Read Harder: An SFF Anthology Edited by a Person of Color

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This list of anthologies for children, teens, and adults should give you all the inspiration you need for checking off this Read Harder challenge: Read a science fiction/fantasy anthology edited by a person of color.

“SFF” is a handy term when you’re facing a character limit, but it’s a little too, well, limiting if you’re trying to be more specific about your interests. Do you like urban fantasy or is magic realism more to your taste? Space opera buff or time travel nerd? Are you fluent in Elvish, High Valyrian, or Klingon? Do you prefer to see people riff on the traditional fairy- and folktales you grew up with, or do you want something totally original? Would you rather train a dragon, trick a fairy, or banish a ghost? Do you like traveling to entirely new planets or do you want to just trip over a bit of magic on your way to work?

I’m not sure whether I’ve succeeded in making you more excited for a task you were dreading or complicated something you thought you had in the bag, but either way, I hope you’ll keep scrolling!

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color Edited by Nisi Shawl

I know I just spent all that time asking you to tease out what type of SFF you like best, but honestly, you could just go for this collection and try a bit of it all, because it’s all welcome here. That makes this a great choice for people entirely new to genre fiction and a solid read for anybody. You’ll be treated to mermaids, djinni, alien tourists, and a foreword from LeVar Burton!

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite Edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker

Everything old is new again. Vampires fell out of favor for a minute there, but how fitting is it that a crop of YA writers who grew up on vampire films and fiction are now coming up with new ones for their readers? The stories in this collection are very 2020—the vampires in them don’t just lurk in dark manors, but on social media and at school. Of the 12 stories, more than half are by writers of color.

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean Edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, and Anita Roy

Even if I didn’t already like speculative fiction, this collection would have interested me because of its very unique development—it’s a collaboration between Australian and Indian women writers and artists, inspired by violence against women in both of their countries to create art to speak out against it. Some of the entries are in comics form and others are in illustrated prose.

The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories Edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

Another creature-specific collection, this anthology is all about the djinn. Authors with roots in Nigeria, Pakistan, England, Sudan, Singapore, and beyond contributed their takes on what English speakers more commonly refer to as genies. It turns out they don’t just make punny jokes and grant wishes à la Robin Williams in Aladdin. Instead, these stories reveal them to be dark, tricky, greedy, insidious, and…loving?

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings book cover

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings Edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

For those of you who like your SFF with links to the past, this anthology’s editors asked their authors to write stories based on fairytales, myths, and folktales with origins in Asia. There’s a little bit of romance, a little bit of historical fiction, and a little bit of contemporary. The common thread through it all is the magic of age-old, ageless tales passed down through generations.

Love After the End Edited by Joshua Whitehead

Winner of the award I just made up for best portmanteau, this Indigiqueer collection of dystopias and utopias is all own voices. Post-apocalyptic fiction is rather notorious for its focus on things like decimated landscapes and climates, so why did it take so long for us to get fiction to contend with its “plight in the maw of settler colonialism’s histories”? Rhetorical question, real book to read.

A Phoenix First Must Burn Edited by Patrice Caldwell

It was only a matter of time before someone would take the term “Black Girl Magic” literally and take it to the bank. There are 16 stories from YA powerhouses who themselves demonstrate the diversity of the Black experience, from Black American to immigrant to Afro-Latinx to Black and queer to Black Muslim and beyond. This is another anthology that runs the gamut when it comes to the definition of SFF, so you’ll get a taste of everything.

Iraq + 100: Stories from a Century After the Invasion Edited by Hassan Blasim

This is another one of those collections I’m so fascinated by the premise of that I really didn’t need to look too far before adding to my TBR. Iraqi writers were asked what they thought their country would look like in the year 2103, a century after the American and British invasion. Ten authors (and translators!) rose to the challenge. Just please, nobody do a COVID+100 anthology; I am not ready.

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