March 7, 2020 11:09 AM   Subscribe

An Ode to Black Science-Fiction & Fantasy Writers [Tor] “In recent years there has been an uptick, if not an actual surge, of the works by fantasy writers of color finally, deservedly, entering the mainstream. These stories are as broad and wide sweeping as the culture itself. From The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, to N.K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season. Beautiful novels with intricate, fully imagined, complicated characters and worlds. But, our voices have always been here, in the background, creating stories. [...] I don’t know the reason that our stories are finally being heard, moving from their half lit corners into the brighter light. The success of Blank Panther? Some mysterious critical mass having finally been achieved? The growth of social media? I don’t have the answer to that question. What I do know is that the world can only seem bigger and more magical when the history and perspective of diverse writers is included. And I know that my TBR pile grows bigger by the day, richly seasoned by a broader culture and historical perspective.”

• The Importance of Black Science Fiction and Why Every Black Person Should Read the Genre [Black Girl Nerds]
“Black science fiction (also known as SF) isn’t just about the representation of its socio-political commentary brought to life by storytelling. Today we are far from short of Black SF authors that are blessing the bookshelves of public libraries and schools across the world. It isn’t surprising to know that historically Black writers have been undermined and underrepresented. Diversity in publishing is lacking but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Earlier this month Barnes and Noble were rightly criticized for its use of ‘literary blackface’ where they saw it fit to reimagine classic children’s novels like Peter Pan and The Secret Garden with people of color. As opposed to showcasing actual books written by people of color. In 2019, I challenged myself to only read science-fiction books that were written by Black women, and immediately it changed my perception of the genre forever.”
• A Decade of Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy by People of Color [We Are Your Voice Mag]
“Fantasy fiction and to some extent, sci-fi ( also known as SFF) have been wonderful genres to read this decade. Since 2010, almost all the speculative fiction books that I’ve read have been by people of color. From short fiction to speculative poetry and novels, speculative fiction by writers of color has entertained and inspired me in thrilling and surprising ways. As I look back on my favorite reads, I marvel at boundless imagination and potential. I’ve loved SFF, especially fantasy, since I was a kid. I was introduced to the genre via Harry Potter, and my love for it grew as I read books inspired by dragons, Greek mythology, and goddesses from around the world. These books painted my imagination with wonderful colors and images that stayed with me long after I finished a book. As a reader, fantasy fiction serves as escapism and as a way of imagining a more powerful, magical version of myself. My very first fantasy book by a Black author was The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. I happened upon the book in the dimly lit aisle of the sci-fi fantasy section of my local library. The premise of a majestic city, power struggles, and gods intrigued me, but what really had me sold was turning the book over and seeing a Black woman’s author photo. Although my first read of the book was a little confusing, I was swept away by the characters. With that book came a thirst for more fantasy by Black authors.”
• Stop Marketing Black Sci-Fi as the “Black Version” of White Stories [The Mary Sue]
“For a lot of people, it might be confusing as to why it would be rude or dismissive to compare a book about a magical school to one of the most popular series of children’s books of all time, but the reality is that by distilling Black science-fiction and fantasy into the Black or African expy of something else, you are often erasing the actual inspiration of the works: our Blackness. [...] By always comparing Black science-fiction to its white “counterpart,” it shifts the center away from how the text was attempting to prioritize Blackness and Black mythology, history, pain. Marlon James called his book Black Leopard, Red Wolf “the African Game of Thrones” as a joke, but it became a tagline that wouldn’t go away. It is fundamentally important that we give authors like Samuel Delany, Octavia E. Butler, and L.A. Banks credit for being the blueprint for a lot of this new generation of Black authorship.”
• Six Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Read During Black History Month [Black Girl Nerds]
• 49 new books by black and POC authors you’ll be reading in 2020 [Cosmopolitan]
• Here are eight of our favorite recent sci-fi and fantasy novels by Black authors [Powells]
• 24 Books Written By Black Authors That We Can't Wait To Read This Winter [Essence]
• The Best YA Books Written By Black Women That You Haven't Read Yet [Refinery29]
• 7 Indigenous Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors To Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day Every Day [Comicyears]
• 15 Books by Latino & Latin American Authors to Add to Your 2020 Reading List [Remezcla]
• 10 female fantasy writers to read after Game Of Thrones ends [AV Club]
• 20 Horror Books by Authors of Color [Bookriot]
• 25 Amazing Books by African-American Writers You Need to Read [Mental Floss]
• 27 Female Authors Who Rule Sci-Fi and Fantasy Right Now [Entertainment Weekly]
• Writing the Future: 9 Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels That Will Take You Out of This World [Okay Africa]
posted by Fizz (20 comments total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
Unless my phone is possessed, the second Black Girl Nerds link goes to Cosmopolitan.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:06 PM on March 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Apologies, here's the correct link.
posted by Fizz at 12:09 PM on March 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Updated!
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

N.K. Jemisin is all over those lists and for good reason. I finally read How Long 'til Black Future Month? and holy crap, it's amazing. I don't usually enjoy short stories, but they were perfect for this -- it was great to see her throw out one fantastic idea after another, and how quickly the reader could pick up on these huge ideas. The variety of writing styles, characters, setups, and plots in that one book is astounding.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:31 PM on March 7, 2020 [9 favorites]

Thank you for sharing all of those links and video/interviews kliuless.
posted by Fizz at 3:17 PM on March 7, 2020

Oooh, I am making NOTES! :) this is extremely relevant to my interests :)
posted by esoteric things at 5:30 PM on March 7, 2020

I recently read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow. In some ways, it’s a very standard paranormal romance. In another way, it’s so textured by Mayan folklore that it’s its own thing. In a third way, it’s very Moreno-Garcia with its oblique desire and thwarted dreams.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:45 PM on March 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would also like to plug Odera Igbokwe, whose incredible paintings and illustrations explore "Afrofuturism and Fantasy that centers the African Diaspora, intersectionality, and QPOC."
posted by thebots at 5:52 PM on March 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Be right back to read the actual articles, but I need to add a bunch of things to my to-read list first!
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 6:06 PM on March 7, 2020

Great post! Thank you.
posted by supermedusa at 6:38 PM on March 7, 2020

Serious question: why do I literally never see Steven Barnes on lists of Black SF writers? He's not my favourite author by any means, but he's won awards and has been writing for more than forty years.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:01 AM on March 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Barnes's first published piece of fiction, the 1979 novelette "The Locusts", was written with Larry Niven, and was a Hugo Award nominee.[1][2] Barnes subsequently collaborated with Niven on several other books, including two books with both Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Barnes said he clashed politically with the two conservative writers but enjoyed working with them, calling it "a tremendous learning opportunity".

I had never heard of him before, but the collaboration with Niven and Pournelle would turn me off from reading him (due to both their writing style and their politics).
posted by hydropsyche at 7:06 AM on March 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm about half-way through Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, which is equal parts slave narrative and adventure in the style of Jules Verne. There's a lot of science at the heart of this slave narrative and I appreciate how Edugyan brings the two together.
Eleven-year-old George Washington Black—or Wash—a field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is initially terrified when he is chosen as the manservant of his master’s brother. To his surprise, however, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning, and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human.

But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, they must abandon everything and flee together. Over the course of their travels, what brings Wash and Christopher together will tear them apart, propelling Wash ever farther across the globe in search of his true self. Spanning the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, London to Morocco,
I'm consuming it in large gulps having only just picked it up two days ago and I expect to be finished by the end of the weekend. That's how good it is. It can be a stressful read at times, but it's filled with a sense of tender wonder. I am sure I'll be in tears by the end.
posted by Fizz at 7:50 AM on March 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fizz - it turns into a very different sort of book about halfway, I thought. Would be interested to hear what you think once you're done.

As for the recommendations, I'm really chafing at my self inposed price limit. There's so many good books, but I have no English language library available an 8 Euro for a book is too much for me.

Also, I'd like to recommend Will do Magic For Small Change. It's fantastic and rich and fills you to the bursting.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:12 AM on March 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

A list of published African Speculative Fiction : http://www.africansfs.com/resources/published
Disclaimer: The African Speculative Fiction Society doesn't define "African" as black, so there are white writers included in that list.
Disclaimer 2: I am one of those writers and I am white, but there are enough black writers in that list that I hope others will find this useful.
posted by Zumbador at 9:17 AM on March 8, 2020

Barnes' oeuvre is more action SF and therefore probably not perceived as particularly groundbreaking or notable in and of itself - see also Charles Saunders, depending on who you ask.

Here is a review of Barnes' cyberpunk martial arts series that was extremely up my alley when a mutual friend loaned me the books in the early 90s. Science fiction with black protagonists was very difficult to find (they white washed the first version of his cover, grrr) and the inclusion of strong queer characters as well was amazing! Also, lots of hand-to-hand fighting, yay! (YMMV; also, I have not read them since.)

I got to pass them on to another friend when done, a guy who loved SF but could never get into Delany, and he was psyched to find representation in a series that he enjoyed.

Please to not be dismissing Steven Barnes solely as problematic white dudes' apprentice. And you can see from that Wiki entry he's done more since.
posted by to wound the autumnal city at 4:37 PM on March 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

New book rec! I have recently read The Daughters of Nri and it's great! Strong female protagonists, interesting world building and (hopefully) the first in a series. I think there is some influence from Octavia Butler (e.g., Wild Seed), but it's set in a world without white colonialism.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 9:18 AM on March 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm only reading SF/F sporadically these days, but it truly seems like a golden age.
posted by praemunire at 8:37 PM on March 9, 2020

Why Octavia E Butler's novels are so relevant today - "Butler's reputation is soaring."

Finding Octavia Butler's Pasadena - "I did a quick search of the catalog and discovered that most of Butler's work is shelved elsewhere in the building—and that day, most of the copies were checked out, a reflection of the continuing devotion the local community has for her."
posted by kliuless at 10:21 PM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

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