What is the State of Black Science Fiction?

Milton Davis asks, What is the State of Black Science Fiction?

For the next month I’m participating in a discussion with my fellow writers on the state of black speculative fiction. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart since I’m such a writer. At the end of my blog will be a list of  participating writers. Be sure you click on the links to view their opinions as well. There will be giveaways at the end of the discussion. My contribution with be a signed copy of each of my books. I hope you follow this interesting and possibly enlightening discussion.

. . .

The point of change came when I read the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories. You see, I was introduced to Conan through the Marvel comic series. The racial inequalities obvious in Howard’s prose were not present in the comics. The more I read the original prose the more uncomfortable I became. At that point I began to seek out science fiction and fantasy by black writers. My search turned up very few. I first discovered Samuel Delany, which I realized I’d read earlier but didn’t know he was black. I discovered Steve Barnes next and then Octavia Butler. By this time I was attempting to write my own science fiction and fantasy.

But that’s enough history. What about today? Nnedi Okorafor won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. N.K. Jemisin’s The 100,000 Kingdoms is considered one of the best fantasy releases in 2011. And David Anthony Durham’s Acacia won the John C. Campbell Award.  So we’ve made significant progress. But what really makes me excited about the state of black science fiction is the independent publishing movement. While I admire the progress being made by my mainstream publishing friends, the most interesting books I’ve read in the past few years have been in the independent publishing realm. Free of the restrictions imposed by editors and publishers trying to appeal to a mass market, these writers are producing books that reflect the Black experience and presents us in a more positive light. Many people complain about the lack of black readers of science fiction and fantasy. Some of that is due to the lack of books that appeal directly to us. You can give all kinds of explanations for this but the simple reason is that we like to see us in books. – read the full post, with comments, and list of participating authors.


4 thoughts on “What is the State of Black Science Fiction?

  1. Well, I’ve got The Liminal People on my bedside table; Nalo has two books coming this year; Karen Lord has a sf book next year; just had Dexter Palmer’s Dream of Perpetual Motion; Samuel Delany’s Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders is finally coming out; Tobias Buckell has at least one new book this year (Arctic Rising); … And in more fantasy than listed at that blog (Durham, Jemisin, …) Maurice Broaddus has what, 4-5 books out in the last few years from Angry Robot, Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox, … And I’m sure this “type what comes to mind on my phone while checking email in bed this morning” forgets a good sized list.

  2. Thought a bit longer and came up with more media: comics/film. The new “Ultimate Spider-Man” re-boot, with Miles Morales as Spider-Man, has captured a lot of attention and I’ve enjoyed the story. In film, both the “cross” casting of Mos Def as Ford in H2G2 (2005) and Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor (2011) — the latter being more of a “controversy” (but much of that I attribute to the change in Internet and media round-the-clock frenzy in the intervening years). The latter two do not (at least not directly) reflect the black experience, however the new Ultimate Spider-Man does and is worth checking out.

  3. Actually there is a significant factor in discouragement from reading. My mother told me it was “something crazy”. But there is some old stuff though not by a Black writer.

    Black Man’s Burden by Mack Reynolds

    Border, Breed Nor Birth, by Dallas McCord Reynolds

    It is even interesting in relation to the Arab Spring.

    But I tried to get a Black woman to read Wild Seed by Octavia Butler. She said it was too weird and did not even like the cover. I think we need to get young kids to read sci-fi to do some mind expanding because the schools are not going to do it.

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