Sci fi is better when sci fi is diverse

Image Credit: A Fantastical

I came across an article today that I felt like I had to share with anyone and everyone I could who loves scifi and wants to see it keep growing into everything it can be. The piece, appropriately named “Special Needs in Strange Worlds“, was written by award-winning book blogger Tsana Dolichva as a guest post on SF Signal. The point of the piece, which is something I have been saying off and on in various ways in a number of posts, is that diversity matters in science fiction and can only make it better. What Dolichva makes very plain, and that I must shamefacedly confess I hadn’t even given any thought to until I read her post, is that diversity doesn’t just mean creating more  non-white characters or more female characters, but also characters who are physically and mentally disabled. As part of her discussion Dolichva is also promoting “Defying Doomsday”, a science fiction anthology populated almost exclusively by such characters.

I can’t make the point any better than she already did, so I’ll let her speak…

I suspect that a lot of the time writers don’t want to put disabled or chronically ill characters into their stories because they worry it might slow down the plot. That is, if they think about it at all. Quite frankly, they probably don’t.

Look, it’s not that every story ever has to be about disabled or chronically ill characters (unless it’s in Defying Doomsday, then it does), but when almost no stories feature these characters it becomes a problem. Just like QUILTBAG (Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer) and racial representation, disability representation is important. You might be thinking “Oh, but there are hardly any disabled people around, so it doesn’t matter that there are hardly any books about them.”

But actually, did you know that disabled people are the largest minority it the world? According to the UN 15% of people worldwide have some sort of disability. That’s about one billion people, far from “hardly any”. Don’t they also deserve representation?

It really is worth reading the rest of her post, which you should probably be able to tell by now. Not exactly a shocker she’s won an award or two. Plus the woman is an astrophysicist so…wellllll…damn. That’s pretty much my standard reaction when encountering anyone who is smart enough to do something like astrophysics for a living.

Science fiction, to me, has always been about the human condition as seen through the lens of the ‘other’. More than most other literary genres it has oftentimes been ahead of its time in confronting issues of racism and classism (just check out “The Twilight Zone” or “Star Trek”). But when considering the ‘other’, how can you not factor diversity into the equation? The other thing about science fiction, as those of us who are lifelong fans are painfully aware, is that for such a long time it was never given credit as a genre deserving to be taken seriously. Science fiction was not “Wuthering Heights” or “Oliver Twist”, but instead spun fantastical tales of time travel and spaceships traveling to distant galaxies to discover new civilizations.

Obviously worthless drivel, right?

Obviously not. What is obvious now is for science fiction to continue to grow as a ‘serious’ genre, it needs to expand aggressively into more diverse territories. Lotta good stories out there.

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