Black Sci-Fi Writers Are Seriously Underrepresented

An extensive study by Fireside Fiction has just unveiled an ugly truth about Sci-fi and speculative fiction. Out of 2,000 published stories last year, just 2% were written Black Americans. That’s 38 stories out of 2,039, published in 63 magazines. 

Image courtesy of Fireside

The data was combed through very carefully, as the analysts wanted to ensure that the scarcity was not explained by chance. They ended up finding the exact opposite – the likelihood that the lack of black voices in sci-fi was sheer happenstance, was 0.00%. 

Image courtesy of Fireside

The myriad voices who have thus far responded to the issue have expressed anger, but not surprise. One such voice, Brooklyn Sci-fi and spec-fic author, NK Jemisin, said in an interview with editor of Fireside, Brian White: 

“The numbers in general don’t surprise me. The genre has moved towards embracing people of color, which is great. I don’t have any issue with that whatsoever. The percentage of those people of color writers who are black being really small, again, does not surprise me.”


Another writer took head on the theory that black authors are published less beacuse their work is not up to par. Those espousing this notion cited that most sci-fi and spec-fic magazines have strict anti-discrimination policies, and do not require submissions to indicate the author’s ethnicity. On this topic, Justina Ireland says:

“Quality is a slippery metric when it comes to writing, because an editor’s idea of quality tends to be tied very closely to their tastes and beliefs. If your tastes are heavily influenced by the European fantasy tradition, then it’s pretty unlikely you’d find something to love in an Afrocentric high fantasy, especially if you tend to believe that only black people are interested in reading about black people. Meaning: editors need to look critically at what they’re acquiring and interrogate their biases if they want a more representative list.”

Ireland adds that “Promoting diversity and inclusion isn’t a passive state, it’s an active one. If you aren’t getting submissions from black authors, then you need to wonder why. Look at your list, at your brand. “

Brian White, the main-brain behind the study, wholeheartedly agrees, encouraging publishers and magazines to practice what they preach by making more active efforts to uphold the promises of their diversity statements, by reaching out to more black authors. 

Readers are encouraged to check out the studies for themselves, and read the insightful commentary that ensued.