In Memoriam – Nick Wood

Nick Wood (1961–June 2023) was an author dedicated to writing science fiction for social change and promoting the visibility of science fiction written by Africans. Born in what is now Zambia, he also lived in the United States and Aotearoa New Zealand before taking residence in England. Wood was raised in and considered South Africa home.

The metaphors in his young adult novel The Stone Chameleon explored the intensity of the South African urban experience for youth. His novel Azanian Bridges (2016), which envisioned the concept and consequence of a world of continued apartheid, was nominated for the Nommo, Sidewise, Campbell Memorial, and British Science Fiction Awards. His last novel, Water Must Fall (2020), directly explored climate change, with a starkness meant to change minds by enabling readers to directly feel the impact of potential futures.

Wood found and embraced science fiction around the turn of the century, a genre that had not been respected in his academic circles. He recognized its power of linking the present, the future, and paths in between. As a psychologist, his expertise in that field helped him explore and present the complexities of humanity. Even after retiring to address the impacts of Ménière’s disease on his life, he worked to help organize the African speculative fiction scene, as well as urge global action on climate change through both advocacy and promotion of related works.

Tade Thompson, with whom Wood co-wrote the novella “The Last Pantheon” for the AfroSFv2 collection in 2015, shared, “Nick was one of those powerful, gentle souls, always with a smile and encouragement, even when he was in physical pain. We collaborated on the novella and would meet at the British Museum in London to hash out revisions and points of philosophy and African history, with the irony of the venue not lost on us. His novel Azanian Bridges is a classic of African SF literature, and his voice will be missed.”

Wood was also special to SFWA, helping the organization better serve global writers. SFWA Chief Financial Officer Erin Hartshorn, on behalf of SFWA Finance said, “Nick was always willing to assist us with payments to international writers, both with the Givers Fund and COVID grant programs. If he couldn’t help us himself, he pointed us to someone who could. He was also instrumental in helping people to attend WorldCon in DC (DisCon III) virtually—requesting assistance from our Where the Need is Greatest fund and co-organizing the effort so people could attend and bring new perspectives. His passing is a loss for so many, and we extend our condolences to all who knew him.”

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who co-organized the DisCon III African Program Stream with Wood, which focused on African speculative fiction, remarked, “Nick Wood was an incredibly kind person, and a sensitive creative with a strong passion for promoting African speculative creatives. He will be sorely missed, and the work he’s done and fond memories of him will live on with us forever.”

Nick Wood lived 62 years.