African Settings in Contemporary American Novels

By Dave Kuhne | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Genre Africa

The use of setting in fiction is, of course, closely related to the type of story an author is telling. For instance, Lutwack notes that adventure fiction favors foreign and exotic settings because "intense action seems to be helped by unfamiliar scenes for its enactment," and he also observes that Africa has long been a favorite setting for adventure stories (29). Africa has become a fertile setting for authors writing genre fiction, especially science fiction and action-adventure fiction. However, although these novels may conform to the demands of a particular genre, these works frequently rise above genre expectations in terms of thematic concerns, and they often include a didactic element similar to that found in the larger body of contemporary American fiction set in Africa. For instance, novels such as Ruark Something of Value, Michener The Covenant, and Harrison Burton and Speke can certainly be called action-adventure novels, yet they are also historical accounts that inform readers about African places and events. Crichton Congo, while obviously a science fiction tale, contains passages that release a great amount of information about Africa and its history.


PART I: SCIENCE FICTION AFRICA

Considering the popularity of Africa as a setting for science fiction during the early part of the twentieth century--particularly in the works of H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs--it is surprising that so few contemporary American writers have chosen Africa as a setting for their science fiction novels. Perhaps most science fiction authors assume that readers no longer expect Africa to be the home of exotic, strange, and previously undiscovered creatures and peoples. After all, most of Africa has been explored as well as exploited; in fact, outer space has

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