Has having heard so much about the African pulp fiction mag Jungle Jim from its co-creator and editor, Jenna Bass (part I of our interview is here), left you wanting, wondering what might be lurking between its distinctive blue and red covers? How the aims and intents, hopes and ambitions – the potential spaces between ‘genre’ and ‘high’ literature in the zine’s collection of contemporary African writing – are reflected in or refracted by its content, by its contributors, through its central themes?
Thanks to the writers and those at Jungle Jim, AiW are lucky enough to be able to offer a taster by sharing excerpts from some JJ stories: Samuel Kolawole’s MULES OF FORTUNE (JJ 9-11); Victor Alao’s THE THINGS GOD ALLOWS (JJ 11); TWIN SISTERS, by Constance Myburgh (JJ 12); Abdul Adan’s THE DEATHS OF OLD GRAHAM (JJ 12); and THE DEAD YANK, by Rossouw Nel (JJ 16). Along with our AiW/Jungle Jim Q&A, these extracts also pave the way for a series of guest reviews, the first of which, with links to the others in the series, is here – articles about the mag – stories, individual issues (particularly JJ16, the South African sci-fi issue), and the print-culture it participates in.
Our pulp fiction story extracts kick off with Samuel Kolawole’s “war-child saga horror” ‘Mules of Fortune’ – a mother and her children smuggling ammunition to rebels – serialised in Jungle Jim 9-11, and illustrated by Jacques Strauss…
Samuel Kolawole’s MULES OF FORTUNE (JJ 9-11)
Samuel Kolawole has contributed short fiction to Eastownfiction, Translitmag, Superstition Review, and Sentinel literary Quarterly amongst other journals. His stories are forthcoming in the “Outcast” anthology of African and Asian writers and ISFN anthology, a Canadian-based imprint. Samuel lives in Ibadan, Nigeria where he has begun work on a novel.
Rasta’s name was Captain Tennis Shoes. That was not his real name. No one answered to their real names; everyone had a special name. They preferred names of people in American movies. Names like Junior Rambo, Captain Schwarzenegger, Tarzan, Admiral Stallone, Chuck Norris Baby. The boy with the swollen eye, one of the two that pulled Tolbert out of his house, was called Chuck Norris Baby. Chuck Norris, the Hollywood actor. Chuck Norris, his hero. Chuck Norris, the man whose footsteps he earnestly followed.
Chuck Norris Baby got his bad eye while trying to fight like Chuck Norris with a boy called Black Jesus. The scuffle, which ensued over food ration at a Small Boys Unit Base, resulted in a gladiatorial fight. In the fight, a rod meant for Chuck Norris Baby’s skull damaged his left eye instead. When General Goggles got wind of the incident, he asked them if they had applied herbs on his wound and gave him a shot of gin. He said it was good for the eyes to be single. He said a one-eyed man will spot the enemy better.
General Goggles was the commander of the Small Boys Unit Base in Thambo County. A cadaverous man in his thirties, dark as charcoal with a deformed right shoulder, which was a trifle higher than the left, General Goggles got his name from his dark spectacles. He never removed his glasses in the open. He was the only soldier in the base with a camouflage uniform, the only soldier allowed to wear one. He talked a lot too and always wore a big crucifix. He seemed to always have something to say about everything and demanded that people listen to him.
Victor Alao’s THE THINGS GOD ALLOWS (JJ 11)
Victor Alao is from Nigeria but currently lives in the United States. His work has been featured in the Barrier Islands Review.
Who but a prostitute will know how to swing her hips that way? Or push her breasts into the air to attack the sights of men? Who but a prostitute has words spoken about her in whispers that singe from heated talks of her escapades with men? So, who but Mama Janlo’s daughter will fit such description. The moment I heard I was the one interrogating her, I was glad for being given the chance to uphold my moral duty which is to heal the decaying morality of my town. If I don’t fix it, who will?
Mama Janlo’s daughter. I remember her. Who knew today will be the day they will book her for attempted murder. I always knew the day was coming that she will try to kill someone with her ways, jumping from bed to bed, her back hardly touching the ground like that of a cat before she moves on to another one. I swear, if you asked me a month ago how her downfall was going to be, I would have told you that she won’t bear children or have a husband because those breasts she pumps so high into the faces of men, would have been deflated. And that womb that has been torn with abortion – may God forgive her – so many times, would have refused to bear children. But you know as our people say, bi o to wu Oluwa lo shoal – as it pleases God, he gives his blessings. And of course, God gave his blessing today when she tried to kill someone. I know you are thinking the same thing too but no. Not at all. It wasn’t a lover. I’ll get to that part soon. Pardon me, I have to start from the beginning, tell you how it happened exactly.
Constance Myburgh, TWIN SISTERS (JJ 12)
Constance Myburgh is a horse-wrangler, amateur astronomer, first person shooter and part-time pseudonym for an anonymous South African contributor, exclusive to Jungle Jim.
All the dogs are barking now. I can hear them all around, not just our two, the others have also started. They can hear her, better than I can, but I can sense her too, just like them. If I look behind me at Adam now, I will see him lying there, but he isn’t asleep. I don’t need to look to know that. He hasn’t slept since he came back from Twin Sisters. And I won’t look at him anyway. I’m watching for her. She’s out there, and she’s not putting a foot inside this house. If she wants him she will have to deal with me. I’d like to see her try. There those bloody dogs are again. Still, I should be thankful. She must be near now. Whatever she is I’ll skin her alive.
The sun is almost up so I’ll talk. Talk and think these things over again. I don’t like to cast blame but it’s true. If there were none of those men doing bad things out there, then they wouldn’t need a place to send them as punishment. So they wouldn’t need a prison. There would be no prison for Fransie to go to when he stole that car. And Fransie too. If that good-for-nothing hadn’t gone to prison, then Adam wouldn’t have had to go to Twin Sisters. Maybe Twin Sisters wouldn’t even exist. That’s what people say anyway, and after what I’ve heard I can see why they say it. A town like Twin Sisters was built because of the prison. When those men are let out, they need somewhere to go, they need to buy things. They need to stop and sleep in a bed. So there was Twin Sisters, just two kilometres from Grootdal Prison, with a bar that was open all night and a shop that sold the kind of things you’d need at the start of a long journey home or wherever. And there were other things there by Twin Sisters too, as Fransie, then Adam, then me, would find out.
Abdul Adan THE DEATHS OF OLD GRAHAM (JJ 12)
Abdul Adan was born in Somalia and grew up in Kenya. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Kwani?, African-Writing, StoryTime, African Roar, SCARF, and elsewhere. He studies literature at Washington University in St. Louis, and is working on his first short story collection.
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A few hours into his illness, he called his eldest son to his bedside.
“My dear one,” he said. “You very well know that I am a truthful man and that I wouldn’t speculate, for the love of God, about serious matters.”
“I know, Father.”
“Well, dear one, I am departing.”
“But it’s only a cold, Father! How can you say that? I will call the doctor in from town right away.”
“Don’t bother, my dear one,” said the old man, “I would have met my lord by the time he gets here. I am not afraid. I am ready.”
Having spoken thus, old Graham didn’t have time to say his last wishes. He immediately stretched, gasped for breath and was at once still and peaceful. Reverend Caleb, who lived in a farm a mile away, was called.
“Don’t grieve,” he told the Graham’s sons. “He who has loved on earth shall always live in eternal love with the father.”
But the strangest thing happened minutes after the reverend left the premises. Within three hours of his death’s confirmation, Old Graham was found sitting up on his bed. The shocking part, even more than his apparent resurrection was that Old Graham came back a different man. He stood up weakly from the bed and immediately asked for a cigarette. He hasn’t smoked cigarettes since quitting five years earlier.
The sons, for fear of worse deductions, conjured up their own logical explanation. The old man must have gone into a coma and woken up with amnesia. He had simply lost all memory of his separation from the habit.
The next afternoon however, about the same hour, Old Graham died again.
Rossouw Nel’s THE DEAD YANK (JJ 16 – the South African sci-fi issue)
Rossouw Nel writes in the morning. During the day he gladly assists a quango. He is working on a choose-your-own-adventure alternate history of Cape Town, entitled End of the Continent.
The dead Yank made a fool out of me. And I’d told the story across town so many times that I guess it was my own fault. I admit that there were clear signs that the Yank was a bad choice. It was poor judgement from my side, yes. But even a prudent trader could not have foreseen the peculiar thing that was on its way that day. Good help is hard to find, you see, and I had to find it at the city gates.
That morning, I got up early to charge my wa for a trip to Koeberg. Just that week I’d become the proud owner of a merchant license, which entitled me to bulk purchases and special discounts on legitimate vehicle upgrades. Claas Tsanko also mentioned to me on his stoep that the specs at Koeberg wanted to phase out stored power. Consequently, chlorocell canisters were on sale. I could buy a month’s supply. But to load it, I required a handlanger.
I arrived at the city gates feeling spoilt for choice. There were two-dozen handlangers standing there. They looked like able seamen, half of which were lascars. The Yank stood out. He was wearing a dress that hung down to his ankles, a naughty violation of the sumptuary laws. I liked him immediately.
“I’m going to Koeberg. Loading about 30 cans. Can you do it?”
“You strong enough?”
“Not gonna drop them?”
I asked him a few more questions just to hear him say the answers. I liked how he over-rounded the vowels. Once I had my fill, I told him to hop on.
I ignited the thrusters and steered the wa through the gates. As we passed beneath the arch, there was a thud on the back. It was Dubazane, Captain of the Watch, and a man I would’ve bedded if I were otherwise inclined.
“You take this handlanger before?” he asked.
“No, just got him today.”
“Show me your permit,” he ordered the Yank. He had it ready in his left hand and handed it over without making eye contact. Dubazane unfolded the paper, looking at it and its owner, back and forth, probably ten times. The Yank didn’t even lift his head.
“That dress, is too long.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
Once Dubazane was sure he’d done a good intimidation, he dropped the permit and walked back to me.
“You shouldn’t pick them up at the gate. We’re trying to discourage it,” he stated.
“I’ve seen the posters, yes.”
“Rather work through an agency. That way, we keep track of them and make sure they’re paying tax.”
“Yes, I support the initiative.”
“Ok, you can go, sisi. But listen to me, when you make it over the Liesbeeck, watch out for those Teddyboys. Did you hear about the convoy that was ambushed last month?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“All that was left were their clothes, and tongues. All in a neat row.”
“Uhuh, my neighbour was one of them.”
“There hasn’t been an incident since, but I’d be cautious. There were bonfires on the dunes last night.”
“Terrible,“ I said. “They are getting too close.”
“Too close, too close,” Dubazane echoed, punctuating with a pout.
See our Q&A with Jenna Bass and Constance Myburgh, with details of stockists and multiple ways to contribute to Jungle Jim.
For more on content and knock-out reviews, see the first in our series of guest posts on Jungle Jim and African pulp fiction.
The Jungle Jim website has more details on the authors, excerpts and pretty much every and any other Jungle Jim related thing.
And remember, Jungle Jim needs you! – they are on a constant look-out for African writers and illustrators to join their super “galactic quest”; get in touch via http://www.junglejim.org/.
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