On Writing

I Was Arrested for Abandoning a Baby

I did not want to talk about it, but this lady at OleeBranch went public about it, and so I have to continue the conversation, to tell you what her actions did to me. I don’t think she meant harm. I think she is a nice person, but there is an Acholi saying that goes ‘Yom cwin oneko latina’ – forgive my inability to write in Luo – which means ‘being too kind hearted killed my child’. She says she kindly offered to baby-sit for a stranger in a taxi, even as this strange mother showed no gratitude at all, ...
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9 People of Colour Scifi and Fantasy Books I Enjoyed in 2015

2015 was such a busy year for me. I started it with producing a TV series, which got me deep in debts, but which finally paid off :-)), and I ended it by producing a feature film, a scifi that I wrote and started making on a whim. Maybe this year you’ll get to see it. In between those two projects, I worked on the Disney film, Queen of Katwe, directing ‘the making of’ documentary, I traveled twice to South Africa, twice to France, twice to Kenya, and once to Nigeria, attending five festivals (thanks to the success of my ...
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Hats Galore at Ake Festival 2015

I love hats, though I hardly ever wear one, and at the recent Ake Book and Arts Festival, it seems like everyone had a hat on, so my camera got busier than usual. Here are some of my favorite portraits. The hat seller of Ake. The man probably responsible for the flood of hats. Novuyo, a Zimbabwean writer. Adeola, of Keeping it Real With Adeola, Sahara TV You May Also Like: Hats and Feathers: The Fashionable Men of Karamoja Potraits from Kampala’s Literary Scenes This Moment Searching for the taste of South Africa How to Enjoy A Holiday in Nigeria ...
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Praise for A Killing in the Sun

Home About Me Bio Awards Reviews and Praise books Short Stories Films Contact Blog – No Grannies in Africa Blog Home Travel Filmmaking Writing Photography Life Digital Art About Nepal About Uganda Praise for A Killing in the Sun Search: Search: One year ago during the Storymoja Festival, I launched my book, A Killing in the Sun, a collection of short speculative stories, featuring African science fiction, fantasy and horror. The reception of the book has been, surprisingly, warm, at times awed, and at times an outright ‘oh wow! Unbelievable!’ I did not expect this. I thought it would be ...
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Is Science Fiction Really Alien to Africa?

African writers are traumatized. They forever have to defend their work. If it’s not someone questioning why they are not tackling the problems of their societies, it’s someone wondering why they only write about misery and gloom in the continent. When they discover that African writers are churning out stuff like speculative fiction, they say ‘copycat’. Or something worse. The something worse happened to me. Shortly after my book came out, a Ugandan living in the UK asked; ‘Are you really Ugandan?’ I said yes, and she said, ‘But your names….’ And I said Is your name Margaret (anonymised) more ...
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Crime and Writers in South Africa

For the first time in my life, I met a female cab driver. Women had driven me before, in their personal cars, and in an organization that I worked for once who insisted on hiring women for drivers, but I’d never met a female taxi driver before. She said her name was Nazira, and it’s a family business, her husband and their son are both taxi drivers. They mostly have corporate clients, which is how she came to be taking me to OR Tambo Airport that sunny Sunday morning in Joburg. Like many in conversations I had in Joburg, crime ...
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Can Science Fiction Inspire Technological Independence in Africa?

In September of 2014, during Storymoja Festival in Nairobi, I launched my first collection of speculative short stories, A Killing in the Sun, which features sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. A few weeks later, I got an invite to present a paper in Paris, at a workshop title Manufacture/Domestication of the Living in Science Fiction, at Le Cube, Center for Digital Creation. The organizers had chanced upon the book, and were impressed with the stories that tackled manufactured living beings. Below is a version of the talk I gave, last Friday.   In Paris, reading the sci-fi story, Lights on Water Many African communities ...
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The History of Humankind in Johannesburg

The perk of being a hardworking writer, especially if you put out a good piece of work like A Killing in the Sun, is that you get to go on these fully sponsored trips. Last month, I traveled to South Africa, to attend Time of the Writer festival, in Durban, and also to be part of the Literary Crossroads at the Geothe Institute in Jo’burg. I was with the amazing Napo Masheane, in a discussion moderated by the vibrant Niq Mhlongo. I’m not a good public speaker, I often squirm in front of an audience, but the reading I had ...
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The Darkness Behind My Book

During the launch of my first collection of short stories, A Killing in the Sun, one very irritating question kept coming up. What inspired you? It’s the brother of that question every writer hates. Where did you get that idea? Alongside it came its sisters, how did you get into sci-fi? Why do you write sci-fi and fantasy? I always pause before answering these questions, because it’s like asking me how I learned how to breathe. Well, maybe not, but I don’t like that question because I think I’m never inspired. I always work very hard to drag stories out of ...
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Why I Started a Literary Magazine

Many say it’s madness to start a literary magazine. Such a venture, especially one that focuses on African literature, can’t make money because, they say, there is no market to sustain literature on the continent. When I mooted the idea of Lawino to a friend, her advice was, ‘Don’t start it. All work and no pay makes Ojok a poor boy.’ It was discouraging, hearing that I would have to put a lot of energy into the magazine, and maybe never get paid for it. Still, I had this burning urge, for I wanted a journal to promote new writing ...
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Potraits from Kampala’s Literary Scenes

She runs the Ranchers Seafood and Steakhouse, where many literary events take place.  This was during a Commonwealth Writers event. Melissa Kiguwa, a feminist and poet, with Helen Nyana, a writer and publisher. Helen Nyana, writer, publisher, photographer David Kaiza, Writer and Editor A participant during the Commonwealth Writers Conversation, Kampala, 14 June 2014. She was not asleep. A participant during the Commonwealth Writers Conversation, Kampala, 14 June 2014 Patricia, writer. A participant during the Commonwealth Writers Conversation, Kampala, 14 June 2014 A participant during the Commonwealth Writers Conversation, Kampala, 14 June 2014 Jackee Batanda, writer. Rosey Sembatya, writer and board ...
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The Liebster Blog Awards

Sometime towards the end of last year, Matt Ewens nominated my blog for the Liebster Blog Awards. Yay! It humbled me, for this guy, Matt, who I hardly know, but who I met in a google plus writing group, thought my blog is worth a read. You can see list of nominees here. http://mattrobertewens.wordpress.com/ There are rules for accepting the Liebster Blog Award. You can read them below. I have to accept the award by answering questions he has asked, and in turn nominate eleven blogs that I think are worth a read. Well, I’ll start by answering questions that ...
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This Has Been a Good Year

At the beginning of the year, nothing was going right in my life, both career and personal. I was really broke, for one thing. As the year ends, still not many things are going right for me. One of my biggest dreams came tumbling down, started to collapse with the beginning of the year, and by November it had crashed to the ground. It came like a shooting star, like a lone star among the millions, and went out before it had lived to fulfill it’s purpose in my life. It reminded me of Gene Hackman, who once was one ...
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Street entertainment from my childhood

I never knew how much we remember from childhood until I wrote this story, The Puppets of Maramudhu. One reviewer, when talking about it, said “Dilman’s story is unique, not that it is alien or experimental. It is neither of these. In fact, it is the kind of stories we love to tell, orally, but which we rarely ever write, unfortunately, perhaps because of our quest to remain realists.” I always wonder why we endeavor to remain realists, yet our socialization process conditions us to believe in the supernatural, to point at spirits and unknowable forces when explaining strange phenomenon. As ...
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Three Stories on Amazon

It’s been an exciting year for me, as a writer. I got shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and then longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa. I’ve heard two books out in print, and two short stories to appear in anthologies, one is already out, the other coming in December. Busy, busy year, and I expect next year will be even busier. Which unfortunately might mean less blogging :(( So here are the books. They went up on amazon at nearly the same time, the first being in September and two this month. The Terminal Move. A novelette, ...
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Ghost tales on the road to Nairobi

When the year begun, I was broke. I had spent much of last year finishing The Felistas Fable, and had not earned much during that time. I felt low, for it is not possible to quickly make a profit from selling a film. Sometimes you have to wait a whole year. I felt depressed in frustration. Then, out of the gloom, I got shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I had a reason to smile. I had waited for this kind of news for twenty years, since I became obsessed with writing at the age of fifteen. The frustration ...
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Scenes of Labor Day

Retired. Relaxing. Is he enjoying the labor of his youth? A grandfather passes the time in Nakapinyi, Mukono district. It’s the day when we remember workers of the world. I do not know what made me look through my scrap folder, but I found this poem, which I wrote in October of 2009, shortly before I went to Nepal. I cannot remember why I wrote it, what the ‘inspiration’ was, but it is clearly about a vegetable seller struggling to make ends meet, and failing to impress his wife. I dedicate it to all working men out there who are ...
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An African thief finds a wife

    This story is fictional, inspired by this photo of the love of my life. In spite of the thermal underwear, the cold dug into his bones and froze him in a bleak mood. The sun tried to smile from beyond the mountains, but her frigid rays could not cheer him up. He longed for Africa, where the sun shone all year with the sweet warmth of a lover.   He decided to go back home immediately after searching the last temple. The whole trip had turned out to be a complete waste of time and money. A friend ...
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Creatures from the Other World

It’s a sunny Sunday. I’ve just had a very productive weekend. Started and finished a short film. It’s a story that has been running in my head for nearly two years now. Maybe more. I’m glad I got it out. Maybe now I will have some sleep and peace, for the characters wanted their story told. They kept bothering me, yelling at me, screaming at me, distracting me whenever I was thinking about something else. A little girl and her paralyzed older brother. A question every writer confronts at some point or the other is “Where did you get that ...
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This is not funny! It’s a horror!

It seems a life time ago, yet it was only 2006. I was nearing my thirtieth birthday, and I had failed to make it as a novelist. I had to rethink my future, my ambitions, either give up on the dream or breath new life into it. I chose the latter. I set my sights on making films. This is a story I’ve told many times before, and I don’t want to repeat it here, but December 2006 is the time I directed my first film. A one minute movie that I wanted to be a horror. An old fashioned ...
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Starving Artists and Rejection Slips at Christmas

It’s the worst part of being an ‘artist’. For this reason they came up with the term, starving artist, to make the whole thing seem romantic. To make the artist think he has a right to starve, since he is the ‘creative’ type, the one who lives on dreams, who is too lazy to get a proper job and earn a decent salary. I must have got a thousand rejection slips by now, most of them computer generated, but every time I get one, I get that feeling deep down in my stomach that I’m wasting time. That I should ...
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What Will I Do Before I Die?

A bucket list? That list of things I must do before I die? — I do not remember at any point in my life making such a list, but sometime during my teenage years, an insane desire to write novels gripped me, and this flared into a ridiculous quest to make a living out of telling stories. So I guess the cliché items on my bucket list would be things like “get published,” “win an Oscar,”get really famous like Werner Herzog.” But the nightmare of trying to get a decent break makes those ambitions rather childish. To live a quiet ...
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I Suffer to Entertain You

Recently, I got a job directing the NTV Series, “The Hostel.” So far, it is the most demanding job I’ve ever met, so unlike anything I’ve ever done. Honestly, for a moment or two, I keep wondering just what it is I’ve gotten myself into. It is the first project where I will not be totally in control of the whole process—someone else decides what the story is, who the actors are, and who makes up the crew—and yet I’m the kind who prefers total freedom to do as I please while crafting a story. Moreover, this is a production ...
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Strange Stories of Adultery

Last week, I wrote about “The Secret Life of Adulterers,” as I reminisced about the first major film I made, What Happened in Room 13. Some suggest it’s the finest short film ever made in Uganda, a masterpiece, but it’s mostly because of the Oscar-deserving performance of the actors. Richard Tuwangye on stage, with Fun Factory They are famous comedians in Kampala. Richard Tuwangye, Ann Kansime, Veronica Namanda, Gerald Rutaro and Bugingo Hannington, famous names from the famous Fun Factory. At the time of making Room 13, I was inexperienced. They, however, did a great job of making the script ...
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The Secret Life of Adulterers

A man sneaks into a seedy hotel room. Moments later, his best friend’s wife joins him. Just as they start to make love, an accident kills her. And now he has to hide the body in order to keep his adulterous affair a secret. That’s the premise of what some say is my masterpiece, What Happened in Room 13, which I made in 2007 under the Maisha Film Lab. It’s an 18-minute thriller with no dialog. Watch it here! Free! Someone once asked me a question that writers find so ridiculous: “Where did you get that idea?” I equate it ...
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Happy-sad to be back home

Finally, I’m back home. I don’t know if I’m happy or sad. Maybe both. I returned at a period when the economy is in crisis. Inflation is soaring and the value of the shilling is on free fall. I can’t believe how expensive life is here, how much I pay for transport, for basic commodities, and it makes me wonder how people survive. It makes me scratch my head how I’m going to survive these tough times, seeing that I have to start from scratch. Before going to Nepal, I gave away everything I owned. I carried my valuables in ...
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My Friend is a Prostitute

This is a goodbye Nepal post. It’s been almost twenty hectic months. Now, three documentaries later, I’m finally going home. Today, I have a screening of one of the three docs, a feature length – my first feature length piece of work – Untouchable Love. Read about it here http://untouchablelovenepal.blogspot.com/ and follow the cause on facebook http://www.facebook.com/Untouchable.Love.Nepal This documentary is the reason I came to Nepal. Late in 2008, I had rashly quit a day job to try and make a living in film making. Within two months, I discovered I had committed suicide. And then the girl I was ...
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Anybody Reading?

The business of writing is a strange one. Not just because it requires a lot of patience and picking up your ambitions after a rejection of some sort shatters it. But just because you never know what impression you are making on people – you never know who is reading your stories. Ten years ago, I wrote four short stories for the Sunday Vision. Nothing big. But some people thought they were humorous. Anyway, the Sunday Vision editors at that time, Joachim Buwembo and Simon Kaheru, and a lady whose name I forget, they were besides themselves with excitement when ...
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Is Ejaculate a Taboo Word?

Funny thing I noticed while reading Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame – a book I wish I had read while I was much younger. It’s such fun, with such a sense of humor that I wonder why I have never been encouraged to read it until now? I only picked it off the shelves the other day because of the animated film. I found a friend watching it, the last bit of it anyway, and was so intrigued that I thought the book would be as good. Normally, I know movies are not half as good as the books ...
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One of Those Gloomy Days

I thought they were gone, but today I woke up feeling real down. After a week of making a ton of grant applications, I can’t help feeling down. The problem with applying for grants is that it makes you feel like a beggar, and for people who have low self-confidence (blame it on the upbringing!) once that kind of feeling sets in your moods start to go down. This confidence thing, it’s really not anything I can do anything about it. It’s like some people will laugh at the slightest tickle, others will cry at the slightest pain, others will ...
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Cakes at 3am

I woke up with a burning urge to write a story about a man pursuing a girl who bakes cakes – he is working at his desk when he catches the scent of cakes in the air, and he follows it to the next office where he finds this girl delivering birthday cake to a client, and without even knowing her names, or anything about her, he asks her to marry him. Apparently, this guy had spent a long time in a culture where — oh crap! I’m not writing all that BS here 🙂 Anyway, I had to fight ...
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Laughter Sells More Than Horror

Oh no! Felistas is back in my life! I was kind of hoping I would never run into her again, because I don’t like her story, but she crept back – or rather she jumped straight out of the blue and grabbed my neck and is now strangling me with a promise of success. Well, what she has done is kick out this guy who I was growing to love, this guy who is stuck on a wheel chair and runs an illegal FM radio station from his bedroom. Finally, I shot the film! here is a pic of the ...
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Devasted

I’m devastated. After eagerly awaiting for a nomination in the Penguin Prize for Africa Writing, I discover today that I have yet again been overlooked! I was really hoping this would be it for me. So sad and to prove it, this will be the shortest blog I’m ever writing. — You May Also Like: You May Also Like: Real life quoting the movies Another rejection Laughter sells more than horror The internet joke Anybody reading? ...
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Back on my Feet?

I often try to surprise myself…. I google my name and see what comes up, and I was stunned today to find a short story I wrote for The Kathmandu Post online. The editors didn’t get back to me, to tell me whether they liked it or not, and I assumed they did not like it. Well, I wrote this piece, only about 1,000 words long, the shortest story I’ve ever published, in an attempt to get back to my writing feet. True, I did manage a novel last year (which I’m desperately trying to sell) but a publisher, who ...
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The Internet Joke

The internet certainly helped the ‘joke’ to grow into a popular media, the way invention of the printery gave birth to the novel. But almost everyone only recycles the jokes they find in their in boxes, and I always wonder who the first person to send that joke was. So I’m going to try and break that habit. I’m going to start my own joke. Here it goes. Recommended: Dark comedy. 6.5 million YouTube Views. What Happened in Room 13 A terrible looking ghost walks into a bar and says ‘Those drinking beer, line up here, and those drinking whiskey, ...
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Why Do They Laugh?

This is the best part of writing, staring at the blank page and no words coming out, especially if I want to be funny. I think being funny is my niche, whatever niche means. I never try, but an hour can’t pass without someone laughing at something I said, and I always ask myself “What’s the matter with that crazy head? Did I say something funny?”  — Only that I’m beginning to distrust my comic powers. I think they have grown so much that complete strangers giggle when they see me. Maybe I should clarify that it is complete, strange ...
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