NOTE: This post first appeared in two parts in the Roswell Daily Record in June…
In view of the events taking place all around our country and the world right now, I thought I should devote this month’s column to recommending science fiction and fantasy books written by Black authors.
A source I turn to often is the WOC In Romance webpage …they update periodically and have the books slotted into genres/tropes for easy searching. I’ve discovered many new-to-me authors of color on their various lists.
Here are some specific Black authors and book recommendations from me:
May Sage writes all manner of stories but her fantasy romances have a huge following. Her Court of Sin series, which begins with Frostbound Throne: Song of Night is a good entry point to her work. A bit of the blurb: “Vale was born in battle seven hundred years ago, and in all this time, he’s never encountered an enemy that poses a real challenge. Until now. Devi has been told terrifying tales of vengeful gods since her youth. She never thought that she would wake up in a world where she had to fight them.”
Another favorite of mine is A. M. Griffin, with her The Hunt series. Book one is The Game Warden’s Mate. From the book’s blurb: “The Hunter. As the new Game Warden, Xrez Ym’ihla brings patrons from across the galaxy to track prey in a game built to enslave the weak and mate the strong. The business is a long running family legacy and Xrez is determined to succeed as his father had before him. He hadn’t meant to let one human occupy his thoughts, mind, and body. His lies may come back to haunt him, but if he reveals the truth, he’ll ruin his chance to capture the heart of the one he wants. The Prey. Esme Valdez had her entire life planned from an early age. As a chemist, her life was average and mundane, just the way she liked it. Until the impossible happened…”
I first discovered Deborah Bailey when she released book one in her Hathor Legacy trilogy, which was Burn…and I loved her Once Upon a Princess: Beauty and the Faun fairy tale…Here’s the logline for Burn: “On the planet, Hathor: A powerful corporation, a psychic security force & a conspiracy.”
I’ve mentioned P. J. Dean before, because I so enjoyed her scifi romance series The Felig Chronicles, and she writes in other genres as well…here’s the top line of the blurb: “Time: post-apocalyptic America in the near future. Faustina Cain (Tina) and Nate Lowe each have their own reasons for fighting against a group of aliens, the life-force draining Felig, who have invaded Earth…”
Seressia Glass’s Shadowchaser’s series is excellent adventure and romance. The first book is Shadow Blade and here’s a portion of the blurb: “Kira’s day job is as an antiquities expert, but her true calling is as a Shadowchaser. Trained from youth to be one of the most lethal Chasers in existence, Kira serves the Gilead Commission, dispatching the Fallen who sow discord and chaos…” She’s up against a 4,000 year old Nubian warrior.
For something a little different, Christa Tomlinson has a superhero romance series and the first book is Blaze: A Superhero Romance (Arch City Guardians Book 1). Here’s the beginning of the blurb: “A Dark Hero is Irresistibly Drawn to the Man He Saves from Danger. In the dark of night, Blaze wages war against St. Louis’s criminal masterminds. Once the sun rises, he’s Jordan Wells, quiet custom body shop owner. Jordan has accepted that it’s his destiny to walk alone in the shadows… until he meets Daniel…”
Erin Ashley Tanner writes more in the paranormal vein with her Demi-God Daughters series. Book one is Goddess of Legend and the blurb begins thusly: “Cameryn Kane is a private investigator with a spirit problem. She can talk to spirits, solve any homicide, and has no love life. When an unexpected death sends her world into a tailspin, Cameryn finds comfort in the arms of a tall, dark and handsome stranger—Hades, god of the Underworld.” I’ve always been fascinated by Hades myself so this was a fun read.
L. Penelope’s Earthsinger Chronicles pull the reader into the world she’s created and never let go. The first book in the series is Song of Blood and Stone and here’s a bit from the blurb: a treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers. The kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar have been separated for centuries by the Mantle, a magical veil that has enforced a tremulous peace between the two lands. But now, the Mantle is cracking and the True Father, ruler of Lagrimar and the most powerful Earthsinger in the world, finally sees a way into Elsira to seize power.”
Alyssa Cole just released the ebook version of The A.I. Who Loved Me, which is thoroughly enjoyable and her post-apocalyptic Off the Grid series is a classic. The first book in the series is Radio Silence. Here’s a taste of the blurb: “No one expects the apocalypse. Arden Highmore was living your average postgrad life in Rochester, New York, when someone flipped the “off” switch on the world…” I’m always ready for a good apocalyptic tale!
Hugo And Nebula Award winning author N. K. Jemison’s The City We Became is an amazing book, as is The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1). From the blurb for The City We Became: “Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She’s got six…” The concepts are fairly dizzying in this novel, in a very good way.
I can’t say enough about the Hugo and Nebula Award winning Binti trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor. I immersed myself in it for several days of solid reading pleasure. Here’s a snippet from the book’s blurb: “…a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family’s concerns, Binti’s talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey. But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti’s spaceship, leaving her the only survivor…”
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes is a timely, tough fantasy on my To Be Read list…from the blurb: “Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu…”
Bethany C. Morrow has written two highly intriguing speculative fiction novels, MEM and the just released A Song Below Water: A Novel. Here’s the beginning of the blurb for the latter: “In a society determined to keep her under lock and key, Tavia must hide her siren powers. Meanwhile, Effie is fighting her own family struggles, pitted against literal demons from her past. Together, these best friends must navigate through the perils of high school’s junior year. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice at the worst possible moment…”
Reni K. Amayo’s Daughters of Nri: The Return of the Earth Mother series is also on my To Be Read list at the moment. Here’s the top level summary from the blurb: “A gruesome war results in the old gods’ departure from earth. The only remnants of their existence lie in two girls. Twins, separated at birth. Goddesses who grow up believing that they are human. Daughters Of Nri explores their epic journey of self-discovery as they embark on a path back to one another…”
And of course there’s Octavia E. Butler, the Hugo and Nebula award-winning “Grand Dame of Science Fiction”. Kindred is one of her masterpieces and here’s the blurb: “Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.”
A final resource suggestion from me: Don’t overlook FIYAH, the magazine of Black Speculative Fiction….check them out!
Hopefully this small list will provide a few new-to-you authors (or remind you of longtime favorites) and some resources for finding more, because a voracious reader always needs fabulous new books to read, right?
As it relates to the times we’re living in, I’d like to add one more nonfiction book that I personally found immensely helpful. It was hard homework but insightful and eye opening, even after all the many hours of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion training I’d had at various times with my previous day job employer. This book, which I read earlier in the year when the Romance Writers of America was imploding over its DEI issues (wow, that seems like last century!) is challenging but turned on many light bulbs for me. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin J. DiAngelo, Michael Eric Dyson (Foreward).
Sending my best wishes to you and your loved ones to stay safe and healthy because we’re not out of the pandemic yet, that’s for sure.