What’s Your Favorite Race-Smart Sci-Fi From This Century? [Reader Forum]

Continuing with Adriel Luis' top-ten list of new sci-fi of color, our readers chime in with their picks.

By Channing Kennedy Jun 11, 2011

Another blockbuster commenting week at Colorlines! And for this here Reader Forum, I had a lot of options.

I could have rolled out some of your piercing, beautiful defenses of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick‘s abandoning of the Secure Communities program; as KazakFlea writes, "For those who see our immigration system as a God-given moral system, undocumented immigrants will always be "criminals" and this whole discussion seems silly — ‘who cares what the crime is, they’re illegal, deport them!’ But those folks should remember that it was very legal in this country to own another human being not that long ago and even more recently it was illegal in many places for a black person to be married to a white person. Laws are fallible constructs made by people (and increasingly corporations). They can be broken and they can be changed."

And, from Dom Apollon’s writeup of his year-long research project into how young people perceive race, I could have highlighted RAA24 and A. Gatewood‘s quotes of Letters from a Birmingham Prison, in which Dr. King warns of the white moderate who waits for time to heal all wounds.

I encourage you to click through and read and contribute to the conversations on both of those posts. Because in this space, I wanna talk about robots.

On Thursday, Adriel Luis graced our site with a concussive blast of geekiness, a.k.a. the ultimate 21st-century people-of-color sci-fi list. The list contains everything from Janelle Monae to Greg Pak to the first Pakistani sci-fi flick — all of them with people of color in front of the camera and/or at the keyboard. And, of course, we opened it up to y’all to find out what you’re reading and watching and loving. A few of you strayed from the last-ten-years theme… but heck, it’s sci-fi, we’ll make an exception for atemporal chronology.

Our own Darlene Pagano kicks off the conversation:

A recommendation from the Carl Brandon Society wiki page: Karen Tei Yamashita. And please check out the Carl Brandon Society (and awards as well):

"Our Vision: We envision a world in which speculative fiction, about complex and diverse cultures from writers of all backgrounds, is used to understand the present and model possible futures; and where people of color are full citizens in the community of imagination and progress."

and Kizha Davidson suggests:

It’s not exactly sci-fi, but I love The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead.


Andrea Hairston’s Mindscape. She also has another book out (I haven’t read) and is working on more. Check it out.


can’t forget the incredible postcolonial anthology of sci-fi writing, So Long Been Dreaming, and the ill authors Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson & Samuel Delany (also a classic, but you didn’t mention him, so…)


Vandana Singh.

Andrea Hairston‘s Redwood and Wildfire.

As for Delany, he hasn’t published SF in the 21st century; but his next novel, out in October, concludes a few decades in the future.

Robert Wood:

George Schuyler, Black No More, Black Empire (science fiction written in the 1930’s by the future conservative political activist) Space is the Place (the low budget film starring Sun Ra.) From a musical standpoint, Sun Ra’s music fits into this conversation as well a lot of Parliament’s work.

To second Robert, Space is the Place is an incredible film, shot partially here in Oakland following Sun Ra’s time with the Black Panthers. If you can find it, the shorter version is actually truer to Sun Ra’s vision; the longer, easier-to-find version inserts some disturbing scenes he wasn’t cool with.

Ami Patel:

Futurestates.tv — a lot of these films are by poc’s and also deal with race issues in post-apocalyptica!

Gabriele Hayden:

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor — a bleak African futurescape. And another vote for Nalo Hopkinson — her work is excellent!

And finally, not everyone was pleased to see Octavia Butler excluded from the list, even with Adriel’s qualifier in the list’s intro. Here’s nightingale111:

Octavia Butler is TOO OBVIOUS??? way to erase one of the most genius writers from the list, and a woman of color at that. really nice. Butler also offers the most practical suggestions for how to deal when the shit all falls apart – think local disaster, attack on one’s community, and apocalypse – so if you are one of hundreds of thousands of sci fi readers who hasn’t heard of her BECAUSE she is a WOC in a white/male dominated industry, and this is the first time you’ve ever seen a list of sci-fi writers from marginalized communities, please do check her out. Parable of the Sower is an absolute must-read for the practical preparations and organizing mentioned here, and is a phenomenal tale this is already coming true.

And in turn, here’s Adriel’s response.

Thanks for your comment! I hope you had a chance to read my disclaimer about Butler… certainly in no way to take away from her position as the single most influential sci fi writer, in my opinion. The Parable series definitely changed my life. But a simple glance at the comment section in the top article for a search on "people of color sci fi" shows that people sort of just stop at Butler and don’t think any further.

That would be like people referring to Jimi Hendrix (and only Hendrix) in a discussion of black rock musicians. While Hendrix is extremely important, he’s not the only one. While Butler is extremely important, she’s not the only one either. This list is my attempt to shine some light on other talented POC sci-fi artists, since I couldn’t find any other such list online.


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