If you’re a fan of androids, space travel, otherworldly space-faring beasts, or anything else that screams and oozes science fiction, you’re in luck! We’ve officially landed in Black History Month, and we’re here to hype up some of the phenomenal black sci-fi authors who’ve made their mark on the genre.
That being said, check out these 10 fantastic black sci-fi authors to add to your bookshelves!
Octavia E. Butler
Born in Pasadena in 1947, Octavia E. Butler was a renowned African American author who was praised highly for her work, especially when it comes to the likes of her award-winning novels like Parable of the Sower, The Xenogenesis series, and The Patternist series— all of which take place in breathtaking worlds with thought-provoking themes, inspiring characters, as well as stories to draw readers into.
Although her books have originally been published back in the 1980s to 1990s, they still hold up today. Just from reading the premises of Butler’s books, you can’t help but add them to your TBR. That being said, the next up-and-coming sci-fi author is none other than…
Nicky Drayden is another cool sci-fi author that deserves a spot on this list! A Texas resident (where it’s of course, totally encouraged to be out-of-this-world), Drayden is well-known for the likes of her award-winning debut novel, The Prey of Gods, which is set in a futuristic South Africa (woo hoo, Afrofuturism!) teeming with robots, demigods, and a whole bunch of other wild stuff!
Her new novel, Escaping Exodus, takes place in a civilization which just so happens to be living inside a gargantuan space-faring beast. Another one of her books, The Hero of Numbani, (set in the Overwatch universe) follows the origin of one of the heroes in the video game series.
We do love a little Afrofuturism around here. But Drayden and Butler aren’t the only outstanding black sci-fi authors in that subgenre…
Besides Tade Thompson specializing in psychiatry (as a Psychology major, I greatly approve), he’s a British-born Nigerian who is well-known for a plethora of novels and short stories, especially when it comes to sci-fi.
His 2016 novel, Rosewater, is the first book in The Wormwood Trilogy. Rosewater follows Kaaro, a government agent that has a dark past, who has seen the inside the mysterious alien biodome, which is the same thing that most people are curious about due to its rumored healing powers. Kaaro is tasked with figuring out who is killing off those much like himself, and must search for answers, while coming into realization of a rather horrifying future. Our hero also happens to have psychic powers too.
Roxane Gay was born on October 15, 1974 to parents of Haitian descent, and she has a plethora of published works that are critically acclaimed, ranging from the likes of Bad Feminist: Essays, An Untamed State, among many others!
Especially when it comes to a comic book that she has worked on, Black Panther: World of Wakanda. In it, it focuses more on fleshing out the worldbuilding of Wakanda, through a story filled with tenderness, love, friendship, as well as conflict. Plus, a lot of lore delving! This is definitely a treat for those who’ve enjoyed the first Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the most recent Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Hailing from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cadwell Turnbull is a man of many things, especially when it comes to writing novels and short stories, the latter of which, have appeared in many magazines. One of his novels, The Lesson, is the recipient of multiple of Science Fiction awards!
In The Lesson, the inhabitants of the US Virgin Islands have lived with a race of highly advanced aliens known as the Ynaa. The Ynaa are on a super-secret research mission that they won’t spill the beans over. Because of the Ynaa’s aggression, both the Virgin Islanders and the Ynaa have a strained relationship, and a fragile peace. However, when a young boy dies to an Ynaa, three families suddenly find themselves in the storm of conflict, and it’s the kind that will touch everyone. If you ever liked to live with aliens, this is for you.
Born in the heart of New York City (Manhattan) on November 6, 1969, Colson Whitehead is an African American author who is well-known for his book, The Intuitionist. Despite the decade or two that has passed since it’s publication, The Intuitionist still remains relevant to this day, as it tackles themes of bias and racism, alongside a profession that isn’t really thought of much (or really underrated)- a city elevator inspector.
The Intuitionist follows our heroine, Lila Mae Watson, the first black female elevator inspector in the history of the Department of Elevator Inspectors. There’re two conflicting factions that exist within the department however: you have the Empiricists, your traditional, by the book people who check dutifully for problems with the winch cable and whatnot. Then you have the Intuitionists, those who are able to enter the elevator cab, solve any defects, and meditate.
However, between a new elevator going into total freefall, the Empiricists, and portions of the notebook that hint towards a “black box”, Lila has her hands full; on top of uncovering a secret. It’s an intriguing sci-fi book that, again, still holds up to this day.
A Nigerian American science fiction and fantasy writer, Tochi Onyebuchi was born in Massachusetts, but is currently a Connecticut resident. His most recent sci-fi book, Goliath, is a futuristic dystopian novel set in the 2050s that follows several point-of-views or narratives: a space-dweller aiming to reconnect with his lover in New Haven, Connecticut, a group of laborers trying to reinvigorate the idea of promises in Earth’s forsaken cities, a journalist attempting to capture the violence on the streets, and a marshal trying to get to the bottom of a kidnapping. It tackles race, class, and the idea of who could be a hero of any kind of history.
His previous sci-fi book, Riot Baby, is also a dystopian novel that follows Ella and Kev in Los Angeles. The former possesses a “thing,” where she’s able to see things that haven’t happened yet, such as seeing a classmate grow up to be a caring nurse, and a neighbor’s son killed by a drive-by-shooting. Kev however, has a strong desire to protect Ella from a potentially devastating power. But when Kev gets incarcerated, Ella must find a way to make things right; all while grappling with the ability to level cities by her own hands.
Tochi Onyebuchi tackles civil rights and Afrofuturism in his thought-provoking iconic stories.
Born on January 12, 1952, in Los Angeles, California, Walter Mosley is a legendary black author whose books start all the way back to the beginning of the 1990s, with the likes of Devil in a Blue Dress (which was adapted to film in 1995), up to now with Blood Groove! Additionally, Walter Mosley has written various short stories, many of which can be found in The Awkward Black Man, acompilation of his most popular short stories. Mosley of course, done many genres, including the likes of sci-fi.
In the realm of sci-fi- casually dropping here that he has worked on Star Trek: Discovery– Walter Mosley has put out very neat science fiction novels! Notable ones include Blue Light– his very first science fiction novel -and Future Land. In it, a blue light comes from an unknown point in the universe, arriving at Earth. The moment it does, those who are struck by it transform, causing humans to evolve; those who possess the light achieves their full potential that is far beyond our understanding.
Future Land imagines a more dystopian America. Drugs are better, but the daily grind is beyond repair. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened to where it rivals the Grand Canyon. Someone can store the world’s knowledge on a chip that’s imbedded in a finger. The Supreme Court, declared that any individual who challenges the system, doesn’t have constitutional rights.
Ah, W.E.B. Du Bois. One of the most influential sociologists, socialists, historians, intellectuals, and civil rights activists in history. He was also known to be the first Black American to earn a PhD from Harvard University, and eventually became the NAACP’s director of publicity and research. On top of it all, he has dabbled in the realm of science fiction!
The Comet, written in 1920, is a science fiction speculative short story by W.E.B. Du Bois. It was written while he was doing his role at The Crisis, which is known as the official magazine of the NAACP. The short story imagines a catastrophic event that occurs on Earth, due to a passing comet. It only destroys Manhattan entirely, but two survivors come out of it: a black man, who knows only poverty and hard work, and a white woman, who knows only leisure and privilege. For humanity to have a future, the two from different worlds, must build a new world on top of the old one.
W.E.B. Du Bois himself remains to be one of the most major black figures in history, and for good reason.
Last, but certainly not least, is none other than the marvelous Rivers Solomon! Born in California, and now currently a Cambridge, England resident, Rivers Solomon is known for their works in the writing sphere, especially with the likes of the debut science fiction novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts, which was officially released in 2017.
The An Unkindness of Ghosts takes place on a space vessel situated somewhere in space. Our heroine, Aster, lives in the lower deck slums of the HSS Matilda. For many generations, Matilda has brought the last of humanity to the supposed Promised Land. On the voyage, the ship’s leaders rule over the inhabitants with a suffocating iron fist. Caught in a grudge, Aster learns that there may be a way out of this mess; if, she’s willing to set loose the wheels of civil war. Imaginative and thought-provoking, this is among one of many things Rivers Solomon has published in her career.
Hopefully we’ve encouraged you to scour your nearby bookstore to get the books from the authors on this list! For everything else about Black History Month, or to discover more black authors, check out some amazing black fantasy authors!