Here are some lines from a conversation
between Michael Butterworth and Ebi Robert about Mr. Robert’s new novel, The
Creed of the Oracles.
Michael Butterworth writes:
I finished reading your book just after your email arrived, and I'm impressed. You have created a convincing world/mythology. The names of things and people -- always difficult to get right -- are really very believable, like in a Moorcock, Leiber or Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. The narrative carried me along: I wanted to know what happened next, at least. It will be interesting to see how you take the story in your promised sequel. There were many small details, also, which also appealed. I will mention just one: the horse Bester. A reference to Alfred Bester, the writer? Anyway, it is a good name for a horse! A pity Bester is an old horse, as he and Erecious, the latter brought out of retirement, should definitely ride again. I'm anticipating your two dwarf characters will be the sidekicks. They should be.
A surprise was the strong swords and sorcery element, which dawned only gradually. The Bones Banez illustration was a big clue, though at first I didn't see the connection.
Is heroic fantasy a popular genre in Nigeria, or SF/fantasy generally?
Ebi Robert responds:
No. It's not a popular genre in Nigeria. Only a few writers in Nigeria are looking towards that direction.
Generally, fantasy as a genre is not completely new to Nigerian writers. We've had some writers do some work in speculative fiction. However, I can say that we can be easily counted or numbered. Heroic fantasy or high fantasy is not popular in Nigeria. To a very large extent, some writers have seen fantasy as a western brand. Some others believe that we've got so many stories over here that are still untapped, so why write about something that is not there in the first place?
Many Nigerian writers busy themselves with talking and writing about contemporary issues that they feel affect them. Corruption, bad governance, politics, democracy, slavery, colonialism, and many more are some of the issues before us. Recently, issues like climate change, domestic violence, and oil theft are beginning to take centre stage.
I believe writers hardly consider fantasising because they have so much to write about and talking about them will expose those themes or subject matters to the outside world. Put another way, there are so many vices facing our society that must be spoken about. So seeing a writer engage in world-building in this part of the world is rare, very rare, I must say.
But I'm bold to say that it's somewhat of an emerging genre. Heroic or high fantasy is not just any genre that anyone can write overnight. It takes a whole lot of creativity and hard work to achieve just one. In addition to the above, this aspect is a contributory factor.
But there have been some attempts in other areas of speculative fiction, such as science fiction, and maybe, relatively speaking, what I can classify as low fantasy, if there is any sub-genre like that. What I mean is that such imaginative work is not really an out-of-this-world thing. A few such works are mostly centred on Planet Earth, with settings in known places but with characters having some supernatural abilities.
A renowned Nigerian professor in the field of literature once described my works as experimental, and I think I agree with his opinion. I have always looked forward to doing something rarely done, something rarely considered—writing something original. It is this desire to tell my story in what I considered to be an unconventional way that led to me adopting this approach. The Creed of the Oracles is not just a fantasy; it doubles as an allegory.
I should add that it is the experimental aspect that originally attracted me to the novel. The language and the culture of legal scholarship that Mr. Robert has invented represents a fusion of culture, law (Mr. Robert is an attorney in Nigeria), and the procedures of a strange Medieval guild—all cleverly imagined.
Please click HERE to view the Amazon sales page for The Creed of the Oracles.