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Interview: “Ku’gbo” by Dare Segun Falowo

Tell us a bit about the story.

Ku’gbo is a short fantasy set in the village of Ala, which is a dreamscape where human souls pass through after death/sleep on Earth, also known as Ile Aye. It deals with the growth and metamorphosis of the central character Akin, as he discovers more about himself, his connection to the larger spiritual environment known as Ayika, and what it might hold for his future.

 

What was the inspiration for “Ku’gbo,” or what prompted you to write it?

When I wrote it originally, it was titled ‘Faun’ and was the debut story on my now-defunct wordpress; Dragons in Lagos. This was circa 2012.  I had just seen Pan’s Labyrinth and was obsessed with the aftertaste it left in my mind and also had memories of how drastically the movie changed every time the faun was onscreen. Somehow I found myself on Deviant Art looking for inkings of faun and found this gorgeous one that had horns just like the branches of a tree, and that sparked my imagination to start writing. I slept on that image and wrote the first draft in one sitting before I went to class, where I was studying Biochemistry at the University of Lagos, the next morning. I remember my mom looking over my shoulder and worrying about me being late for school.

 

Dare FalowoWas this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

When it was first written, it was personal to me in the sense that it was the first ever short story I wrote that made me realize that I would like to continue writing for as long as I lived. It signified a jump in quality from the stories I had been writing before then as a member of a virtual rock band of super-powered boys called Pass the Salt. After a while, about two years later, I deleted it off the blog, it felt too open for some reason, despite it being a pure fantasy. Then I revisited it in 2016 with hopes of rewriting and understanding it better and realized it was a very blatant allegory for certain experiences that I had had for most of my life, but that had intensified greatly in the four years after I first wrote it. It hinted at the internal transformations that I would go through, experiences that shaped my earliest 20s; dealing with my budding sexuality and seeking for a more esoteric knowledge about how to lead my life as a faltering spirit. It was like I was coming out to myself before I was ever comfortable enough to own my queer & spiritual identities for what they were.

 

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “Ku’gbo,” or any of the traditions on which it is based?

I knew nothing of Pan/fauns as symbols of expressive sexuality, this revealed itself when the story was viewed as allegory. All my prior research came from within. I simply knew that there was going to be a village where lots of strange dreaming would occur and this would be the first tale drawn from there. So, the village of ‘Ala’ which means dream in Yoruba is a space much like the deep subconscious, where the fantastical (creatures & situations)  is set loose in a bid to train souls that have died/fallen asleep before allowing them move up to the next space in Ayika. There are no fauns in Yoruba culture, but there is a very potent sense of sexuality embedded in the language and way of life, and so in the spirit of balance and streamlining, the word ‘Ku’gbo’ was created, which is a conflation of the Yoruba words for ‘death’ and ‘ram’.

 

What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story, and what was the most fun?

Rewriting it from scratch was a bit tough because it had been five years since I first wrote it and as I grew older, my ideas became more intricate, and the setting that had just been a village of dreams was revealed to be one aspect of a larger tier of spirit worlds called Ayika. I found that it would make no sense to omit these new ideas from the rewrite, so I had to find ways to weave in the realty of Ayika through the story + my writing style had changed through the years and the story became more surreal than its earlier folkloric counterpart. The most fun part was the feeling of writing it all in a dive, it was very euphoric for me then, as a young man who was struggling with himself inside, to realize the cathartic power of such spontaneous creativity.

 

What would you want a reader to take away from “Ku’gbo?”

There is so much more space for you inside yourself than you know. Your curiosity and hunger to know more might set you free. Change is inevitable; how we embrace it defines how it ultimately shapes us. Oh, and being queer – whether you’re lgbt+ or a faun or an owl is a gift; the world needs your bodies and your being and your breath to have more dimensions, more color, more futures.

 

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a sci-fi novella, that has changed forms thrice; currently, it’s set in a future where global warming catastrophes have ruined all modern civilization and forced us to seal ourselves in forest cites and restructure global society into tribes. After this I’ll return to writing more stories centered around, and in Ayika, where I feel the bulk of my work as a fantasist lies.

 

“Ku’gbo” appears in the May/June 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1805.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

By clicking on Dare Falowo’s photo, you can read some of the author’s old stories at https://dragonsinlagos.wordpress.com/

Or follow the author on Twitter: @falowox

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