In celebration of Black History Month, we want to recommend some of our favorite Black authors of science fiction and fantasy. Just as we remember and study the past, fans of speculative fiction know the value of exploring possible futures and alternate worlds. And though some of these are already classics—and others certainly will be—we have a hard time passing up an opportunity to talk about the greats. Whether you prefer space travel or magical kingdoms, we promise you’ll find something to capture your imagination...
Samuel R. Delany is one of the all-time greats, and his novel Dhalgren is an old-school science fiction classic that shook up the entire genre when it was published in 1975. This cult classic tells the story of the city of Bellona, which is in the process of collapsing before its citizens’ very eyes. A young man with no name or memory goes on a mythical quest through the city, tangling with other outcasts and vagabonds, trying to make sense of the social and racial politics in a world gone mad. Answers are not easy to come by, but the questions will haunt the reader for years to come.
Moving from urban science fiction to urban fantasy, we come to My Soul to Keep, the first of Tananarive Due’s African Immortals series. Dawit has been alive for 500 years, in which he’s seen and done terrible things, loved and lost families, and finally concluded that it’s a fool’s game to become attached to mortals. That resolution can’t last long when he meets Jessica, but neither romance nor companionship are enough to keep away the results of a dark bargain he made long ago. The only way to preserve his new loved ones requires yet another wicked ritual—can he and Jessica ever find peace and safety in this world, and will they lose what remains of their souls in the process?
Victor LaVelle won great acclaim with his novella The Ballad of Black Tom, and his full length novel The Changeling swept speculative fiction awards in 2018. Apollo Kagwa, an antiquarian, has always been troubled by strange dreams. That strangeness finally breaks into his waking life when his wife becomes convinced that their child is not their child—or even anything human. Has she gone mad, or is something horrific and beyond his comprehension happening to his family? His journey to find the answers will take him through the boroughs of New York to find whole new worlds within the one he thought he knew.
Binti, the title character of the novel by Nnedi Okorafor, wants more than anything to set sail through space to reach Oomza University, the best institution in the galaxy. Unfortunately, not only will this take her away from her family and everything she has ever known, it will also throw her into the middle of a war with a very angry alien race called the Medusa. Binti is determined to survive this war, and to do so, she will have to call upon the wisdom both of the university and her own home people and planet. This novella is only the first installment of a galaxy-spanning space opera series, with each book taking the reader farther and deeper into the strange worlds Okorafor creates.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James is an epic fantasy novel that breaks through conventions of setting, structure, and mythology. A mercenary is hired to find a missing boy, but that’s only the beginning of a story about shapeshifters, love gone wrong, and bizarre magic that will shape the future of the entire kingdom. Although it can be read as a standalone novel, this is only the first installment of James’s Dark Star trilogy, a series spanning the boundaries of horror and fantasy to create something entirely new and unforgettable.
I hope one or more of these titles calls out to you, and I wish you a wonderful and thrilling adventure!
—Mira G. Edited by Jasper R.