Following Monday’s post, I really want to make more of an effort both to read more books from Black authors and to share more of their work, so I thought I’d start things off by compiling a list of fantasy and science fiction novels.
I tried to create a really diverse list of material, from different authors, different decades, and different subgenres, so that no matter what sort of sff reader you are, you should be able to find something that appeals to you.
Many of these books I’ve already had on my TBR, and there are a few authors from whom I’ve read already, but I definitely need to make more of a conscious effort to read diversely. I took a look back at my Twelve Books challenge from the start of the year, and it was full of fantasy and sci-fi that was mostly written by white authors. Many of those books happened to be books that I’ve owned and have been sitting on my TBR for many years, but that in itself is endemic to a bigger problem. I don’t own a lot of books from Black authors, because fantasy and sci-fi that are written by Black authors are never really on my radar.
While that is yet another problem with the current state of the publishing industry, it’s also on all of us to do our research. The books are out there, we just need to find them. So that’s what I did!
Note: All of these suggestions are from traditionally published authors. I’ll be doing a separate one for indie authors, but that will take a lot more time and research, as the indie space, especially in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, is dominated by white authors. It was also a real struggle to find YA SFF written by men, so if you have any suggestions to add to this list, leave them in the comments below!
1. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (2011) – The story of Sunny, a New York-born Albino Black girl living in Nigeria who is extremely sensitive to the sun. She joins the Leopard People, and discovers that what sets her apart also gives her a strange magical power that she must use to defeat a man capturing and harming other children.
2. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (2019) – Tristan feels lost after having lost a friend, and so to help him recover he goes to live with his grandparents on their farm in Alabama. While there, a strange creature makes its way into his room, and when it runs off with something previous to him he chases it and ends up punching a tree, ripping a hole into another world.
3. Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith (2015) – Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born to a family of traditional hoodoo practitioners, but for some reason, Hoodoo can’t use any magic. Then one night someone comes to own, and it just so happens that Hoodoo starts to have strange dreams. It’s up to Hoodoo to save his town from the stranger’s magic.
4. The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown (2019) – Iris and Daniel are playing in the snow when they find a crumbling tombstone belonging to a neglected Black cemetery, from when segregation was a part of life, as well as death. But Avery, the ghost of the girl whose grave they found, is lonely and jealous, and begins haunting the two friends as they try to learn more about her, and the troubled past she belongs to.
5. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (2018) – An alternate history, where the American Civil War is interrupted by the dead rising, and Jane is born into a world that has completely changed. She attends a combat school to become an Attendant, trained in weaponry and ettiquette so she can operate among the upper-class and keep them safe.
6. Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope (2015) – An outcast of her homeland, Jasmira possesses a powerful magic called Earthsong, which she uses to heal Jack, a captive and spy brought to her home. Together, Jasminda and Jack will escape their captors and embark on a perilous journey across the country to find The Queen Who Sleeps and stop an ancient evil.
7. Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron (2019) – Arrah was born into a family of witchdoctors, but fails to inherit any of that power, instead forced to sacrifice pieces of her life for shreds of magic. A long-imprisoned demon king has awoken, and children have begun to disappear, and it’s up to Arrah and whatever magic she can conjure to put a stop to it.
8. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (2018) – The night magic has disappeared, a ruthless king is killing all of the maji, which unfortunately includes Zélie’s own mother. But now she has one chance to take revenge on the monarchy and bring the magic back for good, before the crown prince eradicates it completely.
9. A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney (2018) – A twist on the classic children’s tale by Lewis Carroll, where monsters called Nightmares come from a place called Wonderland, and Alice is trained in the use of magical weapons to fight them. All while balancing the day-to-day struggles of teenage life.
10. Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (2017) – Taj is an aki, sin-eaters charged with eating the monsters called forth by someone’s guilt. But when Taj must destroy the sins of one of the royals, he is thrust into a conspiracy to destroy his home.
11. The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum (2019) – Ryann and Alexandria are just a couple of misfits, and every night they sit on Ryann’s rooftop and look for radio signals from Alex’s mom, an astronaut on a one-way mission to the other side of the solar system. But things get more complicated as their friendship slowly blossoms into something more.
12. Naughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (2001) – A dystopian love story between Callum, a second-class naught and Sephy, one of the crosses, their society’s ruling class. Love between naughts and crosses is forbidden, but things get even more complicated when Sephy and her family are caught in a terrorist explosion linked to Callum’s father.
13. The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (2019) – The Omehi have built their society around war, and have been fighting an unwinnable one for two centuries. Among them are those gifted with the ability to call down dragons, but Tau is giftless, a pawn in a greater machine of war. When his family is brutally murdered, he swears revenge, and trains himself the only way he knows how – to become the best swordsman who ever lived.
14. Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender (2019) – Sigourney’s home has been conquered, but as a surviving member of her people’s nobility, she uses her ability to read and control minds to manipulate her way into the royal court and exact her revenge, only to find that there are more dangers waiting for her there than she realized.
15. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015) – the Hugo award winning story about Essun, a woman whose son and husband were murdered on the day the world ended, and now she must find her kidnapped daughter whom she will do anything to save – even ensure her world’s destruction.
16. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (2015) – Binti gives up her place in her family to become the first of the Himba people to attend Oomza University, the finest institute in the galaxy, but a place of strangers who do not respect her way of life. When the university crosses the Meduse, a planet that her people have long warred with, reaching the university at all becomes a matter of life and death.
17. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (1979) – Hailed as the first science fiction story written by a Black woman, Kindred tells the story of Dana, a young African American woman living in 1976 who travels back and forth through time and saves her ancestors living on a plantation in Maryland prior to the American Civil War.
18. Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson (2000) – Toussaint, a Caribbean-colonized planet is celebrating, and Tan-Tan dawns her favourite costume – the Midnight Robber – to join in the festivities until her father commits an unforgivable crime and the two are forced into a world of monsters. Tan-Tan must embody the Midnight Robber she idolizes so much if she’s to have any chance of saving herself.
19. Futureland by Walter Mosley (2001) – An anthology of near-future science fiction short stories, all of which are interconnected and take place in a dystopian, cyberpunk America controlled by uber-rich Technocrats.
20. The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delany (1962) – The White Goddess instructs a poet and his three companions to journey to Aptor and recover a jewel from the dark god, Hama, but the journey is not as simple as it seems, and the mission not as benevolent as they first believed.
21. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (2013) – After their homeland is destroyed, an alien society must work with the indigenous peoples of their world, and two survivors from these clashing societies, must come together to save their species, discovering an ancient truth in the process.
22. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (2020) – In the holy city of Tova, Xiala is Captain of her own ship, and a disgraced Teek, a people with the ability to control a man’s mind. On her ship is a single passenger, a young man, blind and scarred, who Xiala knows is not as harmless as he appears to be.
23. The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark (2018) – Creeper, a scrappy young teen, wants to make a new life for herself, and earns passage on a smuggler airship, the Midnight Robber, after she reveals the location of a mysterious weapon. But that’s not the only secret she’s keeping from her crewmates – an African orisha speaks inside her head and gives her divine abilities, but this orisha, Oya, has plans of her own.
24. Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora edited by Sheree Thomas (2000) – An incredible collection of 28 fantasy, sci-fi and speculative short fiction from a variety of black voices, including a collection of essays examining the role of race in speculative fiction.
Whew, that was a long list, and there are still so many other books out there for you to check out! This is just a small sprinkling of what’s out there. A starting point, if you will. And I’ll admit that many of these are books that I am personally interested in and have added to my own TBR pile. I encourage you to check out all of these books, and if they don’t sound like something you’re interested in, there are plenty more out there to choose from.
It’s important that we read diversely. Even if these are speculative stories, many of them are inspired by real events and very real struggles, by histories and mythologies that might be unfamiliar to you. And what’s most important as we face these difficult times, is to listen and educate ourselves.
Again, I encourage you to check out https://blacklivesmatter.carrd.co/ for ways you can help offer your support.
Have you read any of the books on this list? Are there any listed here that sound like something you’d really enjoy? Let me know in the comments!