To Boldly Go…

collage of some African American science fiction/fantasy writers mentioned in the blog article
l-r: Charles Chesnutt, Nalo Hopkinson, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due,
David Durham, L.A. Banks, Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler

I have always read science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels. By the time I entered junior high school, I was an avid science fiction and fantasy reader. It was the excitement and possibilities of other worlds and civilizations that grabbed and held my attention. As the title of this article suggests, I didn’t just restrict myself to reading science fiction and fantasy, I watched it as well. I always wondered why there weren’t many black science fiction and fantasy writers and it always made me sad when I would think about it.

Fast forward thirty years...there are now several black science fiction and fantasy authors who have made a name for themselves in these genres. Because it’s Black History Month, I thought this would be a timely topic. Please remember, if we don’t have some of these author’s works in our collection at the Birmingham Public Library (BPL), we would be happy to do an Interlibrary Loan and acquire the book for you. Also, please note that these authors are not all African American authors, some are African, African Canadian, African Caribbean, or multiracial.

L.A. Banks (Leslie Esdaile Banks, 1959-2011) authored the popular Vampire Hunters series with heroine Damali Richards. She also wrote the Crimson Moon series featuring werewolf Sasha Trudeau, the Dark Avengers series with vampire Odette, and the Dark and Light series with half-angel/half-human Celeste Jackson. Be sure to read her last novel Shadow Walker, the continuation of the Vampire Hunters series.

Steven Barnes is the author of the Insha’Allah series where Islamic Africans are the masters and Europeans are the slaves. Barnes co-authored the Dream Park series with Larry Niven and the Heorot series with Jerry Pournelle. He has written several standalone science fiction novels. His most current work is not science fiction but is one of the Tennyson Hardwick novels co-authored with his wife, Tananarive Due, and actor Blair Underwood.

Jennifer Marie Brissett is the author of Elysium (2013), which was nominated for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award.

Maurice Broaddus wrote the Knights of Breton Court series, an urban retelling of King Arthur.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) won the Nebula Award for her novel Parable of the Talents (1999) and short story “Speech Sounds" (1984). She won both Hugo and Nebula Awards for her short story “Bloodchild” (1984 & 1985). She is known for her Patternist series, Xenogenesis series, and Parable series. Her most famous book, Kindred (1979), features Dana, an African American woman, who is transported from 1976 to a time before the Civil War.

Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932) is considered by some to have written fantasy when he wrote The Conjure Woman, and Other Conjure Tales. His Uncle Julius, similar to Uncle Remus, told fantastic tales that included magic and conjuring.

Samuel R. Delany is a winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for his short story/novelette “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” (1970). He won Nebula Awards for novels Babel-17 (1966), The Einstein Intersection (1967), and short story “Aye, and Gomorrah” (1968). He published the novel Dhalgren in 1975 to much acclaim and criticism. At more than 800 pages, it was considered a groundbreaking work in science fiction. Delany has also written a series of “sword and sorcery” short story anthologies titled Return to Nevèrÿon, Flight from Nevèrÿon, Tales of Nevèrÿon, and Neveryóna. Nevèrÿon is a civilization populated by people of brown or black skin who are more advanced than the slaves they own who are light skinned with yellow hair.

W.E.B. Dubois (1868-1963) wrote the science fiction short story “The Comet” in 1920. A comet destroys life on earth and seemingly only two people survive: a black man and white woman. Dubois also wrote a short story “Jesus Christ in Texas” where Jesus comes back to a modern-day Waco, Texas, and reminds everyone about his teachings and only the black man seems to understand the reminder.

David Anthony Durham is known for writing historical fiction: Gabriel's Story (2001), Walk Through Darkness (2002), and Pride of Carthage (2005). His recent novels, the Acacia Trilogy: Acacia: The War with the Mein (2007), Acacia: The Other Lands (2009), and Acacia: The Sacred Band (2011), take place in the fantasy land of Acacia where the king has been assassinated and now his children must rule.

Tananarive Due has been nominated twice for a Bram Stoker Award for The Between (1995) and My Soul to Keep (1997). Her African Immortals series, which is about vampires, includes: My Soul to Keep, The Living Blood, Blood Colony, and My Soul to Take. Check out her “zombie” series which includes Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls.

Seressia Glass is author of the urban fantasy Shadowchasers series: Shadow Blade, Shadow Chase, Shadow Fall.

Andrea Hairston won the 2011 James Tiptree, Jr. Award for her novel Redwood and Wildfire.

Nalo Hopkinson is known for her science fiction that takes place in Jamaica and the Caribbean. She has been nominated for the James Tiptree, Jr., Hugo, and Nebula Awards for her novels.

N.K. Jemisin is author of the Inheritance trilogy, Dreamblood series, and Broken Earth trilogy. Her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010) was nominated for the Nebula Award, Hugo Award, World Fantasy Award, and James Tiptree, Jr. Award.

Karen Lord has written three science fiction novels: The Best of All Possible Worlds, The Galaxy Game, and Indigo.

Brandon Massey usually writes horror or thrillers but some of his work can include elements of science fiction and fantasy.

Walter Mosley is most known for his Easy Rawlins series but he is also a wonderful science fiction and speculative fiction writer. Check out the following books: Blue Light (1998), Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World (2001), The Wave (2005), 47 (2005), and Inside a Silver Box (2016). Also read his short novels in the Crosstown to Oblivion series.

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American author who writes science fiction that takes place in Africa. She has written three books for teens: The Shadow Speaker, Zahrah the Windspeaker, and Akata Witch. She is also the author of several science fiction books for adults: Binti, Lagoon, The Book of Phoenix, and Who Fears Death.

Phyllis Alesia Perry’s novel Stigmata (1998) explores the life of Lizzie who inherits a family quilt that allows her to experience the past lives of her enslaved ancestors. Her second novel, A Sunday in June (2003), is a prequel to Stigmata and takes place in Alabama.

George Samuel Schuyler (1895-1977) was a journalist and author best known for the science fiction novel Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, A.D. 1933-1940 (1931) where a procedure is invented that will turn black people white.

Nisi Shawl is a short story writer and has contributed to various science fiction publications. She won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 2008 for her short story anthology Filter House.

I hope this list of authors and their works will interest you in trying a new genre.

Maya Jones
West End Branch Library