Words by Nandini Gosine-Mayrhoo
Wayne Gerard Trotman’s love of science fiction was fueled by the television shows of his childhood – shows like Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Thunderbirds and Star Trek filled his imagination with the wonders of what lay beyond the realms of everyday reality. Star Trek in particular, made its indelible mark and as he grew older, he began to appreciate the wisdom and philosophy that saturated this iconic television series. Much wisdom and philosophy has in turn saturated his novels, so much so that his work is quoted widely by the governments of the U.S. and U.K., religious organizations, life coaches, business gurus, political forums, anti-bullying websites and blogs dedicated to fighting bigotry.
The latter in particular is not surprising. Growing up on the racial stereotypes that dominated his favorite TV shows, Trotman was impressed by characters like Dan Erickson of Land of the Giants, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’ Lieutenant Green and Nyota Uhura of Star Trek. He was struck by these heroic, intelligent, attractive, black characters in positions of authority and realized from an early age that the greatest limits we face are the ones we impose on ourselves. As a result, Trotman imposes no creative limits on his work and the heroes of his novels not only possess the authority of the stereotypical scifi hero, but importantly, share his Caribbean heritage, culture and language.
Kaya Abaniah, the central figure in Trotman’s second novel, Kaya Abaniah and the Father of the Forest, is a young secondary school student in Trinidad, who comes to learn of his extraordinary gifts of telepathy and the ability to control others. Aliens, time travel, cloaking technology and shape-shifting are some of the sci-fi themes used in the story. Trotman expertly blends the local Trinidad and Tobago folklore, festivals, music and cuisine with themes of wildlife conservation, redemption and forgiveness – all into a riveting sci-fi read. The novel has received rave reviews from readers, most of whom come from outside of Trinidad and Tobago – all the more intriguing considering the local Trinidad creole and Jamaican patois which permeate the dialogue. That foreign readers persist through the unfamiliar language is testament to Trotman’s talent as a story teller. Trotman is keen to introduce the novel to a local audience of a similar age to its main character. As much of what makes Trinidad and Tobago unique remains unfortunately unknown to locals, this novel serves as an excellent means of reminding the local youth of the uniqueness of their country, their folklore and their culture, in a language to which they can easily relate. Indeed, he is keen to appeal to youth throughout the Caribbean with this tale of teenage heroism.
Trotman has made the uniqueness of the flora and fauna in his native Trinidad a central theme of Kaya Abaniah and the Father of the Forest. He believes that literature can play an important role in tourism (examples being Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières and The Island by Victoria Hislop – both of which played a significant part in boosting tourism in the Greek Islands on which they were based). As ecotourism grows in Trinidad and Tobago, Trotman’s novel and its popularity with foreign readers can do the local tourism industry no harm, bringing attention from an audience who may have never heard of the islands or may have never thought of visiting them.
Here is an excerpt from the novel, celebrating Trinidad’s rich history and culture:
For Kaya, the Carnival season brought with it happy distractions. Josephine and her old friends, Tangerine Jean Marcano and Gillian Rumpa Pum-Pum Henry, had joined Avengers Steel Orchestra, which had evolved from Coconut Grove Tamboo Bamboo. Fearing drummed communications would lead to island-wide uprisings, Trinidad and Tobago’s Crown Colony Government banned African talking drums in 1883. And, in 1884, a year marred by the Hosay massacre in the southern town of San Fernando, the irrepressible and resourceful musicians of the twin isles began experimenting with instruments cleverly made from bamboo. By the early 1900s, at the height of the tamboo bamboo craze, rival gangs weaponised their bamboo instruments while brazen bamboo thieves decimated privately-owned fields. So it came as no surprise, when, in 1934, the British colonial authorities also banned tamboo bamboo. The rubbish bin band quickly took its place, with its rhythmic beating of biscuit and lard tins, any old iron, and, of course, liberated rubbish bins. And during its metallic reign, no rubbish bin was safe from the covetous clutches of Trinidad and Tobago’s musical youth.
In the days when bottle caps were still crown corks, and the pallet-man sold icy bliss on a stick, when suckabags were all the rage, and Jab-jabs announced their eagerness to play swappay with the loud crack of a bullpistle, Grove Ragatang Iron Band rose out of the ashes of Coconut Grove Tamboo Bamboo, to evolve into Grove Steel Band, and finally Avengers Steel Orchestra. Like so many other steel bands, it emerged from the pioneering transition of animal skins to bamboo, to iron, and to steel. The steel pan, Trinidad and Tobago’s unique invention and much-loved national instrument, was the only new and internationally recognised instrument created in the twentieth century.
In Trotman’s words “…the book is saturated with the pride of being Trinbagonian. As with all my creative work, it is cosmopolitan in outlook, and flaunts an acceptance of other cultures that only someone who grew up in a nation as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago could fully appreciate.”
The stories are linked, with Kaya Abaniah being the cousin of a main character in the first book. With the success of his first two novels, it is no surprise that Trotman has sequels already planned. Trotman reveals that the next book featuring Kaya Abaniah will take place 5 or 6 years later, when Kaya masters his abilities and uses them to protect others in Trinidad. Readers will learn of the real cause of the Psychic Wars, as the threat of Earth being attacked increases. Kaya will be forced to make life-changing decisions as a result of the interstellar Psychic Wars.
Whilst several Caribbean authors have drawn extensively on local folklore, particularly African magic, Trotman says he is the first Caribbean author to write a space opera. Science, not magic, forms the basis of both novels as his heroes encounter and use plasma weapons, spacecraft, wormholes, time travel and matter transfer. In that respect he is charting new frontiers and to borrow from a catch-phrase which nurtured the sci-fi passions of his youth, POTENT encourages him to continue “boldly going where no man has gone before”!
Enter our competition to win an autographed hardback copy of one of Trotman’s novels!
Two lucky readers have the chance of winning a personally autographed hardback copy of the novel of their choice by correctly answering the questions in our competition. The first person to answer all questions correctly can choose which of Trotman’s novels they would like to receive. The second person to answer all questions correctly, or with the most correct answers, will receive the other novel. Good luck!