The State of Black Sci Fi, week 3: Why Is it important to show race, culture, minority politics or ethnicity in SciFi?

Why Is it important to show race, culture, minority politics or ethnicity in SciFi?

Are you kidding me? I mean, come on. Race, culture, minority politics, and ethnicity all play a huge role in the real world. Why would I ever want an imaginary world that fails to reflect such an important part of everyday life? Why would I want to gloss over something so large? Why make the sci fi world dull, boring and bland?

Sure, not every novel is going to focus on race and the like, but I want my science fiction to stretch my mind. I want it to boot me out of my comfort zone. I want it to make me realize all the possibilities there are for different points of view and explore ways in which we might make our real world different and better. I want science fiction that does all that. I don’t want it to gloss over the hard stuff. Please don’t leave me in the middle of my comfort zone. Shock me, surprise me, make my jaw drop.

I wish I could come up with examples of books that don’t address race, ethnicity, and cultural differences, and how they fall short because of that, but unfortunately I can’t. Readers, if you can, please leave a comment. I can put them on my list of books NOT to read. When I come across a boring book, I either don’t start it in the first place or, if I find it boring, I put it back down. Life is too short, and my reading time too limited, for me to stick with a book that doesn’t grab me. Not without some kind of compelling reason anyway, and compelling reasons for that are few and far between.

And here’s another question: Is it fair to hold a writer’s — or any kind of creative artist for that matter — to account for their personal views?

How do you, reader, feel about this? Do you listen to Wagner in spite of the fact that he was an anti-semite? Do you read Orson Scott Card in spite of the fact that he was a bigot? Me, I don’t want to support Card, and hence, IMO, lending credence to his views, by buying and reading his books.

And why am I willing to listen to Wagner but prefer not to read Card? Perhaps it’s because, IMO, Wagner’s views didn’t taint his music, but Card’s views do taint his work. {Grimace}. I don’t have the answer to this, but, readers, I am interested in your thoughts.

As to science fiction books, books that do take on the hard issues, what do you, reader, find are at the top of your list?

The one that comes most readily to mind, because we’ve mentioned it in the course of this blog tour already, is Walter Mosley’s 47, a novel that attacks the issue of slavery head-on. Another is Tananarive Due’s “Blood Colony,” which is about a hidden race of African immortals taking on the AIDS pandemic. Octavia Butler is another writer who takes on these issues.

Black writers can’t help but be aware of these issues, and to bring them to the table when they write. We need more books like these.

I can understand that many white writers are unwilling to take some of this on. I can understand not wanting to “get it wrong,” to do an inadequate job, to fall short. But is this any reason to sweep the whole race and class thing under the rug, to pretend it doesn’t exist, to never even (or rarely), put any Black faces into a fictional world? I don’t think so.

Here is an interesting blog post that talks about white writers including Black characters.

Is my character “black enough”

The reader who wrote in focused on speech patterns. Personally, I’d focus on cultural values and personal experience. I live in the Boston area, and I still recall an appalling in which a Black athlete was stopped by cops in Wellesley simply because of the color of his skin.

As my father used to say: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried. Writers, whatever the color, please don’t shy away from the hard stuff. You’ll do yourselves and your readers a favor if you do.

And readers, do please comment. What are your views?

Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event:

Check out my awesome fellow members of this Online Black History Month Event:

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer— Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/
or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website http://www.shiftersnovelseries.com.
Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com and www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author— lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/ is available from Amazon.com Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author — is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/


Thaddeus Howze, Author-
– is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

Alicia McCalla, Author—writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: www.aliciamccalla.com


Carole McDonnell, Author
–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Balogun Ojetade, Author—of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd

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7 thoughts on “The State of Black Sci Fi, week 3: Why Is it important to show race, culture, minority politics or ethnicity in SciFi?

  1. Alicia McCalla

    “Please don’t leave me in the middle of my comfort zone. Shock me, surprise me, make my jaw drop.”

    Bravo Margaret! I love it! We need to have more writers who are willing to take up the hard stuff. There were some parts of Red Tails that were hard for me because I know that George Lucas’ vision would not be the same as an African American’s but he tried. He put himself out there and he came out with a groundbreaking movie. That’s ok. I applaud him. Thanks for posting. You are awesome, BTW.

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  2. Milton

    I wish all readers were as adventurous as you. To answer your question, I will not read a writer whose views I don’t agree with. He or she has the right to say what they wish and I have a right not to read them, no matter how ‘brilliant’ they are. That brilliance is dulled by bigotry in my opinion.

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  3. Winston Blakely

    You got me in the heart, with that comment about is my character Black enough. Since, I have written and illustrated comic books in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, I get flack about all of this. Some people want to crucify me because they want me to publish and draw their version of what they think my characters should be. I think it would be best that they make their own creations, of course, they will never do that… It’s too much work. Once they figure that out… They just stare at me in awe.

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  4. Nicole

    You raise some interesting questions, Margaret. I adore Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, and thought her black characters were well drawn. I had no idea she was a bigot until I read Alice Walker’s essay “Beyond the Peacock” and learned she used some racist language in a letter to Robert Fitzgerald. I still re-read her work from time to time, but it’s always with the knowledge that she wasn’t writing for anyone who looked like me. The same could be said of Faulkner and Hemingway. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the message from the messenger.

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  5. Rasheedah

    Love the boldness, matter of factness of your statement! I agree wholeheartedly that writers need to challenge themselves to include other perspectives, to step outside of their comfort zone. On the other hand, it does run the risk of failing horribly, i.e. The Help and books like it. Whenever white people do include Black characters, they tend to resort to age-old stereotypes. I am not sure if there is a happy medium, but I suppose the first step is to step out of one’s comfort zone and challenge your own prejudices, stereotypes, etc. People are scared to face that in themselves.

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  6. Administrator Post author

    I agree with you about “The Help” {grimace} — but as my father used to say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Sad, but true, about stereotypes — I think that’s a form of mental laziness, and in addition I find it leads to a much less interesting book.

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  7. chris burton

    Now you have got me thinking having now written 3 scifi novels…. Have I looked at the ethnicity or cultural of any of my characters… Probably not, but does that mean that my characters lack depth? Yes, they probably do, but my novels will probably never be judged in critically acclaimed circles! They are page turners, action packed, but there is no Dickens living in my house!

    However, as I become better as a writer, more creative , with a desire to explore characterisation more and more, then these things do come into play. For me it is a question of balance… But I do take all that you have said on board.

    Looking forward to reading your books

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