Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora

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9780446677240: Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora

This volume introduces black science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers to the generations of readers who have not had the chance to explore the scope and diversity among African-American writers.

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Dark matter: the nonluminous matter, not yet detected, that nonetheless has detectable gravitational effects on the universe.

Dark matter: the Afro-American presence and influences unseen or unacknowledged by Euro-American culture.

Dark Matter: the first anthology to illuminate the presence and influence of black writers in speculative fiction, with 25 stories, three novel excerpts, and five essays.

This anthology's critical and historical importance is indisputable. But that's not why it will prove to be the best anthology of 2000 in both the speculative and the literary fiction fields. It's because the stories are great: entertaining, imaginative, insightful, sharply characterized, and beautifully written. The earliest story in Dark Matter is acclaimed literary author Charles W. Chesnutt's "The Goophered Grapevine" (1887), in which an aging ex-slave tells a chilling tale of cursed land to a white Northerner buying a Southern plantation. In "The Comet" (1920), W.E.B. Du Bois portrays the rich white woman and the poor black man who may be the only survivors of an astronomical near-miss. In George S. Schuyler's "Black No More" (1931), an excerpt from the satirical novel of the same name, an African American scientist invents a machine that can turn blacks white. More recent reprints include science fiction master Samuel R. Delany's Nebula Award-winning "Aye, and Gomorrah..." (1967), which delineates the socio-sexual effects of asexual astronauts; Charles R. Saunders's heroic fantasy "Gimmile's Songs" (1984), in which a woman warrior encounters a singer with a frightening, compelling magic in ancient West Africa; MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Octavia E. Butler's powerful "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" (1987), in which the cure for cancer creates a terrifying new disease of compulsive self-mutilation; and Derrick Bell's angry, riveting "The Space Traders" (1992), in which aliens offer to trade their advanced technology to the U.S. in exchange for its black population. Other reprints include "Ark of Bones" (1974) by author-poet-folklorist Henry Dumas; "Future Christmas" (1982) by master satirist Ishmael Reed; "Rhythm Travel" (1996) by playwright-poet-critic Amiri Baraka (who has also written as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amiri Baraka); and "The African Origins of UFOs" (2000) by London-based West Indian author Anthony Joseph.

Most of the stories in Dark Matter are original; these range even more widely in their concerns and themes. In the generation ship of Linda Addison's "Twice, at Once, Separated," a Yanomami Indian tribe preserves its culture in coexistence with technology, while visions tear a young woman from her own wedding. Bestselling novelist Steven Barnes examines degrees of privilege and deprivation when an African American woman artist is trapped in an African concentration camp in his unflinching contribution, "The Woman in the Wall." In John W. Campbell Award winner Nalo Hopkinson's sexy, scary "Ganger (Ball Lightning)," two lovers drifting apart try to reconnect through the separation of virtual sex. A mystic power awakens in the devastated future of Ama Patterson's gorgeous and tough "Hussy Strutt." An artist's infidelity changes two generations in Leone Ross's astute, magic-realist "Tasting Songs." In Nisi Shawl's sharp, witty mythic fantasy "At the Huts of Ajala," the spirit of a modern woman must outwit a god before she is even born. Others contributing new stories are Tananarive Due, Robert Fleming, Jewelle Gomez, Akua Lezli Hope, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Kalamu ya Salaam, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Evie Shockley, and Darryl A. Smith. --Cynthia Ward

About the Author:

" SHEREE R. THOMAS edits the literary journal Anansi: Fiction of the African Diaspora and has contributed to national publications including the Washington Post, Black Issues Book Review, and QBR: The Black Book Review. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Ishmael Reed's Konch, Drumvoices Revue, and other literary journals. A native of Memphis, she lives in New York City."

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