February is Black History Month, and in celebration of that I thought it might be useful to provide readers a list of worthwhile books of speculative fiction, many by black authors, that address the themes of race, postcolonialism, and identity.
So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehandir – This collection of stories (including a Tobias Buckell narrative) explore post-colonialism from many different perspectives and from authors around the world.
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler – Butler is an amazing author. No matter her subject her books are always good, and this novel is widely considered to be her best work. This story of a dystopian future and a heroine with hyper-empathy is a personal best for the Hugo and Nebula award-winning Butler.
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany – A philosophical novel about a young amnesiac that has the graphic depictions of sex Delany is known for but also a sincere attempt at understanding the human condition.
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due – This particular tale is about a middle-class African American family torn apart by supernatural forces. It is a dark fantasy with some similarities to Poul Anderson’s The Boat of a Million Years.
The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust – A celebration of black geekdom and the traditional tale of the geeks who find themselves in a real life adventure.
Mindscape by Andrea Hairston – Like many space opera tales, this novel explores politics but with a particular focus on race. It was nominated for a Philip K. Dick award.
Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell – This epic fantasy romance is one of the few mainstream works that is based on an African medieval period, rather than a European one. It explores race, ethnicity, and imperialism in surprising and occasionally violent ways.
Futureland by Walter Mosley – A collection of nine cyberpunk stories that explore the lives of the underclass that is usually seen-but-not-heard in the majority of cyberpunk novels.
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu – This YA novel has been called an “Africa-infused Alice.” (Karyn N. Silverman)
Acacia by David Anthony Durham – An epic fantasy that is enjoyable as a great tale, but that improves on standard epic fantasy with its mix of African and European medieval settings and non-white heroes.
Imaro by Charles Saunders – This novel is the African version of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. The story is classic sword and sorcery.
Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell – This Caribbean-born author is well known for telling a great space adventure tale. But beyond even that, he brings black Caribbean culture into SF literature, something not seen before.
The Vampire Huntress Legend Series by L.A. Banks – These stories have been increasingly popular as the paranormal fantasy genre has grown. Banks is also a romance writer, so fans of either genre should check these out.
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora edited by Sheree R. Thomas – A millennial publication of essays and fiction that illuminates the black writer in SF. This work is worth studying in depth.
Dark Dreams: A Collection of Horror and Suspense by Black Writers edited by Brandon Massey – For the horror fan, this novel uses race as a starting point for 20 horror and suspense tales by black authors.
If you are interested in finding more authors or would like to meet others interested in multicultural science fiction, the following links will be helpful to you.
Hopefully this list was an introduction to a range of talented authors, and will be a starting point for you to read more SF on these themes.
[Thanks to Carole McDonnell for her help in pointing me towards some excellent resources.]