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The Dark Fantastic: Reading Science Fiction, Fantasy and Comics to Change the World

Seminar Leader:
Ebony Elizabeth Thomas


Humans read and listen to stories not only to be informed but also as a way to enter worlds that are not like our own. When people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, however, they often discover that the doors are barred. Even the act of dreaming of worlds-that-never-were can be challenging when the known world does not provide many liberatory spaces. The success of new narratives such as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic universe, Black Light-ning on DC TV, and the blossoming of Afrofuturistic and Black fantastic tales, proves that all people need new my-thologies. This seminar examined multiple theoretical and pedagogical aspects of the fantastic, focusing on illustrated materials—including picture books, comics, and graphic novels. It cultivated a keen understanding of how such ma-terials can be used in 21st century elemen-tary/middle/secondary literacy curricula. Students complet-ed course projects that focus on illustrated texts in specific classroom, research, critical, theoretical, home, community, and/or professional contexts.

Unit TitleAuthor


Dark Matters

Valerie Adams
Keywords: black hole, CER framework, dark fantastic, ebony elizabeth thomas, imagination, milky way galaxy

The Superhero Self: Speculative Fiction for Identity Development and Social Change

Emma Connolly
Keywords: fiction, imagination, learning support, special education, superheroes

Storytelling for Freedom: How Black speculative stories can give us hope for a better future

Gina Dukes
Keywords: dark fantastic, freedom, hope, storytelling

Saving Ourselves: Exploring Identity and Imagined Realities Through Comics

Maddie Luebbert
Keywords: comics, dark fantastic, imagination, superhero genre, systemic racism

Police Free City: Writing Emancipatory Visionary Fiction

Charlie McGeehan
Keywords: Black Lives Matter, dark fantastic cycle, fantasy, fiction, Literature, Reading, science fiction, social studies, the Hunger Games, writing

Speculative Fiction: Using an Ethnic and Cultural Lens for Story Telling

Peggy Marie Savage
Keywords: speculative fiction, storytelling, the dark fantastic

Dabbling in the Dark: The Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow of the Black Speculative Aesthetic

Ryann M. Rouse
Keywords: Afrofuturism, Black Speculative Art, English Language Arts, fantasy, race, science fiction

Speculative Poetry: Making Sense of the Present and Shaping the Future

Sarah Vieldhouse
Keywords: analysis, imagination, poetry, speculative poetry

Here I Am: Graphic Novels as Social Equalizers for English Language Learners

Tia D. Larese
Keywords: comics, English language learners, graphic novels, the dark fantastic

Our New Mythologies Speculative Fiction Unit

Katherine Cohen Volin
Keywords: English Language Arts, mythology, speculative fiction

“Take Root Among the Stars” A Speculative Curriculum Unit for Fifth Grade

Vanetta Wood
Keywords: creative arts