Mohale Mashigo’s short story collection Intruders is an unexpected pleasure. You might remember, we wrote about Mashigo’s thoughts on Afrofuturism (and how it isn’t for Africans living in Africa) here. That critique forms the foreword of this book of short stories and prepares the ground for the author’s creative intervention in a speculative fiction written on and for the African continent – more specifically, the South African context.
Intruders ranges from stories about familiar monsters – werewolves and ghosts, say – to imagining technologies of the not-too-distant future – eye implant computers, for example. Even when the imagined taps into a familiar trope or figure, like the mermaid, Mashigo gives it a twist (spoiler: tentacles). Those twists, and the settings in which she embeds her characters and their experiences, are always tangibly and specifically South African. Her characters deal with everyday problems and realities, like poverty and the lack of electricity, as well as extraordinary ones, like growing wings. Almost all of Mashigo’s significant characters are women of colour, and a recurring theme throughout the collection is violence against women. But Mashigo never make these characters merely victims – rather, they emerge as charismatic variations of vengeful spirits and high-heel wielding killers.
While a dystopian thread runs through many of the tales, there is an upbeat rhythm that never allows them to become a drag – much like Mashigo’s characters who, despite living through nightmarish events, never seem to lose their sense of humour. I especially enjoyed the way the stories interlaced local folktales and traditions with speculative technologies. My only critique would be that the stories sometimes seemed to end just as I was getting into them, but then maybe that’s just the short story format. If you get a hold of Intruders, it’s well worth a read.