6 SF/F Novels with Non-White Protagonists That Aren’t By Octavia Butler

diversesffThere’s currently a movement in sci-fi and fantasy encouraging readers to seek out more diverse books. But what to read? Well, there’s Kindred, by Octavia Butler, but surely everyone knows about Octavia Butler, right? Maybe everyone is tired of being told to read Kindred? Have other books featuring POC characters been published since 1979? In fact, yes! Here are six of them: fantasy, science fiction, and YA, all published within the past few years. If you haven’t read Octavia Butler, start there. If you want something new, read on.

Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor
“Lagoon” is an English translation of Lagos, a Nigerian city and the setting for this story of first contact with an alien species. Three humans, one of them a marine biologist, are taken by a wave; the group returns from the sea with a fourth member, Ayodele, the “ambassador” for the aliens lurking below the water’s surface. As the invasion progresses, Okorafor employs a multitude of narratorial voices to keep her story at a human (and occasionally piscine) level.

A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar
There are no books in Jevick’s language, so he learns to read in Olondrian, the language of the faraway country where his merchant father does business. When Jevick’s father dies, he can finally visit the land of his dreams—but he’s haunted by the ghost of an illiterate girl he met on the journey, and contact with ghosts is illegal in Olondria. Samatar swept every major fantasy award with this, her debut novel, which she wrote while teaching in South Sudan.

Half World, by Hiromi Goto
When you’re fourteen and your mother goes missing, few things could be more reassuring than a phone call from someone named “Mr. Glueskin” on a phone that’s been disconnected for weeks. A good sign, yes? Now Melanie Tamaki—chubby, unpopular, and awkward—must travel to Half World, the purgatory-like realm from which her parents escaped, to attempt to rescue her mother and restore balance to the afterworld. A dark, Boschian fantasy which riffs on the “Chosen One” tradition.

Sister Mine, by Nalo Hopkinson
Abby and Makeda were conjoined twins once, but now they’re just sisters. The operation which split them in half didn’t divide everything equally, though: it’s Abby who has all the magical power, while Makeda’s talents are entirely human. This is a problem, because Abby and Makeda come from a family of gods where the mundane sister is the odd one out. Makeda is ready to move out and join the mortal world, but can she really leave her family behind?

Half-Resurrection Blues, by Daniel José Older
Older’s first novel, but third published book—he’s also the author of Salsa Nocturna, a collection of short stories, and one of the editors of Long Hidden, an anthology of diverse historical SFF —details the adventures of Carlos Delacruz, an “inbetweener” in a vividly realized alternate Brooklyn where ghosts and demons roam openly (still recognizable as the Brooklyn of our own world, where the walking dead are a bit more discreet). Carlos, who’s neither dead nor alive, works for the New York Council of the Dead (NYCOD) as a kind of mediator between the two worlds. When another inbetweener releases a horde of demons, it’s up to Carlos to stop him from before he destroys the city.

Adaptation and Inheritance, by Malinda Lo
After a car crash, David Li and Reese Holloway learn the truth: they’ve been “adapted” with alien DNA. Malinda Lo says she had The X-Files in mind when she wrote these linked YA novels, but what makes them truly stand out is her handling of the love triangle, in which Reese struggles to choose between David and her alien ex-girlfriend. I’m including Adaptation and Inheritance for David’s sake; for YA fantasy about Asian girls in love, consider Lo’s previous book, Huntress.

What’s your diverse SF/F pick?

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