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.

So what is the state of black science fiction? In my humble opinion it’s encouraging. I’m an old school science fiction and fantasy fan. I cut my teeth on authors such as Herbert, Asimov, Clarke, Henlien, and Bradbury. On the fantasy end I read Howard, Moorcock, Farmer, and Norton. I was so fascinated by these stories that the lack of black faces didn’t register. I also grew up in a time when we were barely present in contemporary literature unless it involved racism, so the absence of of us in science fiction was something I accepted, for better or for worse. 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.  Independent writers are filling the niche and they are doing it quite well.

So that’s my take. What’s yours? Feel free to chime in. That’s what this is all about. Once we’re done we hope you’ll be just excited as we are about black speculative fiction. Be sure to check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event:

L. M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers:  A Shifters Novel will be released this spring.  For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com.
Margaret Fieland, Author– lives  and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelineshttp://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is available from Amazon.com  Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013.  You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.
Valjeanne Jeffers, Author – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com andhttp://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/
Alicia McCalla, Author- writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012.  The Breaking Free theme songcreated by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at:http://www.aliciamccalla.com
Carole McDonnell, Author–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction.  Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/
Rasheedah Phillips,Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog,AstroMythoLosophy.com.
Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html
Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him:  http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd

9 Comments to “What is the state of Black Science Fiction?”

  1. By Jarvis "J. Bernard" Sheffield, January 18, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

    As always you have a way with words. The independent movement is another avenue for our stories to be told.
    Thanks again for your insight Brother Milton.

  2. By Valjeanne Jeffers, January 17, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

    Hi Milton, great post! I totally agree. The rise of independant publishing has opened many doors for Black SF/fantasy writers, as well as artists and filmmakers. And just like you, some of the best books I’ve read during the last several years have been by Indie authors; including the Imaro series by Charles Saunders and Meji I and II :) . It totally blows my mind, that without Indie publishing books like these might not ever have seen the light of day!

    • By Milton, January 19, 2012 @ 8:08 am

      They will, Valjeanne. We just have to keep on the grind. Immortal is a great series, by the way. :-)

  3. By Alicia McCalla, January 16, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

    Milton, great post. I totally agree. I think the independent publishing movement will bring so exciting stories and show a side of speculative fiction that has not been shown. Thanks for participating. :)

    • By Milton, January 16, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

      Thanks, Alicia, and thanks for organizing this.

  4. By Nicole, January 16, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

    Great post, Milton. I’m happy to know you :-)

    As you mentioned, it’s encouraging to see the progress made by indie writers in these genres, knowing we don’t have to wait for mainstream publishing houses to take a chance on our work. We have to be the change we want to see. I think educating readers about the importance and value of black sci-fi and speculative fiction will lead to a greater appreciation of these stories.

    • By Milton, January 16, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

      Thanks, Nicole. I’m glad you chose this genre. Your prose is heartfelt and inspiring. We’ll definitely change things for the better.

  5. By Margaret Fieland, January 16, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

    Milton, I enjoyed your post. We seem to have read a number of the same sci fi authors growing up. I never read Howard, though — as a woman, I found even the covers to be disturbing, and my parents didn’t let us read comics. They didn’t otherwise censor our reading material, and thus my poor father ended up attempting to explain to a naive twelve-year-old that Suzie Wong wasn’t merely sharing a bed.

    • By Milton, January 16, 2012 @ 6:55 pm

      Thanks, Margaret. Yeah, I can understand why you would be put off by it. That’s what so great about independent publishing. We can do it our own way and find our audience.