W.E.B. Du Bois’s Proto-Afrofuturist Short Fiction: «The Comet»
This article examines W.E.B. Du Bois’s short story «The Comet» in the light of the Afrofuturist movement, a transnational and interdisciplinary, theoretical and literary-cultural enterprise that has endeavoured to rethink the history of Black civilisation in order to imagine a different, better, future. A remarkable example of post-apocalyptic, speculative and proto-Afrofuturist short fiction, «The Comet» functions as a fictional counterpart of the influential key concepts – double consciousness, the color line and the veil – previously introduced by Du Bois and it also foreshadows further critical issues and tropes that would be developed later, namely Fanon’s psychology of racism and Ellison’s metaphor of invisibility. Moreover, as a proto-Afrofuturist work of fiction, the story prefigures the post-apocalyptic worlds of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler and becomes a parable in which the supernatural element of the toxic comet allows for interesting speculations on the alienation experienced by people of African descent.