Tor.com content by

Nisi Shawl

Fiction and Excerpts [3]
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Fiction and Excerpts [3]

Everfair

, || Fabian Socialists from Great Britain join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo's "owner," King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.

Sense from Senselessness: Kai Ashante Wilson’s “The Devil in America”

In February of 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” In the two years since, Tor.com has published my in-depth essays on thirteen of the 42 works mentioned. The original “Crash Course” listed those 42 titles in chronological order, but the essays skip around. In this fourteenth column I write about “The Devil in America,” one of the first professionally published stories by rising star Kai Ashante Wilson.

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Divine Effort: Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

In February of 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” Since then Tor.com has published my in-depth essays on twelve of the 42 works mentioned. The original “Crash Course” listed those 42 titles in chronological order, but the essays skip around. This thirteenth column’s about Redemption in Indigo, Afro-Caribbean author and academic Karen Lord’s first novel.

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Old and Cold: “The Space Traders” by Derrick Bell

In February of 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” Since then Tor.com has published my in-depth essays on eleven of the 42 works mentioned. The original “Crash Course” listed those 42 titles in chronological order, but the essays skip around a bit. This twelfth column is devoted to “The Space Traders,” activist and law professor Derrick Bell’s story of aliens swapping their advanced technology for the guaranteed delivery to them of all African Americans.

[Wait…what?]

Hope and Vengeance in Post-Apocalyptic Sudan: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

In February of 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” Since then Tor.com has published my in-depth essays on ten of the 42 works mentioned. The original “Crash Course” listed those 42 titles in chronological order, but the essays skip around a bit. This eleventh column is devoted to Who Fears Death, Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor’s stunning novel of a post-apocalyptic Sudan.

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Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed

In February of 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” Since then Tor.com has published my in-depth essays on nine of the 42 works mentioned. The original “Crash Course” listed those 42 titles in chronological order, but the essays skip around a bit. This tenth one talks about Ishmael Reed’s magnum opus, Mumbo Jumbo.

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Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: Walter Mosley’s Futureland

In February of 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” Since then, Tor.com has published my in-depth essays on eight of the 42 works mentioned. The original “Crash Course” listed those 42 titles in chronological order, but the essays skip around a bit.

This ninth installment looks at Walter Mosley’s 2001 collection Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World.

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Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: The Spook Who Sat by the Door, by Sam Greenlee

Over a year ago, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction. Since then I’ve been asked to write individual monthly essays on each of the 42 works mentioned. The original essay listed those 42 titles in chronological order, but these essays skip around a bit.

A year before the Broadway premiere of the Lorraine Hansberry play discussed here in May, Les Blancs, British press Allison & Busby published Sam Greenlee’s novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door. Eventually Bantam published a paperback version in the U.S., but though that went into over a dozen printings and the book was later made into a movie, Spook has remained a so-called cult classic since its initial appearance on the literary scene. The “cult” to which its popularity is limited is apparently that of black people and those who support them in their struggles.

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Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl, by Virginia Hamilton

Over a year ago, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction. Since then I’ve been asked to write individual monthly essays on each of the 42 works mentioned.

This column’s subject, Virginia Hamilton’s The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl, is a children’s novel about a child goddess come to Earth. From her heavenly home on top of Mount Highness in Kenya, Pretty Pearl journeys to America beside her brother John de Conquer. Their plan is to investigate the cruelties of chattel slavery. In the form of albatrosses they follow a slave ship to Georgia, but on landing they lie down in the red clay rather than jump right into interfering. Interference has a habit of backfiring, the grown-up god informs his little sister. But divine time runs differently than human time. The siblings take a short, two-century nap, and soon after the Civil War ends they’re ready for action.

[Cruelty, magic, and the function of great children’s literature…]

Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs

Over a year ago, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” Since then I’ve been asked to write individual monthly essays on each of the 42 works mentioned. This one’s about Les Blancs, Lorraine Hansberry’s last play.

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Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: Samuel R. Delany’s The Jewels of Aptor

Over a year ago, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction. Since then I’ve been asked to write individual essays on each of the 42 works mentioned. This month’s installment is a call for the appreciation of Samuel R. Delany’s first published novel, The Jewels of Aptor. Written in Delany’s teens, Aptor was first published as an Ace Double in 1962, when the author was twenty. But that version had been shortened to fit the Ace Double format; for its 1968 solo edition fifteen cut pages were restored.

[Stunning, subversive science fantasy from one of the best writers of all time.]

Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Comet”

Our focus this column is on “The Comet,” a science fiction short story by W.E.B. Du Bois. Yes, as I note in the original Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction, that W.E.B. Du Bois: the well-known and recently misspelled critical thinker and race theorist. “The Comet” was first published in 1920 as the final chapter of his autobiographical collection of poems and essays Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil. Though nowhere near as influential as Du Bois’ monumental The Souls of Black Folk, Darkwater was popular and well-received. But by the time, almost a century later, that author and editor and Sheree Renee Thomas was compiling her own groundbreaking book, the anthology Dark Matter 1, she found this early and prominent work of science fiction languishing in completely undeserved obscurity.

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Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett

I don’t want to inflict vertigo on you, but in this installment of a deeper dive into my Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction we fly from the far past of 1887 and “The Goophered Grapevine,” to a novel of the nearly now.

Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett could be categorized as the hardest of hardcore science fiction: aliens, spaceships, supercomputers–it has them all. Yet the lasting impression left by this brief but monumental 2014 novel is one of ethereality. Empires fall, towers melt into the air, and in the end only the most beautiful of ephemera abide: love and stories.

[This book has a poem’s grace…]

Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chesnutt

As I explained in this column’s first installment, this series is an expansion of my Fantastic Stories of the Imagination article titled “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” This new column delves more deeply into each of the 42 titles on that list. Deciding not to do that in forward or reverse chronological order, I began with Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day (1988) because of the special place it holds in my heart. Now I’m going to look even deeper into the past and switch things up to talk about “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chesnutt, a 19th-century story that deserves our attention because of its brainy convolutions.

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Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: Mama Day

About a year ago, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published my article titled “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” In the spirit of Charles W. Eliot’s 51-foot shelf of Harvard Classics, I listed 42 short stories and novels that I deemed essential reads for students of Black science fiction and fantasy. This new column will delve more deeply into each of the titles on that list in turn.

My original list is chronological. But I’m going not going to begin this series of columns at that list’s beginning. Nor am I simply going to reverse the list and back up on those 42 titles from its end. Time is not the point here. Meaning is. I give Mama Day (1988) primacy of place in this series because it means some very personal things to me.

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