5 Science Fiction and Fantasy Women of Color Authors to Read After Octavia Butler

Already read everything by the majestic Octavia Butler? In honor of her birthday, check out these other science fiction and fantasy women of color authors who are writing innovative, mind-blowing novels today.

N.K. JemisinN.K. Jemisin

Honestly, if you’re a fan of Octavia Butler and you haven’t read N.K. Jemisin yet, where have you been? Since the publication of her debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in 2010, Jemisin’s ground-breaking, unique fantasy novels have only been getting better. To date she has three series to check out: the Inheritance trilogy, the Dreamblood series, and the Broken Earth series, the third novel of which, The Stone Sky, is due out this August. If you are tired of conventional fantasy tropes, Jemisin is going to blow your mind as she creates truly new worlds full of strange mythologies, cultures, religions, creatures, and lands. I almost hesitate to call her work fantasy because it is so different from any other fantasy I have read. In her two most recent books, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, Jemisin is at the height of her powers of world-building and plotting, as she weaves multiple stories set in “the Stillness,” where people live under threat of extinction via earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters. The idea of apocalypse hangs over them like a cloud at all times. Some people in this world, including the main characters, have the gift/curse of being able to move and control the forces beneath the earth’s surface, to either stop … or create disasters.

Nalo HopkinsonNalo Hopkinson

Perhaps Nalo Hopkinson is Octavia Butler’s long lost twin, because she writes fiction just as wildly imaginative and, frankly, genius as Butler, but, happily, with more sex. Since her first novel in 1998, Brown Girl in the Ring—set in post-apocalyptic Toronto, Hopkinson has gone on to put out some of the best (speculative) fiction that I’ve ever read. I personally think both of her short story collections Skin Folk and Falling in Love with Hominids are the very best work she’s done, but her novels such as The Salt Roads and Sister Mine are also AMAZING and ranging from Afro-Caribbean mythological urban fantasy set in Toronto and magical historical tales of Black queer women in different eras and places in the world. In her short stories you’ll find topics like future sex toys who have a life of their own, lesbian/genderqueer erotica set in a brothel, body swapping, zombies who only morph when they hit puberty, and time-travelling art historians taking over the bodies of children in the past. Every time I read new Nalo Hopkinson work I am blown away by the sheer inventiveness of the concepts she comes up with. I feel astounded that the ideas even came from a human being’s brain, they are that ingenious.

Nnedi OkoraforNnedi Okorafor

A prolific writer for adults, teens, and children, Nnedi Okorafor has published many books in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism. Her imagination is, like Butler’s, simply stunning. Her Nigerian background can often be seen in her work as she weaves in African cultural details in stories set in space and other worlds. Her books for kids and teens include Long Juju Man and the Akata Witch series, among others. Akata Witch and the sequel Akata Warrior follow 12-year-old Nigerian-American Sunny, whose albinism makes her feel like she doesn’t fit anywhere, until she learns she has magical abilities. This new destiny involves a lot of catching up on magical training, and dangerous missions to catch criminals. Her work for adults, including Who Fears Death, Kabu Kabu, Lagoon, and the Binti series, tackles topics like genocide and strange births in future post-apocalyptic Africa, illegal Nigerian taxis that take you to magical places, the aftermath of massive objects falling from space into the ocean off of Lagos, and journeys into space, complete with terrifying aliens, universities that serve the galaxy, and inter-species war. Okorafor has won and been nominated for a gazillion awards, including Nebulas, World Fantasy Awards, Tiptree Honors, and many others. People looking for Black feminist science fiction should be reading Okorafor yesterday.

Larissa LaiLarissa Lai

An American-born Canadian fiction writer, poet, and academic, Larissa Lai is the author of two genre-defying speculative novels, When Fox Is a Thousand and Salt Fish Girl. When Fox Is a Thousand is an exquisite book blending folklore, fantasy, historical, and contemporary queer fiction. It’s told from three alternating viewpoints: Yu Hsuan-Chi, a real-life poet from ninth-century China; the mythological Fox, nearing her one thousandth birthday; and Artemis, a young Chinese-Canadian woman living in Vancouver. Salt Fish Girl also spans different centuries and places: it’s set in 19th century China and the futuristic Pacific Northwest. The main character is an ageless female who is sometimes fish, snake, girl, and woman, encountering adversity in the form of capitalist biotechnology and the “dreaming disease,” a condition that makes the past leak into the present. Like all the women on this list and Octavia Butler, Lai weaves in details from her cultural and ethnic background seamlessly into her science fiction and fantasy writing, challenging the dominance of white men in the genres. Lai’s poetry collection Automaton Biographies could also be called science fiction, as it ruminates on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the cyborg Rachel from the film version Blade Runner as well as the chimpanzee named Ham who was sent up into space as part of a NASA mission in the 1960s.

Nisi Shawl

Nisi Shawl

A long-time and well-known writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories, Nisi Shawl also writes and teaches about how speculative fiction can address social justice issues of race, gender, colonialism, ability, sexuality, and more. It’s obvious how her work is akin to Butler’s. You might know Shawl from her creative writing workshop and non-fiction book with Cynthia Ward Writing the Other, which addresses creating credible characters outside your own cultural experiences. Her debut novel Everfair was released in 2016, and is an excellent intervention into steampunk, a genre that too often ignores Victorian-era imperialism and erases people of color. It’s an alternative history dealing with Belgian King Leopold II’s brutally violent colonialist regime in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Shawl invents an alternate universe where a hodge-podge group of Western socialists, Asian inventors, and Indigenous people band together to create a new nation and defeat Leopold. Shawl has also edited some great anthologies of speculative fiction you’ll want to get your hands on, including ones paying homage to Black and queer science fiction legends like Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany and Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler.


This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler’s  birthday. See all the posts here.

Science Fiction Short Story Collections by Authors of Color

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. Like so many fantastic genre writers before and since, Octavia Butler got her start when she sold the short story Crossover. Short story publishing has often provided authors of marginalized backgrounds with a better chance to get off the ground. Publishing a novel takes a greater commitment of time and money, so companies are more hesitant to pull the trigger on unknown authors with "non-traditional" backgrounds and stories. And yet, some of the most iconic works of fiction are only a few...Continue Reading

Fear and Butler in America

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. I spent most of my life afraid of Octavia Butler. A 1988 copy of Kindred sat on my bookshelf for years. It traveled across the country with me. Twice. Actually, I’ve had two copies; I traded in the one I had when I found an older version with a more interesting cover. I sort of knew what it was about. Something involving a black woman from the present traveling back to the Antebellum United States. I knew it...Continue Reading

Fierce: The Short Fiction of Octavia Butler

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. Fierce. That was my reaction when I read the work of Octavia Butler for the first time. This is a woman to be reckoned with.  I don't say that just because she is a black woman writing in a genre that is dominated by white men - even more so than literature as a whole - and that is nothing if not impressive. I say it because she does something with her writing that so many authors attempt...Continue Reading

A Smurfette in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Octavia’s Legacy

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. Women writers have interesting barriers. The Mary Sue and Tor.com have discussed how female SFF writers, and SFF female characters, can easily become overlooked or forgotten. We don’t receive as much coverage due to implicit bias in our culture. This is ironic since according to history women like Mary Shelley have created the science fiction and horror genres. Tor.com mentions that the women that leave a legacy are the Smurfettes of the world, the token female authors that...Continue Reading

LUMINESCENT THREADS: Knowing Octavia Butler Through a Community That Loves Her

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. Do you often write dead letters - that you pen down in your journal on nights when you’ve been defeated - to your favourite author? I have done this, and I’m sure, dear Reader, that you have too. We have all bared our secrets and mysteries to our favourite authors at some point. A good thing about this habit is, of course, that at some point, brilliant people like Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal might want to consolidate and...Continue Reading

Is it Possible to Misread Octavia Butler?

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. "Bloodchild" is one of Octavia Butler's most haunting, disturbing, and memorable stories, and is also one of the greatest things she ever wrote. And I know that I am not alone in having completely misread the story and entirely missed what Butler had accomplished. The titular tale in Butler's one and only short story collection, "Bloodchild" describes a future where humanity has developed a complicated relationship with a race of insect-like creatures known as the Tlic. The Tlic chooses...Continue Reading

Why Octavia E. Butler is Essential SciFi Genre Reading

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. I'm not really sure when I became a huge fan of Octavia E. Butler, but I do remember the first novel of hers I read: it was Kindred. I had been loving sci-fi novels at the time, but everything I picked up after The Hunger Games felt stale and repetitive (Christ, did we really need a whole Divergent series? Sorry, not sorry). I picked up Kindred because it sounded genuinely original, and it is: I couldn't put it down and...Continue Reading

Writers Inspired by Octavia Butler

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. Octavia Butler inspired many writers -- especially writers of color -- by showing them that they could be writers, that there was a place for their fiction. That their dreams were worthy of following. These writers' stories about Octavia Butler's influence shows how important the Own Voices movement is in publishing. We need books written by black women, with black women on the cover, prominently displayed on bookshelves. We needed them yesterday, but today will have to do. Thankfully, for...Continue Reading

Science Fiction That Isn’t Quite; or, Books to Read if You Loved KINDRED

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. My first significant memory of Octavia Butler is from college, when I was in a class about representations and intersections of race and sexuality, and we read her Kindred. Kindred is a strange, beautiful, harrowing, painful book in which a black woman in the contemporary U.S. find herself repeatedly and inexplicably drawn back in time to an antebellum plantation. For me, the “inexplicably” was so important that, when a friend in the class described the book as “science...Continue Reading

Discovering Octavia Butler’s FLEDGLING And Rediscovering Genre Fiction

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's  birthday. See all the posts here. I discovered Octavia Butler because of Betty Smith. Really! Ok, so what happened was: I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn many, many, many times, for the obvious reasons. It was about a girl who loved to read, and while my family was not as poor as Francie’s we were not well-off. We were both Irish! (Well, I’m a quarter, but it counts in my head.) And, like Francie, I often spent hours and hours in my local...Continue Reading

5 Science Fiction and Fantasy Women of Color Authors to Read After Octavia Butler

Already read everything by the majestic Octavia Butler? In honor of her birthday, check out these other science fiction and fantasy women of color authors who are writing innovative, mind-blowing novels today. N.K. Jemisin Honestly, if you’re a fan of Octavia Butler and you haven’t read N.K. Jemisin yet, where have you been? Since the publication of her debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in 2010, Jemisin’s ground-breaking, unique fantasy novels have only been getting better. To date she has three series to check out: the Inheritance trilogy, the Dreamblood series, and the Broken Earth series, the third novel of...Continue Reading

An Octavia Butler Reading Pathway

This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of  the birthday of Octavia Butler. See all the posts here. Today at Book Riot, we're celebrating Octavia Butler day. If you're not already a Butler fan, we hope that our posts have piqued your interest! If you're interested in reading Octavia Butler's work but don't know where to start, this post is for you! These books will give you a great introduction to Butler's writing. Start with ... Kindred. This is where I started with Butler, and of all her books that I've read, I think it...Continue Reading

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