30 Must-Read SFF Books By Black Authors
If you’re a science fiction and fantasy fan looking to round out your TBR, I’ve compiled a list of 30 amazing SFF books by Black authors for you below. The books on this list reach back into the past, look ahead to the future, and conceptualize new worlds full of magic and mystery.
It’s easy to think, given a glance at the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy — Tolkien, Clarke, Asimov, Martin — that speculative fiction is overwhelmingly straight, white, and male. As recently as ten years ago, The Guardian questioned “how…a genre that dreams up alien cultures and mythic races in such minute detail [can] seemingly ignore the ethnic, religious, gender and sexual diversity right here on [Earth].”
Just a few years after The Guardian asked about diversity in SFF, N.K. Jemisin became the first Black author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel, with The Fifth Season. The next year, she won Best Novel again for The Obelisk Gate, making her the first writer ever to win the Best Novel Hugo in two consecutive years. The year after that, Jemisin broke records again when she took home a third Hugo for The Stone Sky, becoming the first author to win Best Novel for every installment in a trilogy.
The good news is that seeing queer, trans, and BIPOC writers on SFF awards lists — long and short — has become increasingly common over the last decade. That’s not to say that the overwhelming whiteness of publishing doesn’t still present challenges, only that the SFF community as a whole is reading and recommending more fiction from authors who aren’t cishet white guys.
If you’re looking to dive into the wealth of Black science fiction and fantasy, I’ve got 30 great jumping-off points for you below.
Must-Read SFF Books By Black Authors
Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus
Sweep of Stars launches an epic space opera about a burgeoning pan-African empire that has colonized near-Earth space. Decades after the Muungano empire seceded from the union of world governments and took to the stars, a powerful enemy emerges. It’s impossible to ignore — hell-bent on destroying everything Muungano has worked to build. While three heroes navigate the web of interplanetary diplomacy, a fourth faces a much different threat on a second front.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
This action-packed YA fantasy follows Malik, a refugee, whose sister is kidnapped just after their long, harrowing journey to the heart of the Zirani empire. To save her, he makes a deal with a powerful spirit: kill the crown princess of Ziran in exchange for his sister’s safe return. Meanwhile, a recent assassination has the grieving princess desperate to find a way to resurrect her mother…and she may have to resort to human sacrifice.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Set in 2025, Parable of the Sower imagines a near future in which climate change leads to widespread violence, drought, and famine. Just outside Los Angeles, Lauren’s father, a minister, leads a community living in privilege behind the walls of their city. It’s only a matter of time until violence knocks on their door. When it does, it’s up to Lauren to lead a group of survivors across the United States, where they’ll found a new religion in the ashes of the old world.
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
Walking into the heart of the rebellion isn’t how Touraine expected to return to Qazāl. The Balladairan Empire uprooted her entire life when she was a child — taught her to kill, to serve. Princess Luca, the emperor’s niece, needs to tighten Balladaire’s weakening grip on Qazāl if she has any hopes of taking over his throne. Working as the princess’s escort, Touraine’s loyalties — to the empire, to her homeland, and even to Luca — will be put to the ultimate test.
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Charlotte Nicole Davis’s Weird West novel follows a sisterhood of young women forced to flee across a dangerous desert. The so-called Good Luck Girls were trafficked as children. Their brands prevent them from ever truly escaping a life of sexual slavery. When one of them kills a brothel customer on her first night, the Good Luck Girls know their sister’s days are numbered. Legend has it that someone, somewhere can remove their brands, but can they reach her before the powers that be catch up?
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
A strange event cuts off communication between one Midwestern city and the outside world in Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren. Some signs indicate that Bellona does not even exist on the same plane of reality anymore. Against this unsettling, disorienting backdrop, a mixed-race man named Kidd struggles to remember the details of his former life.
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
Two years after a violent confrontation caused the alien Ilori to subjugate humanity for their own good, humans aren’t allowed to express their emotions. Artistic endeavors are punishable by death — including 17-year-old Ellie’s secret library of banned books. Ellie has misplaced a book, and it’s only a matter of time before someone turns her in. The Ilori loyalist who finds the missing volume knows it’s his duty to see that justice is carried out. But M0r1S knows a little something about the power of art, and he may be willing to work with Ellie to try to change the world.
The Good House by Tananarive Due
Angela Toussaint’s son died by suicide two years ago. She’s finally ready to pick up the pieces of her life, but first she needs to know the truth about Corey’s suicide. Angela’s investigation takes her back to the scene of the tragedy: the Good House, her ancestral home. She arrives just as a malevolent force is tearing the town apart. It could be the spirit that Angela’s grandmother fought against 70 years earlier…but is it also responsible for what happened to Corey?
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi’s semi-autobiographical debut follows a Nigerian woman possessed by three spirits. Ada has always been different. Human society explains away evidence of her divine heritage as the symptoms of mental illness. But when an abusive relationship causes one of the ogbanje inside her to take control, Ada’s life veers sharply off-course in a series of events that ultimately push her down the path toward understanding herself.
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
The eponymous heroine of this 1991 debut is a formerly enslaved lesbian with a bounty on her head. She takes refuge at a brothel owned and operated by vampires, where she renames herself after the brothel’s owner. The novel follows Gilda over her first 200 years as a vampire.
Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston
Redwood Phipps and Aidan Wildfire must hide who they are. Her hoodoo talents and his Seminole ancestry could attract racist violence in 1890s Georgia. That’s what killed Redwood’s mother, whose death catalyzes Wildfire to protect his new companion. They make their way to Chicago, developing a vaudeville act along the way, in this James Tiptree Jr. Award (now the Otherwise Award) winner.
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
The Prophet prohibits miscegenation among his followers. According to his teachings, Immanuelle’s existence is proof of her late mother’s sins, which destroyed their family’s reputation. She does her best to follow the Prophet’s commands and prove that she belongs in Bethel. But when Immanuelle discovers secrets about her mother and the ghosts of the surrounding forest, she embarks down a new path from which there may be no return.
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
Tan-Tan’s father killed her mother’s lover in a jealous rage. To evade justice, he took his daughter to New Half-Way Tree: a monster-filled world that lies parallel to their home planet of Toussaint. That’s where Tan-Tan has grown up, subjected for years to her father’s abuse. By the time she manages to escape, she’s already pregnant with his child. In the aftermath, Tan-Tan begins a new life as the Midnight Robber: a Robin Hood-esque character from Caribbean folklore.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
The Civil War is over, but only because a new threat has emerged: the living dead. There’s still no place in the postbellum South for Jane, the mixed-race daughter of a white Southern belle. She travels to Baltimore to enroll in Miss Preston’s School of Combat. Training there will open her career path as an Attendant: a BIPOC bodyguard paid to protect the wealthy from the dead. But another threat stalks the Baltimore streets, and Jane will soon have to face it.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Drawing comparisons to the work of George R.R. Martin, this series-starter from Man Booker Prize–winner Marlon James follows Tracker, a mercenary hunter hired to crack open a cold case. A mysterious boy disappeared three years ago, and now a slave trader wants Tracker and Leopard, a shape-shifter, to locate him. What begins as a simple case soon proves to be more challenging than either man anticipated, however.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Orogenes, born with the power to control seismic fluctuations, cannot be trusted in the unstable world of the Stillness. Most are killed in infancy. Those who live must agree to serve the Fulcrum, on pain of death. The Fifth Season follows three orogenes: Damaya, a girl whose parents send her to train at the Fulcrum; Syenite, a young woman forced to have sex with another orogene, Alabaster, to produce a powerful child; and Essun, who sets out across a dangerous and ever-changing landscape to avenge her young son, who was murdered by his own father.
Sisters of the Wild Sage by Nicole Givens Kurtz
Another Weird West title, Sisters of the Wild Sage collects 12 stories set in an alternate version of the American Southwest. Spanning centuries, these tales mix tried-and-true western tropes with magic and mysticism. Nicole Givens Kurtz sets readers up on a stunning thrill ride, one that should not go overlooked.
The Black Parade by Kyoko M.
The first installment in this urban fantasy trilogy follows Jordan, a woman forced to serve the underworld to avoid damnation. Two years after she accidentally killed a Seer, Jordan must now help lost souls wrap up their unfinished business and ferry them to the afterlife. It’s a tough job, and it becomes tougher still when one poltergeist’s inquiry causes Jordan to cross an archdemon with a vengeful streak.
The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris
A boy with psychic abilities sees a little more than he bargained for in this YA novel. Clairvoyance isn’t exactly a blessing for Alex. He’s doomed to learn the future of every person and object he touches, no matter how mundane. After a vision reveals that Alex’s girlfriend might end their relationship, he makes a much more chilling discovery: his kid brother, Isaiah, is about to die.
Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
Terra-Two might be humanity’s only chance at survival. The journey there is a one-way trip that lasts 23 years, longer than some of the astronauts on the mission have been alive. Four astronauts who paved the way in the 20th century accompany 12 others — six seasoned spacefarers and six carefully trained teens — to the Goldilocks planet. But 23 years is a long time, and no amount of training can prepare the crew for every possible eventuality.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy follows its eponymous heroine, a girl with a knack for technology, as she becomes the first Himba student at a prestigious, extraterrestrial school. Her family didn’t want her to go, and her new classmates, who know nothing about the Himba people, don’t seem to want her to stay. After the ship taking a new class of students to the college is boarded by a vengeful alien force, however, Binti may be the only passenger capable of making peace before they arrive at Oomza University.
Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Ordinary Bassai aren’t permitted to know what lies outside the city. It’s illegal for immigrants to speak of the rest of the world in Bassa. Danso, a mixed-race student, should be spending his time studying and preparing for his upcoming marriage. After he sees someone use magic that should not exist, however, Danso finds the call of the unknown too tantalizing to resist.
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
A family recipe connects a woman and her daughter to the magical land of their forebears in this fabulist tale. Harriet’s gingerbread is famous in Druhástrana, where she grew up. It doesn’t have the same effect on Harriet’s neighbors in London, save for one: her childhood friend, Gretel. But when Harriet’s daughter, Perdita, sets out to track Gretel down, she finds herself re-examining her mother’s life story, in Gingerbread.
Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk
Elena sold her soul to the devil ten years ago. Their bargain runs out in three days, at which time the devil will collect what’s due. With the clock ticking down to her untimely death, Elena’s granted an 11th-hour opportunity: catch a serial killer to win back her soul. This job is the only hope she has of growing old with her beloved Edith, but can she solve the case before the devil comes to call?
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, a cli-fi novel, takes place in Dinétah, where gods and monsters out of Navajo legend roam once more. When a girl goes missing, Dinétah hunter Maggie sets out to find her. Maggie does what she does best — tracking the monster that kidnapped the child — with the help of a medicine man named Kai. Despite all their skills, the job will force the duo to go toe-to-toe with monsters they may not be equipped to fight.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Set in the aftermath of European colonization, Everfair weaves its way through the lives of citizens living within the eponymous nation: a corner of the Belgian Congo, purchased from Leopold II and established as a pan-African utopia.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
Yetu is a historian, and that means pain. Her people have no memory of their traumatic pasts — including the slave traders who threw their pregnant mothers into the sea. Yetu cannot escape their history, which plays over and over again in her mind, even as her fellow mermaids go about their carefree lives. She flees to the surface world to escape the psychological trauma. Yetu’s people need her, more than she herself knows, but will she answer their call for aid?
Rosewater by Tade Thompson
The first book in Tade Thompson’s Wormwood trilogy, Rosewater centers on Kaaro, a man who developed psychic abilities following his brush with an alien fungus. After Kaaro saves the alien known as Wormwood from Nigerian secret agents, Wormwood retreats into an impenetrable dome. The town of Rosewater, Nigeria grows up around Wormwood’s dome, but humanity gets no closer to answering their questions about the alien entity — leaving Kaaro with no choice but to remain on the case.
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel imagines an alternate antebellum South, one in which abolitionists use a subway system to move enslaved people to freedom. The focus here centers on Cora, a formerly enslaved woman who finds herself ruthlessly hunted after she kills a boy in self-defense. Now, Cora must remain one step ahead of her would-be capturer, Ridgeway, even as she throws herself at the mercy of the railroad, looking for a safe place to call home.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
Two powerful men fall into a forbidden love affair in this fantasy novella. It’s Captain’s job to lead the caravan through the established trade route, which has recently become the hunting grounds of a dreadful beast. To do so, he must rely on the sorcerer Demane’s magic. Both men sense a disconnect between themselves and the other members of the caravan. Eventually, they seek solace in one another. But should they mix business with pleasure on their already-dangerous journey?
Want more great SFF books by Black authors? Check out these SFF series that grapple with racism and look into these Black indie SFF authors to round out your TBR.