I often wonder, where are all the black science fiction writers? When I peruse the shelves at my local bookstore, and I find a title I might be interested in, I always check the inside cover to see if the author is black. Hoping. But, more often than not, disappointed. I then surmise that if the author is not African American, then any characters, which are black, will only be used to move the story along. That has almost always been our traditional role in science fiction.
Of course, we can look to the works of Martin Delany, Samuel R. Delany, WEB Dubois, Octavia Butler, and N.K. Jemison. But, after doing some research, I was surprised to learn there are many more. For instance, on forharriet.com, you can read about seven accomplished black female science fiction writers. If you search for African American science fiction on GoodReads.com, you will come up with 201 titles.
But, if you keep reading some of the reviews and comments from African Americans on GoodReads, the common thread appears to ask where are the main characters of color; who are doing extraordinary things? Many are questioning why so many emerging authors of color are being overlooked. I am one of those African American science fiction authors wondering the same thing.
An article written by Samuel R. Delany was insightful. There have been many African American science fiction writers, dating back to the early 1800’s. As he also points out later in the article, those same writers never got the recognition they deserved because of the color of their skin.
Delany is not only African American; he is gay. So when his peers at the Science Fiction Writers of America Nebula Awards Banquet covertly ridiculed him in 1968, he took it in stride. He even took it in stride, after receiving his award, when Isaac Asimov leaned over to him at the table and whispered, “You know, Chip, (Delany’s nickname) we only voted you those awards because you’re Negro…”. As Delany so eloquently puts it, “Racism is a system. As such, it is fueled as much by chance as by hostile intentions and equally the best intentions as well.”
When I go on social media and join in conversations with my groups, I see the same concerns. Where are the black science fiction writers? Well, we’re here, right in front of you. You might not find us in your local bookstore, because most of them only sell books published by traditional publishing houses. But if you go to Amazon, GoodReads, and Barnes and Noble Online, you can shop until you drop. Check us out at your online bookstore. Sit back, relax. Read a good science fiction novel with black characters, written by a black author. And enjoy!