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Dark Matter: Reading the Bones
edited by Sheree R. Thomas
Warner Aspect, 400 pages

Dark Matter: Reading the Bones
Sheree R. Thomas
Sheree R. Thomas edits the literary journal Anansi: Fiction of the African Diaspora and has contributed to national publications including the Washington Post, Black Issues Book Review, and QBR: The Black Book Review. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Ishmael Reed's Konch, Drumvoices Revue, and other literary journals. A native of Memphis, she lives in New York City.

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SF Site Review: Dark Matter

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

In 2000, Sheree R. Thomas edited a volume of short stories, both original and reprint, of speculative fiction written by black authors. To round out the anthology, she included several essays which discussed the role of African Americans in science fiction and the importance for blacks to read within the genre. In Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, Thomas presents another collection of stories using the same format.

Although several authors have works in both volumes, the fact that there are thirteen authors in the second volume whose work did not appear in the first demonstrates how strong the African American writing community is and puts the lie to those who claim there are no African Americans who write speculative fiction. Furthermore, the stories Thomas has included have a broad range of topics, not all of which may be considered "typical" African American topics.

Tyehimba Jess's "Voodoo Vincent and the Astrostoriograms," for instance, is a look at the importance of community, even if you feel you have moved away from the culture which gave birth to you. Other stories, such as "Anansi Meets Peter Parker at the Taco Bell on Lexington" by Douglas Kearney, deal with the American pop culture penchant for appropriating Black culture without crediting its sources.

Many of the authors use humor to make their point. Perhaps the most poignant of these is Nnedi Okorador-Mbachu's "The Magical Negro," which plays on the idea of the black slave as a savior and sacrifice for the white master. Okorador-Mbachu also points up the idea of the black actor always being the first one killed in films and calls for a revolt against the clichéd role.

Naturally, the role in slavery in bringing so many African Americans to this country must be dealt with and it receives appropriate attention from "ibo landing," a reprint by ihsan bracy. The strength of this piece, which opens the anthology, is that bracy does not provide specific details, instead showing the slaves' own ignorance of their circumstances. It is followed by a tale of slave hunters who do know their circumstances in "The Quality of Sand" by Cherene Sherrand. In both cases, the Africans who are being transported are able and willing to make a stand against their captors.

The African Diaspora, as the cover calls it, has provided American culture with a lot of source material. Frequently, new work done by the members of that Diaspora is overlooked by American culture en masse. Books like Dark Matter: Reading the Bones provides an outlet for the high quality of creativity in the African American community and may help bring it to the attention of those who are not aware of it, whether they are members of the community or another.

Copyright © 2004 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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