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Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Five SFF Books Set in Contemporary African Locales

The current wave of speculative fiction from underrepresented groups continues to provide the SFF world with peeks into oft-forgotten slices of the globe. Interesting settings are huge draws in science fiction and fantasy, so little wonder we’ve been enamored by these sojourns into non-EuroAmerican spaces. The African continent stands in the front lines of this charge, offering stories that overturn long held views about its history and future, or at least provide some long desired nuance. However, our fascination with Black Panther, Children of Blood and Bone, and Who Fears Death? is mostly steeped in the fantastic or futuristic representations of these African locales, and not as much the contemporary.

Pray, where are the SFF books about the African locales of now?

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Where Are Our Black Boys on Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Novel Covers?

Why are there no boys like me on these covers?

My seventeen-year-old brother who lives in Lagos, Nigeria, raised this question to me recently. Not in these exact words, but sufficiently close. I’d been feeding him a steady drip of young adult (YA) science fiction and fantasy (SFF) novels from as diverse a list as I could, featuring titles like Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen and Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. The question, at first seemed like a throwaway one, but as my head-scratching went on, I realised I did not have a clear-cut answer for it.

His question wasn’t why there were no black boys like him in the stories, because there definitely were. I guess he wanted to know, like I now do, why those boys were good enough to grace the pages inside but were somehow not good enough for the covers. And because I felt bad about the half-assed response I offered, I decided to see if I could find a better one.

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5 SFF Books Set In Contemporary African Locales

The current wave of speculative fiction from underrepresented groups continues to provide the SFF world with peeks into oft-forgotten slices of the globe. Interesting settings are huge draws in science fiction and fantasy, so little wonder we’ve been enamored by these sojourns into non-EuroAmerican spaces. The African continent stands in the front lines of this charge, offering stories that overturn long held views about its history and future, or at least provide some long desired nuance. However, our fascination with Black Panther, Children of Blood and Bone and Who Fears Death? is mostly steeped in the fantastic or futuristic representations of these African locales, and not as much the contemporary. Pray, where are the SFF books about the African locales of now?

This question came to me while writing David Mogo, Godhunter. I discovered there was little work out there representing contemporary African spaces in all their multilayered complexity. So I set out to find books where the otherworldly is juxtaposed with the contemporary—used here to mean since the 2000s—socioeconomics, politics and culture of post-colonial Africa. These five locales offered fresh glances at the African continent, so that both inhabitants and non-inhabitants of these cities, towns and villages end up discovering their magic and potential anew.

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Series: Five Books About…

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