With Primeval Fire (hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer C.T. Rwizi is concluding the science fantasy trilogy he began in 2020 with Scarlet Odyssey and continued a year later with Requiem Moon. In the following email interview, he discusses what inspired and influenced this series, and why he doesn’t think they qualify as Afrofuturism or Africanfuturism.
Scarlet Odyssey and Requiem Moon both follow the main character Salo and his companions in a magical world where an ancient and forgotten conflict is beginning to stir anew. Salo is a young man who grew up in a society in which the art of magic is considered a feminine pursuit, so his affinity with magic has made him somewhat of a pariah among his people. A major plot thread throughout the series sees him coming to terms with who he is both as a magic user and as a queer young man.
And then for those who did read those novels, and thus don’t need to heed my SPOILER WARNING, what is Primeval Fire about?
Primeval Fire picks up months after the events of Requiem Moon. Salo’s friends, Ilapara and Tuk, who are still grappling with his death, have joined the resistance against the newly crowned emperor. A surprising discovery gives them much needed hope, but they must journey out of the Redlands and into the world beyond to find it. Back in Salo’s homeland, Niko, the boy Salo loved, starts dreaming about a ghost, and a strange sickness that befalls his friend has them leaving their homeland for a desert with ancient and powerful ruins. There is also an amnesiac who wakes up in a burning city, knowing nothing about himself. Eventually, all their paths lead to the desert, where the central conflict will culminate.
When in the process of writing Scarlet Odyssey and Requiem Moon did you come up with the idea for Primeval Fire?
I wanted to tell a full and complete story, so I set up the major story beats of the series before Scarlet Odyssey was published. That’s not to say my plans didn’t change along the way because they absolutely did. In fact, most of the plotting happened after Requiem Moon, but the world building and the basic structure of the story was already in place, if that makes sense.
It does. Now, in the interview we did for Requiem Moon, you said, “Science fantasy is really the best description for this series,” but that, “Requiem Moon leans even more into the ‘science’ part.” I assume Primeval Fire is also science fantasy, but does it lean even more into any science as well? Or some other genre?
Part of Primeval Fire is set outside of the Redlands (where the previous books have been set), in a much more technologically advanced though somewhat magically weaker society, so the world building this time around is much more technological. It’s definitely still fantasy, and the magic is bigger than it’s ever been in the series, but you’ll definitely recognize more and more elements of science fiction bleeding into the narrative.
In that same interview, you said these novels were, “…set in a world inspired by the cultures of South and Eastern Africa.” And yet you’ve never identified them as being Afrofuturism or Africanfuturism. How come?
I might be wrong, but the way I understand it, Africanfuturism and Afrofuturism are genres of science fiction usually set in our universe (typically in the future) incorporating directly recognizable elements and aesthetics of African (or African American) myths, culture, religion, etc. My series, though drawing heavily from Africa, is fantasy set on a secondary world with a very different history. Some aspects of the series might be deemed Africanfuturist, but the world building as a whole is more a reimagining of the past than futurist speculation.
I recently wrote a short story published by Amazon Short Stories titled “These Alien Skies,” which would wear the Africanfuturism label much better.
So, are there any writers or stories that had an influence on Primeval Fire but not on Scarlet Odyssey or Requiem Moon?
Hmmm. Not really. Most of my world building was done before the first book was published. I don’t think there’s a particular influence I can point to that went into Primeval Fire specifically and not the other books.
What about non-literary influences; was Primeval Fire influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I think some readers are going to get Mass Effect or Firefly vibes from certain aspects of this book, but I don’t want to spoil anything so I probably shouldn’t say more…
Now, in the interview we did about Scarlet Odyssey, you said that it and Requiem Moon formed a duology. Then, in the interview we did about Requiem Moon, you said, “The series is in fact a trilogy.” Is it still, in fact, a trilogy, or are you now going to tell me, “Well, actually, it’s a four-book series…”?
Ha! I said it was a duology back then because I had a two-book contract at the time and wasn’t sure I’d get a contract for the third. But then I did (yay!) so I’m proud to say that the series is a trilogy and that Primeval Fire will be the last book of the series. It’s a great feeling to know I’ve written and completed a whole book series from start to finish.
There are undoubtedly people who’ve waiting for Primeval Fire to come out so we, I mean they can read all three books back-to-back. But do you think this is the best way to take in this story?
You know, bingeing something can be satisfying. Be it a book or TV series. There’s something fulfilling about watching or reading the first installment of something and knowing you won’t have to wait to get into the next one. So, if this is how you like to enjoy your content, then more power to you. You’ll go into the next book with the details of the previous one still fresh in your mind and you’ll probably be better at picking up on details that were foreshadowed. I wouldn’t say this is the “best” way to read the books, I don’t know if there is a best way, but I see nothing wrong with it.
Some people who write trilogies will expand upon them with sequel or prequel trilogies or side stories. Are you planning to do that as well?
I love the world of Scarlet Odyssey. A lot of love went into it, but I have other worlds itching to be written, other stories and characters, so I’ll be working on those in the coming years. But I’m not averse to the idea of coming back to this world at some later date. We’ll just have to see.
So, is there anything else you think people should know about Primeval Fire?
Magical androids, magical ships, space birds, magical deserts, enchanted ruins, deadly maidens, handsome warriors — all of these, and more, await you in Primeval Fire.
Finally, if someone enjoys Scarlet Odyssey, Requiem Moon, and Primeval Fire, they’ll probably want to read something short and quick. What stand-alone sci-fi novella by someone else would you recommend they check out and why that one?
You know, I’m going to be selfish here and recommend my space sci-fi short story “These Alien Skies.” It’s part of a series of Afrofuturism / Africanfuturism works published last year called Black Stars. Other authors of the series include Chimamanda Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor. So if you like my trilogy, I definitely think you’ll like “These Alien Skies,” and I’d also recommend you check out the other stories in the series.