The Black Experience 2.0: Black Magic — 5 Under-appreciated African SFF Authors

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Suyi Davies Okungbowa highlights five under appreciated African voices in SFF in the 2nd sub segment of Black Magic. 

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


Often, when we think about science fiction written by authors on the African continent and its diasporas (or simply inspired by African-descended cultures and ethnicities), the scope seems broad at first. With the explosion in calls for literature and media diverse in culture and content, we have tended to see an uptick in such work in present times.

The pool, however, remains small. I don’t need to get into the myriad of issues that prevent a sizeable number of African-descended talent–from the continent or diasporas–from breaking through the glass ceiling of visibility in global publishing. What I will do, instead, is highlight five of such instances, in the hope that readers and lovers of SFF will seek them out and partake of their riches.

Lesley Nneka Arimah

Arimah could be described less as underappreciated, and more in the category of isn’t-being-screamed-loudly-enough-from-the-rooftops. What does it take for an African author whose work The Washington Post declared as “equally timely and timeless” to be one of the foremost voices in the genre? Winning the Caine or Commonwealth regional prize? The Kirkus Prize for Fiction? A New York Public Library Young Lions Award? Well, Lesley has won all those and more, with hits including her short story collection, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky (Riverhead, 2017) and “Skinned” (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 59). Newcomers to her work can start anywhere, many of which are free to read online: “Glory” in Harpers, “Light” in Granta, “Who Will Greet You At Home” in The New Yorker, and more.

Tendai Huchu

Tendai (who is also T.L. Huchu sometimes) is another one of those names that intermittently flies a tad underneath the global SFF radar. Huchu actually has multiple novels published: The Hairdresser of Harare (Ohio University Press, 2010), The Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician (Parthian Books, 2016) and his new novel forthcoming from Tor Books in June 2021, The Library of the Dead. The most impressive thing about Huchu’s work is that it manages to centre his native Zimbabwe, whether or not the stories are set there (his new novel is set in Edinburgh, where he lives). Readers can start by peeking into “The Marriage Plot,” the flash story that won him the 2017 Nommo Award for Best Speculative Short Story. After that, Hairdresser or any of his free-to-read short stories (“Ghostalker,” “Egoli,” etc) would be decent pathways to his new novel.

Tlotlo Tsamaase

Tlotlo is a strong example of an excellent, talented writer with a number of published stories in recognized venues under her belt. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review of her forthcoming fantasy-horror novella The Silence of the Wilting Skin, describes her work with words such as “atmospheric anticolonialist battle cry” and “tour de force.” The Motswana author is also a poet (one of her poems, “I Will Be Your Grave” was a 2017 Rhysling Award nominee) and writes architecture articles. One of her earliest stories, “Virtual Snapshots,” was published by Vice and is a good place for new readers to start. Other places to experience her work before The Silence of the Wilting Skin drops in May include: “Murders Fell from Our Wombs” in Apex Magazine; “Eclipse our Sins” and “The ThoughtBox,” both in Clarkesworld; “Behind Our Irises” in the Brittlepaper Africanfuturism anthology; and her most recent story in The Dark, “The River of Night.” Find her full body of work at tlotlotsamaase.com.

Wole Talabi

Wole is a Nigerian who lives and works in Malaysia as an Engineer, but is known more in global literary circles as a Writer and Editor. His 2019 collection, Incomplete Solutions contained the novella “Incompleteness Theories” which won the 2020 Nommo Award for Best Novella. Prior to that, he was shortlisted for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing with “Wednesday’s Story” (Lightspeed, 2016) and won the 2018 Nommo Award for Best Short Story with “The Regression Test” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2017). Wole’s writing has been touted to examine “what it means to be human in a world of accelerating technology, diverse beliefs, and unlimited potential, from a uniquely Nigerian perspective.” This he also does as an editor, by spotlighting work uniquely examining speculative realities as imagined from the African continent. The anthologies Lights Out: Resurrection and the recent Brittlepaper Africanfuturism anthology are two good examples of these. New readers can start anywhere on his extensive list of publications.

Chikodili Emelumadu (Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ)

Emelumadu is a British-Nigerian author whose work has flirted with various awards: The Shirley Jackson Awards in 2015 (for “Candy Girl” in Apex Magazine); the Caine Prize in 2017 and 2020 (first for “Bush Baby” and then for “What to do when your child brings home a Mami Wata,” in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2); and the Nommo Award for Best Short Story in 2020 (for “Sin Eater” in Omenana), which she eventually won in a tie. Emelumadu describes her work as examining tensions “between conservative and liberal, contemporary and traditional,” and this she does via rooted tales with dark undertones and strong familial leanings. Though without a website listing publications, readers can start anywhere with Emelumadu’s work, including her forthcoming, Dazzling (publication date TBA), with which she snagged representation with Curtis Brown UK after emerging winner of their inaugural First Novel Prize in 2019.

About Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is the author of Son of the Storm (Orbit, May 2021), first in The Nameless Republic epic fantasy trilogy, and the godpunk novel, David Mogo, Godhunter (Abaddon, 2019). His shorter works have appeared internationally in periodicals like Tor.com, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Fireside, and anthologies like Year’s Best Science Fiction and FantasyA World of Horror and People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction. He lives between Lagos, Nigeria and Tucson, Arizona where he teaches writing at the University of Arizona and completes his MFA. He tweets at @IAmSuyiDavies and is @suyidavies on Instagram. Learn more at suyidavies.com.


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