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:
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.