2020 is serving up world-changing headlines. My favourite are the worldwide protests affirming what black people have always known: that we matter, both in our individuality and collectivity; that we breathe, feel, love, laugh, grieve, and die like everyone else even if the world has found countless ways to diminish our humanity. This moment is both revolution and renaissance for blackness wherever it is found. The frontlines of change are manned by eager forces determined to secure current and permanent changes to systems of privilege which discriminate in insidious ways. Resupplying and rearming them is the vast world blackness built: from forgotten homelands to foreign cotton and cane fields; from the auction block to glorious republics; from the jungle fireside and peaceful villages to the museums of pillaged and hidden history—from the roota to the fucking toota.
The headlines are fiery and numerous; they burn from the brightest day into the darkest stretches of night.
Against the wonder of these great and bold typefaces which will shape the world to come I offer my humble byline: Scout Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster in the United States, has acquired the English rights for The Eternal Audience Of One.
Yep. Séraphin, his family, and the High Lords of Empireland are coming to the world.
Blackbird Books—the independent, black-owned, and female-led South African publisher who published a book that was “too long” and “too foreign”—will retain the rights to publish the book in SADC. This means a lot to me: home will always be the best place to win.
Thabiso Mahlape—Blackbird Books’ founder—has my undying thanks for making me what I had always dreamed of being, what seemed an impossibility when rejection letters from agents zeroed in on my email address: an author. Her courage to take on an “unknown writer” from “a part of the world without a recognised literary footprint” is the reason Blackbird Books will always be the first and best home. This small but fierce indie press is determined to pick the gems from the gravel; to give black writers a chance in an industry which continues to deny them access, visibility, and recognition. In its mission to contribute to the fabric of black literature one thread and story at a time I am forever indebted to Mahlape for the day she twanged this string stretching all the way to Windhoek.
The Eternal Audience Of One’s milestone could not have been reached without Cecile Barendsma—the title’s agent—who got in touch with me via Instagram after reading From The Lost City Of Hurtlantis To The Streets Of Helldorado (or, Franco) in American Chordata’s 2019 summer issue. The risk and reward of that story in that publication is why truth is stranger than fiction. Barendsma’s energy in marketing and promoting the manuscript is a story for another day.
This new frontier is a first for me and the place I call home. That this first only happened in 2020 is not by chance. There are forces inside and outside the publishing world which conspire to make moments like this rare, the exception rather than the rule. Not only here in Namibia but any “small place” in the world which has not secured a particular kind of privilege for itself. These small places have their own stories. That they remain unknown is not for a lack of writers but a scarcity of publishing opportunities. It is my hope this success encourages more engagement with parts of the continent which remain invisible on the page. Nature abhors a vacuum, silence anywhere is unnatural. It remains the collective responsibility of writers, readers, and publishers to write, read, and fill the voids.
So what is next?
Séraphin and company need to be kitted out for their new outing. Back to the tricky beginning and working towards some kind of end.
Confronted with the unique loneliness of this achievement the only way to celebrate it is with more work and renewed vigour, from me and from all the other writers plying their craft in Namibia, Africa, and the world. The purpose of being the first is to ensure there is a second, third, and hundredth—first and only are sad and selfish titles. If this present historical moment has shown me anything, it is that one is too small a number to make it alone. The facts are coldest when the tea is hot: if we are to get anywhere, we have to go together.
So it is back to the chair, the table, the blank page, and the refilled fountain pens.
Back to dreaming. Back to plotting.
As Lupe Fiasco and Nikki Jean said:
One you never heard of, I
Push it harder, further, the
Grind might feel like murder, but…
From Windhoek to the world we ride this bitch until the wheels come off.
And then we get out and push.
Thanks so much for being a part of this journey.