I have been reading Charles R. Saunders for 35 years now. I first read him in Swords Against Darkness IV (Zebra Books, 1979) with the story “Mail Kulala.” I digged his brand of hard-boiled sword and sorcery fiction. I immediately read Imaro (D.A.W. Books, 1981) and The Quest for Cush (D.A.W. Books, 1984). I have reviewed his novel Abengoni and the anthology he co-edited, Griots.
Nyumbani Tales (MV Media) is a collection of various stories set in Saunders’ world of Nyumbani. Nyumbani is his Hyborian Age. It is fantastic version of Africa with various cultures juxtaposed together. Saunders is obviously a history guy. That is why I like his Imaro stories and novels so much. There is a verisimilitude to Nyumbani as a result. The concept of African based sword and sorcery could have gone horribly wrong, think Shaft with an assegai. Saunders gave a depth of background where the locale is a character.
Saunders changes the historical names a little bit – Songhai becomes Sanghai, Kikuyu becomes Gikuyu etc.
Milton Davis at MV Media has done us a favor collecting these stories together. Nyumbani Talesi is a trade paperback, contains 14 stories and introduction, numbers 249 pages including a publishing history. I had read about a quarter of the stories in this book in the original magazine or anthology appearances. I reread them all and glad I did as my memory is not what it was 30-35 years ago. I like the cover. It is quiet with atmosphere.
The stories range in tone. Some are poignant tales based on African myth. A few stories reminded me of Jane Yolen. The plot is slight with some stories. It is the richness of background that you read the story.
Some of the stories are more towards the sword and sorcery end of the fantasy spectrum. “Katisa” is about Imaro’s mother and her exile that is mentioned in the novels. “The Nunda” features the character, Majnun from the Imaro novels where he takes on a were-beast. “The Silent Ghosts” is chronologically one of the last stories (from 1982) has a sword and sorcery tinge to it.
I was one of those kids who knew every animal in the encyclopedia. Charles Saunders throws in all sorts of African fauna with Dik-Diks, Chevrotains, Bongos etc.
I spaced these stories out over a few weeks. I have found a story collection is more appreciated if not read back to back in a short space of time. The stories make for pendants to the Imaro saga giving more background and flavor to Nyumbani. Get your copy!