For most of the 20th century, the world of speculative fiction was a boys’ club – specifically, a white boys’ club. Few women or writers of color have managed to break into the genre’s exclusive circle, and those who have, like Samuel R. Delany — whose “Babel-17” won a Nebula Award in 1967 — have still found that racial barriers abounded. Even after her award, a magazine editor rejected one of her stories on the grounds that readers simply wouldn’t connect with a black main character.
Times have changed dramatically since then, and there are now more diverse voices in science fiction than ever before, catering to a readership eager for perspectives that more closely represent their own. To highlight some of these voices, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of some of the best black sci-fi authors, consulting websites such as BookRiot and the New York Times book review.
The authors we have chosen have all received accolades for their fiction, including the Nebula and Hugo Awards, which recognize the best published works of science fiction and fantasy, and the Otherwise Award (formerly the James Tiptree Jr. Award), for sci-fi or fantasy works that explore understanding the genre. (Pure fantasy writers were excluded.)
To identify each author’s most notable work, we reviewed readers’ ratings on Good reads, as well as information on the authors’ homepages and other sources. Birthdates and locations were collected from authors’ homepages where possible.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, we’ve included a wide range of authors, from seasoned writers who have been publishing speculative fiction for decades, to newcomers who have made a huge impact with their first or second published novel. Many of these authors are female, non-binary, or LGBTQ. Some write what you might call pure science fiction, while others also incorporate elements of fantasy, horror, and magical realism. Their works depict science fiction tropes such as alien invasions, dystopian futures, alternate histories, new visions of government, and space or time travel. (Here are the best sci-fi movies about time travel.)
Click here to learn more about 25 of the best black sci-fi authors
Science fiction is a genre that explores the impact of current technologies and social structures, imagining futures where these structures play out their usefulness or are replaced by something more suited to sustaining life on earth and other planets. The importance of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences making public guesses about how things are going cannot be underestimated. (Read about 100 years of robots – how technology and our lives have changed.)