These are typically genres not commonly associated with Black literature. My theory for the reason behind that is complex and not easily defined. As Black Americans, we are often taught not to fantasize… because we simply don’t have the time. Other reasons come from praying grandmothers who insist on keeping ‘that witchcraft’ out of the house-- even if all you wanted was a break from the mundane reality we find ourselves daily.
Those of us who crave magical realism, fantasy and Sci-fi often retreat to the most popular books where the characters don’t look like us, use the same language as us, or have the same culture as us. We are then forced to connect with a writer who uses their own frame of reference for world building. We have to adjust our understanding of the world to fit into this new world full of people we typically wouldn’t be able to relate to.
If you’re anything like me, you love Harry Potter. In fact, Harry Potter served as this magical world to retreat to and you became the boy who lived in the cupboard under the staircase who was sent to Hogwarts to face life-threatening monsters to protect the wizzarding world. The only difference is I have never been and never will be a White British boy who goes to a school where I’m the ethnic majority. So then-- if you’re anything like me-- you do the extra work to change the literature in your mind. You change it so that Harry Potter is a Black Girl whose friends Ron and Hermoine are also Black. This helps paint a more relatable image for you. This way, you, too, are in the wizzarding world facing life-threatening monsters. You, too, become the hero of Hogwarts. You, too, are the chosen one.
The truth is there are great Black Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and books involving magical realism sitting right under our noses. We don’t always have to do that work to change the story to make it more relatable. We just have to build awareness of what we already have in our community; therefore, creating an incentive for writers to produce more. Here are a few reasons why you should expand your intake of Black Fantasy and Science Fiction if you haven’t already:
Sci-fi and Fantasy reading can improve mental health.
The fact is simple: life is hard. Finding time to get away mentally can be a big help. Being able to take a mental vacation can help a person destress when there’s no real-world escape. While some may argue that this decreases productivity in adults, it actually does the opposite. A Hardard study concluded that regular intake of Fantasy literature has been found to increase brain memory and creativity in adults, elevating the mood and causing them to be even more productive in their day-to-day lives. Instead of thinking of Fantasy writing as a distraction, think of it as a psychological exercise that improves the emotional and practical agility of the mind.
Fantasy Writing usually has Important, Real- life Messages.
Not only does adult Fantasy Fiction serve as a way to escape the stressful mundane activities of life, it also helps adults solve real-life problems. In adult fantasy Fiction and Sci-fi, the themes are a bit more mature than those we will find in Harry Potter or other Young Adult or Childrens’ Fantasy Fiction. One book that comes to mind if Friday Black By Nana Kwame Brenyah Adjei. In this collection of stories, he discusses themes of police brutality, abortion, social media, consumerism, and manhood. These real-life themes were discussed indirectly in some cases, and as a way for the reader to come to his/ her own conclusion and approach the topic in an unconventional way.
Sci-Fi and Fantasy allow you to expand your imaginative reach.
As adults, we are often bombarded by hard facts and things we have to deal with, eliminating the flexibility to stretch our perspective outside of the bounds of our realities. This is dangerous. Not only does it promote groupthink, where everyone approaches problem solving in similar ways, it also eliminates the span of real human resources we have as a community. Limiting the way a group of people thinks is dangerous to society and can stifle growth and individuality.
Here are a few of my favorite sci-fi or fantasy books and novels involving magical realism:
An Unkindness of Ghosts By Rivers Solomon
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Friday Black Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Futureland by Walter Mosley
Of course, these are just a few among many. Have you read any of these? Which are your favorite? Any not listed here that you'd like to discuss? Share below.
As always: Indulge Endlessly.