I’m scared to talk about this. But I need to talk about this. Here goes.
One of the things I want to do with my science fiction is avoid doing what everyone else is doing. That makes sense, right? I can’t call myself creative unless I’m pushing into new territory. The question is, what territory? Where does creativity stop and thoughtfulness begin? These are all the questions I’m thinking about as I work on a new short story.
‘Body Issues’ is a short about a teenage girl and the new social issues coming our way. I don’t want to give away the plot, but the main character is a girl and she’ll be non-white, too. For those of you saying, “So what?” let me say this: Thank you. I think this should be a no-brainer, myself. Given the current landscape of humanity, I’m afraid of negative repercussions. I don’t think it’s right to let that stop me.
Here’s why: I know I’m not the first sci-fi writer to cover this ground. Fifty years ago, Gene Roddenberry spat on the rules and put Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise. Not only did it create controversy, the matter was contentious. So much so, that Nichelle Nichols considered leaving the show. A very important fan convinced her to stay.
History shows that it was the right decision. In a world where people go out of their way to ‘make a statement,’ Roddenberry just was. He described a world where acceptance just *is*. Nichols said that Roddenberry believed in that world. Let’s not focus on the past, he seemed to say. L let’s move forward together. That’s why Star Trek:TOS is such an important show, even now.
In that spirit, I want to tell stories where the future just *is*. Forget political statements, forget speeches about acceptance or tolerance and forget morals to the story. We’re all adults, here. No pandering required. What I am afraid of, is the danger that I’ll do that without intending to. Then I’d become part of the problem I’m hoping to avoid.
It’s not just about race, either. Gender issues have become tetchy. My inner critic is going: “Middle-aged white male writing about a teenage girl of color? Check your privilege! There are so many great female sci-fi authors out there, what makes you think you have anything to say?” I feel like my inner critic should shut up, but part of me wonders if other people would agree with him.
The heck with it. My inner critic can go suck an egg. There are a ton of amazing geeks out there from every background. One of the reasons they’re so amazing is that they avoid making a big deal about their race or gender. Those geeks just walk around being awesome all the time. One geek that springs to mind is Aisha Tyler. She grew up in San Francisco, is an *amazing* video game nerd, loves punk rock and snowboarding. Everything about her screams “go ahead and label me, I dare you.” I can’t help but respect that. I can’t be afraid of writing about a reality where people are really living with it. It’s time to write, it’s time to try. It’s time to believe in that world.
I am going to be consciously working to develop an authentic story with ‘Body Issues.’ That means a lot of brute-force work reading about race and gender issues. I’d appreciate any resources you know of to wrap my brain around this universe. Thanks very much in advance for your help.
If as a part of this process I inadvertently put my foot in it, please accept this preemptive apology. I regret any pain I may cause. I’m human, I’m doing what I can. I can’t promise to be perfect, I can only promise to learn. If there’s anything else I can do to be more thoughtful ahead of time, please let me know.