African American Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers
Six times a year, the editors of the Oxford African American Studies Center provide insights into black history and culture, showing ways in which the past and present interact by offering specially commissioned featured essays, photographic essays, and a selected list of articles that will further guide the reader. The latest Focus On looks at lives and work of several prominent African American science fiction and fantasy writers.
African American science fiction and fantasy writers have been steadily building their presence in these two popular genres of fiction over the past several decades. Many of the earliest examples of African American science fiction, such as W.E.B. Du Bois's "The Comet" (1920), dealt overtly with themes of prejudice and racism, but over the last few decades, African American speculative fiction writers have taken a variety of approaches to the work of imagining future worlds, new technologies, and alternate realities. As a result, it is difficult to define any single point of commonality among today's African American science fiction and fantasy writers. While their narratives might involve time travel or galaxy hopping, these authors share the concerns of most other fiction writers, namely interesting characters, nuanced relationships, and compelling stories.
The editors of AASC have put together the present photo essay in order to highlight a selection of African American science fiction and fantasy writers from the past 100 years. The authors bring an incredible diversity of influence and interest to their writing, and their work represents a major contribution to the American cultural landscape. What is perhaps most exciting, however, is the fact that a number of the writers presented here seem to be in the early stages of their careers. Following their recent successes, many of these authors are poised to leave an important legacy in science fiction, fantasy, and literature more broadly.
View photo essay
The following entries have been selected to help guide readers who want to understand more about African Americans and speculative fiction.
Primary Source Documents