Dreaming of Wakanda: Afrofuturism and Afrofantasy

Eileen Ybarra, Librarian III, Electronic Resources,
Image from Black Panther movie
Image Credit: Marvel

Afrofuturism is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens. The term was conceived a quarter-century ago by white author Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future,” which looks at speculative fiction within the African diaspora...What makes Afrofuturism significantly different from standard science fiction is that it’s steeped in ancient African traditions and black identity. A narrative that simply features a black character in a futuristic world is not enough. To be Afrofuturism, it must be rooted in and unapologetically celebrate the uniqueness and innovation of black culture. —Jamie Broadnax via The Huffington Post

The Los Angeles Public Library continues to celebrate this unique and innovative vision of black culture through our Afrofuturism and Afrofantasy fiction collections. With the recent film premiere of Black Panther and its roots in Afrofuturistic storytelling, this important and visionary genre is especially relevant and timely. Here are a few top Afrofuturistic fiction picks:

Book cover for Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany
Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany

"From surrealistic visions of bucolic road trips to erotic transgressions to mind-expanding analyses of Delany's influence on the genre—as an out gay man, an African American, and possessor of a startlingly acute intellect—this book conveys the scope of the subject's sometimes troubling, always rewarding genius. Editors Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell have given Delany and the world at large, a gorgeous, haunting, illuminating, and deeply satisfying gift of a book." —e-Book description

Book cover for Zahrah The Windseeker
Zahrah The Windseeker
Okorafor, Nnedi.

"In the Ooni Kingdom, children born dada...are rumored to have special powers. Zahrah Tsami doesn't know anything about that. She feels normal. Others think she's different—they fear her. Only Dari, her best friend, isn't afraid of her. But then something begins to happen—something that definitely marks Zahrah as different—and the only person she can tell is Dari. He pushes her to investigate, edging them both closer...to danger. Until Dari's life is on the line. Only Zahrah can save him, but to do so she'll have to face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different."—e-Book description

Book cover for Brown Girl In The Ring
Brown Girl In The Ring
Hopkinson, Nalo.

"The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways—farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother. She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends." —e-Book description

Book cover for My Soul to Keep
My Soul to Keep
Due, Tananarive, 1966-

"When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession: More than 400 years ago, he and other members of an Ethiopian sect traded their humanity so they would never die, a secret he must protect at any cost. Now, his immortal brethren have decided David must return and leave his family in Miami. Instead, David vows to invoke a forbidden ritual to keep Jessica and his daughter with him forever." —e-Book description

Book cover for Parable Of The Sower
Parable Of The Sower
Butler, Octavia E.

"Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren's father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, war, and chronic shortages of water, gasoline, and more... When a fire destroys their compound, Lauren's family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is facing apocalypse. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind." —e-Book description

Book cover for The Fifth Season
The Fifth Season
Jemisin, N. K,

Essun struggles to survive in the only world she’s ever known: the dangerous, ever-shifting Stillness, a continent plagued with geologic catastrophes. Just when she’s managed to carve out a quiet life for herself, her world is shattered with the coming of a Fifth Season: a disaster so large that it threatens to blot out all life on the planet. And it seems that Essun is the only one who can stop it.

"In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes." —Kirkus Reviews via e-Book description

Book cover for Binti
Okorafor, Nnedi,

Binti is the first of the Himba people to be accepted to the prestigious Oomza University, far across the galaxy. But to get there she must lie to her parents to board the ship, and then get past the Meduse, a nightmarish alien race at war with Oomza.

"Winner of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novella...Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs."—e-Book description

Book cover for Lagoon
Okorafor, Nnedi,

"It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador—and prevent mass extinction—in this novel that blends magical realism with high-stakes action." e-Book description