DIASPORA—Writers from the diaspora have consistently crafted some of the fantasy genre’s most illuminating and visionary works.
Perhaps ironically, for many black fantasy authors, creating fictional worlds centered on diverse characters is about encouraging readers to think critically about our reality.
In the spirit of afrofutrurism, these books provide an example of black people literally writing their own futures.
From earlier works, to more contemporary titles, below are nine black sci-fi books that will carry you to another dimension.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
This classic 1979 novel, follows Dana as she travels back and forth between present day and the Antebellum South. Butler effortlessly parallels the racial tensions of the past and present day, as the character explores, first-hand, the history of slavery in the United States. Kindred is Butler’s seminal work, but, really, you should try and read as many of her books as possible.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Okorafor is one of the foremost black fantasy novelists in contemporary literature. In Who Fears Death, the author tells the story of Onyesonwu, an ostracized, multiracial child born with special powers, given to her as a result of the circumstances of her birth. She was born to a victim of rape and, thus, expected to live a troubling life by those in her community. The story follows her journey as she discovers the length of her magical abilities and finds that a powerful entity is looking to kill her. It was recently announced that this novel will be adapted into and HBO series, executive produced by George R.R. Martin.
Obvious WomanCrush – Nigerian Author Nnedi Okorafor’s World Fantasy Award-winning novel “Who Fears Death” has been optioned by HBO, and is in early development as a TV series. . . Okorafor received a 2001 Hurston-Wright literary award for her story “Amphibious Green.” She then published two acclaimed books for young adults, The Shadow Speaker (Hyperion/Disney Book Group) and Zahrah the Windseeker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Zahrah won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. . . Who Fears Death tells the story of Onyesonwu, a woman living in post-apocalyptic Sudan, where the dark-skinned Okeke people live as second class citizens oppressed and routinely murdered by the lighter-skinned Nuru. • • #ObviousMedia
Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed
In his “experimental,” 1972 novel—set in Harlem—Reed offers a satirical examination of race relations in a fictional world, where populations of black people are being “infected” with a “disease” called Jes Grew that forces them to dance uncontrollably. Evil forces try to end the spread of Jes Grew as it’s spellbinding effects pose a threat to their dominance.
— Penguin Classics UK (@classicpenguins) July 6, 2017
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, edited by Sharee Thomas
This anthology is great introduction to the world of black magical realism. It’s a collection of fantasy, horror and sci-fi prose written by notable black intellectuals like W.E.B Du Bois—whose short story The Comet, is one of the book’s standouts—Nisi Shawl, Octavia Butler and more.
— SuperheroesInColor (@HeroesInColor00) December 20, 2015
Brown Girl In the Ring by Nalo Hopkins
In this 1998 “urban fantasy” novel, Jamaican-Canadian writer, Nalo Hopkins, imagines a future, dystopian version of downtown Toronto, where poverty and crime are rampant. The city is under the control of a drug-lord named Rudy. The heroes of the story are a young woman named Ti-Jeanne and her grandmother who use magic and herbal spells to help solve the city’s many social ills.
Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
In her debut novel, Barbadian writer, Karen Lord pens a humorous, fantastical tale about a woman, who after leaving her gluttonous husband, is granted a magical stick that allows her to control the world’s forces. This power makes her the target of a selfish witch doctor who doesn’t want this power to be shared with anyone else. The novel draws on themes from Senegalese folklore.
To my embarrassment/amusement/surprise, I’ve become slightly obsessed with a neighbour’s wall… It’s old, covered in moss, the paint is flaking off, there are huge chunks of it missing and I absolutely adore it! I make a point of taking Scoobs for a walk past it every day and I have been waiting for an opportunity to take this pic w Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord for at least a week now, but I can never quite get the timing right (bad light or too many people) until this morning. The blue is not by any means indigo, more like a dirty aquamarine, but the colours go. Redemption in Indigo, is very much in the vein of those old Brare Rabbit, Brare Bear and Brare Anansi stories. Inspired by a mix of Caribbean and Senegalese folk stories it is a completely original adult fairy tale about a woman with a useless husband whom she finally leaves and upon doing so, the djombi – ghosts of her ancestors – present her with a gift of the Chaos (because she is responsible enough to hold it), but the Indigo Lord wants the stick for himself and attempts to persuade her to give it to him. Chaos ensues and you will find yourself rocking with laughter and smirking like a child with a deep seated belief that the ‘bad’ always get what’s coming to them. Highly Recommend. #book #RedemptioninIndigo #KarenLord #Caribbean #Senegalese #Senegal #fairytale #folktales #bookstagram #instabooks #booksofinstagram #bibliophile #igreads #mustread #summerreads
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola
This 1954 novel by Amos Tutuola—the Nigerian author of The Palm Wine Drunkard—is a collection of narratives about a young boy who enters the wilderness after being abandoned by his family. During his journey, he comes into contact with various forces and spirits that shape his path.
— Brian Eno (@dark_shark) June 30, 2016
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first book in The Inheritance Trilogy. The fantasy novel—which won Jemisin the a Locus Award For Best First Novel—follows Yeine Darr, who is named heir to the city of Sky. She finds that the city has also been promised to the present ruler’s niece and nephew, which causes an intense rivalry between the three characters as they fight for the throne.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (F, 30s, earbuds in, carrying iceskates, LGA > DTW) pic.twitter.com/PZ1YeIemSX
— CoverSpy (@CoverSpy) December 28, 2016
Future Land by Walter Mosley
Future Land consists of 9 short stories, which take place in a stratified dystopian universe ruled by a greedy elite. Each story in the anthology offers commentary on a specific social ill—from capitalism, to The War on Drugs to the Prison Industrial Complex.