20 legendary Black science-fiction authors you need to know

1 of 21

Science fiction is massively popular, but it hasn’t always been very inclusive. Here are 20 amazing black sci-fi authors you should add to your reading list

Science fiction has a problem.

While it’s a genre beloved by people worldwide, for many, many decades (even centuries), sci-fi is not free from flaws. It’s ironic, really. For all that science fiction is meant to imagine worlds and new societies far different from our own, it has historically been all too happy to maintain the status quo.

Think about some of the biggest works of science fiction, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Martian Chronicles, or darn near anything written by Robert Heinlein. Notice any similarities amongst the biggest science fiction books? Many of the characters are white.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even though some of the biggest sci-fi properties recognized today are all too often racially tone-deaf, black sci-fi authors have been producing work for well over a century. And, with the rise of more and more creators of color in sci-fi and beyond, there’s hope that the situation will get better.

What is “black science fiction”? Broadly, it’s sci-fi produced by black creators. Once you get more specific, though, it’s clear that there as many ways to write about science fiction as there are individual authors. Black sci-fi isn’t monolithic by any means. Some of the authors included here draw on American experiences, Caribbean folklore, Islamic history, modern international politics, and much, much more.

Please note that science fiction is a huge genre with many, many different subgenres, from cyberpunk, to space opera, to galactic westerns. Your own personal definition sci-fi may or may not line up totally with the one used here, but rest assured that, even if you want to quibble over particulars, these are all great works of fiction that you should read no matter what.

So, in honor of Black History Month, here are 20 incredible Black science fiction authors who you should add to your reading list as soon as possible. Though this month is a good occasion to bring attention to Black sci-fi and speculative fiction, don’t think this is a one-time thing. There are enough authors here to keep you reading for the rest of the year at least.