The Denver Public Library is partnering with the Science Friday podcast and public radio show for their Science Friday Book Club! The first title will be the short story collection called New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl (available in print and eBook). The book club will be breaking up discussions and radio segments by groupings of short stories. Read more about this exciting opportunity and how to join an online community space around the country!
Wondering what Speculative Fiction means?
Speculative Fiction is a broad genre that encompasses a lot of familiar themes, like fantastical, futuristic, and supernatural elements. Think a touch of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. And the genre is vast and diverse, often overlapping themes and full of creative possibility.
It’s no surprise that genre fiction in publishing and marketing has pushed many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) writers and creators to the sidelines, often going underfunded, undermarketed, and not given the recognition their brilliance demands. We wanted to highlight some titles to celebrate these voices and get you thinking about the ways that books can inspire and activate us to the world and events happening around us.
What makes these genres lasting and meaningful is their ability to take us to different worlds or different varieties of our own, challenging us to both question the ways our world works and also to inspire us to think beyond the constraints of our lived realities.
To get you started, here are a list of speculative fiction titles by BIPOC authors that are pretty great:
- The City We Became by NK Jemisin. Cities old or new have souls, and New York City has just given birth. But with it comes an insidious evil that threatens to take over the city. Newly awakened, NYC’s five protectors must find and band with each other. A juicy and intriguing examination into the personification of neighborhoods and cities, and the strange forces that threaten them. (eBook and eAudio available).
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Binti is setting off to go to the best university in the galaxy, and the journey does not go well. She is a "harmonizer," who can tap into deeply complex mathematical forces in the world, and can go into mathematical trances to bring order to things around her. When something terrible happens on the journey over, it triggers a transformation and a conflict with the Meduse, a hostile alien race that has long been at war with her planet. An important work in African Futurism from an extremely gifted storyteller. (eBook and eAudio available).
- Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. An intricately plotted and atmospheric twist on the gothic suspense novel. Set in 1950s Mexico, a socialite and anthropology student ventures to an isolated mountain villa to rescue her cousin, who has married into a colonialist and eugenicist family. But something eerie is pulsing within the walls of the manor, the strange fungus growing everywhere, and the dreams of the inhabitants. (eBook and eAudio available).
- This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone. Inventive and mesmerizing, two enemies struggling to control the future start leaving each other letters in odd places. Through their communication, you learn about what happened to start the time war and what life is like on both sides. (eBook and eAudio available).
- Oracles - Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel. In this dystopian novel with a sprinkle of magical realism, an increasingly shrinking natural world means the small remaining pockets of nature are turned into tourist attractions. Struggling to balance their tribal culture with a need to tap into the global economy, the dilemma is causing disagreement among the Yantuck Indians. Caught between these two worlds, Ashneon Quay finds herself divided between a desire to study anthropology or focusing on her own traditions. An important and relevant work, anchored by the author’s Mohegan identity and experience as both Medicine Woman and Tribal Historian.
- The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang. Two twins have certain abilities called Slack. There are elements of a deep rebellion breaking, and an authority in place that seeks to suppress these forces. All the books in the series are full of amazing imagery and lavish language. The author weaves polyamory and nonbinary gender into important aspects of this world, rich with imagery and mythology influenced by the author’s Singaporean identity. (eBook and eAudio available).
- Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. Haunting and spare, this complex psychological work tells the story of Ada, a Nigerian woman whose identity eventually splinters into three distinct selves (each of which takes turns narrating). This introspective novel delves deeply into concepts of mental health and identity. (eBook and eAudio available).
If interested in more, fill out a Personalized Reading List form and tell us what you like and don’t like. Our librarians will personally curate a list!