Is it important to show People of Color in science fiction?

Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko, Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The simple answer to this question is yes. Despite the homo-social tendencies of the science fiction media (books, movies, comics, and television) which are then marketed to sub-cultures, People of Color not only exist but make up the bulk of the human experience, despite what you may see in modern media.

Let’s put this another way. Projected into the future, our modern society would likely be much more colorful than predicted by Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek with a far greater distribution of People of Color onboard the less politically-correct Enterprise of the Future. And before I get rants from Trekkers (Trekkies), I have much respect for Star Trek. The show at least tried to present people of color somehow making it to the future as something other than a snack for the monster of the week or as space janitors.

If Trek truly represented our modern world thrown forward, we would likely have seen more people of color in command positions, more Indians, more Chinese, simply because, allowing for three hundred years, we would expect much of our current world’s cultural disparity to have been ironed out, replaced with people doing the job because they were capable, not because it was expected we would see only Caucasians in positions of power because they were funding the show, viewing the show, or producing the show. When seen in the light of marketing, Star Trek still promoted the idea of the supremacy of the Caucasian heroic model endemic of modern science fiction. (To be fair, it did improve with age, allowing women to command ships and even to put a Black Man in command. Took nearly three decades, first Star Trek debuts in 1966, Commander Sisko appears on DS9 as a regular in a command role in 1993.)

Cover for Son of Heaven, a book from the Chung Kuo series.

Perhaps if we were to be more honest, the future might look a lot more like a book series called Chung Kuo, that posits an eventual domination of China and other Asian cultures completely taking control of the human experience through both a rigorous development of their human potential and the downfall of a decadent Western Civilization. Truth be told, that, at the moment, seems to be a much more likely model. It is a brilliant series of books to read. (Yes, it was very long, with quite a few characters, but if you like political science fiction, you will love Chung Kuo.)

It is important to show People of Color in our science fiction because we are here. On Earth. Right now.

We did not vanish into obscurity in the past, nor will we disappear from it in the future. Like it or not, the future of the world, much like the past of the world, will be defined by People of Color. The question might really be: Why can’t everyone have an equal opportunity to make it into the future, have an equal opportunity to be heroic or cowardly, genius or idiot, socially well adapted or psychopathic and maladjusted with equal frequency in our media?

We know the real reason already. The Heroic Myth has been co-opted to not allow Heroes of Color. Yes, I said it. What are you going to do about it?

That’s what I thought. Nothing. Ask modern publishers or movie-makers. They reply with:

“It’s too dangerous. They’re not marketable. We won’t be able to sell that. Who ever heard of a powerful Black male superhero. No one would believe it. If you made the lead character, White, I could move that for you. No one wants to read about Heroes of Color. Can you be more black? You can’t sell that here. Mexicans can’t be heroes. Only Asians do kung-fu. Who wants to see a movie about Native Americans? Stereotypes are easier to write about. You have to have a Caucasian on the cover. Movies with all Black casts can’t make back their money. We can only sell movies about native people with a Caucasian lead.”

All sound familiar? Oh, they might not if you haven’t ever tried to do anything with a Person of Color in it. But if you have, you will know the sound of one or all of these refrains.

Listen. Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound you heard when that statue of Lenin was being torn down. It’s the same sound you heard when they tore down the Berlin Wall. The same one you heard in Egypt, and in Greece and in Spain, in 2011. It’s the same one you heard when people Occupied the United States in protest.

You might not be familiar with it. It is the sound of revolution.

It is the sound of people having enough. Their rage with being put on the side of history. People are not condiments. You do not use them to flavor YOUR life. They are not meant to add color to your media, the same way you might add a purple cabbage to your green salad. People of Color are life itself.

Sanaa Latham as Alexa Woods in AVP

Your media may deny it. But Nollywood knows better. So does Bollywood. How are those newspapers selling these days? How about those publishing houses? Comics? The comic and print industries are scrambling like insects during a fumigation. Your model of exclusion is ending. People want to be heard. People want to be acknowledged. People want to be Heroes. People of Color want to live to the end of the movie. The People want to be Seen. Admired. Loved. Respected. Acknowledged. For their contributions, for their histories, for their suffering, for their triumphs, but more than anything for their Humanity.

We are as People of Color, writers of Color, science fiction authors, are fighting to acknowledge we Exist. We will be here in the future, in whatever form that future takes. That the future will depend on us as much as it will depend on (insert Caucasian hero here) to save the day. Hannibal turned the tide of battle, China had a history and culture that has lasted 3000 years unconquered by outside forces, the Mayans created one of the most accurate calendars on Earth, Egypt was one of the greatest hubs of science, trade and commerce on the African continent and the world. Like it the world now depends on the people of Chile to grow food, or the South American nations to protect the Amazon as one of the last storehouses of the world’s bio-diversity. Our future will also depend on People of Color.

People of Color are not an afterthought in the novels of Caucasian writers. We are shaping the world.

There are 800 million people living in the nation of India. There are at least 1000 million (1+billion) people living in China. 500 million living in Africa, 500 million or more in South and Central America. People of Color are not going to go away. As knowledge is democratized, so will opportunity spread. So will innovations, creativity, productivity. One day, the West’s ability to create and dominate the world, may be surpassed in one of these nations. People forget the United States rose to power in a near socio-political vacuum. The world was in a terrible state of repair after World War II, there was no real competition then.

Pay attention. That has ended.

Those nations have recovered. Each of them filled with people who want to see themselves portrayed as heroes. Filled with the same drive and ambition we possessed in the West. See Singapore, Beijing, Taipei, Japan as examples of the masterful harnessing of human potential. The West should be quaking in its cowboy boots. But it won’t. Its belief in Western Superiority is complete and less and less valid in a world filled with motivated People of Color.

Let’s close with a chilling quote from the masters of assimilation: “We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” This is the future of the West. Cold. Mechanical. Clockwork. We are all cogs in the machine. Know your place. Surrender your individuality. Serve the machine and its hidden masters.

I do not accept this.

People of Color exist despite the pretense in Western media that we do not. And if the West is not careful, it may find history will mark the passing of White Supremacy and its Western pathology of deleting People of color from history with tales of fiction about the Caucasians who could not adapt to the reality of their eventual blending and dissolution back into the melting pot that are People of Color.

We better hope those motivated People of Color where ever they may be find a way to change our future. The world as we know it, is looking pretty grim. We need new thinking to have a future at all.

People of Color, write your revolution. Save our Future. Resistance is never futile. Fight for every word.

Thaddeus Howze Atreides
@ebonstorm (twitter)
@ebonstorm@gmail.com

Thaddeus Howze, Authoris a veteran of the IT and Communications industry with over 26 years of experience retooling computers to best serve human needs. Unknown to humanity, our computers have another agenda. Thaddeus recently released his first collection of short stories, Hayward Reach. In a coded format, he has secretly informed Humanity of the impending computerized apocalypse. You can read parts of the code here: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

Part of a series of essays on: The State of Black Science Fiction.
Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer – is a 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 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/

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: TheChronicles 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


People of Color in Science Fiction

I am a writer of multicultural science fiction and fantasy. When you read my work, you will find a variety of heroes and villains in all shapes, sizes, colors, beliefs, species, genomes, families and phyla. I will employ machines, aliens, bacteria, creatures on the edge of life as we know it, because I believe science fiction should promote ideas. It should address the realm of possibilities. It should question the nature of existence, the fundamental underpinnings of reality as a whole.

When I look at what is being written today, it is design to promote a particular point of view. It is meant to appeal to marketing demographics, it is designed to support and build a market share. It may or may not have new ideas, it may or may not recycle well-worn, well-used tropes. Those are inconsequential to me. Not because I don’t want to sell books. I do. What I believe is the essence of science fiction is to question the status quo. That is where books like Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-four came from. When science fiction has fallen to being a tool of major media, it has fallen very low, when once upon a time, science fiction was one of the greatest forms of counter-culture out there.

So, what is the role of People of Color in science fiction? I have written on this idea before. We have to teach our children how to be storytellers and I still believe we can create a new group of writers, but we have to inspire them early. Our role is the same as anyone who is creating science fiction today. To tell moving, fascinating, mind-expanding, society-questioning, sometimes traumatizing tales of wonder. If you leave a story and it does not make you think, does not make you yearn for a visit to that world or repel you as a world you never ever want to wake up and find yourself in, it did not do its job. And if you should find yourself in a world of your nightmare, would you even recognize it? That is the role of science fiction and it doesn’t matter who is telling that story.

Unless it does.

Such a contrary statement deserves an explanation. Let me put on my other hat. Science and business have come to a conclusion about the nature of successful organisms and successful businesses. An idea that disturbed the very foundation of both science and society.

Diversity is good for nature and for business. In plants and animals, sexual reproduction came about as a way of diversifying genetic materials to allow for greater diversity. Such diversity was necessary to prevent a disease or pathogen from destroying a plant or animal whose genes were the same as their previous generations. Plants or animals that reproduce asexually by budding, for example, have the same genes as their parent organism. And their grandparent, etcetera. This means all it takes is one disease that focuses on the genetic material of that species and it is extinct. Sexually transmitted characteristics, derived by members of a species whose living conditions may have varied significantly offer a wider array of potential characteristics which may allow greater diversity of the species and resistance to a pathogen.

Big business has resisted diversity, promoting the idea of homo-social development being the best thing for organizations. The idea that an organization founded and maintained by people who share cultural characteristics has been a mainstay of big business for nearly one hundred years. Homo-social organizations were supposed to be more effective, more teamwork oriented, and more productive than any other kind of business model.

Until it was proven that it wasn’t.

It has now been shown that big businesses that use the homo-social model lack the ability to change their minds about a particular thing, lack the ability to promote useful and productive conflict, and lack a diversity of thought brought about by living and growing up in diverse cultural experiences. Organizations that harness diversity have been proven to be more agile, more adaptable, more innovative and ultimately more effective.

Science fiction is unfortunately a homo-social type of genre. It has been primarily promoted by, directed by, lead by, and consumed by mostly White men. As a result, the protagonist of such works have been White men. These Alpha males have strode across continents (Tarzan, Doc Savage), traveled though exotic realms, (Neutron Star, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea) mastered weapons (The Shadow, The Destroyer), conquered alien worlds (Man Plus, Star Wars), bedded exotic females of dozens of worlds (Star Trek), destroyed worlds, and crossed galaxies (The Lensmen), rewritten entire universes (Saga of the Well World) and mastered forces including Time  itself (The Time Machine). It so prevalent a meme, that it is almost impossible for anyone to believe in a thing a White man can’t do.

And that is the power of Myth. It is designed to make you believe in something larger than you. And this is where People of Color need to step up.

Our myths have been relegated to the back burners of history. Their shadows make an appearance in modern mythologies: Gilgamesh, Tiamat, Hercules, King Solomon, Babylon, Chichen Itza, the Dogon, Ra, Osirus, but the sources are always obscured, their gift to modern stories are always hidden away.

John of Salisbury wrote a treatise on logic called Metalogicon, written in Latin in 1159. He used a phrase that has been adapted and modified and because of its wisdom we use it today. It applies with our contributions to science fiction even before it existed. We helped to create the science and the fiction that has stood the test of time and those ideas contribute to the science fiction mythos even now.

He said: “We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”

I do not believe that we have any particular need to prove ourselves in this genre of writing. We have an obligation, however to contribute to the creation of mythic ideas, both scientific and fictional, that our children can look at and say, I want to be a warrior of wisdom like Dillon, black mercenary soldier of fortune created by Derrick Ferguson. I want them to say, I want to be an explorer like Changa of Milton Davis’ Changa’s Safari. I want them to be able to say these things and have them impart the same meaning that it does when a kid says, I want to grow up and be Captain Kirk and you know what he means when he says it. No, not that part. The other part: the explorer, the traveler, the leader of men and women in an future we all hoped would come true, but at the moment doesn’t look promising.

We want to create myths, not just stories. We want to alter reality in a way that once done, no one can remember what went before. All they remember is, it was less than we have now.

Part of a series of essays on: The State of Black Science Fiction

Thaddeus Howze Atreides
@ebonstorm (twitter)
@ebonstorm@gmail.com
 

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

 

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer– is a 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 firstblack 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 bloghttp://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website 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 andwww.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/

 

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: TheChronicles 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

 

Thaddeus Howze, Author - is a veteran of the IT and Communications industry with over 26 years of experience retooling computers to best serve human needs. Unknown to humanity, our computers have another agenda. Thaddeus recently released his first collection of short stories, Hayward Reach. In a coded format, he has secretly informed Humanity of the impending computerized apocalypse. You can read parts of the code here: http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or  http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

The New Age of Malware (courtesy of BYOD)

BYOD: We can't repel malware of that magnitude! -- Admiral Ackbar

As I have mentioned in other articles, [http://exm.nr/x8dv4p] malware is not going away. If anything it is going to explode in the coming years due to the continued erosion of IT standards in the workplace. Technologies such as cloud computing, social media and memes such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device [to the workplace]) are prepared to compromise enterprise security by:

1. Allowing devices that cannot be managed or secured into the workplace environment and allowing users to store company data on those devices. Such devices can easily be lost, stolen and the information vulnerable due to a lack of viable security measures or even the ability to be wiped remotely.

2. Devices such as smartphones or other mobile technology often has limited wireless security or protection, making grabbing data from such technology the next logical step from the cracking community. Do you remember Firesheep? A tool that allowed a remote hacker to grab information from Mozilla browsers in unsecure environments such as coffee shops. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firesheep]

3. As the rise of BYOD continues and resistance to standardization grows, malware will continue to be a rising threat for Android and iDevices alike, [http://zd.net/w20FMG - Android users hit by scareware scam], for the simple reason that apps created for both devices, while monitored loosely, are not absolutely guaranteed of being without sinister purposes in addition to providing whatever resource information they APPEAR to be providing. So while it may be providing you a map to downtown Boston, it could also be monitoring your credit card or online bank information at different locations as well.

4. Social media has not stopped being both a productivity time sink, costing the nation billions in lost productivity (neither commenting for the good or the bad of this, noting it, nothing more) and a vector for virus transmission, personal information gathering, and credit information hacking. Facebook, Twitter, Sony, Google and Amazon have all experienced theft, leaks, loss or outright sale of personal data in 2010-2011 and this trend show no sign of slowing.

5. While the cloud offers the option of being a means of creating virtual environments that are claimed to be safer than your current environment, it means relying increasing on an internet whose services are either being turned into commodities (allowing their prices to be changed, usually higher, without warning or recourse) or those services will be subject to powerful new government interventions such as SOPA or Protect IP [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act], which may make working with materials and providers who will be forced to increase the costs of their service to offset their increases caused by having to improve monitoring of their technology for copyright infringement. This cost is always directed at the user of the technology.

6. Nor does SOPA actually ensure you are any safer from hacking, indeed it may simply be another way such activity is lost in the shuffle as hackers are far more agile in their ability to develop their responses to technology than mainstream users. During the transition to SOPA standards, systems will be more vulnerable than ever.

7. It appears IT is losing the battle for standardization as a means of protecting the enterprise. New technologies such as virtualization promise the ability to deliver the PC experience to any device but most of those are also dependent on the Internet as the deliverer of service. This only means one thing. The cost of protecting your enterprise will increase as the vectors — devices, browsers, clients, cloud, virtualization, continue to proliferate.

In summary: Our enterprise networks have never truly been safe. The threats ranged from:

  • Inadequate layered defenses against attacks: There are still numerous environments especially in small to medium size businesses that do not have firewalls of any kind, any sort of data protection, backup, or redeployment procedure in case of equipment failure, anti-malware, or anti-virus technology in place.
  • Social engineering: manipulating users in an environment to release information about the systems they use to make hacking easier
  • Poor Password Management: Not creating standards for the effective use, configuration or dissemination of difficult to crack passwords
  • Poor standardization of environments: reducing the number of potential holes in the environment by reducing the number of different versions of operating systems, programs and infrastructure support systems
  • Poor policy management: The inability of environments to create usable, enforceable policies designed to make repair, replication, storage, service agreements, backup and responsible use of the office technology to protect company assets from theft, loss, or accidental erasure.

There are many other threats, but our environments have been safer than before many of these ideas were enacted, but the truth of the matter has been our virus software is always at least one day behind the release of any new virus, malware or exploit. Indeed, the zero day release of a virus or exploit could allow thousands or even millions of devices to be infected before anyone is aware the problem has occurred.

In days to come, the already existing suite of issues will only be added to with the continued threat of cloud computing downtime, legitimate accessibility as well as unwanted attacks from outside sources, rising costs both in terms of energy use and costs from service providers and the increasing vulnerability BYOD will bring to the enterprise as hackers/crackers begin to exploit the weaknesses of said devices while under-staffed, overworked and under-appreciated IT departments attempt to stem the tide while providing these new and highly desired services and technologies users feel empower them, without understanding the consequences of that empowerment. It empowers the Dark Side as well. [http://www.csoonline.com/article/print/696325]

@ebonstorm – Thaddeus Howze Atreides