying to put more space between himself and the melee of dancers and bumped into someone.

“Oh! It’s the rainmaker from Earth,” Karid’s scornful voice greeted Bama.

“Sorry, I wasn’t looking,” Bama said.

Standing beside him were two older boys who bore a striking resemblance to him; they might have been his brothers or his cousins. Karid turned to them. “Hamish, Bole, this is the Earth boy who claimed he can make rain,” he said, raising his voice to draw in more spectators. Sensing mischief that would bring more fun than the dance, onlookers snapped to attention in response to Karid’s voice.

“Is it true you can make rain, Earth boy?” Hamish asked.

“I…” Bama began, but Karid cut him off, “He absolutely says he can make rain.”

“Well, can you, or can’t you? The dust here needs some settling,” Bole said.

Bama turned, meaning to walk away, only to come face to face with Katma. She did not say anything, just gave him a cunning look before clasping his hand in hers and turning to face the crowd. “Bama may not be able to make rain, but he can teach us the rain dance.”

Bama did not want to dance. He shook his head at Katma, pulling at her hand to convey his disagreement. She persisted, leaning to whisper in his ear, “You can either dance, make rain or walk away. Only one of these options will make you the butt of Karid and his goons’ jokes forever. I say dance. I’ve seen you dance before. It’s magical.”

“But why do I need to prove anything to Karid? He’s just a loudmouth,” Bama whispered back.

“A loudmouth he is, but he has challenged you here, at the Two Sisters’ dance. You know what that means, right? You know the rules?” she asked.

Bama had not realised that was what Karid was doing.

A challenge issued at the Two Sisters’ dance must either be formally accepted or forfeited. The rules dictated that the challenge must be something the challenged party had admitted to being able to undertake. Bama had claimed rainmaking powers, and now Karid was asking him to put up or shut up.

Katma squeezed his hand and he felt courage surge into his heart. Bama looked up at the twin moons, bright in the faded light of their twin sun-cousins. They seemed to pulse at him, as though telling him some larger cosmic secret about himself, his father, his family, and his gods.

Bama let go of Katma’s hand and reached into his bag to touch the wax-encased palm frond. He turned away from her and faced Karid. “Okay, I’ll do the rain dance,” he said.


How to Make a Space Masquerade and Other Speculative Stories is available for purchase here: Narrative Landscape.

About the book: How to Make a Space Masquerade artfully blends speculative fiction with Igbo cosmology, seamlessly merging the earthly realm with a dystopian world. It explores the complexities of the human spirit and the intersection of the two worlds. A girl facing erasure for carrying a virus defies the government to save her life through a trial cure. A space engineer must explain the existence of his human love child resulting from a one- night stand with a robot. The twelve stories in this collection stretch the imagination and demand a review of our notions of self-discovery, human connection and traditions.

“A masterful collection showcasing the very best aspects of Africanfuturism. Nwonwu has crafted thought-provoking pieces which demand reflection from the reader. Excellent!” – Tendai Huchu, Author, The Hairdresser of Harare

About the author: Mazi Nwonwu is the pen name of journalist and creative writer Chiagozie Nwonwu. He has a keen interest in exploring human relationships in the far future and otherworldly realms. When he’s not weaving tales of the extraordinary, Mazi can be found pursuing the truth in his journalistic endeavours. He believes that truth, both in journalism and speculative fiction, are key to balance. Mazi Nwonwu is also the co-founder of Omenana Speculative Fiction Magazine, a platform for writers of the genre from Africa and the African diaspora. He is a keen lover of culture and tradition, which he tries to preserve through his stories.

Lake Adedamola is a poet, writer, and editor with Nantygreens, who's worked with several other literary blogs including Brittle Paper. He has, since 2018, served in various capacities on the Lagos International Poetry Festival, LIPFest, team.

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