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  • Writer's pictureMilton Davis

Imagining Greatness

Dark Universe: The Bright Empire by James Eugene

For me, writing the Black Fantastic is about imagining all the possibilities, past, present and future. It's about the what-ifs; what could have been, what is, and what might be. It's also about taking these ideas and working them out to their fullest extent, or at least as far as I'm willing to take them. If there is any purpose in my writing, it is to place Black people in a positive light in all aspects of speculative fiction.

It was for this reason that the idea of the Dark Universe was created. History and culture factors heavily in my fiction. I want my writing to reflect the various aspects of the African Diaspora. In some of my stories the connection is subtle, while in others it's quite blatant. Sword and Soul is built on the foundation of precolonial African history, culture and tradition; Steamfunk and Dieselfunk thrive in the struggles and triumphs of the African Diaspora of the 19th century and 20th century in American. So what foundation do I use for the future? In this case I find myself returning to the past to create a future based on a past that we rarely utilized.

There was a time that empires flourished in Africa. These were indigenous empires created from the strength, ingenuity, and vitality of the various cultures populating the Motherland. Some are well known (Ghana, Mali, Songhai), while others are celebrated only in the regions where they once dominated. Studying these cultures give us an understanding of the type of cultures that did and could have prospered without outside interference. It also gives us scenarios on how these powerful cultures would have interacted with outside cultures if they had instigated contact. It's the foundation on which The Dark Universe is built.

The Dark Universe concept began with a statement posted about a fallen emperor being led to his fate. Intrigued by the concept, other writers chimed in, adding their own interpretations to the improvised concept. Soon, Eugene Peterson and I decided to take this idea to the next level and created a full-fledged universe for ourselves and other writers to play in, an Afrocentric galactic empire founded and controlled by people of African descent. It was a concept neither of us had seen executed and an idea that was long past due. The result was the Dark Universe Anthology, a collection of stories that spanned the rise and fall of this unique empire, written by some of the best Black Fantastic writers we know.

Dark Universe: The Bright Empire, is a continuation of this concept. The stories in this collection focuses on the Cassad Empire in its heyday, once again written by a variety of skilled writers. The fact that we were able to put together another anthology testifies to the richness of the concept and the interest of writers to contribute to the building of this universe.

The term 'Afrofuturism' has been accepted by many as the word to describe what Black writers and artists are creating in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. Much of the work being published and celebrated today involves fiction based on the social issues we deal with as a people and projecting them into future, or parallel setting in order to bring focus to them. This is important and necessary work, for science fiction has always reflected current issues despite what others would want you to believe. As we take on this task, we as creators should also consider other possibilities. We should create scenarios that provide solutions and imagine worlds where such problems, if not eliminated, are in various stages of solution. We should imagine equality, and we should imagine greatness.

I hope you take the time to experience the latest stories of the Dark Universe. I think you'll find them thought-provoking and intriguing. And if you finish this latest volume desiring more about the Cassad Empire, don't worry. The next volume is being planned as you read these words. The greatness is only beginning.

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