Skip to Main Content

Afrofuturism & Black Speculative Fiction

This guide is to assist research on Afrofuturism and Black Speculative Fiction

Black Speculative Fiction

Black Science Fiction or Black Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term that includes a variety of genres including science fiction and fantasy where Black people are featured or serve as main characters. One of the primary focuses of this genre is critiquing social structures that enable racial oppression and how social change can be achieved. 



Fantasy works feature worlds where magic, spiritual or other unexplained forces have great influence on the world. The genre typically includes elements of adventure, heroism, the battle between good and evil, and the struggle of self-discovery. Traditionally, fantasy is divided up into some of the  following sub-genres: 

  • High/Epic fantasy: Works that take place in magical places separate from reality and focus on the journey of a single hero or a band of heroes like The Lord of the Rings
  • Low Fantasy/Urban Fantasy: Works that take place in normal or real world locations where characters accept and use fantastical elements like levitation or telekinesis as normal part of their world such as One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
  • Sword and Sorcery: This genre focuses on sword-wielding heroes as well as magic or witchcraft like Conan. 
  • Dark Fantasy: This genre combines elements of horror and fantasy and has a gloomy dark tone like the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

In Black Speculative Fiction, Sword and Soul is a sub-genre of fantasy that focuses on African history, culture, and traditions. These stories are similar to the Conan series written by Robert E. Howard. This genre, however, is usually set in pre-colonial Africa and focuses on a single African hero. Author Charles R. Saunders founded the genre and and coined the term with his series of short storied titled Imaro and Dossouye. 

Horror is a genre intended to disturb or frighten.  The focus of the genre is to create an eerie and frightening atmosphere that creates a sense of dread for the reader of viewer. The central terror of the work can be interpreted as a metaphor for larger fears in society. The genre has several sub-genres that include:

  • Gothic: horror that focuses on death
  • Paranormal: horror that focuses on ghost stories or supernatural events that have no scientific or logical explanation
  • Occult: horror about ritual practices that are not considered religion or science.
  • Dark fantasy: horror that explores the dark elements of fantasy
  • Survival: horror in which the main character is being hunted and trying to survive. 
  • Science fiction horror: horror that includes elements of science fiction. 


In Black speculative fiction, Black Horror is a sub-genre of horror that focuses on the unique black experience and the ability to visualize trauma. 

Alternate history is a genre of speculative fiction where one or more historical events occurred differently. Alternate history answers what if scenarios or displays a version of history that is not historically accurate. The genre requires three conditions: 

  • A divergence point from the historical record
  • A change that would alter known history
  • An examination of the consequences of that change 

This genre uses historical elements such as real events, people, and places to tell a story. In Black speculative fiction, alternative history reshapes Black experiences. It can be used to reshape the world into one where Black people are empowered or bring marginalized people to the forefront of various historical events.  

Science Fiction refers to worlds and environments shaped by technological and scientific advancements. Works in this genre allow readers to imagine distant futures, fantastic technology, and alien interactions. Science fiction can be divided into two categories: 

  • Hard Science Fiction: Science fiction that focuses primarily on scientific accuracy and logic. Works that focus on real science include Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and The Martian by Andy Weir. 
  • Soft Science Fiction: Science fiction that does not prioritize the real science of the environment or where science is not important to the story. 

In Black science fiction and speculative fiction, people of the African Diaspora are placed in a position where they are actively making incredible discoveries or experiencing worlds of the future. 

Fiction Titles

Academic Texts


Music and Art




Music Videos