“You want to read work that reflects yourself, not necessarily literally yourself, but your perspective, your point of view, and the community around you, and if you don’t see it in the work in front of you, as a writer, your job is to write it yourself. You want to put that world on the page.” –Speculative Fiction editor Sheree R. Thomas on NPR, August 13, 2007
I remember reading a message board discussion about the potential of Fantasy and Science Fiction to champion possible worlds in which race is dealt with deftly, interestingly, unusually – the very context of race and race relations is altered. Power dynamics can be shifted (Martha Jones from Doctor Who and Torchwood, anyone?*), sometimes even made void and null (Ursula LeGuin). The point was that Speculative Fiction (Science Ficton, Fantasy, Horror, Magical Realism, etc.) can offer a more flexible context to present and consider race. Unfortunately, a majority of Speculative Fiction offers little more than dulling doses of “Blandy McWhitey White in Blandy McNeighborhood in America or Blandy McMedieval Europe or Blandy McDefaulty Man in any setting anywhere.”**
Speculative Fiction appeals to the imagination and the unconscious – and therein lies its power. It can be used not only for escapist daydreaming, but for social commentary (which, of course, lots of Science Fiction already is), change, even as a visionary medium. Speculative Fiction can be used to address race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc., all within unusual or altered contexts.
*Actually, Martha’s treatment by the Doctor was always disappointing, but her treatment by the Doctor Who scriptwriters wasn’t (Martha’s character is great, the Doctor is boring and patronizing). The characters of Torchwood appreciate her far more.
**This is the second time I’ve quoted The Angry Black Woman – an excellent blog on “politics, race, gender, sexuality, anger.”