Ever since the explosive arrival of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone in 2018, Afrofuturism and Black fantasy have been pulling in new readers left and right.
But the truth is, the genre has had steadfast readers all along, and those in the know have been eating it up for years. For many, it’s been a long time waiting for the genre to have its moment in the spotlight. And none have been more excited about its growth than Isis Asare, Ghanian-American owner and founder of Sistah Scifi — a Seattle-based bookstore dedicated exclusively to Black female writers.
Sistah Scifi was founded following Asare’s involvement with the online book club SOULar Powered Afrofuturism Reading Group (SPRG), founded in 2014 by prominent booktuber Njeri Damali Sojourner Campbell. It was here that Asare witnessed the need for women from underrepresented groups to visualize themselves in future-oriented, empowering narratives of science fiction and comics. She started Sistah Scifi in December of 2018 and has been dispensing the works of Black sci-fi writers through her online shop and numerous pop-up events from here to Africa.
Asare recently shared with BGN her motivations and experiences in running the niche bookstore and how she’s brought it to a wider community.
What appeals to you most about Afrofuturism and the way Black women are portrayed in sci-fi?
I love expanding the border of reality and looking at alternative realities and possibilities. Also, I love imagining future uses and the development of technology. For the books we study within Sistah Scifi, people of color — especially women of color — are empowered and in leadership and smart! This is something that, until recently, was sorely lacking in mainstream science fiction.
What was your experience in building an online community for Black sci-fi lovers, and how has the Seattle community responded?
My experience has been great! It has been amazing connecting with fellow readers, authors, and creators who love to nerd out about representations of people of color in science fiction and fantasy. The Seattle community has embraced Sistah Scifi. We have collaborated with Bushwick Book Club Seattle, hosted book clubs at the historic Washington Hall, and been supported by the Seattle Urban Book Expo. In addition, we have been invited to advise on future programming related to AfroFuturism at the Museum of Popular Culture. Oakland also has an amazing community that has really helped Sistah Scifi grow. Venues like Oakstop, Red Bay Coffee, and Homiey have been so welcoming, and it was an honor to vend at the 2020 Black Joy Parade.
What is Sistah Scifi most proud of, and what are you most looking forward to in 2020?
We are most proud of our inaugural event in Johannesburg during AfroPunk 2018, which was a screening of a series of short films set in Africa. As a result, in 2019, we were selected as a vendor for AfroPunk Joburg. In 2020, we are very excited about launching a mini-store in Cortona Cafe — a Black, woman-owned coffee shop located in Seattle’s historic African American neighborhood. The exact date is still in flux, but we are hoping for some time this summer. [Ed. Note: #theronaisreal.]
What’s your most recent read that you would recommend to Black Girl Nerds?
I recently read King of Souls by Rena Barron, published by Tor Books. I would definitely recommend it for fans of Children of Blood and Bone. In addition, the movie rights for the novel have been optioned by Michael B. Jordan and should be in theaters in the next few years.
Sistah Scifi’s next event, Collective Reading Party: Unspoken Words, will be a virtual silent reading party powered by Zoom. Afterward, there will be a live performance by singer and film-maker Be Steadwell. Those interested in learning more or planning events with Sister Scifi should reach out to their Facebook or Instagram.