The Great Safari
My five book series, Changa's Safari, was a labor of love sparked by my interest in Sword and Sorcery. It began when my comic book collecting cousin introduced me to the Conan the Barbarian Marvel comics. I was instantly interested, being the history nerd that I am. The stories and the artwork were amazing and I couldn't wait until the next issue was released. When the announcement was made about the Conan movie, I was ecstatic. I felt Arnold Schwarzenegger was the perfect choice to play Conan, and although the movie wasn't what I had hoped for, I still enjoyed it.
That fervor was dampened when I began reading the actual Conan stories. While the action and adventure was there, I was disappointed by the portrayal of Black people in Howard's work. I understand the argument that Howard was 'a man of his times,' but as a person who is the object of his prejudice that explanation carries no weight. I had already contemplated writing a story similar to Conan with a Black main character, and reading Howard's original work made it a necessity. My first attempt was a pure fantasy tale not based on any culture or history in particular. The main character was named Prince Carn, and my Conan doppelganger's name was so embarrassing I refuse to share it. My hero entered the story midway through then dominated the story, similar to Howard's Beyond the Black River, my favorite Conan story. I completed the story, but there was something lacking which kept me from submitting it to magazines.
Everything changes in the 90s, when I began my research in African history. Out of all the amazing information I discovered, the history of East Africa stood out when I thought of my hero story. Prince Carn became Amir Zakee, my hero became Changa Diop and the focus of the story. The result was The Jade Obelisk, the first Changa Safari story. This first adventure was a stand alone adventure. As I continued to write additional stories I decided Changa's adventures would be a collection of stories rooted in 15th century African history. I used the word safari as it is defined. It's a Swahili word meaning 'journey;' I wanted to rid myself of the word referring to white hunters traveling into the 'jungle' with Black porters bearing supplies on their heads. Thus Changa's Safari was born.
It was while writing the stories for the second Changa's Safari book that my purpose of the stories took shape. I wanted Changa's adventures first and foremost to be exciting, but I also wanted Changa to be a hero who was a good man, not a wandering anti-hero stumbling from adventure to adventure. This gave more focus to the stories and helped me develop the relationships between the characters.
Changa's adventures take him and his crew to the far reaches of his world, from the Swahili Coast to the Middle Kingdom (China), from Vijayanagar (India), to the Yoruba city states (Nigeria). I had a great time writing these stories and fusing my love of history and fantasy. This week MVmedia is having a Sword and Sword sale, so it's a great time for you to enjoy Changa's adventures. It's the series I wish I had when I was younger, and it's a series I know you'll enjoy.