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Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative…

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction From the African Diaspora (2000)

by Sheree R. Thomas (Editor)

Other authors: Linda Addison (Contributor), Amiri Baraka (Contributor), Steven Barnes (Contributor), Derrick Bell (Contributor), Octavia E. Butler (Contributor)24 more, Charles W. Chesnutt (Contributor), Samuel R. Delany (Contributor), W. E. B. Du Bois (Contributor), Tananarive Due (Contributor), Henry Dumas (Contributor), Robert Fleming (Contributor), Jewelle Gomez (Contributor), Akua Lezli Hope (Contributor), Nalo Hopkinson (Contributor), Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Contributor), Anthony Joseph (Contributor), Tony Medina (Contributor), Paul D. Miller (Contributor), Walter Mosley (Contributor), Ama Patterson (Contributor), Ishmael Reed (Contributor), Leone Ross (Contributor), Kalamu ya Salaam (Contributor), Kiini Ibura Salaam (Contributor), Charles R. Saunders (Contributor), George S. Schuyler (Contributor), Nisi Shawl (Contributor), Evie Shockley (Contributor), Darryl A. Smith (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Dark Matter Anthologies (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
288639,063 (4.26)7
  1. 20
    AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers by Ivor W. Hartmann (goddesspt2)
  2. 00
    Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (ryvre)
    ryvre: Short story compilation by Nalo Hopkinson. Many deal with issues of race, gender, and sexuality.

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» See also 7 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
My favorites have to be the Octavia Butler story, the second Nalo Hopkinson story, and Tananarive Due’s story. I’ve now read three Octavia Butler works since I read my first just under a year ago. It’s starting to look like she’s going to be one of my all time favorites, because I’ve really liked all three. (At one point, Orson Scott Card was my favorite author, and so was David Eddings, so getting onto my favorites list isn’t necessarily a mark of distinction or good writing.)

Full review, including of individual stories: http://reading.kingrat.biz/reviews/dark-matter-sheree-thomas ( )
  KingRat | Jul 28, 2009 |
I will preface my ruminations on this book with some long, rambling personal commentary. Please indulge me.

In the last year or so I have started exploring more of the online communities, LibraryThing being only one venue. I have also been reading more and more blogs, beginning with friends' and branching out to group blogs devoted to various social topics, particularly questions of racism and, to a lesser degree, sexism.

In other words, I've been educating myself, which is a very embarrassing admission--to be middle-aged and still pretty clueless--and an obvious sign of my fairly privileged position in society, for all that I was on welfare as a child and spent my formative years in very diverse neighborhoods, unlike my high school years and beyond, which have proven to be quite, quite segregated in retrospect. On the other hand, when I was younger, I prided myself on my flexibility and my ability to get along with other people, which meant that I tended to put the most favorable interpretation on events and people, always bending over to give the benefit of the doubt.

Now that I am older, I feel crankier, more set in my ways, more opinionated, and much less willing to "go along to get along." I am perhaps not as wonderful a companion, because I feel compelled to challenge people's assumptions and various stupidities, even in fairly casual conversation, rather than letting these small things pass. Perhaps this is the result of reflecting on incidents in my own past for a good decade or so, putting together so many small, subtle things, as well as some great big ones, and realizing "no, this person wasn't young and stupid, he was just an asshole," as well as finally really getting comments made by older women when I was still quite young and truly believed there were no real gender differences.

Also, my background is in science, so I have little academic exposure to these social issues and the scholarly discourse about them. That has been just as fascinating as the topic itself. The other fascinating aspect is that many of these blogs overlap into the science fiction and comic book fan communities. Now I have read science fiction and fantasy my whole life, and comic books sporadically, but I have never been part of any fan community, though many of my friends have. So it has been just as amazing to see these new perspectives from a completely different angle about the literature that I am most connected to, and not just the writing itself, but the community--from online publications to author chats and more. I have followed parts of the RaceFail and MammothFail discussions, which overlap a great deal. I have read and enjoyed the works of some of the authors involved in these, so it is certainly interesting to see interpersonal communication from them. It's all been quite educational on so many levels.

So that is one key piece of background information. The other is that I fell away from exploring fantasy and science fiction for a great many years. After devouring endless novels in my youth, I grew sick of the sheer repetition and lack of originality. I was hungry for something that wasn't medieval northern European with magic or essentially modern American in spaceships. I wanted aliens that were alien, not just guys with prosthetic foreheads (sure, the vast majority of hypothetical life out there must be about our size, with bilateral symmetry, vocal communications, etc.), and something other than people riding around on horses in oak forests meeting with elves on so many other worlds. Why not make further north hotter for change? Come on people, how hard is it to change such a simple assumption. I can't say that I was more than vaguely aware that there were no minorities in most of the stories, or gay people for that matter. But I certainly noticed on the rare occasions when they were present, because in addition, the author usually started with a different set of assumptions or cultural models that also helped the novel stand out, and I wanted more of it.

But it never occurred to me to seek out minority authors. Frankly, I didn't spend much time thinking about the authors. I didn't figure out that Octavia Butler and Samuel Delaney were African American until very recently, again with the embarrassment. Neither have I read any of their works, though I recognize that they are big names. I haven't read many other luminaries either until pretty recently, thanks to my Hugo quest and the gifts of friends outraged by my ignorance. This is also true of non-American authors--once again, I am ignorant and lazy and should read more beyond my borders.

So I was delighted when I stumbled across Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction From the African Diaspora at the university bookstore discount table. Somebody did the work for me--a whole smorgasboard of African-American authors spanning a hundred years. Like any anthology, it included a range of quality, tone, style, voice, and general flavor. Some I liked a great deal, some I felt an immediate connection with, others I found strange, confusing, disturbing, or otherwise uncomfortable. The book consists of an footnoted introduction by the editor, Sheree R. Thomas, 29 short stories (3 being excerpts from novels), and 5 essays. Authors whose names I recognized: W.E.B. DuBois, Samuel R. Delaney, Octavia E. Butler, Nisi Shawl (but only from reading blogs concurrently with this book), and Steven Barnes. Contributors new to me: Linda Addison, Amiri Baraka, Derrick Bell, Charles W. Chesnutt, Henry Dumas, Robert Fleming, Jewelle Gomez, Akua Lezli Hope, Nalo Hopkinson, Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, Anthony Joseph, Tony Medina, Paul D. Miller, Walter Mosley, Ama Patterson, Ishmael Reed, Leone Ross, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Charles R. Saunders, George S. Schuyler, Evie Shockley, Darryl A. Smith, and Sheree R. Thomas.

The book was definitely worth the read. I'll be keeping it on my shelves and looking up some of the authors for additional works. And it was successful enough to spawn at least a couple of sequels, as thematic anthologies often do.

Not surprisingly, the stories I found most engaging were narrated by women, because, while I could not necessarily connect with these women of color through personal experiences of racism, I certainly share many of the observations and feelings of being a woman in a sexist society. There are some (many) things that (straight) men just don't think about. And the women in these stories were so warm and real and strong: Lilith, Adam's first wife in "Sister Lilith," Gilda in "Chicago 1927," the nameless narrator in "Can You Wear My Eyes," Dossouye in "Gimmile's Songs," Granny in "Greedy Choke Puppy," I could go on.

Also not surprisingly, more stories had a dystopian tone rather than optimistic, which is to be expected in meditations upon racism, however speculative the medium. Standing out in this direction are "Black No More," "The Space Traders," "The Pretended," Future Christmas," and "Tasting Songs."

Other stories explored more general science fiction and other speculative themes, whose protagonists happened to not be white. I won't continue listing titles though. Go read the book.

The authors drew upon American, African, Caribbean, South American, and probably still other cultures for their inspiration, historical and modern and mythical, creating a vibrant storytelling palette without any sense of repetitiveness. And the science fiction involved some fascinating ideas.

So I mostly liked it, just like other anthologies by multiple authors I have read. And as I said, I will continue to rectify my reading lacunae, following the excellent leads provided in this book.

ETA grammar, punctuation, spelling fixes (blush) ( )
3 vote justchris | Jul 23, 2009 |
It’s a great book, worth the wait. The one wish I could have for it is that Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler and Charles Saunders wrote new stories for this volume. What each of them, plus Walter Mosely did write were new essays. Of the 29 short stories many are remarkable.

I particularly liked Tananarive Due’s (Steven Barnes’ wife) story “Like Daughter” about a clone child created by a mother with a horrible childhood. Nalo Hopkinson’s “Ganger (Ball Lightning)” is a very erotic, scary, wonderful piece about a sex toy that goes crazy and nearly kills a couple. “The Woman in the Wall” by Steven Barnes takes place in an unnamed African country where the president has just been killed and an American couple and their daughter are sent to a truly frightening refugee camp. ( )
1 vote anyanwubutler | Oct 11, 2008 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas, Sheree R.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Addison, LindaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baraka, AmiriContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barnes, StevenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, DerrickContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Butler, Octavia E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chesnutt, Charles W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Delany, Samuel R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Du Bois, W. E. B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Due, TananariveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dumas, HenryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fleming, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gomez, JewelleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hope, Akua LezliContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hopkinson, NaloContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jeffers, Honorée FanonneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Joseph, AnthonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Medina, TonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Miller, Paul D.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mosley, WalterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Patterson, AmaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reed, IshmaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ross, LeoneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Salaam, Kalamu yaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Salaam, Kiini IburaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Saunders, Charles R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schuyler, George S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shawl , NisiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shockley, EvieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, Darryl A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Accornero, FrancoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446525839, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

An anthology of African American fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction features some forty short stories by Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Tananarive Due, Walter Mosley, Ishmael Reed, Steven Barnes, and others.

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