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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  995 ratings  ·  73 reviews
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.

Sister Lilith - Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
The Comet - W.E.B. Du Bois
Chicage 1927 - Jewelle Gomez
Black No More (novel excerpt) - George S. Schuyler
Paperback, 427 pages
Published July 1st 2001 by Aspect (first published 2000)
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4.17  · 
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 ·  995 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Sister Lilith/Honoree Fanonne Jeffers -- Didn't love the story, but opening with something set in the time of Genesis (Bible, not band) felt appropriate.

The comet/W.E.B. Du Bois -- Great writing. Du Bois convincingly and succinctly conveys the feelings of the protagonist under a series of abrupt, shocking changes.

Black No More/George Schuyler -- Hard to assess, as it is an early-on excerpt from a novel and I don't know where it goes. Certainly seems like a good historical document regarding rac
This anthology is a useful collection and contains some wonderful fiction. However, its subtitle, "A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora," led me to expect a collection of texts that really does attempt to represent the last century. Instead, only one third of the book is constituted by stories that were published prior to the year 2000 (ranging chronologically from 1887 to 1999). This places the emphasis of the book less on revealing how much black SF has been written in th ...more
Matthew Gatheringwater
"Why don't they make white robots?" is the question posed by the lyrical and tragic story The Pretended by Darryl A. Smith, one of the best stories collected in Dark Matter. It works on all levels: black themes, black author, using a future setting to say something related to the present, etc. I love this story. Unfortunately, not all the other stories are equally at home in the collection.

Some, like Gimmile's Songs by Charles R. Saunders are good science fiction of their type, but use African
dark' mat''er - n: a nonluminous form of matter which has not been directly observed but whose existence has been deduced by its gravitational effects.

The above citation from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab glossary is referenced in the Introduction of this captivating anthology, to great effect. Indeed, the contributions of black writers to the field of speculative fiction has often been overlooked, even dismissed, whereas this collection is a testament to their presence, their influence, and to thei
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm awfully lated to this party - Dark Matter was released in 2000 - but better late than never, right?

Sheree Thomas did a commendable job picking stories and authors for the collection. One of my favorite gems was the opening chapter or two from a book written in the 30s about one of the first patients for a new medical procedure to turn black people into white people. The only really totally missed note for me was the story by Steven Barnes, and I suspect that's because I just don't very much
Sep 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
As uneven as you'd expect in an anthology this length, but well worth reading. Has an Octavia Butler story that blew my mind a little. I'm in love with Nalo Hopkinson now too. Gonna read the sequel.
Kate Raphael
Loved this book. So many great writers. Some I had heard of, others not.
Carolyn Nicole
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
excellent read by some of your favorite authors who you may not have known delve into science fiction. Worth the time.
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi
I love this book. The short stories are all engaging. I own this and re-read it from time to time.
Stark King
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I find most anthologies of short fiction hit and miss, but the hits in this one were more than enough to compensate for the misses. Some standouts include:

1. Chicago, 1927 - Jewelle Gomez
For fans of the Gilda stories, here's a nice short one, combining Gomez's unique take on vamp lore with a queer eye view of Chicago in the roaring 20s. If you're not familiar with Gomez's other work, this is a great introduction.

2. Like Daughter - Tananarive Due
I can't say much without giving the story away but
Elliann Fairbairn
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection of stories is an incredible slice of the diversity and richness of afrofuturist stories old and new. The essays at the end are wonderful for those of us who like to dive into a bit of analysis of the text, context and autors' intentions. If you're just starting to read afrofutrism or you're trying to explain the genre to a friend, start here. There are so many authors, styles and themes in this that you want to go off and explore them all.
Xev Author
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best anthology of the genre that I have encountered so far. There are a few stories that demand more will to read through (due to lake of interest) but that may simply be due to my leaning more toward scifi vs fantasy.

That said, if you're into afrofuturism, I wouldn't discourage anyone from picking up this fantastic read.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, fantasy
I loved this book. My favorite short stories were Can You Wear My Eyes, Like Daughter, Chicago 1927, and The Comet, and the novel excerpt from Black No More.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi-faves
This book blew my mind. There are stories in it that I have never forgotten and still think about to this day, particularly Derrick Bell's "The Space Traders". Love it.
Mike Franklin
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
Sister Lilith: Honoree Jeffers P 4 Interesting take on the Genesis Lilith story.

The Comet: W E B Du Bois 4 Classic style sf piece addressing racisim

Chicago 1927: Jewelle Gomez P 2 frankly rather lame and amateur urban fanatsy peice with black oh so nice and good vampire. Overtones of lesbian sexual fantasy that never goes anywhere and contributes nothing to the very weak story.

Black No More: George Schuyler P 4 An interesting satirical piece on social displacement if a black person is suddenly t
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I figured reading this was a good way for a science fiction nerd to celebrate Black History Month. I've been wanting to read this for a long time, and I'm glad I finally did. This anthology features superstars like Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler as well as other established authors such as Nalo Hopkinson and Stephen Barnes. There are also a few authors not normally known for science fiction like W.E.B. Du Bois and Amiri Baraka. I was also pleased to see a lot of names I wasn't familiar with be ...more
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An important collection that corrects former overviews of Speculative Fiction that completely ignored the extensive and ground-breaking contributions of African American authors. Incredibly, the second book in the series, 'Reading the Bones' is out of print. So wrong, Warner Books. So very wrong. This is how history is lost and writers who should be in 'the canon' get left out. It matters!
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've read through the first hundred pages or so of this 400+ volume of short stories, from "Sister Lilith" to "Rhythm Travel". I don't think I'm equipped to speak much to this anthology, except to say I was moved and challenged by the stories in remarkable ways. I look forward to revisiting it in the future.
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reviewed on Books Cats Tea

This is a fantastic compilation of speculative and science fiction that offers numerous inspirations from the African diaspora and, especially, black perspective and experience. I picked this book up as part of my reading parameters for Black History Month.

The introduction by Sheree Renée Thomas opens up with a synopsis of Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence. A play about a Southern town waking up and discovering their working black population has suddenly vanished. Th
Octavia Cade
An excellent anthology of short stories from writers from the African diaspora. There are also several nonfiction pieces included at the end, most of which are very short, although the essay "Racism and Science Fiction" by Samuel R. Delany was one of the highlights of the book. The stories themselves frequently have, unsurprisingly, a close focus on race. Given that they cover a century of fiction writing, there's some variation in how each author grapples with this topic, although it's unfortun ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A perfect antidote to the hypersaturation of straight white males in speculative fiction, though a very difficult read since the short stories are covering some very difficult themes. (It's like after you read "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" or "Harrison Bergeron" - you can't just jump straight into the next story, but sit for a while and let the story steep in your brain as you recover from literary hangover and, depending on the story, emotional trauma.) How difficult it is to read is als ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This collection took me forever to get through, but I'm really glad I did. I loved the range of stories, from old classics like the Comet, to contemporary shorts by new authors. I'm glad for the new-to-me names and sources in there, too. And the nonfiction essays in the back were wonderfully eye opening at how truly small the SF community used to be.

Favorites include The Space Traders by Derrick Bell, which remains eerily relevant to this day, Ganger (ball lightning) by Nalo Hopkinson which was
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book of stories is GREAT. A few of these authors I have read before, but most I have not. I've discovered a lot of great new writing (new to me anyway).

I had never read W.E.B. DuBois before, I suppose because I am a privileged white midwestern middle class lady and was never exposed to it, nor did I seek him out. His story The Comet, written in 1927, is PHENOMENAL and I need to read more of his stuff. The physics building at Fisk University (where I have worked) is named after DuBois and I
An old(ish) one, but a good one. I'm sure there must be newer collections of African speculative fiction out there, but Dark Matter an excellent introduction to some of the biggest names in the genre, some of whom were just beginning their careers at the time of publication. As with any collection of fiction, every reader will like some stories and authors more than others, and there were definitely a few stories that I didn't care for at all, while I've been thinking about others for days. As w ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read about half of the stories and decided to not continue. While there are some interesting ideas in the stories, they are not well presented. The writing is quite confusing most of the time. You feel like you were thrown into the middle of a novel with no context. The stories do cover a variety of topics but I think the stories were chosen by categories vs quality. The only one I enjoyed was Butlers'. I think there are just better representatives in full-length novels instead of this random ...more
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Although I only really enjoyed half the short stories, the concept alone is wonderfully put together. Everything was worth reading: a solid mix of fiction and non fiction, the various authors selected were unique, the topics and stories were vast...a fantastic voyage that helps put into place the alternative world's black authors/people have imagined throughout history; and how it hasn't changed much unfortunately from now. Powerful reading that offers perspectives to reality through science cel ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
As per most Sci Fi anthologies, this one sports a few clunkers and some avant garde material plain above my reading level. However, this collection provides a great intro into two Sci Fi heavy hitters (Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler) as well as a few absolutely killer stories ("The Space Traders", "The Pretended", "The Comet"). Well worth the time in terms of quality fiction and viewing a genre outside of its typical white male perspective.
Ruth Ann
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I actually started this two years ago, read the first third, and had to put it aside for some reason. I remember that those first 5-6 stories really held my attention, and the fact that W.E.B. Dubois wrote an early science fiction story stayed with me.

The remaining stories also made me want to read more by their respective authors except for one written in a style of free association, which I have to admit I gave up on after a few pages.
Patrick DiJusto
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
This is a fine anthology of speculative fiction written by African-American authors. As with any anthology, some stories are better than others.

The book ends with essays on the meaning and experience of writing speculative fiction from an African-American viewpoint. Personally, I found this the most interesting part of the entire book.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have *not* read all of this. I have read "Like daughter" by Tananarive Due. It is an excellent short story. There are some confusing elements at the beginning but it does all make sense eventually and the confusion is a deliberate part of the narrative.
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Sheree Thomas — also credited as Sheree R. Thomas and Sheree Renée Thomas — is an American writer, book editor and publisher.

Thomas is the editor of the Dark Matter anthology (2000), in which are collected works by some of the best African-American writers in the genres of science fiction, horror and fantasy. Among the many notable authors included are Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, Charles
“He did not really mind that none of the delegates had spoken to him before leaving. But he was crushed by his failure to get them to recognize what he had long known: that without power, a people must use cunning and guile. Or were cunning and guile, based on superior understanding of a situation, themselves power? Certainly, most black people knew and used this art to survive in their everyday contacts with white people. It was only civil rights professionals who confused integrity with foolhardiness. “Faith” 3 likes
“One reason for this absence is that black writers have only recently entered the popular genres in force. Our writers have historically been regarded as a footnote best suited to address the nature of our own chains. So, if black writers wanted to branch out past the realism of racism and race, they were curtailed by their own desire to document the crimes of America. A further deterrent was the white literary establishment’s desire for blacks to write about being black in a white world, a limitation imposed upon a limitation.” 1 likes
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