If you’re reading this blog, it probably comes as no surprise to you that there’s a lot of truly excellent fiction that’s been written by black authors. I decided to gather my favorites into a post because I have yet to meet a person whose reading list doesn’t need expanding.
Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
Nalo was one of my teachers at Clarion and I have to say that listening to Nalo read any fiction, but especially her own is an experience. I love everything I’ve read of Nalo’s, but Falling in Love with Hominids is simply spectacular. It’s a collection of short stories and I just love it. My favorite by far is the last one, Men Sell Not Such in Any Town. It is a seduction in words. As is, honestly, the whole collection.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Dread Nation and it’s sequel, Deathless Divide, are some of the most fun books I’ve read in a while. The topic is hard, surrounding slavery and the treatment of black Americans after the Civil War, when the Civil War ended in the Dead rising. It ain’t pretty. But the protagonist is hella fun, her solutions sometimes feel unorthodox and as such like a breath of fresh air in SFF.
Will Do Magic for Short Change
Andrea Hairston was another of my teachers and I have to say, that woman is a force of nature. I think most people who know her work, know her through either Redwood and Wildfire, but I have a fondness for Will Do Magic for Short Change, not least because that title is amazing. It’s set in the same world as Redwood and Wildfire (the protagonist is literally their grandchild) and like a lot of Hairston’s work, it’s a delightful mix of magic and science and family.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Nisi Shawl’s Everfair is one of the most ambitious novels that I have read in a long while. It’s an alternate history set in Victorian times, where Belgian occupation of the Congo ends early because of steam power. It is one of the more imaginative takes on utopian fiction that I remember seeing in a long while. It also has a LOT of POV characters, which I think has turned some readers off this book. I, however, love it. Nisi’s ability to make all the POVs unique is nothing short of mind-boggling.
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
Everyone’s read Binti (and if you haven’t, you really should do yourself the favor), but Lagoon is still my favorite of Okorafor’s work. It starts when an alien object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria. It is full to the brim with the various folk lores of Nigeria, at least that’s how it feels to me. Things take a while to start making sense, but once they do, hold on to your hat.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
The Ballad of Black Tom is a retelling of Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook from the point of view of a black man. It proves the point that the only good thing about Lovecraft’s work is those who come after to create better work. Black Tom is some of the best horror fiction I’ve read, juxtaposing the cosmic with the everyday in a brilliant manner.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
Rivers writes this fiction that is brutal and amazing all at the same time. Their debut novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts has received all the accolades, as well it should. The Deep is, technically, a murder-mermaid -story (thus I am all in), it’s just that here, the mermaids are the result of murder. It is beautiful and unflinching and a brilliant example of just how well SFF can deal with serious topics in the right hands.
My Snakes by Frieda Vaughn
Frieda Vaughn and I went to Clarion together. Her work is always wonderful. Raw and honest in a way that I WISH I could attain. This is the only singular short story on this list. It came out in FIYAH issue 10 and it is one of my favorites of hers which is saying something. It’s a Medusa retelling with a twist and it’s gorgeous. Frieda has a long and illustrious career ahead of her as you can definitely see when you read this story. Really, you should be reading FIYAH in any case. But start with this.
Obviously there are a lot of others that are wonderful, this is just the list that came to mind while I was writing this post. This is a living document with many possible entries. Also, you should definitely check out the classics, like Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler, if you haven’t. So, dear reader, would you care to add a few additions?