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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pearls of Wisdom

Forward thinking doesn't mean that science fiction has to be 100% forward thinking. What it means is that science fiction looks ahead to the trials and tribulations of the near and distant future. Criticizing science fiction for trying to be culturally realistic about the future of U.S. Presidency is somewhat pointless. In fact, criticizing SF for failing to have a diverse cast of future U.S. Presidents is criticizing it for being realistic. The fact of the matter is, the U.S. is behind the times and may be that way for a long time. Even if Barack Obama wins the election, he will not have done anything to change the nation as far as race goes. The U.S. has issues with racism for a reason, and despite our desire to consider ourselves impartial on race, that's far from the truth. We are a nation of different peoples and while we do share similar ideals about our nation (pursuit of happiness, justice, liberty, and those things) we are all very separate. I am not like someone from the South, just as someone from the South is not like someone from Hawaii or California or Alaska. Yes, we may all have similarities, but we all differ in how we speak and how we go about our lives.
So, when I see that science fiction has not been "forward thinking" about race, I see reality being put into place. We can all hope that the future will be filled with complete equality, but that won't happen, not unless we do become a country with equal representation of "races" or we all cease to see color/race as an issue.
Unfortunately, as the clever little puppets from Avenue Q once said: Everyone's a little bit racist, sometimes. Go ahead, tell me you're not, because you're lying and you know it (it's possible you don't even know you're a little bit racist).

By the way, this is nothing against the SF Flare folks. I do appreciate the information they provided, but I think we get a bit disillusioned by the prospect of SF being something that, in reality, it isn't. SF can only be forward thinking so long as it is realistic. A liberal fest of social changes on top of the technological changes is asking a bit much from a genre that has to not only accurately portray the future, but also has to be realistic and believable about it. We're no longer in the Golden Age where making everything up works 100%. SF writers have to be, well, realistic. Are black presidents in our future? Yes. Are Hispanic and female presidents? Of course. Do I think they will be a consistent regularity that one could play it off in any story, every single time? No. We don't even see that in other nations we consider more "forward thinking" than us, so why would we expect that a fictional future United States would represent something that likely isn't going to happen?

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  1. I'm not really critical so much as surprised. People are inclined to claim that Hollywood is forever shoving minorities in prominent positions and science fiction is a genre where writers are able to diverge from the historical norms.

    Yet clearly neither of these things are actually happening.

    I'd love to see the statistics for novels, but it would take a ridiculous amount of time to compile them.

  2. Ah, well I'll agree there. We shouldn't become disillusioned with scifi on either side of things.

    Well, I tried to do a thing for novels (more generally though as far as race and gender and religions are concerned), but it didn't work out the way I had hoped.