Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Star Trek Author: "We Must Strive for Diversity in SF/F"

Cover image courtesy of Pocket Books
As my pal Drew can attest, I recently discovered the Star Trek: Vanguard series of novels and have gone ga-ga for them. They take place during the original Star Trek series run, right around the time of the episode "The Tholian Web" on a far-flung starbase 47 called Vanguard.

In addition to having a well-written cast of characters both main and incidental, the diverse spectrum of characters is well-represented. There are plenty of black people, people of color, gay characters, characters of faith as well as skeptics, and plenty of call-backs and calls forwards to other moments in the series. And none of these characters suffer from "tokenism". They are are relevant to the plot, which manages to weave cosmic shattering forces and threats to the Federation among other themes like struggling with depression, addiction, the role of a free press in society, classified warfare, and morality.

I'm on the 8th and final book, and I'm going to be a little sad to see the series end, myself, because I've grown invested in both the setting and the characters-- something I certainly wasn't expecting when I first picked up the books for a little light reading during my commute!

Though the Vanguard series ended a few years ago, author David Mack still gets email about it from readers every week. One reader wrote him to let him know that after Mack included a Vulcan woman who is (gasp!) a lesbian, that reader would never buy a book from him again! Mack responded on his own blog, and the response is awesome. An excerpt:

If he thinks the fear of alienating a few closed-minded readers is going to stop me from writing stories that feature and promote characters of diverse backgrounds—including LGBTQ characters, persons of color, and people who belong to ideological or philosophical minorities—he must be out of his mind...  
...[W]e’ve tried to make our literary dramatis personae more closely resemble the people of Earth. We’ve tried to include more people of African, Asian, and Southeast Asian ancestry than were seen in the televised and feature-film stories. We’ve tried to incorporate characters who hail from many cultures and viewpoints. We’ve tried to imagine a future in which people of all faiths have learned to live in harmony with people of other creeds as well as those who prefer to lead purely secular lives.  
We’ve tried to depict a future in which people’s gender identities are no longer limited to some arbitrary binary social construct, but rather reflect a more fluid sense of personal identity. 
I will never be made to feel shame for doing this. 

You can read the entire post here.

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