Shiny Shelf

Savage Negro

By Mark Clapham on 14 October 2009

Now that’s an uncomfortable title for a white bloke to type.

To be fair, that’s the point. Writer Clarence Smith Jr originally nabbed the URL to prevent, as he puts it in his introduction, “others from capturing this racially charged name and using it for evil. Again.

However, having such a provocative title at his disposal, Smith has decided to use it for something positive: an online, serialised SF novel, written a page a weekday. Each page is short, sometimes only a few paragraphs, making each installment as easily read and digested as a webcomic. It’s a brevity that other online writers could learn from, and is handy for those of us who find our RSS readers bulging if switch the PC off for more than a few hours.

The story itself reads like a smart, post-colonial spin on the ‘contemporary/historical man wakes up in the future’ story beloved of writers from high-minded utopians to pulp serialists. Instead of the usual European white man or American astronaut, our hero is Shaka Zulu, a 19th century warrior king who has seen off rival armies and the redcoated British, only to be chosen to cross ‘the Great Divide’ and journey to the 31st century.

Which is all well and good, but what gives ‘Savage Negro’ an edge beyond it’s eyebrow raising title is that the use of the word ’savage’ isn’t just an ironic play on offensive stereotypes – Shaka isn’t just a leader, he’s a fighter and a conqueror. Presented with a sprawling metallic metropolis, Shaka’s first impulse is to lash out, and his second, more considered impulse is to bide his time, work out the lay of the land – then strike, seizing the future for himself.

‘Savage Negro’ is a smart, well-written pulp SF adventure with something to say for itself. It’s well worth catching up with now, while there’s only a few chapters in the bank. Read it here.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named


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