If you know me, I read a lot of books. Fantasy and Science Fiction mostly, though I do like to dabble in historical fiction and mythology a lot. One thing I can’t help but notice is that there’s a distinct lack of people like me in my favorite genres. I’m not talking about the characters in the books (which also is kinda scarce) but the people behind them. Black men haven’t written a lot of fantasy or science fiction books. I can’t name one off the top of my head. Somehow that both frightens and excites me.
Hear me out. I’m not saying that there isn’t any. I’m saying that there aren’t a lot of them around. So, I decided to stroll through my bookshelves and see what I have around as my favorite books.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite series (both completed and ongoing): The Stormlight Archives and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin, The Gemini Awakening series by Myke Cole, The Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, The Legends of the First Empire by Michael J. Sullivan, The Shades of Magic by V.E Schwab and Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi. These series the stories that I enjoy…I read a lot.
After a time, I noticed something odd. None of them are written by a black man.
None of them are like me. It’s odd. It’s something I hadn’t thought about until I kept getting looks from people when I told them that I wrote and wanted to publish fantasy and scifi books. There’s always this pause after a say it, a stiffness in the air filled with a tangible awkwardness. The person asking often frowns or make an indiscernible face, followed by a “what?”. I’ve come to realize one indisputable fact, it’s not a thing that most men of color are expected to do.
I struggled with it for a while. Was I wrong for wanting to do something like this? Was it unheard of? Should I stop? Even if I considered the latter, I couldn’t stop. Why should I have to? I enjoy fantasy worlds. I like swords, samurai, magic, orcs, dwarves, laser beams, etc. There are plenty of people that do. There’re also amazing authors from all other backgrounds: LGBT writers like V.E Schwab, non-binary writers like Alex White, S.A. Hunt, and JY Yang, Asians writers like the aforementioned Jy Yang, Wesley Chu and Fonda Lee, black women like Tomi Adeyemi and N.K Jemisin, middle eastern writers like Sabaa Tahir, and Muslim writers like Saladin Ahmed. So, why at the very least I could try!
I’m not going to get into all the reason why I think black men don’t pursue this career. But I believe that most creative endeavors are looked upon negatively with black men—especially if its something odd or weird like liking comic books or reading fantasy. You have to appear strong or athletic. There’s plenty of political and social stigmas involved with that. The thing that I can say is that more must try. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, you’re gonna get looked at weird. Sometimes, people might even say some nasty things. But try. I am. I’m gonna keep trying.
Deston “D.J” Munden