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The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games, by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is a really interesting work of SF criticism focused on the Dark Other, specifically on Black girls/women on the peripheries of popular media properties. Thomas takes the lessons of the title works and others and uses them as exemplars of larger issues in the genre. She deliberately eschews the old-fashioned academic convention of obscuring/abstracting the critic’s voice: she is coming from a very specific place as a late Gen X Black woman from Detroit, and she explicitly (as well as implicitly with her prose choices) rejects the idea of some universal construct called “the reader” who can stand for every reader. This is extremely constructive.

In addition to the titular works, Thomas spends a fair amount of time on the TV show Merlin and also on both the TV show and the book series The Vampire Diaries, examining the ways visual adaptations of preexisting material interact with fan expectations. She has deep roots in fanfiction fandom and is not afraid to use that experience as a lens in this work.

Frankly I think a lot of white SFF writers could benefit from seeing Thomas’s perspective laid out in detail with examples. The power of “I didn’t realize I was doing that, and I’d prefer not to” is pretty strong, and it has to be in the face of “I don’t worry about that kind of thing.”

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