If you’re seeking to delve into the sci-fi and fantasy world, this list of can’t-miss, acclaimed sci-fi and fantasy novels written by Black authors is a good place to start. With classics by masters like Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler, as well as the groundbreaking recent works of N. K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, among others, this list offers some of the best sci-fi and fantasy writing ever, full stop.
1. 'Dark Reflections' by Samuel R. Delaney
“Dark Reflections” is written by Samuel R. Delaney, renowned American author and the recipient of several awards which include the ‘Pilgrim Award’, ‘Hugo Award’, ‘Eaton Award’ etc.
The novel is an intricate personal tale from Delany about life, sexuality, and regret. Both he and the main character of the book, Arnold Hawley, are gay black men living in New York City. However, while Delany's life has been one of sexual freedom, Hawley's has been one of internalized homophobia and sexual repression.
His memories are intertwined non-chronologically with observations and opinions about poetry, black history, gay history, small press publishing, poverty, New York City, and more.
One of many things I appreciated most about the novel was the delicate way Delany highlighted the internal confusion and struggle of the main character, Arnold Hawley, as he embarks on journey of self discovery. Therefore, I highly recommend the novel to all those who are experiencing the same isolation and conflicted thoughts, so as a reminder that they are not alone in this difficult life.
2. 'Parable Of the sower' by Octavia Estelle Butler
“Parable of the Sower” is written by Octavia Estelle Butler, an established American writer and beneficiary of the ‘MacArthur Fellowship’ and multiple ‘Nebula Awards’.
The dystopian, young adult novel set in a post-apocalyptic world follows a young girl, Lauren Olamina who possesses the unique ability of Hyper-Empathy Syndrome that allows her to experience pain without touch. This adds dimension to her story, as she tries to navigate herself through a world ravaged by economic, environmental and moral upheaval. Diligently documenting verses of a religion she has founded called Earth Seed, Lauren seeks to create a new community in which people can live peacefully and prosper in the knowledge of the truth.
“When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe.”
The novel successfully depicts some issues in today’s world but only with a more nuanced understanding of the dangers they pose when left unattended.
Therefore, I appreciate the creative writing to keep readers interested and the serious undertone which succeeds to act as a warning for insignificant problems that can lead to chaos. I recommend this novel to those who want an interesting book but still want to remain tied to reality.
3. 'Fifth Season' By N.K. Jemisin
“The Fifth Season” is written by N.K. Jemisin, distinguished American author and recipient of multiple ‘Hugo Awards’.
Set in a world called 'The Stillness' Jemisin creates a wonderful, vivid, and atmospheric world which is accompanied by a rich history and an intricate magic system called Orogene. The novel deals with the manipulation of thermal, kinetic energy and seismic events.
“Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.”
Internalized racism and hidden prejudices unconsciously held have been highlighted, the same issues which also demand to be addressed in the current climate.
As a result of the novel's success to mirror the modern society and the enthusiastic and creative writing, I have frequently lost myself in Jeminism's imaginary world and more often than not forgotten to come back to reality.
4. 'Binti' by Nnedi Okorafor
“Binti” is written by Nnedi Okorafor, well known Nigerian-American writer of science and fantasy for children and adults. She is also the recipient of ‘Hugo Award’ and ‘Nebula Award’.
Binti is a young black woman on her way to the premier institution in the galaxy. Instead of following traditions, she breaks boundaries; she has a place in the universe, and yet she steps out into a whole new world. She is simply brilliant and quietly ambitious and brave enough to risk all she has ever known for a future she hopes will be for her.
Binti's character had me falling in love with her almost immediately. Her strong sense of independence, her boldness and courage, and her will to achieve the impossible has made her as an inspiration to not only me but also to thousands of girls worldwide.
5. 'Children of Blood and Bone' by Toni Adyeni
“Children of Blood and Bones” is written by Toni Adyeni, Nigerian-American novelist and creative writing coach. She is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and the winner of Goodreads Choice Awards Best Debut Author.
A beautifully written story that has allowed me to escape the real world and enter a dystopian universe of magic and unpredictability. Orïsha was once a land where magic ruled. Those with magical ability, 'the maji', could do many things. Some could control water, others could control fire, some read minds, and some were able to summon forth souls.
King Saran, the antagonist, afraid of the kind of power the maji possess, ordered their destruction. Zelie, the main protagonist, remembers how on a forsaken night the King and the army arrive and brutally murder hundreds of innocents (among them was her mother), and destroyed magic forever. However, soon Zelie realizes that she is one of the very few people that can still use magic; this makes her decide to go on a quest with her brother. With the help of an escaped princess she learns to control her magic powers, and also her feelings for an enemy she cannot trust.
“I longed for the day I would feel the magic of the dead in my bones, but right now all I can feel is an unnerving tingle in my veins.’’
6. 'Black Leopard Red Wolf' by Marlon James
“Black Leopard Red Wolf” is written by Marlon James, Jamaican author of fantasy. He is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and the winner of the Booker Prize and National Book Award for Fiction.
The protagonist, Tracker, is a hunter known for his nose which, if it catches the scent of a person he cannot stop until that person is found, dead or alive. Thus, Tracker is commissioned to find a boy who disappeared under mysterious circumstances three years ago. Along the journey he teams with a rag-tag group of shape shifters, witches and mercenaries to locate the missing child, encountering along the way all manner of winged demons, evil spirits, slavers, white scientists, and warring royals. Their quest takes them all over a fantasy world where all is not what it seems.
“It was a very sensual and sensory world” says Marlon James.
Almost bursting with fictional creatures, the book was outstanding and wonderful to read. Thus, I can easily recommend this to anyone who is a lover of fantasy and magic, simultaneously appreciates mystery and curiosities.
The six stories complete a beautiful and bold collection that feature outstanding authors who cleverly navigate through the complexities of magic, violence, and mystery to create a vivacious and extraordinary universe. The multi-faceted characters in these narratives are completely unique, however, they all share the undeniable similarity of succeeding to heavily immerse readers in an unforgettable experience.