Diversity in science fiction
Diversity is a hot topic in science fiction. There’s increasing acknowledgement that the genre has long been dominated by straight white men, and that it would be good to diversify both the creators and the characters.
This is a trend that, as a straight white man, I’m in favour of. So why is diversity important to me?
I’m a fan and writer of science fiction and fantasy. A large part of their appeal for me is the range and variety of things they contain. The potential to read about something new, whether it’s a new place, a new culture, a new technology, a new point of view…
So one selfish reason for wanting more diversity is that I want to read it. I know what’s it’s like to be a middle-class straight white bloke, just like I know what it’s like to live in 20th century England. I want fiction that varies all these things, that takes me to new places, new viewpoints, new experiences.
A parade of people like me, even ones living in the 25th century, is not as much fun as variety.
I also have less selfish reasons. Modern culture provides me with a lot of novelty, but it also provides me with the safe and the familiar, people who represent me and my experiences. I don’t want those people to go away – it’s nice to see myself represented. But I want others to also feel that security.
I have several nieces. I want them to feel confident that they can do whatever they want with their lives, because that lesson will give them courage and opportunities. But to learn that they need to see people like them – in this case girls and women – taking on just as varied and powerful roles as men, not being relegated to support or romantic encounters.
And what I want for my nieces I want for everyone – the chance to be empowered and encouraged by a culture that represents you, as well as the opportunity to read and watch all the other sorts of people who fill the world.
Sensitivity and diversity
In trying to provide more diverse representation we have to recognise and understand the negative responses this provokes. People who are used to seeing themselves as the default representation of humanity, whether in science fiction or any other walk of life, can feel threatened when we try to change that. They don’t have a right to be over-represented, but they are used to it, and shouting that they are wrong won’t change that. If we are to bring everyone along for the ride, truly living up to the aim of diversity, then we have to acknowledge their unsettled feelings and help them to move on.
A genre that has aliens and androids has space for every race, gender and sexuality to be equally represented. Here’s hoping, both selfishly and selflessly, that we can get to that place.
About the Author:
Andrew is a freelance writer based in Stockport, England, where the grey skies provide a good motive to stay inside at the word processor. His collection of steampunk stories, Riding the Mainspring, is available through Amazon and Smashwords and he is planning a science fiction collection for later this year. He blogs about science fiction, fantasy and writing at andrewknighton. com and can be found on Twitter as @gibbondemon.
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