Thursday, September 24, 2009

Classic Black Speculative Fiction

W.E.B DuBois was an amazingly versatile writer and scholar. He wrote a speculative fiction short story called The Comet in 1920. It is included in the anthology Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora by Sheree R. Thomas. The Comet is also available as a stand-alone e-book.

The premise of the story is that in a vaguely futuristic yet oddly contemporary world, a passing comet casts a shadow of death over Manhattan. Only two survive: a black man whose world has been one of poverty and hard work, and a white woman who knows only leisure and privilege. If humanity is to have a future, the two must build a new world from the wreckage of the old.

DuBois spent his final years in Ghana where he is still deeply revered. A small museum houses his extensive library, a bronze bust of him, academic regalia from Harvard and, finally, his outdoor tomb. During my visit to the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture , the guide took out a first edition copy of The Souls of Black Folks , one of DuBois's personal copies, and allowed me to touch it. I was honored and thrilled.

If you have a chance give The Comet a read, and leave a comment about what you think.


Shauna Roberts said...

I was unfamiliar with this story or that W.E.B. DuBois had written spec fi . If I don't already have this anthology (I have one of the Dark Matter anthologies but I don't remember which one), I'm going to search out the story. Thanks for bringing this to people's attention.

Raval911 said...

This was 1 of my favorite parts of DM 1. That story of the last survivors has been retold so many times since, but never w/ the intensity and wisdom that DuBois gave it. Imagine if they'd touched on any of those deep racial themes in I Am Legend...whoooha. Thanks for bringing this up!

Shelli said...

sounds interesting!

Rochelle Spencer said...

I love the Dark Matter anthologies!!! Dark Matter made me realize that writers like DuBois and Schuyller(sp?), people you never thought would write fantasy, have been doing so for years! Great post!