Earlier today, I wrote a post about women in science fiction, citing Mary Shelley and D. C. Fontana as two influential women who helped contribute and redefine science fiction through their work. It was, in a way, a response to the continued harassment of women by fedora wearing dudebros (and yes, I’ll still use that term as an insult until these fuckwads realize that they’re just whiney manchildren).
My post came no where near shedding a light on the number of women who have been involved in science fiction over the years. One of those influential being Nichelle Nichols who is best known for her role as Uhura on Star Trek. Fitting I should mention her, and fitting that I post this during Black History Month, because this one’s all about people of colour (with a heavy note of women of colour) in science fiction.
People of colour have existed for as long as there have been human beings. I know, shocking, right? Excuse my sarcasm, that was directed mostly to idiots. History has shown that people of colour have had many influential contributions to society. For example, when we count or calculate something, we use what are called Arabic numbers (technically, they’re Hindi). Many great scientific discoveries were actually made by people of colour and some are techniques that are continued to be used today. As an example, two thirds of the stars that are named are given Arabic names. Two thirds. Arabic astronomers were gazing at the stars centuries before Galileo ever did.
People of colour also had huge contributions to literature, as some of the folk tales that we often rewrite now came from African, Native American, or Asian origins. We’re all familiar with the Japanese artform of anime and manga, and there have been a great number produced in Japan (it’s safe to say that the percentage of manga and anime produced in Japan that has made it to North America hasn’t even tipped above ten percent).
In North American aspects, science fiction has seen a great number of people of colour who have contributed to the genre. Jim Lee, for example, who currently works for DC Entertainment, and had a big part in launching the New 52 and with the creative and story aspects of DCU Online. But one of the biggest contributions happens to come from Dwayne McDuffie. McDuffie was, first and foremost, a story teller, and a damn good one. He created an entire universe of superheroes that reflected a world he saw. Something that was lacking in mainstream comics. That was superheroes of colour. His Milestone Comics are well remembered, and his contributions have helped inspire a great number of writers today.
Women of colour have also had a huge hand in shaping not only our entertainment, but what happens in the real world. I come back to Nichelle Nichols, who played the first black woman on television who was not cast in some stereotypical role. During her first season of Star Trek, she wanted to quit, but at the urging of Martin Luther King Jr., she stuck with it. She in known for the first inter-racial kiss on television between herself and William Shatner. Nichols was also the inspiration for Whoopie Goldberg, who would later play the character of Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Nichols would later be hired by NASA to find and promote space exploration to women. The affect of Nichelle Nichols in one role on one television show that aired for only three seasons has lasted well past forty years and almost now into fifty years.
Sure, I hear people saying that she’s only one person. Well, you’re not looking hard enough.
Currently, there are a great number of women of colour who are contributing to the sci fi/fantasy genres of fiction. One such is N. K. Jemisin, who with her Hundred Thousand Kingdoms trilogy has created a world of intrigue, drama and interest. Those three books themselves should become a movie series.
While finding authors who happen to be people of colour (and women of colour) who contribute to the sci fi and fantasy genres, there is one place that is dedicated to addressing the representation of people of colour in the genres of si fi, fantasy and horror. From the wiki article:
The Carl Brandon Society is a group originating in the science fiction community dedicated to addressing the representation of people of color in the fantastical genres such as science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The Society recognizes works by authors of color and featuring characters of color through awards, provides reading lists for educators and librarians, including one for Black History Month and has a wiki specifically for collecting information about people of color working in these genres.
It’s interesting to note, in the wiki article it also mentions Muslim Science Fiction. Go read the whole thing, it’s rather interesting.
I’ll be honest, I can’t fathom trying to deny the works of authors who are women, people of colour, or women of colour. If you’ve never read any of the works of some of these people, then you don’t have the right to say “I think it’s not very good” because that’s like listing off any stereotype only because you’ve heard others say it. Try it. Like or dislike something on it’s merit. Don’t dislike something because you’ve never read it and it happens to be written by a woman, or a person of colour, or a woman of colour.
I’ll end this with something I’ve mentioned before, which sort of explains the above statement. Lord of the Rings is classified as the classic literature for the fantasy genre. It’s the one that everyone tries to copy in some way, shape, or form. It’s rich with history, and characterization, and wide landscapes. But here’s the part that may get people mad at me. Lord of the Rings, as a book series, is dead boring. It’s page after page after page of WALKING! Now, if anyone asks me whether I like Lord of the Rings I reply with “I liked the movies very much”. Because the movies did a really good job of cutting out all the boring bits. Cutting out the part with Tom Bombadil was a godsend because he managed to jump the shark on quite a few occasions. Hobbits in trouble; Tom Bombadil! Movies, great. Book series, dead boring.