Writers Of Color In SFF: Recommendation Time
There’s this thing that happens sometimes where someone asks about book recommendations from an author and that author — probably a white guy, like me — rattles off some names of other authors who are also probably white guys like me. I don’t believe this to be an actively racist kind of thing, but more a product of an industry that doesn’t publish as many writers of color. And when they do publish them, they tend to remain marginalized because of various institutional reasons. Plus, then you get that excuse that’s meant to be a positive — “I don’t see color!” — which is a noble thought that ultimately fails, because while you mean I don’t give into preconceived divisions between race, what often results is, I don’t see color because mostly I see only white and if I don’t see color then I don’t have to acknowledge people of color.
I made an effort a couple years back to include a far deeper bullpen of women writers on my shelves, and I’d say at this point about half of my SFF reading is of women authors. This isn’t because of some kind of diversity bingo — I’m not reading books that are bad just to read them because they were written by a woman. I’m reading awesome books by awesome authors. The single result of expanding my reading has been that I am reading more amazing books.
I’ve been making the same effort to include more writers of color — and so it seems like this is a good time to open the comments up to recommendations of writers of color in the SFF space (or, more broadly, feel free to wander into horror and YA if you need to). I recognize there’s some danger in making this a Very Special Post like it’s an Afterschool Special or That One Panel At A Con About Women Authors Where All The Other Panels Are Assumed Then To Be About Men By Default. The ideal goal is, when we recommend books, to have a more diverse slate of books to recommend and not sequester them in their very own marginal post — at the same time, my hope is this post serves as a seeding ground for myself and for others where we learn about awesome books we’re not yet reading. And then we read them and we include them going forward in the books about which we proselytize.
HEY LOOK, MORE AWESOME BOOKS FUCKING YAY.
Here’s a dollop of reading suggestions on my part, but for your part — get into the comments, recommend some writers of color and what they’ve written. Short stories and novellas are totally on the table, though I’ll recommend only novels right now as my reading of short fiction lately has been woefully shallow. If any work is free to read on the web, feel free to drop links.
(I do recognize that not all writers of color are self-identified, and the same goes for some women and QUILTBAG authors — but, many are, so the effort must be made.)
(Also, this really isn’t meant to be a proving ground for arguments about whether or not we should read more diversely or whatever your stance happens to be — please use the comments as a recommendation engine only. In this instance, be a fountain, not a drain. Thanks.)
Nnedi Okorafor: Lagoon. I just started reading this a few days ago and my mouth cannot make the proper pleasing sounds. This woman’s prose is fucking astounding. Cinematic, yet also occasionally dreamlike — science-fiction, but also occasional fantastical? It’s a weird, wonderful book so far. The plot is fine and all, but her prose is a place I wanna live.
Daniel Jose Older: Half-Resurrection Blues. This is how I like my urban fantasy. Real, monstrous, street-level stuff. (I have an unattainable dream of mashing up this series with my own The Blue Blazes given how both are set in and around Brooklyn and Manhattan.) It’s funny, too, and grim, and all the things I want. I have Shadowshaper, his newest YA, but haven’t cracked the cover yet as my tbr pile threatens to crush me beneath its weight.
Maurice Broaddus: King Maker. The Arthurian myth recast in modern-day inner-city Indianapolis. Good stuff — neat analogs to the mythology here (Excalibur becomes a gun, the Caliburn, f’rex). It’s a fantasy novel but occasionally pretty brutal about the lives of these characters. It’s harder stuff than you realize — not fluffy fantasy.
Aliette de Bodard: Obsidian & Blood. This is three books in one, and it was a jaw-dropper for me in what it does with your expectations of genre — what I mean is, this is essentially a detective novel set in the Aztec Empire, and is chockablock with blood magic and necromancy and the drama of the gods and goddesses. An ARC of her newest, House of Shattered Wings, just landed across my doorstep, and I’m excited to read it.
Greg Van Eekhout: California Bones. I dunno why this book is $2.99 right now, but do yourself a favor and fling yourself upon it. It’s this cool LA urban fantasy about unearthing ancient things — but just as it’s sometimes about digging up real bones of old creatures, it’s also about digging up the bones of the past.
SL Huang: Zero Sum Game. Listen, I don’t like math, so when you tell me this is a book about a person whose superpower is math, I’m not interested. More the stupid on my part, because this first book is a blast from start to finish. Huang writes with hella energy — whatever mad calculus she’s doing, she’s doing it right. Curse her for making me care about math.