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Intensely Focused

I'm not obsessed, I'm just intensely focued.

Currently reading

Home Improvement: Undead Edition
Charlaine Harris, Toni L.P. Kelner
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume I
Arthur Conan Doyle
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora - Samuel R. Delany, Leone Ross, Evie Shockley, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Darryl A. Smith, Akua Lezli Hope, Ama Patterson, Sheree R. Thomas, Charles W. Chestnutt, Paul D. Miller, Linda Addison, Tony Medina, Robert Fleming, Charles R. Saunders, Jewelle Gomez, Kiini Ibura Sal This was a pretty good anthology. There were some exceptional stories and some stories I just didn't get. There was also more playing with grammar than in most of the anthologies I've read. As usual, I'm not a big fan of not following the rules of standard English grammar. There was one story I gave up on (it was written in the 1920's or 1930's) because it was just too difficult to make it through the dialog which was full of half words or words that were spelled phonetically.

The book seemed loaded with stories from 2000 and from the early part of the century. I don't know much about the history of the genre but it sounds like there was a period of time where business was conducted exclusively through the mail so it's not really known how many writers of the time were African-American which might explain the paucity of the 40s through the 70s. But it did seem odd that so many stories were from 2000 rather than the 80s and late 90s.

There were a lot of stories about being an oppressed minority, which is hardly surprising. But I was surprised that I can't recall any story in which African-Americans were considered equal or superior in power to whites in America. Which is to say, no one in the book imagined an African-American president of America. The closet thing to racial equality appears in a story written in the early part of the century that involves what appears to be the end of the world and the only survivors are an African-American man and a white woman. I thought that was one of the exceptional stories in the anthology. The gender differences are highlighted, but that makes sense to me. In a post-apocalyptic world I have no doubt that physical strength will be one of the most important traits for survival and most women not as strong as most men of their same age. Obviously, there are exceptions, but generally speaking I believe that to be true.

Another story I thought was particularly interesting involved aliens coming to earth at a time when the US is very bad shape financially and offering a way to pay off the national debt, clean and renewable energy and a third thing which I forget if the US will just give the aliens all of the African-Americans within its borders within 16 days (on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day). The author imagines the people in power (with the sole exception of a token African-American not-quite-cabinet-member) easily going along with the idea. It was surprising that in 1992 he thought it would be an easy sell. In the story the African-American community protests along with some white Liberals but the protest mainly consisted of having a large meeting and deciding to try and fight it. We never actually see anyone try and fight it with more than words. We're told about African-Americans trying to escape but there's no discussion of the rioting and mobs that I'm sure would take place. I'm still working on the implications of that. Both the idea that America would just agree to sell off parts of its population and that that population would be fairly submissive about being sold. The submissiveness struck me just as much as the easy sell out did.

The five essays at the end about African-American writers in science-fiction were also very interesting. The focus was primarily on Octavia E. Butler, who I've honestly never cared for, and a male writer I don't think I'd heard of before (Richard someone). But I think that's partly because he's doing more literary criticism and less novel writing these days and my focus in the last few years has been on fantasy more than science-fiction.

I also do not recall any stories about African-American scientists. It seems like in much of the sci-fi I've read the characters are movers and shakers in events, they're the soldiers or the leaders or the scientists who made a discovery or are trying to stop something from happening and with one or two exceptions these stories seemed to involve events happening to someone rather than that someone having any power to shape the event. I don't know if that's a reaction to not having as much political power or presence in the sciences or what.

Anyway, a very interesting book with many things to think about.