20 legendary Black science-fiction authors you need to know

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Sheree R. Thomas

Though Sheree R. Thomas is already a well-known writer; she’s maybe best known for her work organizing other Black science fiction authors. Her Dark Matter anthologies are one of the best places to go to read the work of Black sci-fi writers active today.

Dark Matter actually collects a wider array of “genre” fiction, including fantasy and horror pieces alongside science fiction. The first volume, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000), includes pieces by Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Tananarive Due, and Nalo Hopkinson, among many others.

Thomas has said that she grew up with science fiction books in her home, but started to cool on the genre when she realized that many authors ignored characters of color. When Black people were included in the story, she noticed that they were often sidekicks or sacrifices.

“Somehow the good of all mankind always depended on [the Black character’s] death and that just wasn’t working for me so I stopped reading the genre for the most part and began looking at Black literature,” she said.

Dark Matter came about once Thomas realized there was no anthology collecting the work of Black speculative fiction writers. She eventually found a collection of works by Japanese sci-fi writers, which she realized must have taken some effort to translate and publish. Why, then, weren’t the works of Black sci-fi authors (many of whom were already writing in English) just as available?

The first Dark Matter anthology won the 2001 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. It was followed by Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2004), which won the same award in 2005. A third volume, currently called Dark Matter: Africa Rising, is forthcoming.