Bekah's Reviews > Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora

Dark Matter by Sheree Thomas
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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. The mayor quickly begins a campaign of pleading, begging the black folks to come back as the town is incapable of taking care of itself without black labor. When blacks start returning just as mysteriously as they vanished, the ending is left open to interpretation as to the realization the white town folks have about the incident.

Thomas remarks that "In Day of Absence, a highly satiric play, Ward doesn't give Clem, Luke, his audience, or his readers and explanation; however, I think one could say that for a brief moment, Rastus and the other black townspeople were "dark matter"."

She continues by defining dark matter as: "a nonluminous form of matter which has not been directly observed but whose existence has been deduced by its gravitational effects." If you are not familiar with the term, basically (from my understanding, as I am not a physicist or cosmologist, just a science enthusiast married to a physics enthusiast) the mass-energy (the things that cause gravity) of the universe doesn't add up when we factor in the things we experience and know about. The ordinary matter (baryon matter) includes anything that is made up of protons and neutrons. Anything with an atom. You, me, the moon, a cat whisker, even the steam coming off of your hot cup of tea. This matter, though, only makes up an estimated 20% of the mass-energy the universe is made of. The rest is thought (and debated) to be made up of dark matter--something invisible and yet vital to holding the universe together. Taking this back to the anthology, Thomas seeks to shed light on the nearly invisible, yet highly intertwined voices of blacks throughout history and, within the focus, black science fiction writers in the literary community.

The anthology itself blends between speculative fiction to science fiction. Everything from alternative mythology to conscious AI appears in Dark Matter. As someone who generally does not read much science fiction, I found myself enjoying nearly every single story. Even the few that I was not particularly fond of, I still felt they were interesting in their own ways. "Sister Lilith" was my favorite, but "The Space Traders" was highly thought provoking and I one I felt precisely encapsulated a social critique in the vein of Thomas' Dark Matter introduction.

The anthology ends with a few essays on black writers in science fiction that lend some deeper context to Thomas' introduction and drive to create Dark Matter in the first place. I felt that Delany's essay held some statements that seemed contradictory and questionable--such as lamenting that he and Butler always seem to be offered together in a pair despite their writing differences, but yet, he accepts those positions and does not speak of trying to encourage change. Even so his and the other essayists experiences in the field are primary sources on the way in which blacks are viewed and treated in the science fiction world.

Even if you are not a big fan of science fiction, I would recommend this book as it offers a great collection of the depth and breadth the speculative fiction genre can contain, while at the same time (for those of us not really into sci-fi) remain succinct.
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Reading Progress

February 22, 2017 – Started Reading
February 22, 2017 – Shelved
March 14, 2017 – Finished Reading

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