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Black History Month: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy by Black Authors

Posted on 27th September 2019 by Mark Skinner

From the elliptical Golden Age work of Samuel R. Delany, through dystopian reflections on race and gender from Octavia E. Butler, to the spectacular Afro-futurism of Tade Thompson, black authors have always been pioneering voices in the twin literary worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy. In celebration of Black History Month, and to reflect the upsurge in game-changing speculative fiction from black authors, we have compiled a list of the finest examples. Very much a jumping-off point into a vast, immersive literary universe, the books below will leave you desperate to explore more fantastical worlds.  

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There’s wild invention and then there is Rosewater, the initial instalment in Tade Thompson’s magnificently-realised trilogy Wormwood. Dipping between genres, from biopunk thriller to enthralling futurism, Thompson unspools even the most fantastical of narrative elements with precision and wit.
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Magic can burn, turn tides, light darkness and bring back the dead. But magic is gone. So one girl must bring it back in the first in a gripping trilogy. A fierce and unflinching saga of divided love, belief and legacy. A book that combines heart-stopping drama with unforgettable characters this is a story that ripples with magic, a tale that will haunt a reader long after the final page.
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Already tipped for prize lists in 2019, Marlon James’s follow-up to his Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fever-pitched combination of magic, myth and history pitched as ‘an African Game of Thrones’ by the Guardian. The first in a trilogy, set in an alternate world founded on brutal power struggles, it’s a thrilling ride.
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Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy is one of the most acclaimed fantasy sequences of recent years and The Fifth Season is where it all begins. A bravura example of literary world-building and rich, rounded characterisation, this is a novel that will still be being read in fifty years-time.
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Samuel R. Delany was at the forefront of the 1960s sci-fi boom and Babel-17 is possibly his most emblematic work. A discourse on linguistics and philosophy wrapped up in a pulp space opera, its unique strangeness and stylised narrative make it a countercultural classic and an oddly addictive read.
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This excellent debut novel from author Temi Oh brings together the cabin-fever adrenaline of a space mission gone wrong with an intense and thought-provoking human drama of identity and belonging. Following ten strangers as they leave Earth on a 23-year mission to a new home world, Oh’s novel grips even as it asks important questions about the choices we make and why.
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An alarmingly prescient dystopia that takes in climate change, inequality and racism, Parable of the Sower invites comparison with The Handmaid’s Tale but is very much its own novel. California in the 2020s descends into anarchy and violence but one woman has the power to transform everything.
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Intelligent and meditative, The Best of All Possible Worlds is an intergalactic love story that explores issues of gender politics and ethnography alongside a stunningly immersive sci-fi plot. Perfect for fans of Ursula K. Le Guin, Lord’s great novel is imaginative fiction for grown-ups.
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Set in a stunningly realised post-Apocalyptic Africa, Who Fears Death is part fantasy fable about the uses and abuses of magic and part densely woven character study. Winner of the 2011 World Fantasy Award, Okorafor’s scorching narrative marks her out as one of the great voices in contemporary fantasy. Now optioned as a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George
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A dystopian Romeo and Juliet that makes eloquent statements about race relations and the burning passions of the teenage heart, Noughts and Crosses is absolutely pivotal in the evolution of the Young Adult novel. The first of an astonishingly consistent series from former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, Noughts and Crosses stands as trailblazing work of literature.
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