Tuesday, November 25, 2008

White readers meet: black sci-fi writers

Yes, Virginia, black folks write about the paranormal. The first specific request I received from a white reader was to highlight some sci-fi, fantasy and horror by African Americans. That's really easy to do as that genre or subgenre seems to be really taking off.

There seem to be three big, huge, stand-out writers in this area right now:

Tananarive Due: So far, I've only read her Joplin's Ghost, which I greatly enjoyed (I'd consider it literary fiction). I also have My Soul to Keep, which Stephen King called "An eerie epic...bears favorable comparison to Interview with the Vampire. I loved this novel."
L.A. Banks: She's the NY Times best-selling author of the Vampire Huntress Legend series, the latest of which is The Darkness. I have to admit I haven't read her work yet. The Darkness has been in my to-read pile forever! One big plus for her books is that her vampire hunters come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds, not just Christian. You can see Banks in part of the HBO special Trueblood Lines here.
Brandon Massey: Massey writes suspence thrillers like Don't Ever Tell, which has been called "relentlessly gripping" and "a diabolical rocket sled of a book." Go here for Book Roast's conversation with Massey.

Coincidentally, these three writers have a new book coming out (Amazon says it's available today) together called The Ancestors. Go here to read an excerpt from Due's novella "Ghost Summer," which appears in The Ancestors.

Of course, the grande dame was Octavia Butler. She wrote some deep, disturbing, powerful stuff. I'd start with Kindred and The Parable of the Sower.

Walter Mosley writes science fiction in addition to mysteries and other books. And Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist might be called speculative fiction? Whatever you call it, it's very good. It's about a black woman elevator inspector in a society in which elevators are BIG things. (Lisa K., get thee to some Colson Whitehead!)
In his self-published paranormal novel, A Liar's Tale, Andre Coleman asks, "What would happen if all your lies came true?" Coleman says if you buy the book from him and give it to somebody non-black in December, he'll give you a discount! (Great promotional idea, black authors. Maybe for those who aren't selling directly, we can offer an autographed book or a little something for the person gifting the book to the non-black person? Anybody got any suggestions?)

Someone else to check out is Nalo Hopkinson, author of Mojo: Conjure Stories and The New Moon's Arms, amongst others.

Jewell Parker Rhodes' new vampire book, Yellow Moon, is supposed to be dynamite! It's her 2nd story about the Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau.
Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction's Newest New Wave Trajectory, edited by Marlene Barr, sounds a little academic, but also very interesting.

The white reader who asked me to highlight black writers in these genres turned me on to fantasy writer Leslie Ann Moore, author of Griffin's Daughter, which is about a half-human, half-elf woman. Check out Moore's great interview with Shauna Roberts here.

Lastly, but not leastly, Tina McElroy Ansa writes sort of African American magic realism that I really enjoy. Baby of the Family actually spooked me. Ugly Ways is one of my all-time favorite books. Ansa started her own publishing house to publish the sequel, Taking After Mudear. Order it directly from her and you might even get an autographed copy, like I did! Because she was also kind enough to send me a signed ARC (which I kept), I gave away the signed copy of the book to the president of the Wits End Book Club.

You might consider joining the Black Science Fiction Society to learn more about up and coming writers in the genre. Readers, what African American sci-fi, horror writers/books do you recommend?


Claudia said...

Another great list! Please also consider Samuel Delany - a critically-acclaimed and award-winning SFF author who is often overlooked (because he doesn't always explicitly talk about race - which is an issue I'd love to chat about on this site in future posts?) He's a challenge, but I'd recommend beginning with the short stories. I am also a big fan of his Neveryon series.

I'm looking forward to reading (and gifting) Nalo Hopkinson's books. I've heard so many good things about her stories!

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks, Carleen! This is great! I had not heard of most of these authors before, particularly the ones not published by major presses. I'm going to look into them all.

I'll mention a couple authors that I knew of but aren't on your list:

Steven Barnes. He has coauthored books with Tannarive Due and with sf legend Larry Niven as well as written several of his own. His books Zulu Heart and Lion's Blood are alternate histories in which Islamic Africans were the ones who settled the southern United States and they import Irish slaves. Thought provoking, with excellent world building.

Charles Saunders. He has at three sword-and-sorcery books: Imaro, Imaro 2: The Quest for Cush, and The Trail of Bohu. All star the outcast larger-than-life warrior Imaro. Think Conan the Barbarian in sub-Saharan Africa.

Shauna Roberts said...

Fantasy Magazine posted an article last week on diversity in science fiction. It's at http://www.darkfantasy.org/fantasy/?p=1133 and includes a recommended reading list.

Jennifer C. said...

The Good House by Tananarive Due. That's all I can think of for right now. If I think of more I will be back.

Doret said...

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu - she writes YA sci fi, her first novel was Zahrah the Windseeker

Carleen Brice said...

Great additions! Thanks everybody!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Carleen, this is a fantastic blog - I just linked to you on mine. You just toppled my TBR pile.

I'd like to humbly offer another suggestion - an anthology that includes works by many of the authors in your post: THE DARKER MASK, an illustrated noir superhero anthology, edited by Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers, with fantastical stories by those two, plus Walter Mosley, Gar Anthony Haywood, L.A. Banks, Doselle Young and Tannarive Due, among others.

It's not called THE DARKER MASK for nothing, but there are stories from Asian-American, Latino and just plain white women authors, too. Basically -superheroes who aren't white men- or cheerleaders or strippers, either.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Sorry, and Steven Barnes, co-authoring with Tannarive Due, too!

Lisa said...

I just checked out your recommendation and it looks great! I've added The Intuitionist to my Amazon wish list -- after reading the description and the reviews, I think you've got me pegged :)

Carleen Brice said...

Jeez, I'm sorry to have left off so many people, but glad y'all are adding them!

Thanks Alexandra for stopping by, and for letting us know about The Darker Mask!

Lisa, Also add Joplin's Ghost. Very up your alley. :)

Doret said...

oh I loved Intuitionist - Wish I knew an elevator inspector I could gift it to.

A Paperback Writer said...

You hooked me with Joplin's Ghost. I've got to read that now. I'm a HUGE Joplin fan and have been for years!!

Tyhitia Green said...

Sorry I'm so late, Carleen, but I've been swamped. :-)

I was going to mention Stephen Barnes as well, who happens to be married to Tananarive Due. Great people!

Also, Troy Cle who wrote a few wonderful (fantasy) Middle Grade books (series) called Marvelous World. The first book is called The Marvelous Effect.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loooove your list. I am looking forward to researching the Intuitionist, and Jewell Parker Rhodes has been on my to read list for a while.


aishadl said...

1st off love the blog... my 1st time here. As an African American and an avid reader of the sci-fi genre I'm always looking for amazing authors of all shades.

Ok, I truly can't believe you left out the author most would consider to be the 1st and one of the most successful African American sci-fi authors, the late Octavia Butler.

I read Kindred in the 6th grade (I'm 36) and have read everything she's ever written. Her books cover supernatural, spiritual, ethical, political, and aliens. Her topics can be pretty deep so be prepared.

But if you love sci-fi, I mean really LOVE it, you HAVE to read Octavia Butler!

Carleen Brice said...

Bella's Mom, I didn't leave out Octavia Butler. She's mentioned in the post.

aishadl said...

Opps, I don't know why I missed that mention! Thanks.

Simone_B said...

Honestly, I wouldn't recommend blacksciencefictionsociety.com to any women. I and two other women, previously complete strangers, were literally kicked out and blocked from the site for having a discussion and posting blogs in regards to some of the negative treatment of black women characters and writers in the industry. It was pretty ugly. the site administrator even sunk as low as to begin calling us names because we refused to see his side in posting nude images of women. It's just my opinion,but I'd recommend looking someplace else.