Monday, January 16, 2012

What is the State of Black SciFi?

Black faces abound in scifi nowadays. One can hardly turn on one's TV without seeing Will Smith battling robots or Vhing Rhames or some other big name actor or actress saving the world. From the living, the dead, and the undead, from aliens, evil monsters of flesh, flora, or metal. (For the purpose of this blog tour, I'll lump all Black speculative fiction under the category of Blackscifi.)

Of course, it's great to see Sanaa Latham battling and then bonding a predator. Black power meets Girl power. But is that really Black scifi or black specfic? Sure, there is the charge to see her, and I remember the charge I got when I used to watch Mantis. He was Black, he was disabled (but not overwhelmed by that paralysis because) he was also a superhero. And really, he was one of the first scifi Black nerds on television. (Barney in Mission Impossible didn't count: that was espionage and contemporary science. Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek kinda counted but she was in repeats and really --although she broke all sorts of color barriers back in the day-- she was really only a glorified secretary in a world made by white writers.

Which leads me to the whole State of Black scifi thing.

What is the difference between Black characters in scifi movies/books/animation and Black scifi? The best answer is that Black scifi is written by Black folks with Black culture, Black issues, Black traditions, and sometimes Black artistic formats.

It's a good time for Black scifi, I think -- especially in the self-publishing community. Writers such as Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nora Jemisin are traditionally published with big publishing houses. Other writers, such as Milton Davis, are paving new ways in indie publishing.

Just as there's a departure from traditional publishing houses, there is also a depart from the "white" norm. Often, the white world tends to think that if they have explored a trope or an issue, then all the world should move on. For instance, because white women are tired of being put on pedestal or being considered objects of admiration or homemakers, it is often expected that Black women should not write about such matters. But Black women have not been on pedestals as beauties for a while in the present age. The same can be said for art forms. The white fantasy world -- at least in publishing-- often eschew epic fantasy. They have had their fill of warriors. But Sword and Soul, a phrase coined by the great Black writer Charles Saunders,  has not had its chance to explore epic fantasy or the warrior ethics and stories in an African (or African analog) setting.

Now, with indie publishing, self publishing and outlets such as amazon and there is a way for Black writers to explore many genres and themes the gatekeepers of publishing are tired of. No longer do writers of all colors have to endure European fairies and elves. Black elves also exist. As do Asian and Native American elves.

So for me, Black scifi is doing is stepping up to show readers around the earth a brave new world

For more on the state of Black SciFi, check on Twitter --  hashtag: #blackscifi2012  #blaskscifi

Other participants

Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event:
L. M. Davis, Author--began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers:  A Shifters Novel will be released this spring.  For more information visit her blog or her website

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him:   and
Margaret Fieland, Author-- lives  and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines is available from  Her book, "Relocated," will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy," will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013.  You may visit her website,

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author -- is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: and
Alicia McCalla, Author- writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012.  The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at:
Carole McDonnell, Author--She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction.  Visit Carole:  or
Rasheedah Phillips,Author--is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog,
Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage.  Visit her: 
Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of, & Visit him:


Alicia said...

Carole, great post. I think that there are great inroads in the film arena, it's so time to look at fiction. I'm excited about Sword and Soul. I'm liking Steamfunk, too. There's greatness on the horizon.

Nicole said...

"Often, the white world tends to think that if they have explored a trope or an issue, then all the world should move on."

Agreed, Carole. It seems we never question white male agency. They are expected to slay the dragon, to go on a quest for treasure, to dance on the moon. But when black folk are ready for a quest of our own -- particularly black women -- our stories are viewed as invalid and incomprehensible.

I'm glad that writers of color are challenging these norms and re-imagining worlds where they have agency. As Alicia says above, there's greatness on the horizon.

Wonderful post!

Immortal: Science Fiction Imitates Life said...

Hi Carole: Well said! This is certainly a "brave new world" for Black writers, for all writers of color. And one that's long overdue.

Blog Archive

Popular Posts