When you think about Black science fiction authors, the person that probably comes to mind is Octavia Butler. Between Kindred and Survivor, Butler has produced brilliant work. The history of Black authors in science dates back further than Butler.
In 2000, Sheree R. Thomas, who wrote the preface for Octavia’s Brood, edited Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, an anthology which includes contributions from W.E.B. DuBois, Kalamu ya Salaam, Charles W. Chesnutt, and Amiri Baraka, among others.
Dark Matter included an essay by Samuel R. Delany called “Racism and Science Fiction.” Delany is often referred to as the first African-American science fiction author. In his essay, Delany writes,
"Other black writers whose work certainly borders on science fiction include Sutton E. Griggs and his novel Imperio Imperium (1899) in which an African-American secret society conspires to found a separate black state by taking over Texas, and Edward Johnson, who, following Bellamy’s example in Looking Backward (1888), wrote Light Ahead for the Negro (1904), telling of a black man transported into a socialist United States in the far future."
In an essay for The New York Times, Thomas wrote, “There is power in fantasy, especially in stories that urge us to face the impossible or find ways to survive.” Now more than ever, it is important for Black writers to imagine a world in which there are circumstances better than those we have in front of us. It can be a way to help move us forward and develop ways to revise the world around us. Octavia’s Brood is “the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change.” There are other authors who are producing similar work through their writing. Read more about them below and get into their work. After all, reading is fundamental.
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Background: N.K. Jemisin is an author of speculative fiction short stories and novels who lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. She won a Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. Her short fiction has been published in a number of magazines and podcast markets, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula award. In her Amazon bio, she writes, “Look, I like to write. In particular I like to write about ordinary people in extraordinary situations, [preferably] in non-Earth worlds which nevertheless reflect our own concerns.” You can tweet her @nkjemisin.
Books You Should Check Out: Her first five novels, the Inheritance Trilogy and the Dreamblood (duology), are out now from Orbit Books. You can check out samples of these titles on her website. Her novels are represented by Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency. Jemisin’s book The Fifth Season is expected to be released this August.
Author: Nalo Hopkinson
Background: Nalo Hopkinson is the published author of six novels, a collection of short stories and a chapbook, and the editor/co-editor of four anthologies. Hopkinson was born in Jamaica but spent her late teens and early adulthood in Toronto. She is currently a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. Hopkinson is a recipient of the John W. Campbell Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and a two-time recipient of the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.
Author: Dr. Karen Lord
Background: Karen Lord is a Barbados-born speculative fiction writer who is represented by Sally Harding of The Cooke Agency. Lord is a former soldier, scientist and diplomat, with an academic background in theology. She won the Frank Collymore Literary Award for 2008 with the manuscript of the fantasy novel Redemption in Indigo. You can tweet her @Karen_Lord.
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Background: Nnedi Okorafor is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Okorafor, who was born in the United States to two Nigerian immigrant parents, is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. The New York Times called her imagination “stunning”. Her young adult novel Akata Witch was an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year and her children’s book Long Juju Man is the winner of the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa. You can tweet her @nnedi.
If you are a reader, expand your bookshelf and buy a title by one of these Black science fiction authors. If you’re a writer, consider writing your first sci-fi piece.
Are there any other Black sci-fi authors on your radar? Let us know in the comments.