November 14th, 2017

I remember discovering Octavia Butler back in 1976 at The Amber Unicorn, a fantasy and science fiction bookstore then doing business in San Diego, California (the store has since moved to Las Vegas). My habit was to spend no more than $20 per payday on new paperback books. In 1976 that would buy six to eight books.

At the time Butler was a unicorn herself, a female, African-American Science Fiction writer in a world dominated by white men and her Patternmaster series was ground-breaking on many levels. Butler died in 2006.

Ashley Nkadi, writing in A Guide to Fantasy and Science Fiction Made for Black People, by Black People for The Root, shows just how far SF&F (never Sci-Fi, Ashley, please) has come:

Since the beginning of time, when we have not been included, we have created our own. HBCUs, black-owned businesses, black houses of worship, black social organizations and The Root itself are fruits of our resilience and creativity in the face of adversity. The books Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture and The Encyclopedia of Black Comics are fantastic evidence of this rich hub of black art. To further elaborate, here is an inclusive (and intersectional) guide to black art and artists in the genre to support, ranging from emerging to longtime favorites.

I was particularly taken by Dark Matter, a 448-page anthology that: introduces black science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers to the generations of readers who have not had the chance to explore the scope and diversity among African-American writers. What caught my eye was the inclusion of W.E.B. Du Bois, alongside Butler and many others, in the collection. I had no idea.

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