20 legendary Black science-fiction authors you need to know

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Steven Barnes

In the earliest days of his career, Steven Barnes collaborated with science fiction giant Larry Niven. Starting in 1981, they began working together on the Dream Park series, featuring a futuristic amusement park.

Collaboration is no reason to dismiss Barnes. He’s an interesting author in his own right, having begun publishing his own standalone novels at the same time. Barnes helmed the Insh’Allah series, starting with Lion’s Blood (2002) and Zulu Heart (2003). These alternate history novels imagined a world where Islamic African societies are at the forefront of technological and intellectual advancements, rather than European centers.

Barnes has also written for the Fusion sci-fi comic, a galactic epic several centuries ahead of our own time. It features tensions between people who have embraced technology as a way to improve the species, and those who have abandoned humanity through genetic engineering.

Over the course of his career, Barnes has written numerous episodes of science fiction shows such as The Outer Limits reboot, Stargate SG-1, and Andromeda. He also wrote the novelization for “Far Beyond the Stars”, a 1998 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That episode features Avery Brooks (who normally plays Captain Ben Sisko) as a frustrated Black sci-fi writer in 1950s New York City.

Barnes’ wife, Tananarive Due, is more known to speculative fiction fans for her work in the horror genre. Her Blood Immortals series features a cadre of incredibly long-lived African vampires, some of whom can’t help but interact with regular humans, to dramatic effect. With Barnes, she has also collaborated on dystopian zombie fiction, with the young adult Devil’s Wake (2012) and Domino Falls (2013).