The OF Blog: Sheree R. Thomas (ed.), Dark Matter

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sheree R. Thomas (ed.), Dark Matter

Speculative fiction is a wide-ranging genre of literature, itself being yet one facet of material culture. Yet while the global cultures are increasingly cross-breeding and produce more varied, vivid, and vibrant offshoots, the spec fic field in many ways, despite bold proclamations over the years, has remained (in my eyes, at least) rather colorless. I have had to search much more to find more than the usual suspects (Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, Steven Barnes, and now Nalo Hopkinson) for African-Americans writing within the commonly-delineated genre parameters. Like the indirectly-detected interstellar substance of its namesake, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (edited by Sheree R. Thomas) contains a plethora of fascinating short stories and essays ranging from the late 19th century to the very end of the 20th.

The stories themselves contain elements that White authors in general have not thought to consider, much less confront. Whether it be stories about how "outsiders" feel when thrust into a new society against their will or magical pills that lighten the melanin shadings and its effects on society or a diabolical trade of African-Americans as newly-enslaved (this time, to a mysterious galactic envoy) for resources that would purportedly "improve" American society, the overall impact is that of a kick to the gut.

As I read these stories, I could not help but to wonder at all the myriad causes of African-American dreams and speculations failing to appear in the same printed formats as White stories. To a large degree, I would argue that Thomas's anthology is meant to confront and to highlight such disparities. Tananarive Due, George S. Schuyler, Nisi Shawl, Derrick Bell and others besides the usual suspects mentioned above have written some incredibly-powerful stories. But for the most part, they have flown under the radar. However, they nonetheless serve to illustrate that even the barely-known and understood substances of our shared cultural universe can infiltrate and connect the spaces in-between just as well, if not better, than the visible spectrum of stories would indicate. This is an anthology that ought to be must-read for all groups of people.

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites