It’s black speculative fiction month and we’re celebrating today by sharing some of our favorite black speculative fiction authors. If you are looking for something to read this month, here’s a good place to start.
Our 5 Favorite Black Speculative Fiction Authors
Delany was first published during the so-called New Wave of sci-fi during the 60s and 70s and is still writing today. His most recent short story, The Hermit of Houston, was just released in September. Delany explored and challenged issues of race, class, and sexuality through his fiction and was awarded the Stonewall Book award for his novel Dark Reflections.
One of the creators of the Sword and Soul sub-genre of fantasy, Davis has also written steamfunk and is, with Balogun Ojetade, the co-author of the Sword and Soul table top role playing game Ki-Khanga. His series Changa’s Safari is well worth reading by anyone who enjoys sword and sorcery-style fiction OR speculative fiction set in realistic versions of a past Africa.
Jess Mahler says that Davis narrowly edged out Ojetade for inclusion on this list because “I just got so caught up in Meji. It sucks you right in, these two brothers who are so similar and so different, who need to find their way in a world where what they most love and desire has rejected them.”
Hopkinson published her first novel, the dystopic Brown Girl in the Ring, in 1998. She’s released several novels since, including Sister Mine, which won the Andre Norton award. Caribbean history and language often feature in her work.
Michelle hasn’t yet had a chance to read one of Hopkinson’s books but has already been deeply touched by Hopkinson’s writing. “I came across an excerpt from one of Nalo Hopkinson’s books (couldn’t tell you which) a while back, and just really, really liked it. I had no idea who this author was at the time—I was in a weird place for a few years and not reading much. As I clawed my way out of my pit of despair and traumatic life circumstances, Hopkinson’s writing kept floating back to the surface of my mind, though I couldn’t remember her name. Then one day my brain remembered how much I love sci-fi, and BAM I found ‘Nalo Hopkinson’ on a bunch of “must read” lists by people and publications I respect. It was such a joyful rediscovery… I can’t wait to read her books.”
Jeffers Immortal’s series rolls together fantasy, cyber-punk, and a splash of horror to create a unique mix of classic fantasy and sci-fi elements. She’s written two other series and numerous short stories, including Awakening in Davis and Charles Saunders’ anthology Griots, which is how Jess Mahler discovered her.
“Awakening grabbed me from the beginning. I’m a sucker for stories about girls told they can’t who not only prove they can but out do everyone around them. I’ve read a couple of her short stories since then and loved every one. I haven’t read her novels yet, but erotic fantasy that breaks expectations is right up my alley so they’re high on my to-read list.”
Honestly if Michon Neal, our Lilith, the rebel who inspired Cuil Press, wasn’t on this list we’d probably have a problem. Michon’s books explore the cuilverse, an interconnected metaverse. With stories just as queer and cuil as Michon hirself, the cuilverse is well worth the read. Jess recommends starting with The Allison Dutch series.
Michelle says “Michon blew my brain open again, I love the cuilverse… I stopped being able to read because I felt gaslight by most fiction, I think. And then I discovered Michon posting about how things are done differently in the cuilverse and I was like WHAT OMG THANK YOU AHHHHH and have been slowly been pulling my brain into “fiction is fun” mode again”
While they don’t make our faves list, there are two black speculative fiction authors we’d be remiss in not mentioning.
Yes, THAT W.E.B. du Bois was writing speculative fiction and afrofuturistic fiction long before it was cool. A few years ago some researchers unearthed The Princess Steel, possibly du Bois’ earliest speculative fiction work. The Comet, another spec fic work by the great thinker, was originally published in du Bois’ book Darkwater (available on Project Gutenberg) and was republished in 2000 in the black science fiction anthology Dark Matter.
No list of black spec fic authors is complete without mention of Butler. Butler’s best known work is probably Kindred, which tells the story of a black woman in the 1970s repeatedly ripped back in time to the South during the height of slavery. Jess Mahler has described Kindred as “a book every white American should read and a book every black American should be wary of being traumatized by.”
Sadly less well known are Butler’s prophetic Parable duology and Xenogenesis series. The Parable books are about a black woman struggling to survive in an America that was broken after a populist president who promised to “make America great again” came to power. Seriously, not making that up, written a couple decades ago.