Discussion: Overlooked & Underhyped Sci-Fi/Fantasy by Black Authors

Whenever I do a discussion post, I aim for Monday and this one is piggy-backing off my TBR  from Wednesday (9/1): Sci-Fi September & Buddy Reads. For this post, I asked a couple of my favorite Booktubers to lend a hand. As far as I’m concerned they are by far the most knowledgable when it comes to Black Science Fiction and Fantasy.

In case you’re unaware, I’m participating in the Sci-Fi September readathon and I made a conscious decision to focus on Black authors with Black protagonists. I feel, in general, literature by BIPOC authors gets overlooked, is underrated, and under-hyped in the book community. We often read, review, and put greater emphasis and value on the same books typically by White cishet authors while simultaneously ignoring and devaluing the works of BIPOC authors.

Having said that, for this discussion, I wanted to focus on Black Science Fiction and Fantasy authors because in my opinion their craft is consistently ignored, devalued, and erroneously compared to the work of White authors. Prior to becoming a part of Booktube two years ago and finding Thistle and Verse and Onyx Pages channels , I’d read very little SFF written by Black authors with Black protagonists. And it wasn’t until I found them that I really began reading and learning about Black SFF and wondering (1) why I hadn’t read more SFF by Black authors and (2) why I had not heard of many of the authors they talked about.

The answers are simple:

  1. Availability, or the lack thereof. I work at a bookstore and I’m constantly ordering or requesting books to be ordered by Black authors and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. We’ll get a whopping one book in and it sells and the then we never get it back unless someone (i.e. yours truly) requests it.
  2. Publishers don’t really market and get behind Black authors like the do White authors. They’re getting better, but there’s still A LOT of work to be done.
  3. This realization falls squarely on me. And that is, I simply did not see out Black SFF. Shame on me.

Because of Thistle and Verse and Onyx Pages I’ve discovered SO MANY authors like Nicky Drayden, Tananarive Due and her husband, Steven Barnes and learned more about authors like Tade Thompson and Nalo Hopkinson. Through their reviews, I have also discovered the richness, complexities, and beauty of Black SFF. I’m still learning themes of Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism and how SFF written by Black authors differs from SFF written by White authors.

As you read through Thistle and Verse‘s recommendations, I encourage challenge you to pick up AND read one or more of them. And to help you out, September is the perfect month to read Black SFF because it’s Sci-Fi September. It’s a month long readathon created and hosted by Saajid at Books Are My Social Life. You can check out Saajid’s announcement video HERE. There is also a Twitter page and Discord which I recommend you check out.

FYI: Onyx Pages was unable to provide recommendations for this post due to prior commitments. I hope to have her in the future, but in the meantime make sure you check out her Booktube channel. Currently she has a wonderful series going on called Written with Purpose where she interviews a Black SFF author.

Alright, now let’s get to Thistle and Verse‘s recommendations.

Thistle and Verse Recommends 

MagnifiqueNOIRMagnifiqueNOIR by Briana Lawrence

I think Black SFF can have a reputation for being very serious and cerebral, but it doesn’t have to be. With homages to magical girl anime, this adult light novel series is tons of fun and has a lot of heart. The cast of the Black queer superhero troupe includes Bree the gamer, Marianna the baker, Lonnie the kickboxer, Blaze the mentor, and the mysterious Prism Pink, and different readers will be sure to have a favorite. With its messages about self-acceptance, standing up to injustice, and the importance of community, this comforting and warm read is the perfect destressor.

 


David Mogo, GodhunterDavid Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
 
This is an adult fantasy set in Lagos, Nigeria about a young man David Mogo who catches godlings for cash, almost glorified pest control. This is perfect for readers who love stories with deities because there are so many- Oshun, Ibeji, Ogun, and more. It’s a quintessential hero story. The fight scenes were riveting, and there’s plenty of emotion as David searches for lost family questions his powers, and finds his true purpose.

 


Hide and SeekerHide and Seeker by Daka Hermon
 
I don’t have much to say about this middle grade horror other than it’s a ton of fun. In this book, the malevolent Seeker tries to lure unsuspecting children into its realm of terror Nowhere. The protagonist Zee is both empathetic and strategic, a natural leader who, in helping his friends to confront their fears, is able to confront his own. The atmosphere is unrelentingly spooky. You might think the scariest parts would happen in the Nowhere, but some of the creepiest moments happen in our world as it’s revealed how much power over us the Seeker has. This was one of my favorite releases of 2020.

 


Dark Matter- Reading the BonesDark Matter: Reading the Bones edited by Sheree Renee Thomas
 
This was one of the first short story anthologies devoted to Black science fiction and fantasy. As one would hope, it has a great range of tones, with sensual stories like Desire by Kiini Ibura Salaam to tragic tales like Whipping Boy by Pam Noles. This anthology was published in the early 2000s, and it’s funny to see how things have changed (it has a blurb from BlackPlanet.com and refers to Nnedi Okorafor as a rookie writer). A comprehensive anthology for people dipping their toe into Black SFF or readers looking for new directions to read.
 

Let me know in comments if you’ve heard of and/or read any of the authors mentioned.

Also share your experience with reading Black SFF. What did you like and/or didn’t like about it?

About Thistle and Verse

Thistle & Verse reviews science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural horror by Black authors. Folklore will always have a special place in her heart. In 2020 she created the Black SFFathon, a readathon dedicated to uplifting speculative fiction by Black authors and in 2021 she hosted the Broken Earth Readalong that ran from May 15 to August 21. Additionally she is a co-administrator of SOULar Powered: Afrofuturism Slow Reading Group, a virtual book club dedicated to reading speculative fiction with Black protagonists and a particular interest in queer stories.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Discussion: Overlooked & Underhyped Sci-Fi/Fantasy by Black Authors

  1. dianthaa September 15, 2021 / 3:07 am

    Great post! magnifiqueNOIR sounds so cool, I’m adding it to my TBR

    Like

  2. Thistle & Verse September 8, 2021 / 11:29 pm

    Thanks for having me, Erica.

    Like

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