Much of what has been shared so far in the wake of George Floyd’s death has been petitions, donation links, education materials for people to understand the impact of systemic racism in this country and fight it. That is, of course, so important.
I think it is also important to celebrate the achievements of black people, and the art they have put out into the world. I get asked quite often to share book recommendations, and I really enjoy doing it. To that end, I thought I would share a list of 10 science fiction and fantasy short stories, novellas, and novels by black authors that I found particularly enjoyable and/or impactful.
Please look through and consider reading one of these books (purchase if you are able, or request from your local library if you are not) and writing a review (reviews are the lifeblood of publishing, especially on Amazon).
Please also share any other books (don’t have to be SFF) by black authors that you have enjoyed in the comments! And if you do end up reading any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Continue reading
(Spoiler Warnings Various)
I was very fortunate that, growing up, I was able to find books in which girls were the protagonists, the chosen, the ones who saved their homes or their worlds. Particular thanks to Tamora Pierce, who practically codified this as a subgenre, but the truth is that between my school’s surprisingly large collection, given the number of students, and the vast resources of the New York Public Library, my books were full of people like me.
Where I was more lacking in representation was in films, although I never thought it was an issue. Sure, I had some complaints — Leia is undoubtedly awesome, but I wanted to wield a lightsaber goddamnit — but for the most part I accepted that the protagonists of my favorite movies were mostly male. Or that even if the main character was a woman, she would be surrounded primarily by men.
I didn’t think it was a problem.
Then, I learned I could have something different.
For Tami, because she asked.
- A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
- Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
- The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
- Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)*
Yes, I am recommending that many. It was a really strong field! A Closed and Common Orbit is a worthy sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, with quite a bit more in the way of actual plot, while still retaining the charm and character focus of the first book. Ninefox Gambit is brilliant military science fiction that kind of messes with your head. The Obelisk Gate is a sequel that meets or even surpasses The Fifth Season, and that set a high bar. The final book in the trilogy is coming out within the next month and I am so excited. Continue reading
I am occasionally asked for book recommendations, which I LOVE doing although I am always baffled to be asked. I prefer to tailor recommendations toward the asker (if I know of two or three books or authors previously liked, I feel much better pulling recs from my “library”, so to speak), but I’m also happy to do a “best of the best according to Faith”, and so here is such a list for books I read in 2016*. Continue reading
Again, with thanks to Tami for the prompt.
I lowered my head and charged straight at the lizard-man, hardening my skin as I went. When I collided with him my head and shoulders were solid metal, and he went flying.
My name’s Jake. I’ve got super powers.
The lizard-man didn’t seem too fazed by his fall, or by the fact that I’d already knocked out his buddy. He whipped his tail, flipping himself back upright and slashed down with wicked looking claws. They sparked as they glanced off my metal skin, but the force of the blow still bowled me over. I hit the parking lot pavement hard, and the lizard-man landed squarely on top of me.
I tried to shove him off me, but I didn’t have super strength, and a full-size lizard man totally outweighs one scrawny twelve-year-old, even one with super powers. But I had to defeat him. I had to prove that I was good enough to be a Super Ranger.
The Hugo Award Finalists are upon us! Since I nominated and will be voting again this year, I wanted to react to the ballot here. Ballot and commentary below the cut:
Thanks to Tami for the prompt.
The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with it the snows that turned the mountainside, difficult to traverse even in high summer, into a prison as inescapable as any king’s dungeon.
If I was leaving, it would have to be tonight.
That was the last push I needed to step out of the doorway and onto the path, drawing my cloak tighter against the wind as I did so. My pack was a solid weight on my back: such food as I had managed to squirrel away without Father noticing; a spare set of boy’s cloths that my brother had outgrown; Mother’s books. Continue reading
The concluding post to my review of books read in 2016. See Part I for pretty charts and Part II for boring methodology.
Let’s review the most significant conclusions from Part I:
- I read a lot of women
- I don’t read a lot of nonwhite authors
- I don’t read a lot of books with LGBTQ+ authors or characters
And let’s also recall the following chart, which demonstrates my clear and obvious preference for female characters written by female authors:
Of the 110 books I read last year, 85 were written by women and 25 were written by men. However, once I account for series books written by the same author, I am left with 76 individual authors, of whom 51 are female (67%) and 24 are male (33%).
Considering that I make a deliberate effort to seek out work by female authors, I’m not at all surprised to see that they make up a majority percentage of my reading material. In fact, I almost expected the percentage of female authors to be higher. I can think of one possible reason why that was not the case… Continue reading
Following on from Part I, which presented my results, I’m going to discuss in more detail some of my methodology. Yes, that order is backwards. Tough.
If you’re going to find this boring, I suggest skipping ahead to Part III. Continue reading
Don’t worry, this isn’t another retrospective on how much this year sucked (though it did). I’m actually here to take a look at the books I read over the past year and look at some of the demographics of their authors and main characters.
Yes, I am voluntarily doing stats.
Nothing complicated, just some percentages. Maybe a pie chart. But I figure these sorts of conversations (I’ll elaborate in just a moment) are best had with actual numbers attached.
“I only read good books”
This idea has been in my head for a while; every so often someone brings up diversity in reading habits and the internet explodes with the same arguments. “I don’t care if the author is male or female or black or white or purple, if it’s a good book I’ll read it”. (Never mind that the majority of the time this approach results in a reading list full of white men). Right around the time that I started working, r/fantasy provided me with another such conversation, with all the predictable attendant criticisms.
I feel very strongly that if one wants to cultivate a diversity of perspectives in their reading list, one has to deliberately counteract the systematic bias that is present in the publishing industry. But while I talk the talk, do I walk the walk? I have long made a deliberate effort to seek out female authors, but how successful was I really? And what about other measures of diversity, like race or identity/orientation?
In brief: I made a spreadsheet of all the books I read in 2016 and looked at the demographics of the authors and the main characters. How many women? How many men? How many nonwhite authors or characters? And so on. If you’re interested in the details, there will be another post breaking down my methods (and my methodological problems), and another discussing interpretations, implications and next steps for 2017. For now, I’ll just present the basic results and a pretty chart or two… Continue reading