My Baby Step into Science Fiction

Staff PicksMartin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library

My Baby Step into Science Fiction

Trekking along with my goal of branching out and reading different genres, science fiction was next on my list (after poetry). With every genre I read I always seek out authors of color/Black authors so the following books on this list are Black science fiction authors, talented voices that are not at the forefront of the genre.  

Patternmaster by (the late great) Octavia Butler 
Now, Patternmaster was the first book published in the Patternist series but the last book in the series. Knowing that now, I suggest you follow the book in chronological, not publication order because it's the way the author intended -- and for me it definitely would’ve helped answer some background questions I had about the plot. Even reading this book out of order it was an enjoyable read; I like any book that has an element of a perilous life-or-death journey, so this was right up my alley. At just under 200 pages, it’s a short engaging read delving into themes like social hierarchy, power and responsibility. 

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson 
The first novel by the Jamaican-Trinidadian-Canadian author Nalo Hopkinson depicts a young woman living in a post-apocalyptic Toronto. This Toronto is engulfed in extreme poverty, people experiencing homelessness, and people indulging in petty and not so petty crimes. As soon as I read the patois being spoken and saw the elements of magical realism I was SOLD. Brown Girl in the Ring has elements of science fiction, magic realism and feminist themes. 

How Long 'til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin 
I like short stories because of their length but I also dislike them because when they are so well written -- like NK Jemisin’s are -- I am always left wanting more to the story. There was no story in this collection that didn’t leave me wanting for more, but that sorrowful feeling was replaced by excitement when the next pages had a new story waiting for me. This was the first book I read by Jemisin, and her talent is unbelievable at times. I‘m a sucker for magical realism so of course one of my favorite stories was “Red Dirt Witch." If you are a newbie to science fiction, this is the book for you.  

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James 
Let me start off by saying that this book is nothing like Game of Thrones; sorry to those who are disappointed and happy for those who are now excited by that admission. This book is A LOT. All 619 pages of this book requires your full attention and even with that you may still end up having to re-read some pages. There are so many characters and different settings that its easy to get lost. Plus, there are moments that can be triggering for many (instances of sexual assault and descriptive brutal violent encounters). This book is set in a fictional African country and draws from African history and mythology -- and explores the foundation of the truth, duty and honor. If you’re brave enough to start and finish this epic, kudos to you and you're a better person than I am. 

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction By People of Color Edited by Nisi Shawl  
Anthologies can be a hit or miss; it's hard to have a cohesive collection when there are so many different writers with different styles of writing and ways they take on the theme impacting how well their stories mesh with the other stories in the collection. Speculative fiction (alternates realities, science fiction, fantasy, dystopian) is a new favorite of mine, and to have a book dedicated to stories from authors of color was everything for me. Oftentimes, when there are stories created in a fictional past or future, people of color, are nowhere to be found, and it can be disappointing and downright annoying to never see yourself in made-up worlds, so to have this book where we are thought of and at the center of is exciting.