Speculative fiction is a broad term which encompasses works of science-fiction, fantasy, and more. These are works that demand of us to confront our histories, be vigilant and active in our present, and to care and tend to our futures. The Word Up Community Bookshop collective offers some of our favorite works of speculative fiction by Black creatives, not just in honor of Black History Month but in diligence to the demands of their work.
This is a living list with recommendations from our collective. Click on the pictures to be redirected to their official book pages.
Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents comprise the published works of Earthseed, Octavia Butlers seminal work that explores climate catastrophe, change, faith, and class. For people who dream of building a sustainable future collectively, Lauren Olamina and her journey is a beacon of light. If you have not yet any Butler works yet, this is a great place to start. This beautiful boxset makes a great gift or collectible item.
If you are a fan of Earthseed and have not yet forayed into the other worlds of Octavia Butler, Lilith's Brood/Xenogenesis series is a great next read. Butler takes you on a journey that discusses colonization, adaption, gender and survival. Explore the boundaries of humanity and life beyond in this often visually evocative and thoughtful series.
This is one of the great fantasy series of the 21st century. Get into a climate fiction story that is equal parts epic, shattering, and current. It's a series that will have you demanding the next book as soon as you finish the first. My mom and brother sped through The Fifth Season and immediately wanted The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky. Don't regret having to wait and buy a box set! Did I mention the Hugo Award for Best Novel for EACH book?
Short Story anthologies are a great way to get to know a writer. Meet N.K. Jemisin outside of her epic novels and enjoy the imaginitive and generative Black stories she offers in this collection. I enjoyed "Red Dirt Witch". Also, don't sleep on audiobooks (unless you use them to go to sleep)! How Long 'til Black Future Month is performed by a stellar cast of award winning narrators Gail Nelson-Holgate, Shayna Small, Robin Ray Eller, Ron Butler, Kevin Stillwell, Je Nie Fleming, and Jeanette Illidge.
Samuel Delaney's stories are not just seminal works of science-fiction, but clever, humorous, and demanding. Babel-17 is a story about a linguist, Rydra Wong, employed by her government to unravel a weaponized language. Empire Star is a coming of age story meets star trek meets ending slavery. These two stories make for an approachable start Delaney's dense and sometimes esoteric style.
Black is the comic I was waiting for. Recommended to me by another Word Up Collective Member, Emmanuel Abreu, I read volume 1 as soon as I could get my hands on it. The premise: what if only Black people had super powers. It uses some shoddy comic book science to make it work, but that is beside the joy and intrigue of the funny dialogue, the vast and unravelling conspiracy at its center, and the best code names I've ever heard: Swole, Swerve, and Extension to name a few. The best part: there are spin offs and growth in this world with more writing from the Osajyefo and the many artists, as well as, from other great Black comics creators like Vita Alaya.
Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
On the subject of comics, I love Robyn Smith's illustrations and L.L. McKinney's voice in comics! DC has a machine of press behind its releases that usually stops me from shouting them out too much, but none of their new titles excites me as much as Nubia: Real One. Nubia's character, which has a long history in DC (read more here), is getting a small town remake and it's exactly on time. This comes out Feb 23, pre-order now!