The Dark Fantastic
Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games
Published by: NYU Press
240 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 1 b/w illustration
- ISBN: 9781479800650
- Published: May 2019
Finalist, Creative Nonfiction IGNYTE Award, given by FIYACON for BIPOC+ in Speculative Fiction
Finalist, 2020 World Fantasy Awards
Reveals the diversity crisis in children's and young adult media as not only a lack of representation, but a lack of imagination
Stories provide portals into other worlds, both real and imagined. The promise of escape draws people from all backgrounds to speculative fiction, but when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, the doors are often barred. This problem lies not only with children’s publishing, but also with the television and film executives tasked with adapting these stories into a visual world. When characters of color do appear, they are often marginalized or subjected to violence, reinforcing for audiences that not all lives matter.
The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world.
In response, Thomas uncovers and builds upon a tradition of fantasy and radical imagination in Black feminism and Afrofuturism to reveal new possibilities. Through fanfiction and other modes of counter-storytelling, young people of color have reinvisioned fantastic worlds that reflect their own experiences, their own lives. As Thomas powerfully asserts, “we dark girls deserve more, because we are more.”
"The Dark Fantastic is a wakeup call to all who research, teach, or create young adult speculative fiction ... Thomas issues a call to decolonize the speculative fiction genre and to ensure more texts, films, and television shows that include a Black female protagonist become the norm to influence a new generation of readers and writers. The Dark Fantastic is a must-read." ~Booklist
"If you care about thoughtfully engaging with race, Harry Potter, and fandom, you definitely need to check out The Dark Fantastic." ~Mugglenet
"Thorough, creative, and revolutionary, The Dark Fantastic addresses the & imagination gap that plagues the majority of children's and YA media, which erases and mutes the stories and agency of black characters. From Harry Potter to The Hunger Games, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas sheds light on the dark fantastic to point scholars and fans toward a world where we can all experience and be liberated by the power of magic." ~Tananarive Due, American Book Award winner and author, Ghost Summer: Stories
"A compelling synthesis of speculative fiction, critical race theory, autobiography, and fantasy, The Dark Fantastic provides a powerful diagnosis of how racial difference shapes our imaginations. If you are looking for ways to repair the damage wrought by the lack of diversity in popular culture, there's no better place to begin." ~Philip Nel, author, Was the Cat in the Hat Black?
"By bridging pop culture, personal experience, and academic study, The Dark Fantastic provides a crucial examination of race and storytelling in sci-fi fantasy media aimed at teens and young adults. Not only does Thomas discuss how Black characters are erased in an inescapable cycle, but she also provides a guide to breaking it." ~Brain Mill Press Voices
"One of the most radiant and thought-provoking descriptions of the potentials of fantastic literature." ~LA Review of Books
"A creative blend of autoethnography, literary analysis, and counter-storytelling, this volume is intriguing, accessible, and raises important questions that will likely generate additional research on this topic... A must read, especially for current and future educators." ~Choice
"A compelling work of criticism, autoethnography, and counter-storytelling. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas reads within and across novels, film, television, fanfiction, the writers who create them, and online communities in order to explore the & role of race in the collective literary imagination. Thomas powerfully introduces the concept of the imagination gap and articulates its implications for the culture as a whole, recognizing the power and necessity of new stories capable of remaking the world." ~Christina Sharpe, author, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
"Thomas synthesizes theory from several disciplines to build her model of “the dark fantastic”—a cycle in which Black female characters are sidelined in mainstream fantasy narratives for young adults. … Valuable for introducing readers to a range of concepts, this is an important work of criticism on an underexamined topic." ~School Library Journal
"The Dark Fantastic will entirely change the way you read science fiction, fantasy, [and] horror, and I can absolutely assure you it will be for the better." ~BookRiot
"One of the most brilliant and woke explorations of race and speculative fiction Ive ever read. Thomas breaks down the history of fantasy and imagination and shows us how far we have to go with such patience and clarity I felt like I was sitting beside her, growing smarter with each word." ~Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award-winning author, Brown Girl Dreaming