In SCIENCE FICTION, anything is possible — from Space Exploration and Alien encounters … to Advanced Technology … to Time Travel. The setting could be here on Earth … or in a galaxy far, far away. SCI-FI is meant to be a world of possibility with creativity and imagination — for Everyone.
DIVERSITY in Sci-Fi means Storytelling that includes Real People — facing Real Struggles and Challenges — associated with every kind of Obstacle, including differences in Class, Race, Sexual Orientation, and Physical Ability.
Diversity in SCI-FI is not new! Diverse Characters have always appeared in Science Fiction. Sometimes they just wear the mask of an ALIEN.
“Sure,” you say. The original Star Trek featured Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, a woman of Color. Star Wars had Lando Calrissian played by Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi) and Darth Vader was voiced by a Black man (James Earl Jones).
Still, if you survey the overall amount of DIVERSITY in Science Fiction — compared to the Real World around us — you will find it sorely lacking. In her 1980 essay “The Lost Races of Science Fiction” … acclaimed SCI-FI author Octavia Butler said, “Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Amerindians, minority characters in general have been noticeably absent from most science fiction.”
She was right. Look up “Science Fiction” on Google … and you’ll find many successful Books, Movies and TV Series (such as DUNE, Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Back to the Future, The Matrix, E.T., Jurassic Park, Terminator, and FRINGE.)
But the majority of Characters in all those examples are WHITE. Few people of Color exist (and sometimes, none at all). There may be a small number of Blacks and Asians, but the rest of the people in the World are seemingly Forgotten.
Why? Some say “that kind of storytelling won’t succeed in Hollywood”. But Film-Makers are proving them wrong. We see examples every day of Fictional Characters originally type-cast as White, but when Race is changed — it actually works. Avengers was a HUGE Hit, the team put together by Nick Fury — played by Samuel L. Jackson. (Another example: consider the recent success of Black Panther.)
We need more DIVERSITY in Sci-Fi.
WHY? Because Diversity in Storytelling fosters Inclusiveness.
SCIENCE FICTION can only fulfill its promise when it appeals to all people. It can only inspire us when we can RELATE to the story being told — so that You and Me and Everyone else … including Real People who face every kind of Obstacle — have something to Hope for, for the Future of their children.
Heroes are about Overcoming ADVERSITY. They are loved for being strong, smart, making the best of bad situations, sticking to what they believe in, and always doing the right thing — no matter what the cost.
Relatable Heroes mean even more — because they are Human enough for us to see Ourselves in them. They spark passion and idealism in children of every Color — then keep those fires burning in adults.
DIVERSITY in SCI-FI is a Key to fighting RACISM.
A New Wave of Sci-Fi Writers … including Native American, Asian American, and African American — seek to challenge Racist ways of thinking about the FUTURE.
Native Americans draw on native knowledge, stories, language and traditions. Asian Americans draw from Mythology and cultural experience: separation, loss, and adapting to a new Way of Life. African Americans draw on the history of Race relations … including Slavery, the African Diaspora, and the Civil Rights Movement. SCI-FI can help us envision a FUTURE … that embraces Diversity in Human Relationships.
We need DIVERSITY in Sci-Fi — because our World is CHANGING.
If we hope to Survive, Humanity must EVOLVE. We need a New view — an INCLUSIVE View — of Our FUTURE … to help us Embrace it.