Nnedi Okorafor’s fantasy novel, Who Fears Death, has been captivating readers since its release in 2010. Now, its reach will expand even further with an adaptation for television. The novel is being produced for HBO by none other than George R.R. Martin, the creator of Game of Thrones. Who Fears Death is a contemporary take on the Afrofuturist literary tradition, in which sci-fi and fantasy narratives are reimagined with black characters at the forefront. The novel takes place in post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, where ethnic conflicts ravage the land. Young Onyesonwu is born out of an inter-tribal rape, then rejected from her mother’s people as a child. She soon discovers that she has the powers of a sorceress—and that a rival magician is plotting to kill her.
The main character’s name, Onyesonwu, is the inspiration for the title—it translates to “who fears death” in the Nigerian language of Igbo. Okorafor is herself an American writer born to Igbo parents. Since the success of Who Fears Death, she has written various other works of science fiction and fantasy. In 2015, she released a prequel to Who Fears Death called The Book of Phoenix. The HBO show does not have a premiere date yet, nor is there any information about when production will start. HBO has yet to comment on the adaptation. According to Okorafor, this project has been in the works for nearly 4 years. George R.R. Martin will serve as the executive producer, with possible co-producers yet to be announced. It could develop into either a mini-series or a full series.
Though the deal is not officially completed, the adaptation looks promising. Fans of Who Fears Death will be relieved to know that Okorafor is intimately involved in the project. Martin has served as a mentor to her over the years, and the two are on the same page about the creative process behind the series. Okorafor is known for repurposing African imagery and iconography for Afrofuturist tales. Along the way, she manages to tackle issues like sexism, colorism and religion within her stories. Who Fears Death, her debut novel, won the 2011 World Fantasy Award.