Reading Women Discuss Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism
Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, and More on This Week's Episode
For February’s theme, Kendra, Sachi, and new Reading Women contributor Bezi discuss Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism!
From the episode:
Kendra: Hello, I’m Kendra Winchester, here with Sachi Argabright. And this is Reading Women, a podcast inviting you to reclaim half the bookshelf by discussing books written by or about women. And this is episode 81, where we’re talking about books around this month’s theme, which is Afrofuturism.
Sachi: You can find a complete transcript and a list of all the books mentioned today linked in our show notes. And don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode.
Kendra: Kendra We also have with us one of our contributors, Bezi. Welcome, Bezi, to the podcast.
Bezi: Hi. I’m so happy to be here.
Kendra: Yeah, you were on the podcast—was it last year?
Bezi: Yes. Yes, it was technically last calendar year, which feels weird to say because it was only a few months ago.
Kendra: So this is your second episode since you’ve been a contributor. So I am very excited. When we went with this challenge prompt for the Reading Women Challenge, we were like, oh, that would be great theme as well. And so it just seemed like the perfect thing to have you back on for.
Bezi: Yes, I’m really happy to be here. I’ve been knee-deep in Afrofuturism for the past two years for my own graduate study. And so I’m really excited to come back on the podcast and talk about this topic that I’m most passionate about.
Kendra: I’m very excited to learn. We’ve been reading all of the things and talking about so many amazing books. But before we jump into our theme, we have some news.
Bezi: So Binti, which I’m going to talk about in today’s podcast episode, by Nnedi Okorafor is in development as an adaptation on Hulu, which is a really cool thing to hear. As well as Wild Seed, which is by Octavia Butler, who is another Afrofuturist author that we’re going to talk about later in the episode and in the next episode. Her novel, Wild Seed is also in development by Nnedi Okorafor who is an Africanfuturist writer, and that is in development at HBO. So both Hulu and HBO are in the process of developing Afrofuturist and Africanfuturist series.
Kendra: I’m so excited.
Sachi: Me too!
Kendra: You have extended series. That gives them more space to sprawl out and develop the story.
Sachi: I don’t have Hulu. But I’ll have to try to get my hands on Binti. Maybe I’ll have to get a free trial or something of Hulu so I can watch it. I do have HBO so really excited about Wild Seed, especially since I really love Octavia Butler.
Bezi: Yeah, I’m actually in the opposite situation where I have Hulu, but not HBO. I’ve held out on HBO for a while, but this might be the one that finally gets me to try and get an account.
Kendra: Now, I guess it’s time to jump into Afrofuturism. And so I think it would be helpful to talk a little bit about what Afrofuturism is, and that way that will give everyone a a better idea of what kind of books we are going to be talking about today?
Bezi: Definitely. So Afrofuturism is sort of a basic description. It imagines things like aliens and post-apocalyptic worlds in order to center Black people who have been historically dehumanized in social conditions of the present and sort of imagine them in these centered positions in the future. It can be fantastic, but it isn’t necessarily fantasy, which we’ll talk about in the next episode—some of the distinguishing aspects of Black fantasy and Afrofuturism and also these definitions that I’m putting forward aren’t standardized. And they’re really complex. They vary depending on which scholar you talk to, depending on which author and novelist you talk to. The genre is really evolving and changing and is adapted to each author and each time that the novel and the work is being created in.
We can talk about some of the complexities, but I do want to put forward that Afrofuturism is really complex. And anything that we continue to talk about in the episode is some ways to gesture to some of the knowledge and research that’s happened so far, but doesn’t preclude the other research that continues to go forward. Afrofuturism is relevant to today’s books that we’re gonna talk about today because it looks at what could have been as a way to reimagine what will be, which is like Dread Nation, which Sachi will talk about. But it can also look at what will be in a more straightforward sci-fi, futuristic sense.
Kendra: So like Binti, in Africanfuturism, is looking forward to what could be, in that sense.
Bezi: Exactly. Yes. Looking at the ways in which we imagine the future and using some of the ideas and metaphors of aliens and post-apocalyptic worlds and space travel and time travel.
Kendra: Which sounds like all of the best things really.
Sachi: Oh yeah.
Bezi: Yes, absolutely. I fully love fantasy and sci-fi and all things technological and magical. And the ways that we really understand that technology and magic are blurred at that level because we can’t imagine some of the technology that is put forward in sci-fi. It might as well be magic.
Kendra: That’s true. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about science fiction and fantasy is that it’s just sort of like viewing the world from a different perspective, the difference between the two in a lot of ways. I had a friend that would always argue with me about how he didn’t like fantasy. He only wanted science fiction because it was is explained by science. And I’m like, LOL.
Bezi: I don’t have time for people like that. I think there are very real arguments about fantasy, which we’ll talk about next episode. So I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But fantasy sometimes can be a very conservative genre. It uses a lot of ideas and traditions of the past and these sort of alternate worlds. But I think that once you start talking about technology that’s so insane and so futuristic and so cool . . . but once you start talking at that level, it might as well be magic to the average reader and to the average viewer in the 21st century. So, yeah, I think there’s a way in which these genres really work together and play together and do awesome things when you don’t become . . . when you’re not so committed to drawing lines between them.
Kendra: Well, it sounds like we will have a lot of great things to talk about in this episode and next episode. But why don’t we just jump into our book picks for today? And Bezi, you have the first one.
Bezi: Yes. So I’m going to talk about today Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. And it is one of my favorite series and one of the first series I read that was in the category of Black fantasy and science fiction. So a short sort of plot summary. Binti is the title character, and she’s a Himba girl from Namibia on Earth. And she leaves her family to go to college off planet at Oomza University. She makes friends with other people in the transport ship, many of whom are Khoush, which is another human ethnic group. But the trip gets hijacked by an alien attack, which had been previously at war with the humans, the human ethnic group that was on the ship. And through technology and magic, Binti discovers the means for reconciliation and for a new understanding of her own identity, even in this now hostile space.
I do want to start off on top of that plot summary by saying, as Kendra mentioned, that part of this discussion of Afrofuturism is the distinction that Nnedi Okorafor has sort of led the discussion for: that there is a genre called Africanfuturism, which shares many of the same concerns with Afrofuturism in that it’s thinking about visions of the future and science fiction advancements in technology. But Africanfuturism centers Africa and specificities of African cultures and peoples outside of tropes of the West and decentering tropes of the West. So, for example, Binti’s Himba tribe is based on the Himba tribe in Namibia, a real African tribe, and thinks about the ways in which that specific culture and the legacies of that specific culture impact her story and impact Binti’s character, characterization, and character growth.
Kendra: And I find it really fascinating because I didn’t know that there was a different scene Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism until you mentioned it. And then you sent me a link to Okorafor’s website where she talks about the difference between the two and how she makes a distinction with hers and has the definition there and everything. And I’ll be sure to include that link in the show notes so people can go check it out if they have more questions and different things because I think she did a great job of explaining it there.
Bezi: Absolutely. And I actually have been referring to that blog post at length in my own research because Nnedi Okorafor is one of the authors who has been the pioneer of that genre distinction of Africanfuturism. And I found her explanations really helpful, even as she has maintained that she is a novelist and she’s, you know, letting scholars come up with this sort of scholarly definitions of Africanfuturism versus Afrofuturism.
In terms of the Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism, though, and the commonalities that they do have . . . in her TED talk, Nnedi Okorafor uses the metaphor of the octopus to talk about how Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism have a different evolutionary beginning. Like the octopus’s idea of just being as intelligent as a human, but having a different evolutionary beginning than humans. And so Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism starts from a different place than Western science fiction and Western fantasy. And the fundamental centering of Black and African lives transforms these authors’ visions of the future. So yeah, that’s Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. And it was originally published as novellas by Tor Books, but the whole trilogy, including a bonus story is currently available in omnibus form by DAW Books. So Sachi, what’s your pick for today’s episode?
Sachi: Yeah, thanks! So my first pick for today is Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, and this is published by Balzer and Bray. Just a quick plot summary. This book is set in a reimagined America where the Civil War is interrupted by a zombie uprising. So all the humans must band together against the dead. So again, back to Bezi’s comments of kind of reimagining the past. . . . In this story, even though all Americans are not fighting “on the same side” against the undead, the roles in which they have to fight are not the same, and they’re not equal. So in this story, there is a law called the “Native and Negro Reeducation Act,” where children of a certain age—I believe it’s 12 years old—from those races are required to attend a combat school to learn how to fight the undead.
And this is where we meet our protagonist, Jane McKeene. She’s a really skilled fighter, but is very spunky and doesn’t always fight and play by the rules, which I really liked her as a character and found myself relating to her. And she’s in her final years at school. And most of her peers aim to be an attendant, which is an individual who serves a wealthy white family and protect the affluent women in the family. Jane sets her sights, though, on returning back to her mother, who she was taken from many years ago. And as she strives to do that, twists and plot turns ensue. And she has to make some really big decisions on what direction she wants to go.
For this book, like, this is one of the first books about Afrofuturism that I’ve read. So I’m very new to this. And Bezi, correct me on any terminology or anything. I’m very much still learning and trying, trying my best. But I’ve really, really enjoyed this book. Again, I really liked Jane as a character. She was very compelling, and I connected with her. She is sometimes very brutally honest, which I have been told that I am also like that sometimes, which is hard to hear. But she has really great quick problem-solving skills and is a born leader. And I really loved her as a character.
This story is just so different than anything I’ve really read before, and I really loved how it tackles and explores race. And as you can probably guess, a lot of the books that we’re going to talk about today are going to be centered around race. And there is a really large split between the Black, Indigenous, and people of color, those characters and the upper class white characters who hold most of the power. And the law that’s passed that I mentioned earlier is part of it. But the whole world is built around those principles of the Black and indigenous people of color serving white people. To take it a step further, there’s like a survivalist party, which you can probably guess what side of the Civil War they were on. But there’s this long quote . . . I have it written here, but I’m not going to read necessarily the whole thing. But they base their ideology that white Christian men and women should be secure and safe and really leading the country to bring it back to its former glory. So like, I got major like “Make America Great Again” vibes. So it’s just like very, very prevalent in our current culture. And I like that Justina Ireland doesn’t shy away from this. And it shows that entire groups of people can still be oppressed and unequal if our laws and our structural systems are skewed a specific way, which we definitely have broken systems in our country currently.
So overall, I just thought Justina Ireland did such an amazing job tackling these issues and delivers a great story. And the second book comes out February 4th, which I believe is the day before this podcast will be released. So if you’re one of those people who hates to wait for the next book in the series—which I am kind of like that, so I was really happy to see this is coming out soon—there’ll be two books that you can dove into. I think it’s just about over a thousand pages. So you should hopefully have a lot of pages to quench your thirst for this series.
Bezi: Yeah, I definitely love DREAD NATION a lot, and I happen to be one of the people who got an advance copy of Deathless Divide, which is the second book. And I can say that it is just as exciting and just as nerve wracking and cool as the first book. And so I’m really excited for people to read that.
Kendra: Who doesn’t love a badass lady monster hunter? You know?
Kendra: That’s just my dream.
Bezi: Absolutely. Well, and I just love how. Justina Ireland works through this idea that Black women and Black girls are supposed to be superhuman, are supposed to be badasses, but also they are vulnerable, and they make mistakes, and they can alienate people. And like anyone else, you know, they’re still working through their own coming of ages. And so I love how these Black female authors and Black authors allow Black girl protagonists the space to be complicated and badass and weak and strong and all of the things in between. And I think that Justina Ireland does a wonderful job of doing that in this absolutely insane world of zombies, in which I personally would be on the ground unhelpful to anybody.
Sachi: Yeah, I can’t run fast enough against the zombies. I have no cardio ability to do that. I also really like not only is Jane like a really great and very complex and layered character, but even the characters built around Jane, especially Katherine, like Justina Ireland does a really great job of fleshing them out and having them being like true supporting characters and not people that are just kind of in the background. So you’ve got all these different facets of the Black experience in this one, you know, crazy world that you were saying. So I think I think it’s really awesome if you love plot development, but you also love character-driven novels, like, this is the full package.
But that’s Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. And that’s out by Blazer and Bray. Okay. So, Kendra, what is your first pick for today’s episode?
Kendra: So my pick is Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack. And this is one that Bezi recommended to me a while back, and I knew that we would be doing this theme. And so I am a super nerd, and I love deep diving into a topic, especially if it’s something you can apply to literature. So Lit theory was like my favorite class of all time. And so I was really excited to read this because when I start thinking about an idea, I want to know the definition and then read examples. I’m just that kind of process person.
And so this is the perfect thing to introduce people to a more, I guess, academic side of Afrofuturism. But I’m using the word “accessible,” I don’t mean that bad at all. She just writes so clearly and distinctly about what she’s talking about that you’re able to follow along and, you know, kind of expand your idea of what Afrofuturism is because she also talks about how it applies to other different types of media in art and what that looks like and the origins of it in a lot of different ways and some pillars of people who are artists who really started or continued a lot of the art that made up Afrofuturism. And she just jumps into all of that. And it’s not very long. It’s is under 200 pages. So I feel like it gives you a great introduction. It doesn’t overwhelm you, and you have a great way to start. And also, there are dozens and dozens of book recommendations in its pages. So you’ll be set for recommendations to read more about it as well.
Sachi: I feel like the recommendations too, it’s not only books. It’s like movies and music and all these styles. Like, oh my gosh, I need to keep a list of all of the different types of media that are recommended in this awesome book.
Bezi: Definitely. It’s one of the books that I brought in on, honestly, almost day one of my own study of Afrofuturism as a grad student because I was really looking for some a primary source to sort of start with to build out from and find other sources and other novels and other texts that I could analyze as Afrofuturist. And this was, as Kendra said, one of the most accessible ways that I could access definitions of Afrofuturism and the evolution of Afrofuturism. And so I definitely think it’s essential reading for anyone who’s really interested in that topic. I would encourage you not to be discouraged by our use of the word “academic,” because I do really think it is accessible, and I do really think that it is one of those primary textbooks that people should start with.
Kendra: Yeah, and I really love how she breaks the chapters up into different topics. And so you’re able to organize the ideas in your mind as well. And I’m an annotator. And I use all of the book darts and all of the underlines. And it looks like a little flashy little rainbow when I go through the pages, as you can probably hear. But I really appreciate the way that she talks about authors’ works. And then she also talks to them, and they give her quotes about other people who inspired them. And it was just like they were getting together to celebrate this amazing idea and group of ideas that can be expressed in different mediums together. And there was a lot of crossover in all of the best ways, which I thought was pretty cool. So this is one of our discussion books. So we’re going to use it to talk a little bit more about what Afrofuturism is, like Bezi was saying. And we’ll talk about that next time. Okay. So that is Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack. And this out from Lawrence Hill Books. And we’ll be back with more from this episode of Reading Women after a word from our sponsor.
Bezi, you have our next pick.
Bezi: Yes. So my next pick is The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson, who is one of my favorite Afrofuturist authors. She’s a Jamaican-born Canadian author. And most of her stories, including this one, take place in Canada and in Toronto. She really beautifully incorporates Afro-Caribbean myth and folklore with a Western setting, showing and telling us about the unique displacement of Black girls who are navigating both worlds. So in The Chaos, Scotch, the protagonist, is a fully fleshed out 16-year-old girl, which means she’s not really entirely sympathetic. She’s struggling to find her place, and she makes some selfish and alienating decisions along the way. But most of her frustration comes, at first, from the fact that she’s biracial with a white Jamaican father and a Black Canadian mother. And she desperately wants to be “Blacker” in her speech and appearance, even while she both loves and hates the attention and privilege that comes with her light skin.
And then as often happens in science fiction and fantasy, the world goes crazy. In a post-apocalyptic twist, The Chaos somehow makes everyone’s fears and desires visible in strange and surreal manifestations. Scotch has to come to terms with her grotesque tar baby, and in doing so, she has to confront some of her own biases.
So this book is very surreal, at times even more surreal than fantasy that I usually read. But if you have read Toni Morrison, and you read specifically her novel Tar Baby, and you know a little bit about how African American and African symbols . . . “tar baby” as a device and as a metaphor is something that has a lot of complications and in Black thought and in African American thought. There is an idea in which Nalo Hopkinson is trying to explore and flesh out this idea of what does it mean to be Black phenotypically, physically? And what does it mean to be Black in terms of culture, in terms of attitudes, in terms of your own self identification? And so even as these crazy things are happening in the world and these sort of surreal images come in and out as metaphor, Nalo Hopkinson is really grounding that discussion in what does it mean to be Black? And so she’s really deliberate with her imagery.
One of the fun things that I wouldn’t have expected and isn’t really a spoiler because there is no way you could guess how this would come in. Baba Yaga makes an appearance! And it builds out in really rewarding ways from the themes of the story. So this and Nalo Hopkinson’s other novels like Brown Girl in the Ring, which might be a little more known for people who read Black fantasy and sci-fi, and her novel Sister Mine are great examples of non-American Afrofuturism.
Kendra: That sounds absolutely amazing. I really love books that just go bonkers, and you just sit there and you go along for the ride. And kind of like Nicky Drayden’s books.
Bezi: Absolutely. That’s a good comparison. So, yeah. And a lot of Nalo Hopkinson’s books are available online, but this specific one, I think, is the most accessible. It was published by Simon Teen McElderry Books. And so that’s The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson. So, Sachi, what’s your second pick?
Sachi: All right. So my second pick is our other pick for our discussion episode. And that’s Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. And the most recent reprint, I believe, is from Grand Central Publishing. And this book is part of a duology. So Parable of the Sower was the first and Parable of the Talent is the second, and it’s set in 2025. So keep in mind this is written in 1993, so this was looking thirty years, round about, into the future. 2025 seems pretty close for us, but was very much in the future the time that this book was published. And just a brief plot summary. I won’t go into too much detail because again we’re going to have a discussion episode about this, but it focuses on a world that’s been pushed to its limits as drugs and disease and war and water shortages have taken over.
And the story follows a young African American woman named Lauren, who was forced out of her neighborhood compound by drug users who are obsessed with setting and watching fires. I believe the drug has many names and forms, but is most commonly known as pyro. It gives the user a really euphoric experience when they watch fire, which I thought was a very imaginative plot device. So as she meets in bands with other refugees, she heads north to find safety and starts to unravel a new way of thinking that might save mankind. And that’s very ominous. But I don’t want to go into too much detail because I want to save it for our next episode.
But overall, Octavia Butler is just a true visionary. We could probably all three of us just gush forever about how wonderful she is. And I, last year, I had read Kindred, which is one of her earlier works that came out in 1979. And her reading and creativity is just unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I picked up Kindred and was shocked at how old the book was because it just reads so effortlessly as something that would be new. Like right now. And this book Parable of the Sower, specifically, explores so many things like survival and change and race and humanity, religion, family, just like everything all in one. And it’s just wild to me how some of the insights and the themes that she covers, you know, back in the early ’90s are still very true today, especially the comments around climate change. So some of the pieces and aspects of fires and such is just absolutely relevant right now. And I’ve heard for the second book as well that many of the kind of foreshadowing and insights about the future still ring very true.
Kendra: Creepily so. Yes.
Sachi: Yes. I’ve heard like a scarily so, which is just wild. And overall, I just really enjoyed this first part of the duology. I can’t wait to pick up the second book, Parable of the Talents, which I know Kendra, you finished Parable of the Sower and you were like, “I had to immediately do Parable of the Talents because you loved it so much.
Kendra: It’s so good.
Sachi: I can’t wait.
Bezi: So, yeah, I don’t want to go, like you said, too much into it. But I actually Octavia Butler is widely considered one of the founders in terms of Afrofuturist literature. And she has had a lot of thoughts on record about her contribution to the genre. And I think that whatever novel that you look at and how the ways that she plays with the sort of complex ideas of ethnicity and identity, world building, and genre tropes of science fiction, I think that there are lots of ways that the other Afrofuturist authors that we talk about were inspired by Octavia Butler. And so in that way, she is one of the primary authors that I direct people to who are just starting out and who are trying to understand what Afrofuturism is because Octavia Butler really did start to explore some of the ways that Afrofuturism could be different and is different from Western, white science fiction. I would also say, though, that some of her books are more futuristic than others and some of her books are more fantastic than others. And so those are really complex and interesting ways that she plays with genre lines and genre distinctions.
Kendra: And I’ll mention before we move on that this particular book has a lot of difficult content, so it does have a content warning on it. So just be aware. It is really good. But you might want to be in the right headspace for it. Someone gave me content warnings, and I was really appreciative because I was able to prepare myself.
Sachi: That’s very true. The imagery can be very vivid at times. So definitely read with caution, but it will hopefully be worth your while. So that was my second pick, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. And that is from Grand Central Publishing. And Kendra, I think you have our last pick for today.
Kendra: Yes. So I am a huge fan of N.K. Jemisin. Her books, beginning with The Fifth Season and moving through The Broken Earth Trilogy, meant so much to me because of what she did and how she really brought such awareness to the fact that Black women are writing amazing fantasy and have been, and people should start paying attention. Her speech when she won her third Hugo in a row was phenomenal. I will link it down below. So I really wanted to talk about one of her books. And one of the ones we haven’t talked about yet on the podcast, which we’re running out of them, is How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, which is a short story collection. And I was going back over it to prep for this, and in addition to being stunned by its cover every time, I . . .
Sachi: It’s so beautiful!
Bezi: I love it. I love it. It was one of the first books that I heard about through my book Instagram that I started. And I knew I would do whatever it took to get a copy of that book.
Sachi: It’s stunning.
Kendra: It is absolutely gorgeous. And I love her stories because they range from the more fantastical to more sci-fi. She plays with form. She plays with ideas. She plays with different cultures around the United States. So she writes stories set in the South. But there’s one also set in New York, which I think is relating to her new series that’s coming out in March. And she also has stories from her major series that she has written so far. So one of my favorites was “Stone Hunger,” which is a short story set in the universe of the Broken Earth trilogy. And I really appreciate what she does in all different kinds of representation. One of things that struck me about The Fifth Season was there’s a lot of coverage of what bodily difference looks like in the fifth season. And I can’t tell you why because that would be a spoiler. But there’s a lot of coverage of people with varying abilities as well. So her work is so intersectional, and I just love what she does.
One of my favorite stories—will surprise no one—is about food, and its “Cuisine de Memoires.” I think that’s right. I don’t know. It’s been so long since I’ve taken French. But it’s basically the cuisine of memories. And it’s about this guy that goes into this restaurant. His friend has dragged him there. He finally went there. And the restaurant, after he signs the waiver, which is very intimidating, you get served whatever meal you want, and it’s a meal from your life that takes you back to this memory. And it plays on the idea of how food and cuisine is connected to who we are and our memories, our core memories that make us who we are as people. And that was just so brilliant, such a brilliant observation told in such a clever way.
Sachi: I love that. I want to read that. I’m hungry as well. That sounds wonderful right now.
Bezi: I love this collection a lot. One of my favorite stories actually is, it’s called “The Valedictorian,” and it’s basically about a Black girl who refuses to underachieve, even though there’s a very specific motivation and reason why she should not want to be valedictorian in this fantastic world and within the premise N.K. Jemisin has set up. I don’t want to spoil it, but I just so related to the idea that this the main character decides she’s going to do the best that she can in this school system that’s been set up in this fantastic world even though she’s been told that she shouldn’t and even though her, sort of maybe, survival sense might say that she shouldn’t. And I just love how N. K. Jemison reveals the premise of the story and these kind of like creative hints. And then when the full idea of it drops, you’re just shocked and in awe of what kind of world would set up this system that punishes students for achieving and punishes those who are trying to acquire a certain type of knowledge.
Kendra: She does such a great job with all of the different worlds that she imagines. But one of the things I really love is seeing how she grows as a writer because you can tell in some of her earlier stories some of the things that she’s worked on over the course of her writing career. Sort of like reading her novels. You can tell how she becomes more skilled at world building and different things with each progressive series. And I think you can definitely see that in her short stories as well, which as a super nerd who loves studying literature and writers, like, the arc of their career. It was just so. . . . It just made me so happy to read in and study because I’m just . . . I just have embraced being a super nerd. And I live a very happy life now.
Sachi: We’re all super nerds. You’re in good company.
Kendra: Thank you. I appreciate that. I guess people, if they’re listening to this, probably are as well. So.
So that is How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N. K. Jemison. And of course, we love all the things that she does. So, yes, I think there’s only like two more books that we haven’t talked about on the podcast yet, but we will get there one day.
A lot of you have mentioned, both patrons and just general listeners, that you would love more recommendations on the topics that we cover. So that is what we are going to do instead of “currently reading.” But that way you will have even more books you can go find if you want to read more about a particular topic. So it’s very exciting.
Bezi: So my further reading recommendation is Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction From the African Diaspora, which is an anthology that’s edited by Sheree Thomas. It includes stories by Octavia Butler, Samuel Delaney, Jewelle Gomez, Tananarive Due, and other authors writing in the 20th and early 21st century that prove Afrofuturistic fiction isn’t new. It’s this tradition that’s been evolving for the past hundred years or so. But it has a history and it has this arc that you can trace, and it shows a lot of different writing styles. Samuel Delaney, for example, is an author who is Afrofuturist, who writes in this very poetic, flowery, literary fiction type approach to Afrofuturist fantasy and science fiction. Octavia Butler is obviously amazing and writes an amazing short story for this collection. And Tananarive Due is a Black horror and fantastic writer. And so she writes about the Black fantastic and Black horror, and sort of her short story dips into both of those spaces. So it’s a great way to dip into a future reading for Afrofuturism. Sachi, what’s your further reading pick?
Sachi: Yes, my pick for further reading is Mem. And this is by Bethany C. Morrow and is published by Unnamed Press. This is another book set in Canada similar to one of our previous picks. And like one of my picks, Dread Nation, it is a re-imagining of the past. And this features clones that are built off of people’s memories. You can kind of like upload your memory into these clones, and they’re sentient. And you can try to eliminate some of the bad memories they’ve had in your past. But like any good book, this goes in directions that people don’t foresee and turns into a great adventure for the reader. So that is MEM by Bethany C. Morrow from Unnamed Press.
Kendra: And we have a Q&A with Bethany C. Morrow about Mem on our website, and I’ll link it in the show notes. So if you would like to know more about the book, it’s lovely. It’s also on audio and Hoopla, and I would highly recommend checking out the audio because it’s pretty great.
Sachi: I love Hoopla. So definitely going to add that.
Kendra: Yes, I’m already out of check outs. And I still have like, what, six days left in the month. I’m not sure I’m gonna survive. So my pick is generally just Nicky Drayden because I love her. I read The Brave Gods, which was just bonkers. It was so wild and out there in all of the best ways. And I really love what she does with her imagination. And she doesn’t just write the same book over and over again. She writes totally different things and all of them are bonkers. And so I have Temper and Escaping Exodus on my list. Bezi, I think you’ve read Escaping Exodus.
Bezi: Yes. I actually review Escaping Exodus for the Reading Women newsletter a few months ago? A month ago? It’s definitely linked on the website if you want to check it out.
Kendra: Yes. And I was concerned about that one because I have a phobia of parasites, and they’re living in a live creature. But someone was like, “Kendra, I think you’ll be fine?” So I’m going to go into that one. It sounds cool. The illustrations are phenomenal. Like the cover and the fan art and everything. But that is my further reading. And that was the other thing that I was considering for this episode, so I get to mention it here now. So those are our six picks for this month. And yeah, it’s been pretty great. There’s so many great books here, guys.
Sachi: Yes. If you’re like me, and this is one of the first times you are diving into Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism, there is a plethora of things to choose from. So hopefully all the things that we’ve highlighted, you’ve added to your list, and you’ll get right into those books as soon as possible.