As part of a team that took a collective oath to keep our fingers on the pulse of this type of progress, we were pretty blown away by the work of black creators, writers, and actors this year. Here are a just few highlights. After spending the beginning of 2017 (Get Out), the earlier part of this year (Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War), and just recently (Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse) showing the world that we’re willing to spend more of our box office dollars when we actually see ourselves as a meaningful part of a story–even a fictional one– it seems that investors and fans did something for creators of black speculative fiction that they hadn’t done nearly as much before. They paid attention.
Superheroes, witches, and mermaids, oh my…
Black women trailblazed their way through 2018. We loved Black Lightning in pretty much every way possible this year, but even more so because his daughter, Anissa “Thunder” Pierce (Nafeesa Williams) ended up being an integral part of the show as an earth-shaking and groundbreaking counterpart to her father… and a young LGBTQ character dealing with her own romantic growing pains. Potter heads got a chance to bask in an updated black version of their fave witch—Hermoine, and U.K. actress Noma Dumezweni nailed the part in the Broadway play Harry Potter: Cursed Child. She won a Laurence Olivier Award and a Tony Award nomination for the depiction. Speaking of witches, news that Siempre Bruja–a tale of an Afro-Colombian time traveling enchantress–will be released in 2019 nearly broke the internet halfway through the year. The internet also went ga-ga over the fierce, captivating role of Donna in Freeform T.V.’s Siren, which hit Hulu in a big way this year.
Crowd-funding was key.
From Roye Okupe’s E.X.O. Returns in Rise of AVON! to our own EIC, Robert Jeffrey’s, along with contemporaries Mine To Avenge: The Book of Layla #1, lots of great projects got fully funded this year. We followed quite a few of them in our Online Campaign Corner. NIOBE: She is Death #2 exceeded its funding goal on Kickstarter by about 300% as fans rushed to support the series, which is co-written by actress Amandla Stenberg of Hunger Games (2012), and The Hate You Give (2018).
Collaboration is a key factor for many creators looking to carve a name for themselves in their field, and in their niche, writers of black sci-fi, horror, and fantasy are no different. This year, several black-owned publishing houses put out inspiring collections from writers of color. Reynaldo Anderson and John Jennings‘ Cosmic Underground: A Grimoire of Black Speculative Discontent released a visually stimulating work that focuses on the artistic aesthetic of the intriguing subgenres within Afrofuturism, while Black Magic Women: Terrifying Tales by Scary Sisters features writings from new and emerging female voices in horror and garnered some major nods, including a Hugo Award nomination. This year, our anthology was in good company with the latter; Pyroglyphics Studio and BlackSci-Fi.com Presents: Scribes of Nyota: MYSTICS is brimming with tales magic and fantasy… and it’s up for grabs on Amazon like the other fine reads mentioned here.
This was the year of the black female action figures.
Just when we thought we could stop gushing over the Shuri dolls, Mattel’s Hidden Figures line brought thug tears to our eyes. Another notable mention was their Ibtihaj Muhammad Doll, which was the first ever hijabi doll created by the mega-company. Ultimately, black-owned doll makers struck gold this year emerging brands like Makedaa Dolls and Ikuuzi Dolls cranked out dolls with brown skin, fros, and braids.
Black Sci-fi was everywhere.
Whether it was on the silver screen, from the indie director’s chair, Erykah Badu’s Instagram feed, or on the front of covers of the comic books and graphic novels we created, witnessing black authors and other creatives push their art was a galvanizing experience all year. Best of all, as the hunger for more titles, shows, and movies with narratives produced by people of color continue to grow, those who seek out speculative fiction by people of color will come to understand that stories centered around the black past, present, and future don’t exist in a vacuum. In 2019 we look forward to hearing more tales from the African diaspora. So bring on the black necromancers, time travelers, immortal warriors, mermaids, vampires, and superheroes of all kinds. We’ve been ready. In fact, we were born ready.
M’Shai S Dash is a freelance writer and blogger from Washington D.C. She’s a pop-culture connoisseur and Legend of Zelda fanatic who writes about blerd culture, social justice issues, and Afrofuturism. Dash is currently a staff writer for Blacksci-Fi.com.