Though almost absent in the early years of science fiction, the number of black authors—and the recognition of their work—is growing year by year.
It’s impossible to talk about science fiction written by black authors as a cohesive genre because, like writers of other skin tones, black authors come from all over the world and write about a wildly diverse array of subjects in their own unique way and voice.
Despite that, I’m including this list because most other lists of science-fiction books tend to be “White and Male heavy,” and trumpeting the achievements of black authors should help balance that out a little bit.
I’m using “black” instead of “African-American” because a number of these authors are not American.
So close! These books were all nominated but failed to win the Hugo.
Since the Hugo has been handed out since the fifties, this list just focuses on books published in 2000 or later.
Female science fiction authors crushed it in 2019, penning nearly half the books on this list. There are also a ton of female main characters.
Take a bunch of humans, put them in a large but limited space and keep them there for generations. Watch the chaos ensue.
Of course, you can also take the perspective that our entire planet is a generation ship.
If you’ve got two humans in a room, you’ve got politics. Politics is about governing, which relies on someone being of a higher status, and as social creatures, we are intensely aware of both our status and others’.
If there’s any consistent direction in the past ten thousand years of human civilization, it’s that our societies are getting more and more complex. More complexity leads to more politics, so as we barrel down the razor-blade-lined Slip-n-Slide of time into the future, politics is only going to become a larger influencer in everyone’s lives. Bleah.
Science fiction summer: dipping your toes in a pool of hypermercury while basking in the golden daytime aurora, and watching two ringed planets collide into each other like a pair of cymbals.
Here are some books to read on days like this.
“One-hit wonder” has an insult buried in the compliment, but it’s hard enough to write a good science fiction novel, much less get it published and then have it become popular and enduring. So even having a one-hit wonder is an impressive achievement, and the books on this list should be appreciated for their merits, instead of their authors being lightly mocked for not doing more.
Dieselpunk is science fiction that occurs between the two world wars, or takes place in a world where the 1940s never really ended. It’s often written deliberately pulpy and noirish, leaving character development in the dust of a wildly galloping plot. And fantasy elements are always welcome. For example, a gas-powered android could team up with a junkie psychic and a depressed vampire to solve the mystery of who’s sending all those severed limbs to the local police station.
Like steampunk, dieselpunk is often fan fiction for a specific era. It also tends to focuses on white Europeans and North Americans. Fortunately, there are small but growing movements called steamfunk and dieselfunk, which, in addition to having cool names, focus on non-whites actually having a place in the future and alternate histories.
For the world’s most thoughtful look at dieselpunk, check out Aja Romano’s Dieselpunk for Beginners.
Apparently, one of the biggest problems a lunar colony will have to face (in addition to air and food and water and temperature and cosmic radiation and not enough personal space and getting there and getting back home) is lunar dust, which is so fine that it gets everywhere, is really clingy, and can muck up equipment. Lunar dust feels like soft snow, but at the same time abrasive. It also smells like spent gunpowder.
And as far as moons go, ours is huge. It’s bigger than Pluto, which means that we’re actually orbited by a dwarf planet. But it’s a greedy satellite, sucking up our rotational energy, so that in about 45 billion years, the Earth and the Moon will be tidally locked (the moon will be in the same spot in the sky always) and the Earth day will be about 45 hours long.
Creating robots that are stronger, faster, and can think millions of times faster than us seems to be a guaranteed way to manufacture our future overlords. But my time as a computer programmer makes me less worried: software, no matter how well written, always seemed to break at some point. The reality of the world is just too messy. So while the robot uprising might happen, there’s a chance they’ll end up tripping over their own feet and give us grungy humans a shot at regaining the world.