Speculative and science fiction in colour

I am having some thoughts about representations of non-white people/people of colour in speculative and science fiction. The thing is, however, that most of the science fiction I encounter is by white people and about white people. What are your recommendations for SF/spec featuring non-white people and worlds? I want your recs for good representations and bad, those written by non-white people and white people both. Works in languages other than English and from contexts from which publications not usually widely distributed are welcome and encouraged.

106 comments for “Speculative and science fiction in colour

  1. cass
    March 17, 2011 at 3:15 am

    Longtime lurker and sci-fi nerd: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower is excellent. It has sequels which I haven’t read, but Sower is very good. The setting is a sort of apocalyptic corporate wonderland, I think.

    On the more magical realism end of the sci-fi/fantasy spectrum is Mama Day by Gloria Naylor, which is simply a delight to read.

  2. Christy
    March 17, 2011 at 3:32 am

    Yes, definitely Octavia Butler. All of her work is fascinating and takes up issues of race and gender very well. Also: Nalo Hopkinson, Samuel Delany, and Walter Mosley. Widening the scope a bit from strictly science fiction, I’d include Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Phyllis Alesia Perry’s Stigmata, and Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist. Finally, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time features a Chicana protagonist and a utopian future that is certainly not all white.

  3. March 17, 2011 at 3:36 am

    Butler, Morrison and Piercy are love.

  4. A
    March 17, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Two of Red Dwarf’s primary characters are non-white. It’s also an amazingly good sci-fi comedy.

  5. Hanna
    March 17, 2011 at 4:31 am

    I don’t remember clearly because I was a kid when I read them, but I’m pretty sure Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea books are set in a country/world where the people have dark skin. I think it’s rarely mentioned in the books though. I recall as a kid that I “naturally” imagined the characters as white, and was surprised every time it was mentioned that they weren’t. A textbook case of how whiteness is considered the “default” position. I’m afraid I can’t remember if the books are good or not, though I understand they are considered classics…

  6. n
    March 17, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell

  7. Noelle
    March 17, 2011 at 5:14 am

    The website of the Carl Brandon Society, and its wiki might be good resources, but it’s not something with which I am the most familiar. They’re associated with WisCon (a Madison, WI sf convention with a feminist focus) and their mission is “to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.”

    SF Works by People of Color is one starting place, though that addresses authors, not characters.

    There was a WisCon panel last year basically commending non-stereotypical/ringing-true portrayals of unprivileged (mostly POC and disabled) characters written by privileged authors, but I can’t seem to find the reading lists that were compiled by attendees. I remember Black Man by Richard Morgan (titled Thirteen in North America) was one of the mentioned titles though.

  8. Noelle
    March 17, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Whoops, http://www.carlbrandon.org/ is the Carl Brandon Society website.

  9. Noelle
    March 17, 2011 at 5:23 am

    further, Dark Agenda is a Dreamwidth community collecting fanfiction focusing on PoC characters, and rewriting white characters as nonwhite.

    My apologies for the multiple comments, it’s late…

  10. Jill
    March 17, 2011 at 5:25 am

    I second Hanna’s comment about the Earthsea books. I am 99.9% certain that the main characters have darker skin.

    In The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (dystopian future sci-fi) the main character/narrator, Katniss, is described as having dark hair and olive skin. A lot of the other characters from her district are similarly described.

  11. Mandolin
    March 17, 2011 at 5:28 am

    A partial list of contemporary poc writers working in short and long sf/f, all of whom are worth reading*:

    Alaya Dawn Johnson, N. K. Jemisin, K. Tempest Bradord, Ted Chiang, Charles Yu, Alice Sola Kim, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Hairston, Nisi Shawl, Nnedi Okorafor, Aliette deBodard, Sheree Thomas, Tanarive Due, Vandana Singh, Shweta Narayan, Yoon Ha Lee, Eugie Foster

    Brief notes:

    Alaya Dawn Johnson has a charming voice that invites one into the stories. Her RACING THE DARK series seems to be a vaguely Polynesian matriarchy and is epic fantasy with a personal spin; her recent MOONSHINE is a very funny take on vampire chick lit in which a sufragette advocates for the rights of the undead (unlike other books on this subject, this one concentrates on the political activism).

    N. K. Jemisin’s series of books which began with THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS and continued with BROKEN KINGDOMS is extremely intelligently rendered postcolonial epic fantasy, examining and recasting the imperialist structures and narratives of epic fantasy. Her short fiction is also excellent, including last year’s ZERO PROBABILITIES as well as several excellent offerings this year including ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER LEX and her riff on Katrina, SINNERS, SAINTS, DRAGONS AND HAINTS, IN THE CITY BENEATH THE STILL WATERS

    K. Tempest Bradford may be better known at this point for her political writing as The Angry Black Woman, but she also writes intelligent, personal science fiction and fantasy short stories, e.g. EMNITY. She also used to do periodic rundowns of all the sf/f short fiction published by poc in a given month. Generally checking out Angry Black Woman for reccs is a good idea.

    Ted Chiang is one of the finest working writers around, IMO, with careful prose and sophisticated expansion of ideas. He works in the short form. I adored this year’s novella, THE LIFE OF SOFTWARE OBJECTS, but all of the stories in his collection, STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS, are worth reading and many expound on ideas that remain resonant (for me, at least) long after the book is done.

    Charles Yu is one of my favorite discoveries this year. He seems to have been working for a while in litfic (I really must pick up his collection) but IMO he knocked it out of the park in genre this year with his brilliant, postmodern deconstruction of science fictional narratives in his novel HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE. I was also very intrigued by the Lightspeed short story in which he examined outsourcing, STANDARD LONELINESS PACKAGE.

    Alice Sola Kim is producing really exciting short story material such as HWANG’S BILLION BRILLIANT DAUGHTERS. I have not managed to read her Asimovs short story OTHER GRACES yet, but people whose editorial taste I respect say it’s excellent.

    Nalo Hopkinson is… amazing. Several years ago, I fell in love with SALT ROADS, a winding tale from the intertwined perspectives of three black women, one an American slave, one an Egyptian slave, and one a French dancer. It’s intense, highly structurally unusual, and the kind of piece that breaks you down and reconstructs you.

    Andrea Hairston – I admit that I haven’t read her yet, but this is entirely my lack. She writes interesting non-fiction at Ambling Along the Aqueduct and I’m looking forward to reading her Aqueduct Press publications. Again, people whose editorial taste I trust say she is the cat’s pajamas.

    Nisi Shawl’s collection FILTER HOUSE won the Tiptree for its deeply embodied, emotionally penetrating, and intriguing short stories. She’s a real force in the genre, helping to create and sustain numerous important projects from the Carl Brandon Society to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. She is also one of the authors of WRITING THE OTHER which offers a brilliant starting point for writers.

    Nnedi Okorafor seems to write strange, somewhat luminous or magically realistic post-apocalyptic fiction, in an interstitial vein. I’m thinking of WHO FEARS DEATH and some of her short stories, here. I have not read her YA.

    Aliette deBodard riffs off a number of cultural traditions, some of which I think are her own, and some of which aren’t. She’s getting a lot of attention for her mesoamerican-inspired stuff, such as her recent novel, SERVANT OF THE UNDERWORLD.

    Speaking of which, if you’re interested in tracking SF by black writers, Sheree Thomas’s DARK MATTER is indispensable. It’s indispensable anyway since it collects such a large number of really interesting, really smart, highly emotional stories.

    Tananarive Due is well-known for her novels, but I haven’t read them. I have read her extraordinary short story LIKE DAUGHTER (which you can find in the DARK MATTER anthologies) which is an amazing consideration of the issues of cloning and heredity in populations where oppression affects nurture.

    Skimming some of the short story writers in the interest of time – Vandana Singh is writing interesting stuff at the intersection of hard science and feminism. Shweta Narayan writes lyrical, sometimes poetic stories, infused with emotional and psychological explorations. Yoon Ha Lee moves in a more mythologically inspired direction, I think, although her work takes it to unusual places. Eugie Foster experiments with East Asian mythology, although I think her more interesting work probes beyond that, e.g. last year’s SINNER, BAKER, FABULIST, PRIEST, RED MASK, BLACK MASK, GENTLEMAN, BEAST.

    An equally partial list of good work about POC and non-western cultures by authors who I think are white-identified, relying mostly on my memory of recent reading:

    CHINA MOUNTAIN ZHANG, Maureen McHugh, along with SALT ROADS, simply one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in the past few years

    THE LOVE WE SHARED WITHOUT KNOWING by Christopher Barzak, an interesting collection of writing that lies on the boundary of almost-novel almost-linked-short-stories. Some characters are Japanese, but I suspect the novel has an essentially outsider’s point of view (because of its structure).

    FOX WOMAN and FUDOKI by Kij Johnson, beautifully written epic fantasy in historical Japan

    GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD by Karen Healey, a YA that’s getting attention for its incorporation of Maori mythology into a fantasy novel

    LIAR by Justine Larbelestier, extremely well-written YA about an unreliable narrator, playing with race, class, and gender

    *I consider Octavia Butler to be the obvious suggestion in this context, but I hope by now that she’s so much a part of the canon that suggesting her is like suggesting “Ray Bradbury” in response to “who writes science fiction?”

  12. Mandolin
    March 17, 2011 at 5:43 am

    Ah! Also Charles Saunders. For some reason the only name I could dredge up was Stephen R. Donaldson and I knew that wasn’t right.

    From the Publisher’s Weekly review on Amazon:

    “Mixing quasi history and legend, Saunders’s episodic heroic fantasy, first published in 1981 and now greatly revised, introduces Imaro, a black African in the heroic mold of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the sub-Saharan equivalent of Howard’s imaginary Hyborea, this origin story, the first in a projected five-volume series, tells how Imaro (who seems to run afoul of sorcerers as readily as Howard’s barbarian did) is falsely accused at the conclusion of his manhood rite, exiled from his tribe and transformed into an embittered, homicidal wanderer in a landscape of savage beasts and savage men, yet retains, as such heroes usually do, a certain chivalrous decency. The unusual setting more than makes up for the routine plot. Saunders alone has appreciated the potential of Africa as a backdrop for heroic fantasy.”

  13. ellid
    March 17, 2011 at 5:52 am

    Don’t forget Andre Norton. She was one of the very first to feature non-whites as lead characters in her books, most memorably (at least for me) the Navaho telepath Hosteen Storm. She also wrote a paperback about a black Egyptian matriarchy, Key to Time.

    And even though the book itself is libertarian to the point of fascism, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers features a Filipino lead, Johnnie Rico.

  14. March 17, 2011 at 5:56 am

    I’ll gladly rec my favorite sci-fi novel: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Man character is a Puerto Rican Jesuit priest, and when on Earth, much of the early action takes place there. When not on Earth, it’s a meditation on well, the blunders of well meaning first contact and drastically misinterpreting and misunderstanding having disastrous effects on themselves and the aliens they meet. Beautiful and gut wrenching, potentially triggering.

  15. karak
    March 17, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird, by Karin Lowachee, feature PoC (the protagonist from Burndive is half-Chinese) and race is incidentally mentioned several times. This is also a great series about the effects of war on children (the author has stated she was inspired to write by stories of child soldiers). As well as having several characters who are gay, or bi.

    I’m honestly not sure about Karin Lowachee’s race, but her bio has her born and raised in South America (that’s all it says, no country) so I’m going to pin her as at least not-mainstream-American-white.

  16. March 17, 2011 at 6:42 am

    I’m gonna second the rec for N K Jemison. I finished Hundred Thousand Kingdoms recently and can’t get over how fantastic it is. I could not put it down.

    I also recommend Nnedi Okorafor. Some of her work (Zahra The Wind Seeker, The Shadow Speaker) are YA. Others are meant for adults (Who Fears Death). I will put a warning for Who Fears Death, though. There are some pretty intense scenes, featuring rape. I won’t say it’s graphic, but it is explicit, so take care.

    Nnedi deals with gender as well as race, and is pretty big on calling out sexist people. That definitely shows through in her writing.
    And there are bits that are woven in that make the worlds that much more rich. For example, there is a scene in Who Fears Death that makes you go “Oh!” if you’ve read Zahra The Wind Seeker, but it’s not necessary for the plot (they all stand alone).
    I’m not sure if I’ve explained that too well….

  17. Amie
    March 17, 2011 at 6:54 am

    More in the fantasy vein, in Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” I believe the main character, Shadow, is of mixed heritage, and in “Anansi Boys” all of the main characters are black and the story revolves around afro-caribbean mythology and storytelling.

    Also, Ursula K. Leguin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness.”

  18. PK
    March 17, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Seconding a lot of these (Nnedi Okorafor, Ted Chiang, NK Jemison, Nalo Hopkinson) but also, I’d like to add that I’ve read Andrea Hairston’s Mindscape–once in manuscript form, as I was fortunate to have her as a professor! It is utterly brilliant.

    Speaking of LeGuin, can anyone recall if race comes up in Always Coming Home? I feel like it does, but I don’t have a copy so I can’t go look.

  19. Caitlin
    March 17, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Besides all that’s already been mentioned, Andrea Hairston’s “Mindscape” and “Redwood and Wildfire”, and Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness trilogy and standalone How to Kill Your Fairy.

  20. Letty
    March 17, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I see Ursula LeGuin (Left Hand of Darkness, Earthsea books, but many others) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Anansi Boys) have already been mentioned. I’d like to add Sheri S. Tepper, for example The Visitor (Latina main character), and Raising the Stones. Many of her books have feminist and ecological themes.

  21. Amy
    March 17, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Doctor Who!

  22. Jillian
    March 17, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Thirding the n.k. Jemison.

  23. Jillian
    March 17, 2011 at 7:45 am

    I would hesitate to add “the last ringbearer” only because I haven’t read it all the way through. For those not familiar, Salon featured a Russian geologist who wrote a “response” to Tolkien’s lotr from the view of mordor. While I love the novels, I still find “Anglo, good. Dark and swarthy, bad” problematic. I don’t know to what extent, if at all, the last ringbearer addresses that, but simply having the other side “humanized” is a start.

  24. Momentary
    March 17, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Adding Clare Bell’s Jaguar Princess, about an Aztec girl who is a were-jaguar, and I see she also has a book called People of the Sky about Pueblo people migrating to another planet.

    Spider and Jeanne Robinson’s Starseed has an indigenous Australian major character. Some have called out the portrayal of Chinese people in the book as problematic.

  25. March 17, 2011 at 7:54 am
  26. Letty
    March 17, 2011 at 7:57 am

    I see Ursula LeGuin (Left Hand of Darkness, Earthsea books, but many others) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Anansi Boys) have already been mentioned. I’d like to add Sheri S. Tepper, for example The Visitor (Latina main character), and Raising the Stones. Many of her books have feminist and ecological themes.

    Correction: I was thinking of The Fresco by Sheri Tepper

  27. Momentary
    March 17, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I’ll gladly rec my favorite sci-fi novel: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Man character is a Puerto Rican Jesuit priest, and when on Earth, much of the early action takes place there.When not on Earth, it’s a meditation on well, the blunders of well meaning first contact and drastically misinterpreting and misunderstanding having disastrous effects on themselves and the aliens they meet. Beautiful and gut wrenching, potentially triggering.

    I’ve always considered Sofia Mendez to be the other protagonist of The Sparrow, and am having a moment of shock at how few of the reviews online mention her at all. (Not meant as criticism of you, Nuri — thinking of the longer reviews.)

  28. Erik Swallow
    March 17, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Other than those mentioned, I like Greg Egan’s “Teranesia” and the “Y: The Last Man” comics series by Brian Vaughan & Pia Guerra.

    In terms of fantasy titles, I suggest Jewelle Gomez’s “The Gilda Stories”, Angelica Gorodischer’s “Kalpa Imperial”, Suniti Namjoshi, and Tamai Kobayashi’s collection “Quixotic Erotic” (both fantasy and non-fantasy short stories)

  29. liz
    March 17, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. The main character has an African-American and a Japanese (I think) mother.

    Also, in TV, there’s Red Dwarf.

  30. March 17, 2011 at 8:42 am

    I love Ursela K LeGuin and can confirm that in the EarthSea series the great majority of the main characters have dark skin. The Left Hand of Darkness was one of the first books written by a woman to win both the Hugo and Nebula award and is generally considered to be a very feminist sci fi novel. Everything I’ve read by her challenges gender roles and the Tombs of Atuan (the 2nd book in the Earthsea series) is one of my favorite fantasy books of all time.
    In Diane Duane’s YA series the Wizardry novels the main protagonists are both Hispanic, those are some very well done books. Great ideas and very forward thinking science wise.
    Although he’s not the best at representing POC, Robert Jordan (some love, some hate and I am in the former camp) the Wheel of Time series does have a huge wide variety of different cultures and skin tones and his representation of genders is IMHO one of the better ones in fantasy. Especially when it comes to huge long epic fantasy series like that. George R.R. Martin, Tolkien and the like often have a very limited, if any representation of POC and women are usually pigeonholed into stereotypes or archetypes.

  31. Toni
    March 17, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Everything by Butler, everything! From the Wild Seed compilation, to the Lillith’s Brood compilation, to Blood Child (a collection of short stories with an truly excellent essay on writing and motivation) to Fledgling, her foray into vampire fiction. She creates perfect worlds that you get sucked into so fast: I had dreams about the books the entire time I read them, literally.

    The title story from Bloodchild is available to read here for free. My favorite of her books so far are the ones in Lillith’s Brood.

  32. March 17, 2011 at 8:48 am

    I also second the Snowcrash recommendation! Neal Stephenson is by far and away one of my favorite authors.

  33. Supedaisy
    March 17, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Red Thunder, the author of which I can’t recall (and google is being sloooooowwww), features two or three nonwhite characters out of six. The main character is Latino, and his best friend is black. Race and ethnicity are addressed as something these kids deal with as they make a spacecraft to Mars. Their girlfriends are initially “just girlfriends”, but they play a large role in the success of the mission–so it’s not as hokey and male-centric as the premise sounds.

  34. trixie
    March 17, 2011 at 9:07 am

    coupla anthologies:
    So Long Been Dreaming (edited by Nalo Hopkinson & Uppinder Mehan)

    Mojo: Conjure Stories (edited by Nalo Hopkinson)

    Dark Matter (edited by Sheree R Thomas)

    also, just to second The Sparrow (and Children Of God, the follow up, where Sofia is absolutely a main character), as well as many things Le Guin has written, (Including The Telling, which I haven’t seen mentioned here yet) and everything i’ve ever been able to find by Nalo Hopkinson.

  35. March 17, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Karen Healey’s YA book Guardian of the Dead features Maori and Chinese main characters (Kevin and Iris are at least as important to the story as Ellie is, though Ellie is the narrator), and uses Maori mythology and cosmology as its basis (it’s a fantasy-horror hybrid, I suppose).

  36. March 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I’ve recommended him before, but Minister Faust has written a couple of really hilarious and interesting sci-fi novels. And he’s Canadian to boot!

    I’m highly excited about this list – summer is just around the corner and I’m building up a new list of fiction to dig into once I go from supremely busy to only mostly busy with school crap. I only read sci-fi/fantasy on recommendation now because I reached my limit long ago on how much boring tepid normative crap I wanted to wade through in search of the good stuff. :) I like to let other people filter for me. Nalo Hopkinson has been at the top of my list for a while, and I’m going to put Charles Yu in at #2.

  37. March 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

    ellid: And even though the book itself is libertarian to the point of fascism, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers features a Filipino lead, Johnnie Rico.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, Friday… Unless paleness is specifically mentioned in the text, just assume that any Heinlein main character is some shade of brown.

  38. March 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Most of my favorites have been named already, but I don’t see Karen Lord’s fantasy novel Redemption In Indigo.

  39. Sharon
    March 17, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Guy Gavriel Kay in his latest work Under Heaven creates a speculative world based on 8th century China with Asian protagonists and anti-heroes.

  40. March 17, 2011 at 10:00 am

    liz: Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. The main character has an African-American and a Japanese (I think) mother.

    Korean actually , but Hiro idolizes Japanese culture.

  41. Daisy-Boo
    March 17, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Patricia Briggs: the Mercy Thompson series. Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson is mixed White/Native American. She’s a mechanic and is running her own shop on a shoe-string. She’s also a Walker – a Native American shape-shifter who transforms into a coyote. She sees the dead and is somehat immune to most magic. Mercy is strong, clever, independent and very self-aware.

    LA Banks’s Vampire Huntress Legend series features African-American characters. I wasn’t impressed with Minion, the first book, but the series seems to be very popular so don’t take my opinion as a reason to avoid the books.

  42. Grey Duck
    March 17, 2011 at 11:01 am

    It’s been a long time since I read it, but Piers Anthony’s “Race Against Time” deals fairly heavily with race. The protagonists are the last “purebred” members of various races, in a society where everyone else is “standard” — an indistinguishable interracial blend. It’s not among his best books, written back in the early 70s, but it’s interesting enough to be a quick read. And the 70s perspective on race can be interesting, too.

    Also, I second anything by Diane Duane. The Young Wizards series is amazing.

    The Neil Gaiman books, and Y: The Last Man, are also quite good.

  43. inwardeye
    March 17, 2011 at 11:14 am

    “For the Win” (http://craphound.com/?p=2859) by Cory Doctorow centers around young people of color. It’s available for free in multiple E-formats, like all of Doctorow’s writing, as well as paperback for purchase.

    From the website description: “a game about workers who toil in virtual sweatshops, “gold farming” wealth in video games for sale to rich western players. They form a trade union called the Industrial Workers of the World Wide Web, using the games to organize under their bosses’ noses. It’s an action-adventure story about games, economics and labor politics.”

  44. Mounia A.
    March 17, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Seconding Delany !
    Samuel Delany’s books have always been a favourite of mine, although I’d recommend staying away from his earliest works. Babel-17 isn’t exactly well written. If I remember correctly, Dhalgren’s protagonist is native american – and characters of colour are present throughout his work. Plus, interesting treatment of gender and sexuality, for what that’s worth.

    To stay away from : as much as I worship George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I’m very uncomfortable with the portrayal of the Dothraki. Fetishization and oversexualization of people of colour, whoo. So if you start that series, which I think is a very good work of fantasy, be wary.

    This is sort of off topic, but whenever discussions of POC/SF/Fantasy pops up, I have immediate flashbacks to RaceFail 09. Even though it was extremely hurtful for a lot of people and showcased an alarming amount of stupidity and unchecked white privilege, a lot of very good writing was produced. If you have an hour (or ten), I’d recommend going through Rydra Wong’s RaceFail 09 bookmarks ( )

  45. Esti
    March 17, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Nalo Hopkinson has been mentioned a few times, but I thought I’d throw out a specific recommendation for Brown Girl in the Ring, a story of a dystopic future Toronto that is absolutely mindblowing.

    Another one (again, mentioned above) is Under Heaven, Guy Kay’s latest, which is set in a fantasy world based on China in which all characters (good, bad, and in between) are Asian. Both it and Brown Girl in the Ring have some fantastic female characters.

  46. Victoria
    March 17, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I must fifth Ursula K Le Guin, and for any doubting Thomas on the quality of her books I can reassure you that she is in fact the greatest living USian author and anything by her will be wonderful. My personal favorite is Left Hand of Darkness, which also includes a Daoist parable embedded within the story that directly challenges a binary gender system. Also:

    Birthday of the World
    Buffalo Gals
    Tehanu (after reading the Earthsea trilogy)
    The Word for World is Forest
    Changing Planes

    In the Earthsea Trilogy the main hero and all the other people of the Archipelago are POC, while the Kargs (the barbarian people to the north) are white. It is not constantly reinforced but it is important and it is mentioned several times in the beginning. A good reference for Ursula K Le Guin is her own books on writing, such as Dancing at the Edge of the World and The Language of the Night.

    Sorry to be the one person Ursula K. parade, her books have brought me through some of the roughest times of my life and I admire her as an author and as an incredible human being.

  47. March 17, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Octavia Butler. Octavia Butler. Octavia Butler.

    And Andrea Hairston is awesome, too.

  48. March 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Ira Levin’s THIS PERFECT DAY. Everyone is a fairly homogenized medium tan with the most attractive features of all ethnicities bred in.

    The small press tends to carry books with more variety. YardDog Press has several that I recall seeing, but I think they’re fantasy.

    Elizabeth Donald’s Abaddon has vampires of all shades. (And if any publisher ever picks it up, Yellow Roses features a Hispanic heroine. But horror novel)

    Also on the horror novel front, Brian Keene’s DEAD SEA has a gay black hero. And Maurice Broaddus and Wrath James White (both black) collaborated on ORGY OF SOULS. They also appear in the Dark Faith anthology, which is up for a Stoker.

    (When I write SF, the “color” tends to be green. Or red. Or violet. I write space opera.)

  49. March 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I don’t have to type very much, because I can just point up at Mandolin’s comment at #11 and say “yes, that. All of that.”

    I have especially enjoyed some of Yoon Ha Lee’s short stories. In stories like “Blue Ink” and “Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain” she weaves pretty esoteric concepts into stories that are still primarily stories, and emotionally engaging ones at that.

    Actually, if I start calling out things I particularly agree with in Mandolin’s comment, I’ll be here forever. So just reread that comment with nodding and grinning.

    I like how positive this thread has been.

  50. Anon Ymous
    March 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Sheree R. Thomas edited a book, Dark Matter (A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora) which includes works by Steven Barnes, Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delaney, Walter Mosley, Ishmael Reed, W.E.B. Du Bois, Nisi Shawl, Ama Patterson,…and many more!

  51. latinist
    March 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I know there’s plenty not to like about his politics (and I’m told it’s worse, or just more obtrusive, in his more recent stuff) but I think Orson Scott Card was pretty good at including people of color in his work.

    To be honest, I’m not remembering that well, so I might be wrong: but I know I used to have a book of his short stories, and he explained in a preface that he was sick of SF writers always having American and Russian space colonies, even in stories set many centuries in the future, just as earlier SF had English and French ones. So in his futures, planets had been colonized by Brazil and China and other countries.

  52. cat
    March 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    On Robert Jordan and gender, I would say that it is far from problematic. While the female characters are rather varied, gender binary is intensely strict and naturalized, to the point where how characters use the Source is dependent on their sex.

    I wanted to mention Arthur C. Clarke’s “Imperial Earth” which has a dark skinned black protagonist from a wealthy tycoon family and a black president, though the discussion of race there is a bit strange and perhaps problematic in one scene in particular that I recall. However, Clarke does not inform the reader that the main character is black until quite a bit into the book, which does do an nice number on the “white default” issue. Also, the main character is bisexual. Quite a nice read for those of us who like old school 70s sci-fi.

  53. JPlum
    March 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    C.E. Murphy has a series about a half Native American/half Irish shaman/car mechanic/police officer, as well as one about a lawyer who is half African American/half white. And that one has a gargoyle boyfriend. The big issue I have with it is the cover art, where is the character is drawn as a white woman, often with straight-ish hair.

  54. caitlin
    March 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    There’s this series called the Cassandra Kresnov novels that do feature a white protagonist, but the rest of the main (and secondary) characters are almost entirely non-white, and there’s a very balanced mix between male and female characters. The actual grammar and stylization of the writing leaves a little the be desired for me, but I love the characters so much I got over it. Good for a quick and enjoyable summer read.

  55. shah8
    March 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Geez, at least mention Joel Shepherd’s name! He’s written some very interesting novels that tries to be deep politics.

    Anyways, to add to the list that hasn’t been mentioned…

    DD Barant. Title character is white woman, but race/gender is very deeply woven, with a great deal of sophistication that may well be over the heads of people who aren’t familiar with whiteness, for instance. Very funny to boot. I also should mention Kit Witfield, who falls under the same rubrik, tho’ more sad than funny.

    Paolo Bacigulpi’s The Windup Girl is also very sophisticated. Tho’ some people have said it’s racist, and I roll my eyes. Reading Kay Kenyon’s Bright of the Sky with real orientalist issues.

    Chris Moriarty Spin State/Control is interesting for various reasons. They are, especially the first, a literary cover of Masamune’s Ghost In the Shell.

    I should also add, that beyond having writers who are of all ethnicities, characters of all stripes who can be from anywheres, that we should elevate the norms such that when when we read a book by a white guy, with mostly white characters, that we can safely expect that issues of race/gender/whatever is handled with nuance, with the mindset that the audience isn’t a set of loons that have a set of flattering expectations that they desire to be met.

  56. Aaron
    March 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I also have to jump on the Octavia Butler bandwagon. I love everything of hers I’ve read, but especially recommend the Parable of the Sower (the sequel Parable of the Talents is also very good) and Fledgling (which also is one of the best depictions – both in terms of realism and positivity — of open relationships and BDSM I have ever read).

    And I have to 4th recommendation of The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God both of which are powerful works of fiction that show speculative fiction’s strength as a mirror held up to our own reality.

    If audio fiction is your thing I highly recommend EscapePod and PodCastle both are free weekly short fiction podcasts (the former for science-fiction and the latter for fantasy) and both regularly run stories featuring non-white people. Plus it’s a great place to discover new authors. In addition to several of the great authors mentioned unthread (N. K. Jemisin, K. Tempest Bradord, Eugie Foster, and Yoon Ha Lee all spring immediately to mind) they have run stories I loved featuring non-white main characters by Cat Rambo, Amal El-Mohtar, Saladin Ahmed, and Tobias Buckell (I haven’t, yet heard a story by any of these authors I did not enjoy). Just looking at what they have recently run I would recommend “The Curandero and the Swede: A Tale from the 1001 American Nights” by Daniel Abraham, “To Follow the Waves” by Amal El-Mohtar, and “Élan Vital” by K. Tempest Bradord as great stories featuring non-white characters. (As an added, but slightly off topic, bonus they also tend to fairly regularly run stories with strong feminist themes.)

  57. kam
    March 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Good: N.K. Jemisin to the Nth power- lovely, lovely writer. Her recent blog post “Whose Wonderland? Which Wonderful?” goes through a number of fantasy world settings and she picks the ones she would want to live in as a woman of color. Read it here: http://nkjemisin.com/2011/03/whose-wonderland-which-wonderful/

    LeGuin’s fabulous “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas” is a short story made available online. No clear racial dynamic to the story (as far as I recall) but it’s a great intro to her writing style. http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/guin.htm

    White POV with Redeeming World-building: Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels re-tell the Napoleonic wars (with all of Britian’s international politicking) in a world where intelligent dragons form a natural air force. This significantly evens the firepower of international politics- Africa and China are significantly more powerful and use that for greater self-determination on the international front. And, because some dragons only take female riders, woman can become captains and even admirals. BUT- white male straight protagonist, and there’s a real trend to define a “good” Chinese person or African person as one who will cooperate with that protagonist and his empire’s wishes. Bit icky.

    And I am totally saving all the authors recc’d above to check out- word of mouth is the best way of finding new books.

  58. Molly Kaline
    March 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant

    Also, many of the short stories in Le Guin’s Hainish world deal explicitly with race, and some with the aftermath of slavery and cycles of violence. Really interesting.

    Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay features a Jewish woman as lead character, with supporting characters of several ethnicities, all struggling with an ethnic/religious war. I love Kay, so I’m biased, but I found it really interesting.

    Banewrecker/Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey are very much a “LOTR from the other side” story. Not free of gender issues, But I love that some of the main characters are unapologetic-ally ugly.

  59. Mandolin
    March 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I find Orson Scott Card’s non-white characters unreadable.

    When I was running PodCastle, we tried to keep up a fair quotient of stories by and about POC, but I don’t think we ever got the proportion high enough. I did do a fair amount of solicitation.

    The new editors are still working on it, I think.

    “The Curandero and the Swede” is an interesting story, politically… I’d be interested to know what feminist readers make of it. Other stories with non-white main characters that we ran during my tenure as editor include Ada Milenkovic Brown’s “Wisteria,” Hilary Moon Murphy’s “Run of the Fiery Horse” and “The Grand Cheat,” Yoon Ha Lee’s “Eating Hearts,” Nisi Shawl’s “Down in the Flood”… hmm. It’s been a while since I was in that mental mode, but I think we averaged about 10-20% for both figures (by and about) when I would have preferred to average 25-30.

  60. scrumby
    March 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Raymond E. Feist’s Daughter/Servant/Mistress of the Empire series is solid scifi-fantasy: strong POC female protagonist navigates devious political intrigues in a powerful empire.

    Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash has a mixed race protagonist in that boy’s club of boy’s club’s, Cyberpunk.

    And everyone has mentioned Ursala Le Guin but I want to point out The Annuls of the Western Shore her newest series for young adults and in my opinion much better than Earthsea.

  61. apricoco
    March 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Ursula K. Le Guin is probably my favorite author in the world. Her books are rife with POC and feminist characters. There are tons of examples where females challenge the gender binary directly as well. Themes include: social marginalization, women’s rights, religious values, even a book exploring capitalism vs anarchy. The Left Hand of Darkness is the primer on what science fiction ‘could’ be if it were all written by a kick-ass woman. The main character, Genly Ai, is a POC in a world where everyone is white but has no distinct gender.

  62. K
    March 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    While most of Mercedes Lackey’s characters are white pseudo-Europeans, Tarma is a “Shin’a’in” (a culture similar to plains nomads) with “bronze” skin and dark hair. She works as a mercenary along with her partner Kethry, a very white-bread mage. They operate in countries far from Tarma’s native plains, and she often has to deal with expectations that she is a “barbarian”. The pair is featured in several books, including “The Oathbound”, “Oathbreakers” and “Oathblood.”

    Her “Mage Winds” trilogy also has several supporting characters who are of the Hawkbrothers, a cousin-clan to the Shin’a’in and also “bronze-skinned”.

  63. K
    March 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Oh! And one of LeGuin’s best books exploring race and class relations can be found in “Four Ways to Forgiveness”, a book of four novellas set on twin worlds that are recovering from the aftermath of a successful slave rebellion on one of the worlds. Not to be missed!

  64. scrumby
    March 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Damn that lack of an edit button! I forgot The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm which is one of the precious few good science fiction books for kids out there. Three shelter children give their folks the slip and explore the world outside their fortress-like home which in this case is an awesome cyber-punky Zimbabwe of the future.

  65. March 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Has anyone on this thread ever actually finished Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren? I love that book, I think it’s totally brilliant, but I never managed to finish it because it’s so incredibly dense, and I don’t know anyone else who has.

  66. Rita
    March 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I second the Minister Faust recommendation! The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad has protagonists who are Sudanese-Canadian and Trinidadian-Canadian. It has overtones of Egyptian mythology, and it’s very critical of the effects of capitalism and colonialism. From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain is social satire about superheroes in therapy — sounds bizarre, but it’s awesome, I promise. It foregrounds issues of race in North America in a way that has a lot of nuance (the various ways POCs are silenced, the way social movements can fail to address axes of oppression, etc.). What I like about Minister Faust’s satire is that it’s not heavy-handed; it’s actually really compelling and funny, in the laugh-out-loud-helplessly way, not just the polite academic “ha-ha” way.

  67. oxygengrrl
    March 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Wow, a fantastic bunch of suggestions–I’m making a list from this list to take to the library next time. Chiming in to second Butler, Delany (I finished Dhalgren. You just have to let it take you along for the ride, not try to guide it), Le Guin, Jamison, Larbalestier (who is married to Westerfield, the source of Chally’s initial piece), McHugh, Collins, Gaiman, Chiang, and Bacigalupi. Also, in Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, the main character is Jewish and I assume on the white side, but there is a crucial supporting character who is of native Alaskan ancestry.
    I will caution on Russell, who I think writes terribly, has a really strong religious sub-theme that turned me off, and who tends towards the annoyingly manipulative (though obviously others disagree) and also on Tepper, who is often hailed as a feminist (and who had a long career in reproductive rights, which is awesome) but whose writing I find to be rather slut-shamey, esp. in The Fresco (female characters with no or few sexual partners are the heroes, female characters who have multiple partners are evil).

  68. oxygengrrl
    March 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Jemisin, not Jamison. oops.

  69. Momentary
    March 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Just remembered Vonda McIntyre! I think the protagonist of Dreamsnake wasn’t white, although I can’t remember for sure. In my mind she’s not white. Her Starfarers series has many people of colour including a black Canadian woman scientist as the main protagonist. Her Star Trek novels (yes!) have Sulu as a main character. And her The Moon and the Sun features a woman of colour from Martinique as the protagonist in an alternate history 17th century France, with sea monsters.

  70. Tom Foolery
    March 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Ian M. Banks’ The Player of Games deals with race, class and gender in a compelling story. I highly recommend it.

  71. Tom Foolery
    March 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Ian M. Banks’ The Player of Games deals with race, class and gender in a compelling story. I highly recommend it.

  72. Momentary
    March 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Another rec (I keep remembering older stuff): Joy Chant’s Grey Mane of Morning is written from the perspective of a nomadic culture of people of colour fighting back against a white culture that demands tribute and slaves from them.

  73. Gembird
    March 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    In The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (dystopian future sci-fi) the main character/narrator, Katniss, is described as having dark hair and olive skin.A lot of the other characters from her district are similarly described.

    Yep, and there are people in other districts who are described as POC too- I’m pretty sure Rue is, for a start.

    So yeah, seconding The Hunger Games :)

  74. Doc Alpert
    March 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    George R. R. Martin’s world may be all-white, but it’s definitely not a place anybody sane would want to live.

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned Dune. I don’t remember how they’re described, but I don’t picture the Fremen as white—since they live in the desert I imagine them as olive-skinned. And of course they end up dominating the known universe. Yes, they’re nominally led by a rich white male, but Paul never wanted any of it to happen. They used him as a means to an end.

  75. Momentary
    March 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I will caution on Russell, who I think writes terribly, has a really strong religious sub-theme that turned me off, and who tends towards the annoyingly manipulative (though obviously others disagree) and also on Tepper, who is often hailed as a feminist (and who had a long career in reproductive rights, which is awesome) but whose writing I find to be rather slut-shamey, esp. in The Fresco (female characters with no or few sexual partners are the heroes, female characters who have multiple partners are evil).

    Agreed on Tepper and slut-shaming tendencies. She also frequently brings in some form of eugenics as a positive, and can be stunningly, incredibly hateful on disability. Still an amazing writer though.

  76. March 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Ursula K. Le Guin’s young adult Western Shore series features numerous characters of color, one of whom is the protagonist of the novel Voices. They’re thoroughly engrossing books and ones I would suggest to readers of any age.

  77. March 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Dang, I forgot to add:
    Tad Williams’ Otherland series features two prominent poc protagonists, a South African woman named Irene “Renie” Sulaweyo and a Kalahari Bushman named !Xabbu. I can’t speak with confidence to the positive portrayal of the characters because I read them almost seven years ago, but I don’t remember reading anything that gave me serious pause. The books tell a fantastic tale either way.

  78. Dauphine
    March 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Just pointing out that ALL the characters in Le Guin’s Annals of the Western Shore are POCs; there is yet to be a single white character mentioned. In Earthsea, the only white characters are the Kargs (Tenar et all) who are notably the outsiders.

  79. Kate
    March 18, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Moxyland by Lauren Beukes is cuberpunk set in near future South Africa about black and mixed race characters. Super excellent social and political imaginings from a nonmajorotu perspective. New and strongly recommended. She has another book called Zoo City

  80. Sarah
    March 18, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Mark Van Name’s Jon and Lobo series are primarily focused on a white man (Jon) and are written by a white man (Van Name), but the society in which they move is extremely multiracial, as is much of the supporting cast.

  81. shah8
    March 18, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I don’t think many can hope to survive a steel cage death match with Ellen May Ngwethu.

  82. Blue Jean
    March 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    There’s Pauline Gedge and her Egyptian books, but those are more fantasy than scifi, except for the “Stargate” ones. If you want to go YA, you might try Tamora Pierce’s “Circle of Magic” series, where at least two of the four protagonists are people of color (and only one of the four is a boy.)

  83. March 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Momentary: I’ve always considered Sofia Mendez to be the other protagonist of The Sparrow, and am having a moment of shock at how few of the reviews online mention her at all. (Not meant as criticism of you, Nuri — thinking of the longer reviews.)

    Not at all — I find her even more important in the second book, Children of God. And I think you are right — she’s the next most important character and she’s rarely mentioned. I can’t believe I left her out on a feminist blog!

    and to oxygengirl: I think Russel writes beautifully, but that is certainly a your mileage may vary sentiment. I find the religious subplot to be engaging and I don’t think The Sparrow or Children of God would be the same without it. But then, I’m from a family of space and sci-fi loving Catholics, so I might be biased!

  84. Megan
    March 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Karin Lowachee’s “Gaslight Dogs” is a really interesting, semi-steampunk re-imagining of the colonisation of the Americas. One of the protagonists is a fantasy version of Native Alaskan; it’s been very well reviewed by POC activists.

    Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic series, and the subsequent books, have two POC main characters, Daja and Briar, (and one fat girl, as well) and as always, she’s feminist liek whoa.

    Charles De Lint has a number of characters who are either explicitly POC or who I’ve always pictured as such. Trigger warnings for child/ sexual abuse in many of his books/stories.

  85. March 18, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Lemme join the Butler and LeGuin read-em-or-regret-not-doing-so-forever–I didn’t really see anyone mention one of Butler’s finest works directly addressing race issues, Kindred (though someone may’ve and I missed it). Also, in LeGuin’s Planet of Exile, the Terrans in the book are all very dark-skinned while the primitive natives are all pale-skinned (she describes the one Terran in her amazing, bestest work ever The Dispossessed as being very dark-skinned as well, when the protaginst meets the Terran near the end of the book).

    The Hellflower trilogy by eluki bes shahar is extremely multiracial–though you never do get a clear idea of what the narrator looks like, other than “inbred” (she’s from a world that’s forbidden contact with the rest of the inhabited worlds), her closest living companion (the other one is an AI) is black-skinned, and the people who run the empire of worlds are very Eastern Indian in appearance as she describes them.

    Emily Devenport’s two books (they’re from like the 80s or 90s) feature two main female protagonists, one of whom is black, and of the three major races (besides humans) in the book, the evil race are small, porcelain white and doll-like.

  86. March 18, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Oops, I meant to say–Devenport’s two books are titled “Larissa” and “Shade.”

  87. March 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    OMG, I can’t believe I left off Mike Resnick’s Kirinyaga also.

  88. Cait
    March 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Seconding (or whatever it is by now) Delany and Octavia Butler !
    Also, this is slightly off topic, but I’d recommend looking up RaceFail 09 for interesting conversation about POCs and speculative fiction. There was a lot of flaming/incredible unchecked white privilege, but there were good posts in there. Linkspam on Rydra Wong’s livejournal !

  89. March 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I’m not sure if people are making any distinction between authors of color, and white authors writing characters of color. Justine Larbaleister is a white Australian who writes teenaged characters of different races with grace and sensitivity. In addition to the mixed-race protagonist of Liar (as Mandolin mentioned in comment 11), the YA series beginning with Magic or Madness has a native Australian character. The books aren’t *about* racism, but they aren’t ignoring it either.

    Victoria, in comment 46, wrote of Ursula Le Guin: “I can reassure you that she is in fact the greatest living USian author and anything by her will be wonderful.”

    Le Guin is a great writer, but that attitude troubles me. Anybody can make a mistake. Le Guin has made mistakes. (“Weak as women’s magic?”) Or not exactly mistakes, so much as things that looked like good ideas in the 1960s or ’70s, and not so good now.

    The Earthsea trilogy has a lot of characters with dark skin, but race isn’t an issue (except for a side mention about creepy foreigners with unnaturally pale skins.) Many readers didn’t notice what color Ged’s skin was–Le Guin made it subtle on purpose, trying to make the point that it didn’t really matter. (Dr. Seuss was trying to make a similar point with the Sneetches. The idea that minority identity matters, and a person shouldn’t have to hide or change it, is another step forwards.) Le Guin’s recent Voices has a very interesting approach to race–I think it shows a lot of learning from the author’s prior mis-steps, as well as from the social and political changes of the last generation.

    • March 19, 2011 at 4:28 am

      Just to note that Australians identifying as Indigenous or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander reject the term ‘native Australian’ with some feeling.

  90. Jacky
    March 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I’m seconding Charles De Lint! I’ve read very few non-First Nations authors who write First Nations characters which I’ve found relatable. More than that he tackles difficult issues with great sensitivity and I usually put down one of his books with something to think about.
    I’ve heard good things about The Night Wander: A Native Gothic Novel, by Drew Haydon Taylor. I haven’t read far enough into it to comment further, but I’ve enjoyed some of Taylor’s work in other genres.
    Niel Gaiman has already been mentioned.
    I also read an anthology several years ago called Coyote Road and what I remember of it was well done.
    I’ll definitely be checking out some of the titles others have recommended.

  91. tardis_stowaway
    March 19, 2011 at 2:48 am

    I recommend the Bold as Love series by Gwyneth Jones. Of the three leads, two are mixed race, and there are numerous other POCs in the cast. This series is a near-future fantasy with echoes of Arthurian legend. A group of rock stars end up being the main people holding England together while the world slowly falls apart in environmental, economic, and social upheaval. It’s a gorgeous series with memorable characters and far too much relevance to the world today for comfort. Trigger warning for childhood sexual abuse.

  92. matlun
    March 19, 2011 at 5:45 am

    I disagree somewhat with Adrians comments about Le Guin, but I was also confused about the discussion about the Earthsea books. Yes, everyone is non-white in the basic skin color sense, but why does this matter? The whole point with this motif in the books is that it is irrelevant to the story or the personal interactions.

    I also wondered whether for example the plethora of SF books handling cultural and racial conflicts with aliens should have been included here.

    I guess this is far too late in this thread to try to open up the discussion anyway…

  93. March 19, 2011 at 8:52 am

    re: comment 92, I apologize for using an impolite term for indigenous Australians. Larbaleister does not do so in the books I recommended.

  94. Mandolin
    March 19, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I think there can be room for narratives in which skin color doesn’t matter per se (complicating the visions of pale secondary worlds far removed from contemporary political visions) and narratives in which minority cultures are embraced.

    LeGuin has certainly made mistakes, however, some of which she’s admitted to. And I vaguely object to the concept that one can “reassure” me that a white lady “is in fact the greatest living USian author” in a thread on this topic (or basically anywhere, but particularly here). I say “vaguely” object because while I find that phrasing extremely irritating on a personal and political level, I understand that it’s intended hyperbolically.

  95. Mandolin
    March 19, 2011 at 9:48 am

    A couple more contemporary, working poc sf/f writers:

    Claire Light, Shelly Li

    and also some writers who are working with themes that concern latin America/POC/south Asia who I think are POC if my memory doesn’t deceive me:

    Maria Deira, Sylvia Moreno Garcia, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

    And depending on how one views the intersection of whiteness and Arab middle eastern populations, possibly:

    Amal El Mohtar, Saladin Ahmed

    As well as some 2011 Nebula nominated authors who consider their racial identity complicated:

    Christopher Kastensmidt (whose nominated novella is the beginning of a fantasy epic about a duo, one of whom is an enslaved African), Caroline Yoachim

  96. umami
    March 19, 2011 at 10:22 am

    God, I would love to jump in with some positive recs, but I haven’t read a whole lot of SF. But I have to say that I’m just amazed to see people reccing Robert Jordan for gender roles! I read a few of his books as guilty-pleasures but got incredibly turned off by how he treats his female characters. He seems to take a lot of authorial pleasure in writing his female characters being sexually humiliated in various ways. He spends a long time describing how low cut their dresses are, too. In the voices of his female characters. They’re not varied, they all spend half their narrative voice thinking about clothes, even the warrior women succumb to it in the end and it becomes a character beat! And if they’re thinking about men in the dreamworld their necklines plunge lower and lower…

    Plus the gender essentialism in the magic. And the whole humiliation of the female characters thing gets mirrored in the “uppity matriarchy meets its doom” macro plotline.

    LOL, that became a bit of a rant. I read those books years ago and apparently I still have a lot of feelings. They started off with enjoyable representations of women but they got incredibly derailed.

  97. haley
    March 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Woman on the edge of time-Marge Piercy

    I took me forever to finally get around to reading it, but I’m glad I did. Its now one of my favorite fictional novels. It centers around an inner city Latina woman who is thrown into an insane asylum and believe(knows?) she can travel into an alternate future. The book is very well written, the future society so wonderfully detailed and vibrant, I finished the book wishing it were real.

  98. ellid
    March 19, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    The books are real potboilers (especially the most recent ones), but several important characters in David Weber’s Honor Harrington books are descended from African-Americans, including the royal family of Manticore. Honor herself is half-Chinese, although the books depict a society that has evolved far beyond contemporary depictions of race.

  99. March 19, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Here’s one that hasn’t been mentioned: Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Realtime. I just finished reading it, and not only is it a fantastic SF mystery story, all the main characters are people of color (due in large part to the fact that it’s set in Earth’s distant future, where most of society has become racially mixed). Highly recommended.

  100. de Pizan
    March 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    -Green Grass Running Water by Thomas King
    -Bridge of Birds and sequels by Barry Hughart
    -Mercedes Lackey’s Edwardian Elemental Masters series features an Anglo-Indian character in the first novel, The Serpent’s Shadow (the character also makes a brief appearance in one or two of the other novels)–but critics call Lackey’s descriptions of Indian culture Kiplingesque and rather offensive and I’m somewhat inclined to agree.
    -in addition to Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series mentioned earlier, there’s also the spin-off Alpha and Omega series

    In young adult lit:
    -47 by Walter Mosley
    -Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
    -Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days, and also her Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack graphic novels
    -The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
    -Beast by Donna Jo Napoli
    -Bartimaeus series by Jonathan Stroud, the Ring of Solomon is set in the ancient Middle East, the rest in Victorian England (although Bartimaeus is a djinn, whenever he appears as a human, he usually does so in the form of an Egyptian or some other Middle Eastern ethnicity)

  101. Roxie
    March 19, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Gembird: Yep, and there are people in other districts who are described as POC too- I’m pretty sure Rue is, for a start.

    So yeah, seconding The Hunger Games :)

    Rue & Thresh are both black! :)

  102. artichoke14
    March 20, 2011 at 1:42 am

    this has been said before, but DEFINITELY Octavia Butler, particularly a collection of short stories called “Bloodchild.” The edition I have includes a particularly revelatory essay about the title story (which describes a future in which female aliens impregnate male humans). In the essay, she discusses how the story came out of a desire to imagine male-pregnancy and also from an experience she had dealing with bot-flies– an insect which, like the aliens of the piece, relies on human hosts to lay their eggs in. As someone who generally isn’t that interested in sci-fi (a professor turned me on to Butler), I’ve found Butler’s work to be exceptionally well-written and thought-provoking on several levels, so yeah, pleeeeeaaaaassssseeee check her out!

  103. Megan
    March 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I’ll second this, and actually opine that it applies to a lot of her work. Her writing of the Rrom can be really romanticized and problematic, and many POC in her books tend to be a bit too mystical, bordering on Magical Black Dude. Tarma is pretty cool, though.

  104. Megan
    March 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Agh, I fail at html. Sorry.

    I’ll second this, and actually opine that it applies to a lot of her work. Her writing of the Rrom can be really romanticized and problematic, and many POC in her books tend to be a bit too mystical, bordering on Magical Black Dude. Tarma is pretty cool, though.

  105. littlem
    March 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    50books_poc is an LJ community where the challenge is to read 50 books by authors of color in a year. I’m thinking there are discussions there of books that may not yet have hit the list of recs in comments here.

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