Diversity In Science Fiction And Why It Matters – a guest post by Austin Dragon

Posted: September 25, 2014 in writing
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As well as having a ridiculously awesome name, Austin Dragon is a fellow member of the Google+ Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy community. So when we decided to exchange guest posts, it seemed only natural that we’d focus on that topic and why it matters to us. So without further ado, here’s Austin’s take on diversity in science fiction…

Diversity In Science Fiction And Why It Matters

What is Diversity to Me? I learned a long time ago from my stint in political activism that it is very important to define words and terms from the start. It’s the reason that most political debates are pointless and real solutions are rare. Different groups respond differently to the same words whether it’s liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in America, or two different groups of Labor and Conservatives in England, respectively.

As a Black man born in one of the most diverse cities in the world, New York city, living in another overseas for a year, when I began college—Paris France, and upon my return to the States moved to even more diverse one—Los Angeles, CA, I am obviously at home in diversity.

Unfortunately much of the diversity as defined by many elite has simply devolved into the arbitrary color of a person’s skin. That is not diversity. Diversity is not just race; it is culture, class, language, upbringing, nationality, politics, education, occupation, religion (if applicable), and more. It is a rich tapestry of the story and experiences that make you who you really are. Diversity that is just a game of musical chairs based on skin color is boring.

Also for all this “diversity talk,” people are rightly justified in being annoyed at the “talk with no end” about the subject or a “token” character thrown into a story in a feeble attempt to placate them. Virtually everyone will be Asian in a novel set in Japan or overwhelmingly White if set Sweden, but that’s not what we’re talking about. In the diverse or global societies often reflected in science fiction, demographic reality is not being reflected. Yes, fiction is fiction, but…

Three Reasons Why Diversity in Science Fiction Matters

  1. It Gives Us a Unique Window on a Problem. One of the brilliant things about science fiction is that it allows the reader to see an intractable problem from other points of view. Often that unique perspective can do more to highlight the issue or strengthen the drama than the same stereotypical characters we keep seeing over and over again.
  2. It Introduces Us to the New. Over six billion people, hundreds of countries, thousands of religions, tens of thousands of cultures, millennia of recorded human history. Science fiction spends a lot of energy creating new worlds to amaze us when the reality is that there already exists “new worlds” in our own to engage us that we never even knew existed.
  3. More Diversity Equals Less Tokenism. If we see “real” diversity with meaningful stories, substantive characters, and well-thought out backgrounds, the more the public will expect and demand it. I love Star Trek and always will but even as a child I thought it peculiar that there wasn’t far more diversity in the series knowing what the racial and ethnic make-up of the planet was (and is). Tokenism acts like people are just skin-color and genitalia. Diversity acknowledges and showcases so much more.

Science fiction writers, through this genre, we are in probably the best possible position to reflect the great big, wide universe of…humanity.

About the Author

Austin DragonAustin’s books currently include his science fiction and international After Eden thriller series. Next year he releases new novels in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, YA and horror. He is a native New Yorker, but has called Los Angeles, California home for the last twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, political junkie, movie buff, campaign manager and staffer of presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, and dreamer. Find him and all his writing madness at www.austindragon.com

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Comments
  1. W Lawrence says:

    I think Gene Roddenberry pushed the limits of diversity as much as he could with Star Trek TOS. With a target audience of the USA in the seventies, the bridge crew was hitting the percentages of race pretty close. Anything more than what he did would have come off as too extreme. (Why are there so many Asians in space? or that sort of thinking). Remember, TV plays for ratings, not racial equality. 🙂

  2. Sue Archer says:

    I agree that science fiction provides us with new perspectives on our current problems, and this is one of the reasons I love this genre so much. There are endless possibilities, and I’d like to see writers explore more of them.

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