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Steven Barnes’ ‘Zulu Heart’ & Other Sci-fi, Fantasy Novels About Black People In Need of Film Adaptations

Steven Barnes' 'Zulu Heart' & Other Sci-fi, Fantasy Novels About Black People In Need of Film Adaptations

I thought I’d revisit a topic we’ve tackled before – novels by and about people of African descent that you’d like to see adapted for the screen.

But more specifically, sci-fi and fantasy novels by and about people of African descent that you’d like to see adapted for the screen.

I was inspired to write this because I was very introduced to a novel by a black writer named Steven Barnes, titled “Zulu Heart.” The title itself didn’t immediately grab me, but the synopsis most certainly did; in short, it tells an alternate history tale in which black Africans have colonized the New World with white Europeans as their slaves.

How could that not get your attention? It practically sells itself. 

It’s not specifically what we’d categorize as sci-fi; maybe more fantasy, or what has come to be known as “speculative fiction” (an umbrella term that includes the more fantastical fiction genres).

This is my intro to Steven Barnes’ work, and I wish I’d discovered him much sooner (as an aside, I had no idea he was married to Tananarive Due – also a sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction writer of African descent. Her, and her work, I definitely know). 

A quick and dirty bio on Barnes… he’s written for TV (“The Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Andromeda”), and he has a collection of literary work that dates back to the late 1970s.

“Zulu Heart,” which I picked up on Amazon earlier this week, was published in 2003. It’s a 500 page tome that I’m really looking forward to getting through. I’m 100 pages in, and I’m engaged; although there are so many names of characters and places that I’m moving much slower than I normally would, as I want to make sure I understand who the main characters are, their history, their relationships, the various settings, and just trying to get an overall picture of the portraits he paints with his pen.

It’s my understanding that the novel that preceded “Zulu Heart,” titled “Lion’s Blood,” also told a tale of slavery in an alternate America, set in the 1850s.

Just head over to Amazon.com and search for his name and you’ll find quite a few novels penned by Mr Barnes – all seemingly imaginative, thoughtful, and entertaining, based on each synopsis and posted comments by those who’ve read them.

His most recent novel was actually co-written by his wife Tananarive Due, titled “Devil’s Wake;” it was published just about a week ago – July 31.

Order your copy of “Zulu Heart” here.

In the meantime, back to my original inquiry: your nominations for sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction novels by and about people of African descent that you’d like to see adapted for the screen – other than Octavia Butler! I love Octavia’s novels as much as the next fan, but she’s almost always the first, and sometimes the only name that’s mentioned when we talk black sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction novels. I want to read some other names.

I should note that we’ve been following the announced film adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s third novel, “Who Fears Death,” which is set in an alternate, post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, published last year.

Recall my post in October 2010, announcing that rights to the book had been optioned by producer Kisha Cameron-Dingle, the program director for Focus Features’ Africa First Film Program – a program we’ve covered a bit on this blog – for Wanuri Kahiu (likely now most famous for her Kenyan sci-fi short film “Pumzi”) to direct.

I also can’t forget Nalo Hopkinson – “Brown Girl in the Ring,” and “Midnight Robber” to start. 

Who else?

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