The OF Blog: This is not your obligatory Black History Month SF/F post

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This is not your obligatory Black History Month SF/F post

I almost didn't post this, because I am uncomfortable with the notion of forgetting/neglecting for 11 months only to "celebrate" during the shortest month of the year. However, over the past couple of years, I've made a more conscious effort to discover fiction written by people of color, especially those writing spec fic, so for those who only can recite Samuel Delany, the late Octavia Butler, Steven Barnes, and maybe 1-2 other PoC writers, I'm going to mention briefly (and in some cases, review more extensively in the coming months) a few writers active in the field (besides the ones mentioned above) that deserve attention.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, The Shadow Speaker - Although she's written other stories and another novel, when I read this YAish novel set in West Africa after a nuclear event in the mid-21st century, I was impressed with the strong narrative voice, her mixture of Nigerian folk-magic into the tale, and with the environmental concerns (water, crops being two prime examples). Her writing is beautiful and at some point in the future, I really want to re-read this novel before writing a full review. Suffice to say, she is one helluva storyteller. For another take, read David Anthony Durham's post here.

David Anthony Durham, Gabriel's Story; Walk Through Darkness; Pride of Carthage; Acacia: The War with the Mein - Speaking of Durham, not only is his epic fantasy opener, Acacia: The War with the Mein, one of the better 2007 releases that I've read, but I believe his historical novels are just as well-written, if not even more so. The fictional characters found in his first two novels, Gabriel's Story and Walk Through Darkness, have conflicts (internal and external alike) that make uncomfortable stories such as the US during the 1850s buildup to the Civil War and the West for African-Americans after that war all the more compelling to read. I do hope to write reviews of these two novels elsewhere after I do a re-read. His other historical novel, Pride of Carthage, I have reviewed positively on my personal blog.

Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring; Midnight Robber; Skin Folk (collection); The Salt Roads, The New Moon's Arms - For the past five years, Nalo Hopkinson has been one of my favorite writers, ever since I read her collection Skin Folk and fell in love with her use of the multitude of Caribbean dialects and folk legends to infuse her stories with polyrhythmic qualities that made virtually every other story stand out. In addition, her discussion of themes such as gender equity and LGBT issues in many of these stories has been done in a way that isn't "preachy," but neither is it water-downed; her characters are strong, sometimes mule-headed women who fight, struggle, and claw out some sort of existence in worlds where it seems that the entire pantheon of gods, duppies, voudon priests, and assorted others are out there to stifle any growth. Hopkinson's prose drew me in and I have been praising her every now and then here and elsewhere, and hopefully others will try her out. Also, do try the anthology Hopkinson co-edited, So Long Been Dreaming, as that is one of two excellent anthologies that contain stories by people of color.

Sheree R. Thomas (ed.), Dark Matter - I reviewed this anthology last year and I thought it was outstanding on how it took stories from the 19th century through the year 2000 and made a story of hope, trial, and struggle to keep dreams alive. The list of names included are impressive (click on the link above to see just a few of the many fine authors whose stories appealed to me) and the themes are still very relevant in a world that is struggling to admit that "color blindness" is but blindness of a different and insidious sort.

Tobias Buckell, Crystal Rain; Ragamuffin - Buckell has written two excellent Caribbean-flavored SF stories as well as many short stories (one is found in the So Long Been Dreaming anthology I mentioned above, while a collection is forthcoming this spring from Wyrm Publishing). There is much to like in his fast-paced yet thoughtful stories, as my review of Ragamuffin notes.

Ragamuffin, along with Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms, are finalists for the Nebula Awards this year.

Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - This book, although read too late to have been included in my Best of 2007 lists, is just stunning in its portrayal of an Afro-Dominican family and its cursed life, from the time of Trujillo and Son to the near-present in New Jersey. I'll just let my review of this book do the rest of the talking here, except I'll just add that this is a book that deserves more attention from spec fic fans, considering all of the SF references contained within the book.

But these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are doubtless tons others awaiting discovery by me later this year and in future years. Hopefully, others can point out newer PoC SF voices in the comments section so I can continue to expand my reading of those whose points of view and storytelling styles are so rich and rewarding to read.


Anonymous said...

Not novelists, but a few writers of short fiction: you've read Interfictions so you know of K. Tempest Bradford; also, FBS reviewer Craig Gidney has had short fiction published in the So Fey and brand-new Magic in the Mirrorstone anthologies, among other places.

Larry Nolen said...

True, although I'm more aware of Tempest as a blogger than as a writer. I did enjoy her story in that anthology, so I'll certainly read more of her work in the future. Another excellent short story writer is Nisi Shawl, whom I read in So Long Been Dreaming. And excellent news about Gidney - I'll certainly try to be on the lookout for those :D

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