Black Sci-Fi/Spec Fic Primer–W. E. B. DuBois

W. E. B. Dubois (1868-1963)

Yes most of us are familiar with DuBois, whether we know him generally because we encountered The Souls of Black Folk somewhere along our educational journey or we have a more intimate knowledge of his life and work for African American socio-economic equality.  Most folks don’t know, however, that DuBois frequently wrote fiction and that those short stories were often of the speculative variety.

DuBois’s speculative titles include “Jesus Christ in Texas” (1920) and “The Comet” (1920) among others.  The stories deal with the same sorts of issues that he tackled in his non-fiction writings, which (very generally, so all of you DuBois scholars don’t lambaste me for my summary of his efforts) questioned the belief systems and the social structures that were/are the foundation for racism and racial inequality.

“The Comet,” for instance, imagines what would happen if there were only two people left on the planet–a black man and a white woman–asking this question: what if all of the infrastructure that props up segregation is torn away, so that people of different races have to encounter each other as human beings–as men and women.  Anybody familiar with the “strange fruit”, which so frequently hung from southern boughs during the early part of the 20th century, immediately understands how dangerous a proposition that might be.

For some samples of DuBois’s speculative offerings, check out Dark Matter:  A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora and Dark Matter:  Reading the Bones as a starting point.

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