Afro-futurism: A Tradition of Black Science Fiction

When people hear the term science fiction, it conjures up images of future settings and technology far beyond what can be imagined today.  The homicidal robots of Battlestar Galactica and the vast spaceships of Star Trek are some of what typifies this type of entertainment. While science fiction is very visible and much of it is popularized, elements of it remain a niche genre. One of those elements is Afro-futurism.

What is that you may ask? Afro-futurism is the exploration of science fiction themes and how technological advances will affect the Black experience. Speculative fiction is the preferred name for it in writer’s circles. Much of it is in the literary world, and some proponents of the sub-genre trace it back to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Mainstream science fiction takes inspiration from things that are going on in society, but often does not include the viewpoint of those in the African Diaspora. In the spirit of filling in this gap, the artists and writers in the Afro-futurist tradition seek to include us in the future settings that we are often left out of.

Unfortunately, not a lot of this tradition is known. Having come across some of the literary people that I have in the past few years has been eye opening. I must admit that my familiarity with science fiction comes from the staples of the genre. Shows like Alien Nation, V, War of the Worlds, Lost in Space, the O.G. Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and countless others were my introduction to sci-fi as a young person concerned with the future and what it might hold.

Today, we have the works of people like Walter Mosley and Nalo Hopkinson, and a whole bunch of other authors I need to get caught up on. I am anxiously awaiting my copy of Dark Matter, the first in a series of anthologies of speculative fiction. What I would like to see is more of this type of writing in different formats. I think it’s a shame that the work of Octavia Butler was never adapted to film. There is a potential here to introduce people who are fans of science fiction to new concepts and delve into areas untapped by what is currently out there. District 9 was one of the better science fiction films of last year, and it came from outside the over-franchised Hollywood factory. In the era of Youtube and all the short films that come from it, there is no reason this can’t happen. As long as we don’t get another Homeboys in Outer Space, we will do just fine.

Marc W. Polite

Sci-Fi head

P.S. I know this is not what I usually speak about on here, but I felt like doing something a bit different today. Yes, I read sci-fi now. Hey, I need something to do until Caprica comes back on the air. #scifiwithdrawal

#dontjudgeme   #nerdalertlevel5

*Turns on headphones Bumping “Future Development” by Deltron Zero*


  1. Love the post! I have always hated sci-fi feeling it was geared toward white audiences and always paints a future that still has very few minorities. However, when I was introduced to the unapologetic work of Ms. Octavia Butler, I though, “Hey, this isn’t so bad!” lol It is a shame there isn’t more black sci-fi, one of the reasons fiction always as my heart!


  2. I love the term Afro-Futurism! One would be surprised at how many African-American “Super Heroes” there are. I would name them all but at work and don’t want to be fired. But google African American super heroes and be prepared to be stunned stupid. Also find it interesting that you get more links when you google Black Super Heros …LOL!
    Also check out
    Founded in 1997 has become a hub for fans of African American superheroes and their creators. Though we love Spiderman, Batman and other mainstream superheroes, we feel that the hero images we see everyday should be as culturally diverse as the society we live in. At BSH we strive to shed light on all the characters out there. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes and anyone with something meaningful to add is always welcome to join in on the discussion! Check out the Herotalk forum to dive in.

  3. It was wonderful to read your article. There are many African Americans who have long been fans of speculative fiction but haven’t had the opportunity to connect. I am especially excited to have been made aware of the new sub-genres such as Sword and Soul, Weird West, and Afro Steampunk. Keep spreading the word that Black folks will be a significant part of the future as well as key players in historical fantasies that helped shaped the present as we build a new future.

    If you have not yet done so, be sure to visit the Black Science Fiction Society which is promoting speculative fiction. Likewise, the Carl Brandon Society is promoting multicultural speculative fiction.

    Finally, I have a link to a free AFRO Sci-fi e-book that might interest you.

  4. Good evening Staffod. Glad you liked my post. Wow, Sword and Soul… Afro Steampunk? This all sounds interesting. Where can I find out more about this? I actually already am on BSFS, but not much activity goes on there. No one says anything.

  5. Love the post! Found your site as I was doing research on AfroFuturism. I am performance artiste & have an AfroFuturistic show in Brooklyn in October. It’s great to find other peeps interested in this genre. Cheers! ~intergalacticflower~

  6. Nice article, Marc. Thanks for pushing Afro-futurism! She has since given birth to several babies… a few already mentioned… ‘cifer-RA’ yet another.

    Too many African Americans aren’t aware of the growing number of Black creators of spec-fic. We bring a unique flavor to the genre.

    Thanks for writing this article & Happy New Year!

  7. Thank you Edward. “Cifer-RA” huh? I will look into this. I enjoyed writing this piece. Happy New Year to you as well!

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