Another Day in the Desert by Mame Bougouma Diene

What drives people to war? If there’s a summary of one’s life and experiences up to the point where one’s action of going to war is justified, then this story is it. Sand, camels, sabres, and water.


6062 words

Possible Genres: Dystopia, Near Sci-fi, Short Story

Also a podcast of Escape Pod!


Why Recommend?

Dystopian China mines uranium in the desert with lots of helicopter-like machines, and employs expendable local miners. Tuareg water hunters ride flying “mechanical camels” fueled by uranium. The water will run out before the mines.

The story’s set in Tchintabaraden, a real town in Niger’s part of the Sahara. I’m not certan what year it is, and borders probally changed, but the seminomadic Tuareg people have and will always be travelling the desert on camels. There is rich culture in this story.

Told with many timeskips, Tagedouchet is almost eighteen and riding real camels when the story begins. Her father brings her along for a routine oasis trip, but this time on a mechanical camel; the water is becoming too far and gone too fast for traditional transportation. When Tagedouchet is married about five years later, she rides that same camel — the story has forgone the ‘mechanical’ descriptor, as no one rides the animal anymore. Her model is now a fuel hogging relic. In just six years, her world has changed severely.

Dystopian China is revealed to be controlling the oasis with satalights, aiming to parch and eventually kill everyone still eking a life out in the desert. Tagedouchet decides to blow up some helicopters because her family’s been killed too.

The pilot and crew were just employees, technicians who didn’t have a stake in the larger corporate manipulations, innocents with families to feed just as she had. But how many innocent among her people had perished for lack of water?

There are conflicts in the Sahara today, ranging from descrimination to civil war. Although water controlling tech may be in the realm of sci-fi, resource instability has fueled many conflicts in history. Especially man-made ecological problems.


The Author

(Check out the sequels if you want to read more of this desert world.)

Mame Bougouma Diene is a Senegalese American humanitarian living in Brooklyn, NY with a fondness for tattoos, progressive metal and policy analysis. He is the Francophone/US spokesperson for the African Speculative Fiction Society ( Another Day in the Desert is a prequel to “Ogotemmeli’s Song” released later this year in AfroSFv3, and also a prequel to “Apes and Satellites” published by Brittle Paper in 2017.


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