Tag Archives: African Monsters

African Monsters : Behind the Scenes by Dave De Burgh

Getting an invite to write a story for an anthology is probably one of the best feelings in the world for a writer. There’s a kind of acceptance that comes with that invitation, a sense of ‘Yes, we believe you are capable and good enough’, and since writers are always fighting themselves and the multitude of blank pages which need filling, this kind of thing happening is not only a boost for the writer but also for the writer’s other projects. I certainly crowed with excitement when I read the email from Margret Helgadottir – not only because of the invite, but because of the publisher behind the anthology, Margret’s fellow editor Jo Thomas, and the idea behind the anthology. Accepting the invitation was a decision I didn’t have to think about – needless to say, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My first instinct was to choose the Tikolosh or Tokolosh – I had done some research regarding this strange, mischievous and dangerous creature for an article I had written some months before, so I had a good place from which to start. The Tokolosh, however, had already been nabbed by one of my fellow storytellers, and so I had to find a new creature to build a tale around. I began thinking that I needed to choose a creature which hadn’t received a lot of (or any) press, something that the folks reading these tales would be intrigued and creeped out by. And when I came across stories and reports of the Popo Bawa, I knew I had my creature.

The first roadblock, of course, presented itself then and there – most of the stories I had read about the Popo Bawa came from Zanzibar… The only other country I’ve been to either than my home (South Africa) is Australia, so how was I going to convincingly write about a creature I’d just read about and a country I had never been to?

Obviously the first thing I did was panic.

Googling Zanzibar presented me with countless links and hundreds of articles – searching on Facebook brought me to tourist companies, and although their beautiful photos helped me to begin envisioning Zanzibar’s beautiful coast lines, that was about as helpful as those photos proved to be. Until I came across Stone Town. That was when it all began to click into place.


Stone Town is ancient and iconic – it has a long, varied and multi-cultural history, has been home to countless peoples, religions and beliefs, and was a trading hub between the Persians and Africa. *click* The link to my Tokolosh article bloomed in my mind, and then the rest of the tale began to fall into place.

I still needed a character to tell the tale through, however – someone who I could relate to (as the writer, having to ‘live’ inside his mind for a bit) and someone who knew just enough about the situation in the tale that I could comfortably explore Stone Town without coming across as a tour guide after a good tip.

I was still panicking – I hadn’t written a thing yet, and the deadline for submissions was fast approaching. So I began watching videos about Zanzibar on YouTube, and I began listening to Taraab on Soundcloud. Listening to that wonderful, energetic and rhythmic music someone helped to pinpoint the character I was going to use – a hard-bitten, cynical South African who was paid to investigate certain strange occurrences and deal with the creatures behind those occurrences.

So, I had my creature or monster, my setting, my character, and the details of a plot. I knew, however, that I would probably surprise myself with something in the plot – it usually happens, me getting this spark of inspiration which usually sends the plot off in a surprising direction while still leaving me the chance to connect it to the main plot.

And so ‘Taraab and Terror in Zanzibar’ took full shape; a tale about Terence and his trip to Zanzibar to investigate reports of resurgent and dangerous Popo Bawa. Except things are definitely not as they seem, and even Terence –with all his experience and street-smarts- is surprised when the full extent of the threat is revealed.

Be warned, though – I’ve taken some liberties (you’ll know them when you read them) in service of the tale.

I hope you enjoy it!

African Monsters : The Editors

As they are the editors of the Fox Spirit book of African Monsters, we thought it could be a good idea to let Margrét Helgadóttir (MH) and Jo Thomas (JT) start the little blog tour we are having here at the Fox Spirit Books since the book is now published. In the coming weeks we are going to let the contributors tell about their monsters or other things on their minds. Let’s start with Jo, who has something she wants to say first:

JT: ‘Last year, we did a question and answer session between the two of us explaining where the Monster anthology idea came from. This year… Well, this year, you have a blog post. A slightly hi-jacked blogpost as I (Jo) got to write the first draft and have a few things to say personally. So, this year, I’d like to heap some praise on my co-editor, Margrét, and my publisher, Adele at Fox Spirit Books, for working like Trojans the last few of months in order to get everything in place. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been moving and starting a new job, so I haven’t had much time for putting African Monsters together. So, three cheers for the hard-working team that did! And now on to the main event.’

The original intention a few years ago, the idea that formed with a Twitter conversation, was a “look at the whole world of monsters.” This eventually narrowed down to look at the monsters in our own pond, the European monsters. We were fairly eager to extend in to further volumes for other continents quite soon after imposing the restriction for European Monsters and happily Adele agreed this was a good idea.

JT: ‘This is, of course, a source of argument between we two editors, with one being raised with the five-continent model of the world and the other with the seven-continent model of the world.’

Africa became the next place to visit on the world tour. It is, of course, a continent we’re both happy admit to the existence of and we had the benefit of Margrét having spent some of her formative years there so that she had a familiarity with a number of regions and folklores. As with European Monsters, the anthology was invitation only and so we used and abused Margrét’s contacts while also researching new ones. It was important to us to make use of authors and artists who lived or had connections with the areas they were working on. Although we had hoped to have been able to have solely African authors in the book, we have not been able to secure a hundred percent African talent for the resulting anthology, mostly due to time constraints and communication problems. Also, since we mostly have authors who write English in this book, the geographical representation, is sadly not a full reflection on the world’s second largest and second most populous continent.


MH: ‘I feel we have learned much from editing these books when it comes to getting a good representation in the books. In following books we will try to have at least one translated story from a non-English speaking author. The key is to have the right amount of time, some luck and a good network.’

There is a wealth of skilled artists and published writers to look into and we consider our own anthology a jumping off point into the world of African fiction. But nevertheless, we have covered a small part of a large continent that we hope you enjoy. This is not the colonial “Dark Continent”—or, perhaps, not just the colonial, as that era is part of the history that formed the present day—but the stories we have gathered give grim glimpses of a darkness where the scariest thing is sometimes the bright light of day.

African Monsters Release

That’s right folks, we are releasing a selection of monsters from the continent of Africa into the wild for your reading pleasure next week!

Working with writers from various countries in Africa or with strong links and a mix of African and European artists, editors Margret Helgadottir and Jo Thomas have put together another beautiful volume in the Fox Spirit Books of Monsters series.

Check out the Monsters page for more information on this and the European volume.

african monsters - small


If you are interested in a review copy of this or any other title please contact adele @ foxspirit.co.uk with details of where you post reviews.