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Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora Hardcover – July 18, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

The striking central metaphor that Thomas (who edits the literary journal Anansi: Fiction of the African Diaspora) chose for this first collection of SF stories and essays by black authors is "dark matter," the scientific term for a non-luminous form of matter not directly observed, but whose existence is deduced from its gravitational effects on other bodies. Ranging from Charles Chestnutt's self-parodying 1887 tale "The Goophered Grapevine," to more than a dozen brilliantly diverse selections dated 2000, this big anthology includes 26 stories and excerpts from two novels, as well as five thoughtful essays from the leading black authors in the field. Accurately observing in her introduction that black writers have been engaged with speculative fiction for far longer than is generally thought, Thomas hopes her collection will inspire more black authors to enter the field, since, as Walter Mosley observes in his essay "Black to the Future," this genre speaks clearly to the dissatisfied through its power to imagine the first step in changing the world. Almost all of these stories explore the profound sense of loss central to the "black diaspora"Dloss of self-respect, loss of identity, loss of a sense of humanity itself. In manyDnotably "Sister Lilith," Honoree Fanonne Jeffers's biting contemporary vision of Eve as Adam's trophy wife, Samuel R. Delany's widely praised "Aye, and Gomorrah," where sexuality is sacrificed to spacefaring, and Steven Barnes's searing "The Woman in the Wall," which hurls an American black woman artist into a hellish African concentration campDthe brutal common denominator is the depredation of the soul through the violation of the body. Several of these stories are almost unbearably poignant, like Ama Patterson's "Hussy Strut," and many are ferociously angry, like Derrick Bell's savage "The Space Traders." All manifest a powerful effect, far stronger for being largely unacknowledged, and perhaps heralding, as Mosley projects, a coming explosion of black SF. Agent, Marie Dutton Brown. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 427 pages
  • Publisher: Aspect - Warner Books; 1St Edition edition (July 18, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446525839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446525831
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book will no doubt be required reading for generations to come. Finally a three dimensional globe of fiction that surpasses genre and cliche. Regardless of what it is categorized as; science fiction, future, fantasy, or horror, Dark Matter enlightens, entertains and leaves you wanting more, hence GOOD FICTION by Tananarive Due, Steve Barns, Ocativa E.Butler, Walter Mosely, Jewelle Gomez and more.
The first story by W. E. B. Dubois is the perfect example... this story of a black man and a white woman discovering that they are the only ones living among a massive meteor disaster in the streets of New York begin re-evaluating their roles as black or white, lower class or upper class and begin to see that none of that matters. As the last two humans living on earth, the record is wiped clean of labels and salvaging humanity is the only real issue.
It's a must read, can't put down, tell all your friends about book that will hopefully get the recognition and reward it deserves.
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Format: Hardcover
This white guy Iowa boy gets skeptical when confrounted with ethno-centric titles, not to mention ponderous ones. I won't go out of my way to give special attention to anyone based on ethnic heritage. But, it was an SF book in the new section of the library, and I am ALWAYS on the lookout for good, new SF since almost all of the Golden Age boys are dead and most of the new stuff is recycled bug-eyed monsters or Tolkein wannabees.
Some of the authors - Butler, Delany - I knew. Any friend of Dahlgren's is likely to be a friend of mine. Checked it out.
Start to finish, this anthology introduced me to people I would likely never have read - only because I had no idea who they were. Now I have a whole new reading list from authors I met in this collection. I have yet to be disappointed in a novel from any of the authors I met here, and I continue to seek out their work at the library.
Thank you Sheree R. Thomas for putting these works together for me to sample many new-to-me authors of speculative/science fiction.
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By A Customer on August 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Will the future include people of color? Do Non-Europeans have fantastic myths from their cultures? If you are a reader of speculative fiction, you will probably answer no to both of the preceding questions. Speculative fiction has mostly ignored everything except the western way of perceiving the world. Many people do not read SF because they see nothing in it that speaks to them. SF seems like a big happy party where only whites are invited.
Now the party crasher has arrived. "Dark Matter" not only bum rushes the party yelling, "We are here and things will never be the same!" It also informs the partygoers that we have always been here.
"Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora" is an important anthology that sends an important message. Sheree R. Thomas has compiled a wonderful collection of SF from all over the African Diaspora. Every aspect of SF is covered in the wonderful tales that are included in this book.
Steven Barnes' "The Woman in the Wall" is the best fiction I read from him. This story is definitely one of the emotional highlights of the anthology. Nalo Hopkinson has two stories and both are excellent. "The Space Traders" by Derrick Bell brings up many important issues concerning the role African Americans play in our society. This book is full on many more examples of thought provoking and emotional fiction.
The essays included in this book will give you a better understanding of racism within the science fiction community and hope for a more inclusive future.
I hope that every SF fan embraces this book.
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Format: Paperback
This is a collection that the literary world needed badly. Typical 'speculative fiction' (encompassing sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and other literary persuasions) often features humanity uniting against common enemies or disasters. But for people of color, the alternative present or near-future utopia/dystopia in any speculative story probably won't be so rosy. Technological advancement, alien contact, or astronomical disasters probably won't eliminate prejudice and inequality, as the writers of African descent collected here show us in consistently hard-hitting ways.

The settings and themes of these short stories are uniformly fascinating and thought-provoking for any intelligent reader. As with any collection of works from various writers, the quality of the stories varies a bit, and this book does have a few bumps in the road that deserve the thumbs-down for heavy-handedness. Examples include the predictable melodrama of 'The Woman in the Wall' by Steven Barnes, or the poorly-plotted conspiracy theories of 'The Space Traders' by Derrick Bell. However, these are minor quibbles, and even these stories contribute to the sheer fascination of this book as a whole.

My favorites include the supremely moving Jazz Age vampire story 'Chicago 1927' by Jewelle Gomez, an outstanding look at the human costs of cloning in 'Like Daughter' by Tananarive Due, the creepy erotic thriller 'Ganger (Ball Lightning)' by Nalo Hopkinson, and the heartbreaking dark fantasy of 'Gimmile's Songs' by Charles Saunders. Of historical interest we have 'Aye, and Gomorrah...' from the master Samuel Delany, the groundbreaking 'The Goophered Grapevine' from way back in 1887 by Charles Chesnutt, and the very chilling 'The Comet' by W.E.B. DuBois (I had forgotten that DuBois wrote fiction, and his important stories are ripe for rediscovery). Kudos to Sheree Thomas for creating this hugely important, haunting, and illuminating anthology. [~doomsdayer520~]
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