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Dark Matter: Reading the Bones by Sheree R.…

Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2005)

by Sheree R. Thomas (Editor)

Other authors: Ihsan Bracy (Contributor), Kevin Brockenbrough (Contributor), Wanda Coleman (Contributor), John Cooley (Contributor), Carol Cooper (Contributor)23 more, Samuel R. Delany (Contributor), W. E. B. Du Bois (Contributor), Tananarive Due (Contributor), Henry Dumas (Contributor), David Findlay (Contributor), Jewelle Gomez (Contributor), Andrea Hairston (Contributor), Nalo Hopkinson (Contributor), Tyehimba Jess (Contributor), Charles Richard Johnson (Contributor), Douglas Kearney (Contributor), Daniel Minter (Cover artist), Walter Mosley (Contributor), Pam Noles (Contributor), Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (Contributor), Don Puckey (Cover designer), Jill Robinson (Contributor), Kalamu ya Salaam (Contributor), Kiini Ibura Salaam (Contributor), Charles R. Saunders (Contributor), Nisi Shawl (Contributor), Cherene Sherrard (Contributor), Ibi Aanu Zoboi (Contributor)

Series: Dark Matter Anthologies (2)

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An uneven collection, but some of the stories in here are very much worth reading. I'd definitely recommend trying it. I especially liked the Nisi Shawl story, and the one by Kevin Brockenbrough. Some of the stories seemed a little much of a muchness, a few days after reading them they sort of blurred together in my mind. But there were definitely five or so that stood out for me and at least a couple of authors I'm going to seek out. So if I get that much out of an anthology I'm satisfied. ( )
  bunwat | Mar 30, 2013 |
One thing I really appreciated about this anthology was the way it completely belies what Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie calls the "single story" of Africa: the Western idea of Africa as a homogenous place about which if you've heard one story, you've heard them all. The pieces in Dark Matter make clear the incredible diversity of the African continent, the fact that the indigenous peoples of Africa had and have civilizations with different names, histories, languages, and customs, and even looked different from one another in ways that are meaningful.

For many of these stories, such as Cherene Sherrard's The Quality of Sand, and Kiini Ibura Salaam's "Desire," it felt like discovering jewels, each as brilliant as the last even though different. Many of the worlds created here were vivid and engrossing - I would almost describe the sensation of being immersed in them as delicious, and also incredibly empowering. I mean, revolutionary Haitian pirates who are aided by an ancient jinni and sink slave ships, rescuing their cargo? How badass is that?!!

I was also surprised to find a couple of stories towards the end of the book that felt like what I think of as 'classic' SF - compared to earlier lushness, the worlds of Samuel Delany's "Corona" and Charles Johnson's "Sweet Dreams" for example, were sort of sparse, cold and technological. They hit the spot in a way I didn't even know I was missing, reminding me of how SF felt in my childhood. Thoughtful, sad, shaken-up and excited, all at the same time. ( )
  undertheteacup | Aug 2, 2011 |
Science fiction comes in a number of flavors. There’s “hard” SF, which speculates from a basis in the physical sciences. There’s “soft” SF, which works from a basis in the so-called human sciences (especially anthropology). The market-driven art is further subdivided into horror, fantasy, and sword-and-sorcery. Firing shots across the bow of these main genres, though, are those writers who create what might be called, to borrow a term from today’s music scene, “mash-ups.” Joanna Russ, for instance, is perhaps best known for her feminist SF novel The Female Man, which throws gender into a mix of hard and soft science. Then there’s Samuel R. Delany, whose New Wave classic Dhalgren pointed the way toward a science fiction that was truly literary and not merely boilerplate genre fiction. Into this mix we can add what may be the oldest form of speculative fiction: the retelling of myths and legends.

Now take a gander at a collection of “speculative fiction from the African Diaspora” called Dark Matter: Reading the Bones. This unusual collection focuses on the experiences of Africans, and their descendents, in the Americas—and the experiences are chilling, as you would expect. Slavery, racism, poverty and homelessness, magic, myth and religion, and killer jazz feature in this anthology of twenty-four stories and three essays. Most of the stories are by less-published authors (and most of those, seemingly, from the editor’s adopted New York City), but there are some major lights here, too: W.E.B. Dubois, the above-mentioned Delany, the fiery Wanda Colman, and Walter Mosley among them.

Although some of the writing in Reading the Bones is fairly mediocre in execution, none of it is so in content. Cherene Sherrard’s story, for instance, “The Quality of Sand,” is exciting and original. It centers on a group of Haitian revolutionaries who, having captured a slave-transport ship, act as “pirates”, freeing the prisoners of other slave ships. The story takes a magical turn when we learn that one of the protagonists is a jinni. Sherrard renders this magical twist as a moment of spiritual realism, producing a satisfying and tasty ending. Several of the stories are of the “stick it to the (white) man” variety, notably Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s “The Magical Negro.” This very funny short-short starts out on a trajectory of comic-book heroism but quickly (it’s only a couple pages long) resists that narrative line, running instead (so to speak, and in order not to give this little gem totally away) in an “Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More” direction.

Perhaps most startling in this fine collection of truly alternative spec lit is W.E.B. Dubois’s story “Jesus Christ in Texas.” “It was in Waco…” the story begins—but “story” is probably the wrong descriptor, since what Dubois spins here is really a parable. Jesus does turn up in Waco, but he’s not the skinny white guy we normally see pinned to a stick. Instead, Dubois manages, in just a few words, to paint a historically plausible Jesus, as a Semitic man with a “coat that looked like a Jewish gabardine” (in contrast to the cowboy’s ankle-length duster) and skin of “olive, even yellow.” This high-yellow Jesus never claims to be the son of God (which idea doesn’t come up until the historically late Gospel of John, anyway), but is, rather, in the business of witnessing and reminding folks it’s not a good idea to steal or murder or rape. It’s the black man who gets this message, of course, and again, as with “The Magical Negro,” the ending provides the satisfying crunch of misguided authority getting its comeuppance while simultaneously offering a salvational vision. Dubois’ story remains startling and relevant in still-racist twenty-first century America, and is even more so when one notices that it was written in 1920.

The anthology concludes with three nonfiction pieces: a writers’ roundtable featuring Delany, Octavia Butler, Jewelle Gomez, Tananarive Due, and the filmmaker William Hudson; an appreciation of African-American writer Virginia Hamilton; and an appreciation of Andre Norton, one of the most prolific science fiction writers ever—and an African American woman, a fact few SF fans realize and that was never revealed in all those old Ace doubles. The author of this last piece, Carol Cooper, pretty well sums up the contribution to Reading the Bones when she writes “that the world was a strange, often cruel, and dangerous place…. We need science fiction to get out of this sort of world.” Amen to that.

Originally published in Curled Up with a Good Book ( )
  funkendub | Sep 30, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas, Sheree R.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bracy, IhsanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brockenbrough, KevinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coleman, WandaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooley, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooper, CarolContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Delany, Samuel R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Du Bois, W. E. B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Due, TananariveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dumas, HenryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Findlay, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gomez, JewelleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hairston, AndreaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hopkinson, NaloContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jess, TyehimbaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, Charles RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kearney, DouglasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Minter, DanielCover artistsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mosley, WalterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Noles, PamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Okorafor-Mbachu, NnediContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Puckey, DonCover designersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Robinson, JillContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Salaam, Kalamu yaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Salaam, Kiini IburaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Saunders, Charles R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shawl, NisiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sherrard, ChereneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Zoboi, Ibi AanuContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Collects twenty-four stories of speculative fiction and three essays by black authors from a variety of backgrounds, edited and with an introduction by Sheree R. Thomas.


"ibo landing" by ibsam bracy

"The Quality of Sand" by Cherene Sherrard

"Yahimba's Choice" by Charles R. Saunders

"The Glass Bottle Trick" by Nalo Hopkinson

"Desire" by Kiini Ibura Salaam

"Recovery from a Fall" by David Findlay

"Anansi Meets Peter Parker at the Taco Bell on Lexington" by Douglas Kearney

"The Magical Negro" by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

"Jesus Christ in Texas" by W.E.B. Du Bois

"Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" by Henry Dumas

"'Cause Harlem Needs Heroes" by Kevin Brockenbrough

"Whipping Boy" by Pam Noles

"Old Flesh Song" by Ibi Aanu Zoboi

"Whispers in the Dark" by Walter Mosley

"Aftermoon" by Tananarive Due

"Voodoo Vincent and the Astrostoriograms" by Tyehimba Jess

"The Binary" by John Cooley

"BLACKout" by Jill Robinson

"Sweet Dreams" by Charles Johnson

"Buying Primo Time" by Wanda Coleman

"Corona" by Samuel R. Delany

"Maggies" by Nisi Shawl

"Excerpt from Mindscape" by Andrea Hairston

"Trance" by Kalamu ya Salaam

"The Second Law of Thermodynamics" - Transcription of a Panel at the 1997 Black Speculative Fiction Writers Conference Held at Clark Atlanta University - by Jewelle Gomez

"Her Pen Could Fly: Remembering Virginia Hamilton" by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

"Celebrating the Alien: The Politics of Race and Species in the Juveniles of Andre Norton" by Carol Cooper
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446693774, Paperback)

Dark Matter is the first and only series to bring together the works of black SF and fantasy writers. The first volume was featured in the "New York Times," which named it a Notable Book of the Year.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:42 -0400)

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